Are Starbucks Baristas Forgetting To Give You Your Free Refills?

The Starbucks card has some spiffy new benefits (including free refills on brewed coffee), but it seems that some employees didn’t get the message.

From Starbucks Gossip:

There seems to be confusion about this at some stores. Since I’ve been charged for refills all this week, I figured the free-refill policy hadn’t kicked in. Then this morning, I checked the Starbucks website, which had this message: “Brewed Coffee Refills at No Charge.” I showed this to a barista who had me pay for the refill, and she was taken aback — it was news to her. Are stores not telling employees about this new perk?

Good question. Have you had trouble getting your free refills?

Registered Starbucks card users now get free brewed-coffee refills — right? [Starbucks Gossip]


Edit Your Comment

  1. coan_net says:

    It says on your “Starbucks Card” – I’m not sure what a Starbucks card is, but is it something where you will be getting a new card that lists those benefits…. so those benefits are not actually valid until you get a new card?

  2. Beerad says:

    I predict another heavily-announced, countrywide 3-hour store closing/training session to get the word out.

    In other news, Congress has officially named March and April “Starbucks Months” and requests that more media attention be paid to our new national pastime, Starbucks (whether reporting on, praising, or bitching about; patronizing the company is optional).

  3. B says:

    Wow, it’s like a 3 hour training session wasn’t enough to properly retrain all the baristas and teach them all the new information they needed to know.

  4. b612markt says:


    You forgot to mention that Consumerist is being renamed to Starbucksist (sp?)

  5. mantene says:

    @coan_net: I don’t think you need to get a new card if you already have one as the site provides the ability to “register your starbucks card” to get the added benefits.

  6. Sideonecincy says:

    Am I the only one who is still stuck on the fact that there is a “Starbucks Gossip” forum? I guess drinking the overpriced crap isn’t enough anymore, now we need to talk about it.

  7. thirdbase says:

    Wait. What. Someone would want more burnt coffee. I dunno.

  8. Shmonkmonk says:

    To the commenters who posts/will post about how the coffee’s always “burnt” and the price is too high… Do you guys even go to Starbucks? I mean, have you been to one since that one time someone dragged you to one like five years ago? If you hate Starbucks but continue to go there, than you’re an idiot. If you’ve never been inside one/been to one once, then no one cares about your one experience.
    In their defense, at least they’re trying to address customer’s complaints and opinions, which is more than you can say about a lot of retailers out there.

  9. Sherryness says:

    Does this mean I should be getting my mochas for the price of a latte? The only difference is the chocolate syrup. That’s pretty cool, if so. I do have a registered Starbucks card – I personalized to say, “Read” – which is pretty funny because I have a rant on there about Starbuck pushing ‘Sugar In The Raw’ on you all the time.

  10. scarysnow says:

    @thirdbase: thanks for reminding me. i almost forgot that starbucks overroasts their beans.

  11. ChuckECheese says:

    @Sherryness: Don’t diss the demerara, Sherry.

  12. boss_lady says:

    @Sherryness: Man, I understand this. Sugar In The Raw isn’t actually anything special.

    “Most “raw” sugar sold in North America is turbinado sugar, so named because it is a purified sugar liquid spun in turbines, or centrifuges. While common white sugar crystals are stripped of molasses during processing, turbinado sugar retains some of this syrup, so it has a yellow-gold or tan color. Similar sweeteners include demerara and muscovado sugars.”

    It’s not like Sugar In The Raw has been through less processing than ‘white’ sugar.

  13. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    My Starbucks dude filled me in on the benefits of my card when I was not aware of them, and gave me my free coffee when I bought a pound of beans.

    I think I’m going to write his boss a letter.

  14. chucklebuck says:

    Wait now – they always give me a free tall when I buy beans and I don’t have a card. Are they going to stop doing that now?

  15. Sherryness says:

    @boss_lady: And it doesn’t dissolve after spending 20 minutes in scalding hot espresso and steamed milk. That concerns me, healthy-wise. Is it crystalling my insides???? Sorry, just being a bit dramatic, but seriously…. It can’t be that great for you …

  16. Sherryness says:

    oops, I meant crystalizing – I’m messing up today – I’ll stop posting for awhile!

  17. ceriphim says:

    Wait, hold on, let me make sure I have this right.

    An employee didn’t read the daily/weekly email update before they started working? Aaaaand subsequently didn’t know there was a policy change about Starbucks cards as related to free refills on drip coffee?

    Oh. My. God. You’re right guys, that *IS* important news!

  18. ElPresidente408 says:

    There has been 0 communication from my manager about this program. I found out about it through the Starbucks website and through some blogs. It also seems no one else knows what’s going on.

    What you have to do is buy a Starbucks card (which is just a store gift card). You go to and register the card. When ordering a refill or drink with extras make sure you tell the barista that your card is registered. Once the program becomes more common, I assume more baristas will automatically ask you if the card is registered.

    The confusing part for us is this. If I press Grande Vanilla Latte on the register and swipe your card, it says no discount. However, if I press Grande Latte then manually press Add Vanilla Syrup, it’ll let me do the discount. So I’m not sure what is really going on.

  19. FYI, none of these changes apply to any Magic Johnson Starbucks.

  20. indemnitypop says:

    Starbucks has always offered me a free tall with a pound of beans (twice).

  21. says:

    @ceriphim: More accurately, the manager either was not informed, or did not bother to inform his staff, of the change.

    The key problem: if a national chain is going to roll out a national promotion, every store should know how to participate in it. Somewhere along the line, the chain of communication in/to this particular store broke.

    If you’re a consumer of Starbucks, then this is good to know so you can stand up for your right to free whatevers. (Also good to know that if you order flavored drinks, make sure you order the syrup “separately” so it is charged appropriately.)

    If you’re not a consumer of Starbucks, then it’s not relevant to you except for it allows you to make a comment that is a thinly-disguised version of “slow news day, Consumerist?”

  22. akalish says:

    @Sherryness: Chocolate syrup is different from the flavored syrups. The components (i.e. cocoa) are far more expensive, so don’t expect your mochas to become cheaper.

  23. duncanatrix says:

    We’ve always done a free tall brewed coffee if you buy beans; that makes it sound like it’s a free ANY beverage.

    This is the first I’ve heard of free refills since the meeting, where it was briefly mentioned that it would be happening. They never said when.

  24. Sherryness says:

    @akalish: I see, that makes sense. Thanks for letting me know that; I hate to ask things like that in person and get shot down!

  25. algormortis says:

    @duncanatrix: don’t you love it when corporate drops something on you and tells the end-users first?

    i got a free refill on a brewed i paid cash for the other day; was there in civilian clothes not the t-mobile hotspot goddess ones and never worked on their network. i was trying to pay, actually.

  26. factotum says:

    @duncanatrix: “that makes it sound like it’s a free ANY beverage.”

    It’s true and Howard said so: free tall of your choice INCLUDING frappucino.

  27. ceriphim says: Obviously in a perfect world, yeah. However, things don’t always work out this way. If this was about any company but the handful which people here dog constantly (BB, WalMart, MS, SB, etc) this wouldn’t be news.

    Keeping the management staff of 300 stores constantly updated on all the newest info/promos/discounts is like herding cats. Not to mention what it’s like with 3000 stores. Cut ’em a break and ask for your damn free coffee tomorrow…

  28. ElPresidente408 says:

    Just spoke to my manager and the information hotline. Here’s the deal.

    Any syrup that comes in a clear bottle will be free. This means that mocha, white mocha, and chai syrups are not included in the program. For registered card holders, ordering a Venti Vanilla Latte or a Venti Caramel Latte will cost the same as a regular Venti Latte. You could also for instance add Vanilla syrup to your brewed coffee for free. However a Venti White Mocha will still cost the same price. Registered card customers will no longer be charged for adding Soy or Half&Half to any drink. Additional espresso shots will still cost extra for everyone.

    In the interest of customer satisfaction, people who argue about getting a mocha for regular price will probably be given it. However, the information packet at the register does indicate that Mocha, White Mocha, and Chai are not covered in the promotion.

  29. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Is a Starbucks Card like a Social Security Card?
    Will we need to for essential services?
    Will we have to show it before we vote?
    Before we order espresso?

  30. John Gardner says:

    My barista told me about it this morning because i always get vanilla. The guy ahead of me would save a bunch because he gets like vanilla and soy. it saved him like 70c or something.

  31. dereksea says:

    The cashier has to hit a button on the screen called “card benefits” before swiping your card, so if they don’t ask you if it’s registered or not – and you don’t mention it, they swipe your starbucks card and you still pay for the add-ons. They have charged me for add-ons twice when it’s busy because they are trying to speed through the line. They should really figure out some way for the computer to auto-recognize a registered card, or some sort of weekly credit of add-on purchases, so the cashiers don’t have to ask (or not) every time.

  32. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    What’s the big deal?

    A refill is only 50 cents, anyway.

  33. cockeyed says:

    What a shocker. Employees not aware of new company policies, or not making themselves aware? It’s almost like they don’t give a shit.

  34. MightyCow says:

    Pete’s coffee always gives you a free cup when you buy beans – no need to pay for a membership card.

  35. azntg says:

    I’m sure many Starbucks franchises will offer this (or risk losing some customers), but there is a fine print on Starbucks’ website:

    “Participating U.S. and Canada stores only. Offer subject to change.”

  36. baristabrawl says:

    Yes, one barista at one store and the communication chain has completely broken down. I ask people up front about a change. We have employees that never work. That work only 1 or 2 shifts a month. I don’t get that. I’m there 4-5 days a week and I have school. I’d say if you couldn’t work 2 shifts a week, then you’re fired. FIRED. Maybe that’s what he got.

    Also? What if it were a partnership store or a UCO store or something not directly under SBUX Corporate control.

    The franchises are not franchises, unless you’re in an airport, or a Target or some other store that isn’t a corporate owned store. I hate when people call us a franchise and they think that word is interchangeable location.

  37. baristabrawl says:


    See and the way I understood it was that it hasn’t been through the final bleaching process that white sugar goes through, so it’s better for you.

    At any rate people come in all the time and we have to inform them that it’s not “brown” sugar. Not like the kind you bake with? Yeah…people are always amazed. I always say, “If it were brown sugar, it would say, “brown sugar.” It’s just a color, folks…you either want it or ya don’t.

    Off topic: It’s a good thing that we don’t know what we’re putting in our bodies all the time, because we wouldn’t do it…then the industry would suffer.

  38. baristabrawl says:


    I think I love you.

  39. baristabrawl says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: The Magic Johnson stores are called UCO (urban coffee opportunity) stores, and we have 4 in my district. They sure as hell do apply. If you’re not getting it ask for it tomorrow. They’ll GIVE you a free cup of coffee. Seriously? We’re in a transitional stage.

    It’s a strategic partnership, not a franchise. No matter what MJ says. They have to follow the same rules.

  40. LUV2CattleCall says:


    To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg…McDonald’s ads say that too, but there isn’t a McDonald’s out there that serves Spaghetti and Blankets…

  41. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    To the OP:

    Why would just pay the money? You ‘thought’ the policy didn’t kick in? You couldn’t ask? Seriously? TOO many consumers are passive aggressive.

  42. Me. says:

    The soy drinker in me is very happy about this…

  43. @ElPresidente408: Thanks for that information. I’ve already written SB about it to ask what I should do since I’ve been to two stores where the employees didn’t have any idea how to apply the “benefits”.

  44. lxny says:

    I realized I was getting charged for refills after having a receipt printed out this morning.

    Call the Starbucks Card hotline to complain:

    (800) 782-7282
    Mon – Fri 5 AM – 8 PM (PST)
    Sat – Sun 6 AM – 6 PM (PST)

    They confirm that 1) it has to be a coporate store, 2) barister has to hit “card benefits” before swiping your card.

    I inquired why it isn’t automatically done, they said they are currently working on updating the software on their system.

    POOR ANSWER, GIVEN THAT THEY ARE RUNNING THE PROMOTION ALREADY! By the time they update their system, the benefit may be discontinued.

    After asking for refunds on all my refills, they said the best they can do is send me complimentary drink coupons.