On the heels of the announcement that Subway settled its 11-inch footlong sub suit, a new class action has been filed alleging that a national chain’s products don’t quite measure up. This time, it is Starbucks in the cross-hairs. According to a report from Top Class Actions, Plaintiffs Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles have filed suit against the coffee giant in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Starbucks intentionally underfills its lattes by 25 percent. Starbucks’ baristas are allegedly instructed to make lattes by filling a pitcher with steamed milk up to a “fill to” line, pour shots of espresso into a serving cup, pour the steamed milk into the serving cup, top the latte with milk foam and leave 1/4 inch of free space at the top. The plaintiffs, however, allege that the “fill to” lines don’t correspond to the 12, 16, and 20 ounce cup sizes – an allegedly conscious decision made by Starbucks to save on the cost of milk.
Regardless of the merits of the short-pouring allegations, one particular allegation in the suit gave us pause. The plaintiffs allege that “Starbucks refuses to fill any hot beverage to the brim of the cup. Thus, under no circumstances will Starbucks ever serve a Grande Latte that actually meets the fluid ounces represented on the menu.” If we read that correctly, it sounds like the plaintiffs are actually suggesting that hot coffee should be filled to the brim of the cup to ensure that they are getting the full bang for their buck. We are guessing that had Starbucks done so, there would be a whole other class of plaintiffs clamoring for some massive hot coffee burn litigation. Maybe the plaintiffs should demand Starbucks use bigger cups and let the not filling to the brim policy stand for those who value safety.
It is too early to tell whether this suit will follow in the footsteps of the Subway litigation. Regardless of the size of any potential monetary settlement, we doubt it will be too life changing for any of the plaintiffs. If approved, the class will be open to all persons in the United States who have purchased a Starbucks latte. In other words, all 318 million U.S. citizens can be class members and should expect a free cup of coffee.