Contest: Your Worst Starbucks Experiences

We’re going to keep this short and sweet. Send us your best (aka ‘worst’) tales about your dealings with Starbucks as a customer. Do this because we say to do this and we exert a gym teacher-like capitulation over your judgement, but also because we will be giving a price of high irony to the person with the story dubbed most awful: a $500 gift card to Starbucks Coffee.

Gosh, we’re evil.

Here’s how it works. Leave a comment in this thread or send an email to us with your story. (If you send an email, please use the subject ‘Starbucks Contest’ so we can use a mail filter.) We’ll pick the stories we find to be the best, then let you all vote on them at the end of the week. If your collective choice matches our whimsy to allow you to actually select the winner, then you’ll have had a momentary distraction from your otherwise empty workday experience. (Okay, actually we really do want you to vote on the winner. We’re 99% sure this is technically possible, but we’ve never put up a poll before.)

This Friday, The Consumerist gives—we give so hard.


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  1. nweaver says:

    Nothing truely evil, just a chain of low grade dissapointment:

    Starbucks is supposed to be the McDonald’s of Coffie. Not great. Not even really all that good. But CONSISTENT. A cup o joe at any Starbucks in the world should taste the same.

    Not COLD like the cup in Soledad. Not full of grounds like the cup in State College, PA. Not messy at the sugar/milk counter in countless places (dispite Starbucks internal memos saying that needs to be checked every 15 minutes or so).

    The problem is, its STILL better than ye random unknown doughnut shop coffie when you are out traveling around.

  2. mrscolex says:

    I disagree with the previous comment simply because of the price per cup that you’re paying. To put Starbucks in the same pot as McDonalds is really an unfair comparison because at McDonalds you can atleast get a burger for 89 cents. One might make the argument that you can get a decent meal at McDonalds for the price of one of Starbuck’s premium cups of coffee so expecting a little extra service above and beyond isn’t asking a lot in my mind.

    However has anyone noticed that chai latte’s always consistently taste better at the Barnes and Nobles Starbucks instead of the actual Starbucks themselves?

    I like to stick out from the rest of the customers by telling them I want to “super-size” my cups of coffee because I refuse to use their ridiculous latin names.

  3. Smoking Pope says:

    “I refuse to use their ridiculous latin names”

    Speaking as someone who refuses to eat at Outback Steakhouse simply because they have an item on the menu named “Jackaroo Chops”, I applaud you, sir.

  4. limiter says:

    Nearly the first step in the damn door I slipped on some spilled coffee and nearly landed on my ass but avoided the crash by grabbing onto an offered arm of a female Starbucks employee for stability. Okay… she didn’t offer anything, I just grabbed with absolutely no regard to who it was how stable they were and without even noticing that they were an actual person. For all I knew it could have been a green apron wearing trash can… with arms.

    We awkwardly slipped across the floor together, her clinging to my arm for dear life and I clinging to hers to avoid us both crashing to the floor because, as it turns out, it was covered with a great deal of coffee. This all may seem like it happened over several minutes, but in reality it happened over no more then three to five seconds.

    We released and I glared at the coffee on the floor and started to say sorry to the woman who kept me from cracking my head on the tile but stopped mid sentence because I had looked up to find her red not from embarrassment, but anger. A scowl that would burn through a two-inch plated steel wall hit me and for a fleeting second I thought about reaching out and grabbing her arm for stability again.

    Good thing I didn’t because she screamed “What the hell is wrong with you! You don’t just grab people you don’t know!”

    Speechless and now turning red myself, I scanned the room and every single person was glaring at me.

    “I was falling and I grabbed the first per…” I started.

    “Customers can’t touch the employees!” she yelled back cutting me off. I later wondered if this was the part of the employee training video they stressed as most important.

    The manager came out from somewhere… the back? Does Starbucks have a back? Did he teleport from home? He seemed to just appear.

    “What is going on here?” he demanded eyeing me with some suspicion.

    “He grabbed me,” blurted the employee, now on the verge of tears.

    The manager looked at me for an explanation. I could tell it probably didn’t matter what I said, but I still responded.

    “I slipped on the coffee on the floor and just grabbed out for something, I didn’t mean to touch her.”

    I waved in the direction of the coffee covered floor hoping it would be self explanatory.

    He turned and looked at the rest of the people who were all looking at me. Tears were now flowing out of the employee’s eyes. The manager’s look came back to me and he said, “You have to leave, and if you ever come back the police will be called.”

    I blinked, amazed that my actions, which possibly avoided a lawsuit against Starbucks, could be considered criminal in some way.

    “I just grabbed her arm to keep from falling,” I said a bit annoyed.

    “Jimmy call the police,” yelled the manager over his shoulder and like that I was gone, never to return to that Starbucks again. I can only imagine my picture has been printed out from the security camera and pasted next to the cappuccino machine with the words “Starbucks employee groper, call police if spotted” under it. Perhaps if I win I can go back and wow them with my amazing new spending power and order 243 tall coffees to go… that or get a tour of the local police holding cells I’ve always wanted.

  5. DeeJayQueue says:

    I went into a local sbx, and ordered my usual Venti Caramel Macchiato.

    “You mean Large, right?” said the barrista.

    = b l i n k =

    “uhh… yeaahhhh. Large’ll do. Thanks.”

  6. Ben Sherman says:

    I was wearing a costume at a halloween party, dressed just like a starbuck emplyee, green apron and all..

    I was standing by the door of a Starbucks, where my friend had lent me the apron and name tag for the final touch, holding my cup of coffee whil he fixed my name tag. In walks a HUGS angry man, and he smashed right into me. My coffee flew everywhere, and he slipped on it.

    As he began to fall, he greabbed my arm and pulled me down. He was red in the face, but it was not from embarassment, it was from anger.

    As he rose above me and took his foot back to make a sweeping kick, the Manager of the store came out to see what had happened.

    I scurried to the back of the store and I heard shouting about police.. That guy left in a hurry and never came back.

  7. My complaint won’t earn my a reward, but in the hopes the folks at Starbucks and or TMobile will read this, I’ll gripe here:

    I spend $40/month on TMobile wireless, specifically for use at Starbucks. Lately, though, my two closest Starbucks have been full of glitches and unresponsive Starbucks staff.

    The Starbucks at Whitley Heights in Hollywood doesn’t have a wireless connection problem, but they have power outlets that work only intermittently when at all. Nothing as frustrating as plugging in, and then running out of juice for my laptop in 30 minutes. This has been a problem since at least July, when staff said I was the first to complain about it. The other day, same problem, and one staff member again said they’d never heard of a problem, while another said they’d been waiting for someone to come down from Starbucks HQ to fix it, and also blamed the landlord. Additionally, this location lacks a public bathroom.

    The location at Sunset and LaBrea has the connection problem, and has for months. Some days are fine, but all to frequently the wireless service goes on and off intermittently. While I’ve also complained here repeatedly, staff always tells me there’s nothing they can do and tells me to contact TMobile, which so far has been unresponsive.

  8. Mike Panic says:

    I go to Starbucks whenever I have a chance, as the only local one around me is at a B&N. That said, when I go, I fully expect them to make what I ask. I’ve been ordering the same thing for years and have done so at my local B&N, all over Manhatten where I travel often, center city Philly, Chicago and San Francisco.

    Everytime I go, I ask for an iced venti quad carmel macchiato and depending on my mood, with soy milk. This is on their menu, yet I have to repeat myself at least once, usually several times when I order so they can try to get it straight. More often then not, something is messed up in it and I have to complain, go back, wait another 5 minutes and hope it is right. In the last 4 years of doing this, I recall only twice when it was actually done properly and there was no questions asked by the person who took my order and made my over-priced cup of go-fast.

  9. russell_s says:

    First of all, Do not let Sports Illustrated’s/HBO’s Peter King find out about this..( he writes a collumn and praises/trashes them weekly )..That being said, I had an unpleasant experience at my local starbucks, where I had to step past two twen-teen barista’s having a cigarette in the doorway, who looked at me with veiled contempt, and said something unpleasant when I walked in. So I dispatched a hateful letter to corp HQ and rec’d a pair of $10 gift certs. I figure someone could post a form letter and the address to SB HQ, and we can all mail in our complaints…but I suppose I should have done that instead of posting this.

  10. greghard says:

    Although my experiences with Starbucks have been mostly positive – although there have been times I ordered my coffee with “smooth” blend and been shocked at just how unsmooth it was – one incident sticks out in my mind.

    The manager of a local (Boston) Starbucks took my order – apparently he was short staffed – I ordered a Venti Iced 2% Cappuccino. The manager proceeded to inform me they only had Fat Free, Whole, Organic or Soy Milk. I then told him to mix half fat free with half whole to make 2%. This has been common practice at every other 5,251,021 Starbucks location I have been to.

  11. OkiMike says:

    I’m an admitted Starbucks junky. It’s not that it’s the best coffee persay, but Starbucks offers an ideal study environment for me as well as a place to meet interesting (read: cute) girls.

    It also helps explain why three of my past four girlfriends were Starbucks employees. But that doesn’t mean I get great service or free drinks. Au contraire!

    When I broke up with the manager of one Starbucks, some of the employees spotted me chatting up some new customers and deduced that I was a.) either cheating on the manager or b.) that we had broken up. This led to one girl at the register (who was in her own right a serial-customer-dater) to refuse to take my order when I approached the counter. After about a minute of confronting her on it, I decided to move to the next register where I proceeded to place my order. The previous girl then walked over to my cup and removed it from the bar! When I asked about my drink, the girl at the bar asked me what I had ordered and, after I told her, she informed me that she didn’t have it in the list.

    I told her that the girl at the register had just taken it out of the waiting list. She shrugged and pulled wrote up my order on a new cup and put it back into the queue.

    Five minutes later and still no drink. When the girl at the bar told me that the drink she was holding was mine, I noticed that she had made the wrong one and told her. Now, I’m not a finicky drinker so I said it was alright and that I’d take that one. But she said, “No” and threw it in the trash, leaving me to wait another 5 minutes for a new one.

    Ahh, the things we do for love (and coffee)!

  12. Aaron D. says:

    My friends all love Starbucks, they go there just about every day. I don’t drink coffee, but considering I just began my life as a college student, I thought I’d give it a shot.
    To begin with, I’ve never had coffee, just never wanted to try it. So when I went in to starbucks I saw they have a little booklet explaining the lingo and different drinks offered there.

    After taking it and reading it for a few minutes, I went up to the counter and slowly began to ask for what I wanted. I said I wanted a Cappuccino, ristretto, non-fat… Admittedly, I felt a little funny saying all of this out loud, but I tried anyways.

    After a pause, the employee seemed to think I was making a joke. First of all, the employee looked like someone who was doing me a favor taking my order. She seemed peeved that I was slowly giving her my order (keep in mind it wasn’t that slow). She continued to look at me, like she was waiting for the punch line. There was an awkward moment of silence and then she asked me not to waste any more of her time and to leave.

    Shocked, I showed her that I had my order written down so I wouldn’t forget it and explained that this was the first time I’ve ordered anything here. Well, even though their little booklet says they would be supportive to help newbies like me, she still didn’t seem to believe me. Again I had to reassure her I was not joking, disgruntled she then took my order. I then gave her my debit/credit card to pay, and she asked for my phone number and zip code. Being an avid reader of the consumerist, I asked her why she needed this information. She explained that it was policy and that she couldn’t charge me without it. I told her politely that I wanted to know why she needed that information, and explained that I use my card to pay for everything and only need to sign for purchases. Again she became quite upset to the point of yelling at me and went in the back to get the manager. She ran through a list of complaints to the man saying I was joking around ordering a drink and not cooperating paying for it. Finally the manager looks at me and says “sir, could you please step outside.” This is without my even saying a word in response. Fortunately, other customers saw the entire thing and started telling the manager how his employee was being very rude. He doesn’t seem to somehow believe these other people, and instead walks away saying “just take his order.” So AGAIN she asks me for my phone number. This time I said something like, (310) 111-2222. She looks at me a moment, certainly not amused, then walks away saying “a$$hole” under her breath. My jaw literally dropped but I assumed this whole ordeal would at least be over with and walked to wait for my drink.

    Of course the drink making lady was a friend of the cashiers and was sympathizing with her. I sat back and watched them talk to each other quietly, giving me nasty looks. I watched as person after person received their drinks, when they were in back of me in line. I waited and waited, ten minutes, then walked up and asked when they were going to make my drink. She apologized and looked like she then started making my drink. So I walked around and waited another ten, fifteen minutes. Again I went to the counter and she told me they had made it and I must have taken it. I said “how could I have taken it, I’ve been waiting here in front of you this whole time!” Obviously I wasn’t going to get anywhere with them so I asked to speak with the manager. After he came out of the back room (what does he do back there?) seeing me again he seemed to think I again had disturbed the peace. I explained that the employees were refusing to make my drink and that I just want it or my money back. He doesn’t get upset or ask if they did this, he just says the employee’s name, and walks away.
    She makes the drink, finally, spilling cappuccino all over the cup, almost dropping it on the counter, and I take it and leave.
    After walking outside and taking a sip, I had had enough and swore to never return, they didn’t even make it a ristretto.

  13. Greyseeker says:

    I received a Starbucks gift certificate for Xmas from a cow-irker at my office just a few weeks ago. I was going to Europe for the holidays and she knew my tradition was an eggnog latte and ginger cookie at the Starbucks in the airport I had a layover in.

    SO, armed with my STARBUCKS gift card in the airport I ordered then went to pay with the card. I got a curt ‘I’m sorry sir, but we’re an INDEPENDENT Starbucks so we don’t honor the gift cards. Do you have some other way of paying?’

    I tried arguing but to no avail. Apparently there is a whole subset of Starbucks around that can ignore Starbucks gift cards at will and there’s NO agreement between these outlets and MOTHERCORP to honor them and make people’s lives what they should be.

    A-WTF????? “Independent” Starbucks? Anyone ever heard of that? I think I was being lied to.

    B- I don’t used debit cards on Principle and pretty much all the cash I had was Pounds and Euros, so I had to Visa a $5 coffee. Pathetic.

    By the way, if I win can you make sure it’s cash and NOT one of these cards? LOL. I’m not sure I could take it….

  14. Josh Cohen says:

    I’ve never had a really bad experience at Starbucks — they usually get my coffee right — but sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time. I’ve stood there for as long as 15 minutes to get a venti mocha frappuccino (no whip, with hazelnut) with no one else waiting in line.

    The biggest problem I have is with the drive-through; they tend to forget to take off the whipped cream, or they get the size wrong.

    By the way, one of my friends is a shift-supervisor at Starbucks, and he confirms that the reason the baristas correct you when you say “large” is because it adds to consistency — like McDonalds (someone mentioned this earlier in the thread), wherever you go, if you order a venti mocha frappuccino, no whip, with hazelnut, anywhere in the English-speaking world, you’ll get exactly what you want. Supposedly.

  15. Clare says:

    I really don’t have much of a gripe with Starbucks. (I deplore the anti-union tactics, and how they run independent businesspeople out of work of course, but for a decent, relatively fast, ubiquitous cup o’ Joe, you really can’t beat it.) I feel chagrined ordering anything more complicated than a small light caramel Frap, so I can’t say I’ve ever experienced the scorn that comes with ordering a venti dry half-caf soy cappuccino with caramel, extra orange and two and a half Splendas.

    However, one thing really grates me: When I leave a tip (and I usually do because I worked in foodservice for years), the cashiers never, EVER say thank you. I make it extra obvious–throwing the change in the plastic box so it makes a sound, telling the cashier, “keep the change.” And yet when I don’t leave a tip, I get a dirty look.

    I would love to know if it’s company policy not to acknowledge tips.

  16. I don’t know if this counts, but…
    In my hometown, we were a little late on the starbucks. There was one in the B&N, but nobody really got the joke about the “new starbucks opening up in the bathroom of an existing starbucks.” There were several coffeehouses near the college campus (RIP Zopies!) and there was a relatively new one upstairs. Filled with all of the regulars: a ton of used books, three stoned philosophy grads, two high school skippers, awful coffee, and the cool secretary on her lunch break. We kept hearing that Starbucks was talking to their landlord about moving in next door. Well, months passed and out of the blue, all of her licenses with the city weren’t renewed. She was forced to close shop and devil mermaid opened downstairs. They give healthcare and the coffee is better, but where are all the pretentious high school kids going to go?

  17. RandomHookup says:

    Of course it’s official policy to ignore tipping. Officially, tipping doesn’t exist because if it did, Starbucks gets to deal with taxes and reporting and such, just like a regular restaurant. I would guarantee the official Starbucks handbook doesn’t reference tipping at all, or says it is inappropriate.

  18. Tonya says:

    1) Near Miss Number 1: I spent a week in 1999 in Washington DC with some friends. Hint for those who have never been: DC is really hot, humid and completely miserable during July, avoid at all costs.

    I visited the Starbucks just down the street from my friends every morning while I was there. The morning after 4th of July holiday I didn’t go because there was police activity and the whole block and been sectioned off. I didn’t realize it was the Starbucks at the time. I found out later that it had been robbed the night before and the three workers had been shot to death! That was so surreal and sad. The guy was caught and convicted a few months later.

    2) Near Miss Number 2: I was in the Starbucks at Van Ness & Geary in San Francisco just a few hours before they found the “bomb” in the bathroom.

    3) A number of years ago the store on 4th Street in San Rafael: a well woman in line in front me went completely postal about how there was FOAM in her NO FOAM LATTE and she asked for NO FOAM and WHY COULDN’T.. THEY. JUST. GET. IT. RIGHT!!!?! WERE THEY RETARD!?!? She threw the cup at the merchandise wall, spraying coffee everywhere and then stormed out still screaming and swearing.

    There was complete silence for a good 10 seconds as we all looked around at each other as if to verify that we’d all seen the same thing. Personally, I think she needed a valium more than she needed coffee right then and I hope she ordered decaf wherever she went after that.

  19. starbucksemployee says:

    I am an Employee at a Starbucks in a Sydney location and its unbeliveable how much crap us baristas have to put up with on bad pay!. For example in my training, i had to make my journey at 4am for a 6am start for just over a month with little notice. I then had to put up with several bad comments throughout my training, due to me learning the menu and the bar (example: “going too slow, screwing up the recipe) to combat this, i would say a joke like “gosh, training is so hard” only to be met with a “why-arent-you-making-my-coffee-now” glance.

    When my store opened i had to deal with many days of which i could make up to 75 drinks every half an hour. Considering it takes me now 20 seconds to make a normal drink, imagine how hard it is making 75 in a 30 minute period when you are learning how to make them.

    I have been a Barista for over a year now, and have had people throw coffee on me, yell at me,threaten me, steal from me, tell the managers mean stories about me and finally, confronting me in back rooms and on the counter. These situations can be quite distressing and i have to sit there and pretty much let it be!.

    Yes, there may be times when you dont get the coffee the way you like it. But it is unfair for people who are doing the right thing to think that all starbucks create mistakes.

    At the end of the day, it is a job, and in jobs, mistakes can be made!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    What I hate is that how they yell the name of the beverage SUPER-Oh-SO-EXTREMELY loud (eventhough I am standing RIGHT infront of the pick up bar A.K.A their faces).

    “TALL NON-FAT GREEN TEA LATTE!!!!!!!!” Infront of my face is just too much after 8 hours at work on monday!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    We all know Starbucks has the best beverages ..but honestly, I hate it when the barista in the POS register (Cashier) is looking at me all so cocky when I stare aimlessly and confuse-ly at the menu board that contains about 10.000 coffee/non-coffee beverages.

    It’s not my fault that you have types of latte as many as the numbers of animal species in planet earth…

  22. SexualSuburbian says:

    I went to Starbucks after being dragged there by my cousin and she told me to order this fancy smancy Frappachino/Crapochino or something so i did and i saw like half of a beetle floating in the cup, no joke. so i show my cousin and she just denies it cause she loves Starbucks so much. So i go to the counter and show him the head(and some legs) of the beetle in my cup and this wise guy college student says “oh yeah that has happened before” i was just like WTF? and then i said can i see a manager and the same kid says he’s on a coffee break. I couldn’t get a refund, all they offered was that i could wait for the manager but after 20 minutes of him not showing up i just threw the coffee away and left. Never been back since. This is 100% true. It happened in Middletown, New York.