Check Your Starbucks Receipts, You May Be Getting Screwed Out Of Free Refills, Syrup

Over at Racked, a reader is reporting that despite taking advantage of Starbucks new “reward card” they were being screwed out of the promised free syrup. What’s up with that, Starbucks?

I started to use a Starbucks pre-paid card when i saw your promotion that when a purchase is made with a registered card, syrups would be free. After looking at the transaction history on my card, only one time was the syrup free, that was the transaction on 04/17/2008 for $3.92. All the others i was charged the full price. It’s not that big of a deal, its a matter of Starbucks advertising one thing but actually not delivering. Has this promotion been terminated? If not, what is the issue? One would think with sales slowing down and the stock price at half of what it was, something like this for loyal customers would work properly.

Starbucks wrote back with an apology “for the inconvenience” and said it was a training issue: “In addition to partner education, we are also working to make it easier for partners to ring up your purchase correctly at the point of sale,” said the big green caffeinated mermaid.

This is the second time we’ve heard reports of people not actually getting their Starbucks rewards. They’ll probably get it figured out eventually, but in the meantime… check your receipts.

Racked Mailbag: Starbucks Cards Not So Rewarding [Racked]
(Photo: MyNameMattersNot )


Edit Your Comment

  1. mike6545 says:

    I work at starbucks and we do give you free syrups and milk. The problem is we don’t know if your card is registered or not. Please mention it to us. We are currently working on a way to get the register to prompt us for the cards and check for registration. These rewards are still being worked out. I know a lady in my store that comes in all the time and forgets to mention it. If i’m there i just do it for her but others forget. If you ask, they will issue you a refund as long as it’s the same day or else it’s hard to look up the order and do it.. Also, the sooner you mention that it wasn’t free, the easier it is to remove.

  2. ctaylor says:

    Just let the barista know that your reward card is registered online before they ring you up. You must have a reward card that has been registered online to get the reward, and it really helps if you let them know ahead of time since not all cards are registered. That’s what I was told by a barista.

  3. AT203 says:

    Guys, I for one find it more insulting to be called a “partner” than an employee. Do you really think people are too dumb to feel patronized?

    Seriously, what !@#$ing planet to MBA/Marketing people come from!?

  4. betatron says:

    “screwed out of your free syrup!” oh. gawd. the. hum. anity. kittens weep.

  5. suzy-q says:

    @betatron: Are you really that naive? The point isn’t the customer is paying 40 cents more than they should be. Starbucks advertised a service and they’re not delivering. It doesn’t matter if it costs 40 cents or 400 dollars.

  6. leapingliz says:

    I noticed that only certain syrups are free, at least on the little promotional flipbook I read. Raspberry was not listed as a free syrup, however hazelnut, vanilla, and other are (which is unfortunate for me because I often get Raspberry Steamed Milk as an evening drink).

    After registering my card, I’ve ordered at least 3 drinks with a syrup that is supposed to be free from one Starbucks location, and was charged each time for it.

    I ordered from another Starbucks in between those purchases above, and without mentioning that I had registered I was not charged for the syrup, which leads me to confusion on if the barista just didn’t charge me, or the system saw what was going on.

    What would the point be of registering your card online if you still have to tell the barista not to charge you for syrup? It should be automatic, just as how I would expect the free drip coffee refills to occur within the same day.

  7. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @betatron: Have you read the name of this blog? Jesus Christ, I’m sick and tired of all the posts on this blog that are simply and frankly anti-consumer. If you aren’t on the side of the person getting ripped off, then why are you bothering? Go post on some “I hate people” blog or something.

  8. chutch says:

    @suzy-q & speedwell: Thank You! My sentiments exactly.

    We are here to give an outlet for taking care of other customers who have received service that is not as promised. This is also an outlet to remind us customers of what to watch out for in this big bad world of dollars and cents. If you’re only wanting to gripe at people, I suggest There are people on there that do almost nothing but.

  9. betatron says:

    Ya ya i get it. The simple fact is you cannot write “i’m not getting my free syrup” without looking foolish. Yes, i get all the nuances about service paid for but not rendered.

    And yes it does matter if it’s 40 cents vs. 400 dollars. I would expect a competent consumer to be able to solve this problem with a quick word at the register.

    Elevating a forty cent oopsie to the same gravity as a $400 problem trivializes the greater issues. One might imagine then, that it trivializes the value of this blog, too.

  10. Christopher says:

    It’s a siren, not a mermaid.

  11. ChuckECheese says:

    @speedwell: What I find interesting about the anti-consumer comments, is that it becomes clear that these are the very perps causing consumer problems in the first place. These comments perfectly mirror the aggressive incompetence that the gentler Consumerist writers despair over. If these people weren’t on here, they would be disconnecting somebody in a call center, or stealing pics from your computer at the Geek Squad. The haters are astroturfing on behalf of blaming the victim, which seems to be a large portion of the current GNP. Consumerist is providng a public service by keeping the customer-haters tied up on the keyboard, and not causing trouble in our retail and service establishments.

  12. MercuryPDX says:

    @CBragg: Techincally, a Siren from Greek mythology was half bird (wings, tail, and talons) and half woman (hooters!).

    The fact that in Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Romanian or Portuguese, the word for mermaid are respectively Sirena, Sirène, Sirena, Syrena, Sirenă and Sereia creates visual confusion, so that sirens are even represented as mermaids. “The sirens, though they sing to mariners, are not sea-maidens,” Harrison cautions; “they dwell on an island in a flowery meadow.”

    Think “attractive harpy”. :)

  13. Me. says:

    This has happened to me too. I keep telling the baristas that the card is registered and still no discount. The only time I got it was when I complained and held the entire line up as the shift supervisor manually deleted all modifiers. After six transactions, I had to draw the line.

    I’m fine with paying full price for the drink, but if I’m giving Sbux the free market research (because they are surely tracking my habits through the card), I expect something in return.

  14. morganlh85 says:

    @betatron: Well I’m pretty sure Starbucks sells more than 1000 cups of coffee a day, which would amount to the $400. They aren’t just screwing one person, they are likely screwing thousands, and that IS a big deal.

  15. JN2 says:

    I’ve got the solution, don’t register for any kind of “rewards” program whether it be “free” coffee syrup or credit counseling. If Starbucks needs to know my coffee purchasing habits, they can write it down themselves when I leave. Otherwise it’s none of their business.

    That being said I do like the taste of their new Pikes Place Roast coffee. (I don’t like syrups in it anyway). Oh, and I’m glad the old logo is back, the one with the boobies. See, I’m not a Starbucks hater!

  16. thewriteguy says:

    Blah, blah, coffee tastes burnt, blah, blah, they over-roast on purpose, blah, blah, blah, no free WiFi, blah, blah, blah, blah, pretentiously named cup sizes, blah, support your local indie coffeehouse, blah, Dunkin’ Donuts/McD’s is better, etc..

  17. chiieddy says:

    The problem is the computers that run their cash registers haven’t been updated yet so a) the partner needs to be trained about which items to take off and do it manually and b) often needs to be reminded.

    So, simply remind them you get your freebie. They’re human too.

    disclaimer: my husband works for Starbucks.

  18. bms says:

    They are already screwing you out of free wireless.

  19. Me - now with more humidity says:

    bms: cry me a river. Since when did free wireless become a birthright?

  20. @thewriteguy: You forgot “omg, who drinks that sludge? Coffee tastes terrible!”

  21. SarraJK says:

    I’ve had issues with it too, the guy I spoke to said that if you order a Vanilla Latte (for example), then the register sees it as just a drink, not drink plus syrup (which gets discounted).

    But I don’t want to have to ask about my discount every time I order, it’s a hassle.

  22. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Thats what you get for drinking Starbucks.

  23. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @ChuckECheese: I hope you have your tin foil fastened tightly to your head.

  24. chrisjames says:

    @betatron: It’s hardly trivial if you get screwed for 40 cents a hundred times, which is happening constantly. It’s certainly more eye catching when the large dollar amount travesties parade through Consumerist, but the tiny mistakes, thefts, and negligence should be brought to our attention as well because the tiny transactions happen much more often, and we feel much more secure about them.

  25. PinkBox says:

    In my case, I’m saving almost $1 per drink since I opt for both a syrup and milk option.

    I wrote Starbucks too about it, since four out of my last seven purchases didn’t give them to me for free when I used my registered card.

    I got the same response, and they’re sending me a free drink coupon.

    Of course the next time I went, they still didn’t give me the free options.

  26. LorneReams says:

    I pay with the card, grab a refill, and then they ask for money (.58 or whatever it is now)…every time. I then have to pick up the card info thing that’s sitting on the register and show the person that yes, the refill is free. Also, the booklet says NOTHING about having to register the card online, so I’m guessing that’s a myth.

  27. Roxie says:

    Yep, I’ve been screwed out of rewards. Last month, the folks at the Starbucks I usually go to…folks who are usually very knowledgeable of what’s going on…told me they had no idea of what was going on with the rewards program. Seems they hadn’t been told–and that’s what other baristas at other locations were saying. I tried bringing up the news in the Starbucks blog, but they just stared blankly at me. I ended up buying my drinks without any discount a couple of times, then ordered regular drinks from then on. I wasn’t about to waste more money for discounts I wasn’t going to get.

    This month, I’ve gotten slightly better results. When I go to Starbucks, I have to start out by telling these folks that I have a registered card…even if they know I do…and I have to ask about the rewards first. When they tell me what I can get, I place my order, and then they’ll put the reward through. Oftentimes, the baristas will tell me that for now, the reward is something that has to be put through manually, but they’ll soon get some kind of automated program so it’ll be a lot easier to process the discounted drinks. I guess it’s their way of apologizing for the way I have to jump through hoops to get my discount? But yeah…until they get their stuff worked out, I won’t be adding any “modifiers” to my drinks.

  28. bms says:

    @Me: Never said it was a birthright, but free wireless might actually get me to enter their establishment.

  29. jurisenpai says:

    I too have been screwed out of my free soymilk on occasion. FWIW, I think Starbucks shouldn’t charge extra for soy – they always have it in stock, it’s cheaper that dairy these days, and no one should be penalized for having a dairy allergy!

  30. ChuckECheese says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: No I don’t have a tinfoil hat, but I do have my heart on my sleeve ;)

  31. John Gardner says:

    Make sure they swipe your card twice!

    My baristas have told me that if you see someone swipe it only once, you aren’t getting your free stuff.

  32. Lambasted says:

    Starbucks wrote back with an apology “for the inconvenience” and said it was a training issue

    Training issue is new retail-speak for “Damn, we got caught. We hoped to get away with it for a little longer”.

    It’s never a training issue when it comes to taking customers money–stores have employees trained very well to do that. But always training issue when it’s time to issue customers a refund, discount, etc.

    I’ve noticed more than a few companies using lack of communication or training as an excuse for why they snaked their customers. Execs are sure quick to throw their frontline employees under the bus as sacrificial lambs to take the fall for corrupt and snakey business practices:

    If only Shirley had bothered to attend the training seminar she would have known that customers don’t want to pay for shoddy merchandise.

    If only Chris had read his training manual he wouldn’t have kept the customer on hold for 20 minutes while he ate his lunch to then come back to say “we can’t help you.”

  33. dereksea says:

    I tried using a starbucks card for a while to save a little money on syrup because I usually get a vanilla latte, which the cashiers have a special button for (as opposed to ringing up a latte and vanilla syrup separately). But apparently the starbucks register system doesn’t recognize my drink as having syrup, so it doesn’t comp me for it. Only a few employees knew to ring up latte and vanilla separately and the rest were just trying to rush through the line, so I’ve given up and stopped using the starbucks card.

  34. BII says:

    actually, everyone going to starbucks is getting screwed, screwed out of a decent cup of coffee that isn’t burnt or tastes like asswater, amirite?

  35. ManPurse says:

    @BII: That line of commenting is so tired. Stop it already.

  36. dextrone says:

    Yep, it barely works… free syrup unless you ask…and hope that the cashier knows….

  37. mike6545 says:

    @betatron: i know, it’s like $.40 your screwed out of. big deal. and people actually go through the trouble of making a barista give them a $.40 refund.

  38. mike6545 says:

    @suzy-q: they are delivering, but baristas cannot take it off without seeing your card and swiping it BEFORE you pay. if you have your card in your wallet right up untill they tell you the total, they won’t mention it cause they don’t know if your paying with an sbux card or if it’s even registered.

  39. mike6545 says:

    @leapingliz: eventually it will be automatic. they are working on it. be aware that this program was just rolled out and they are still working out all the kinks. just mention for the next few months and in the summer it will prob be automatic since stores are much busier in the summer(atleast from my expierience).

  40. mike6545 says:

    @speedwell: well these people arn’t being ripped off, they’re just being quiet and not saying anything. All you have to do is say “it’s registered” god is that soooo hard. i mean seriously. You’re not getting ripped off, your being charged for being lazy and thats all it is.

  41. mike6545 says:

    @betatron: THANK YOU! My opinion exactly.

  42. mike6545 says:

    @chiieddy: well they have been updated but the button is easy to miss. Also, they might not have been trained on it.

  43. chiieddy says:

    @dereksea: Here’s the trick. Order it differently. I know, it’s silly. Don’t order a ” vanilla latte”, order a ” latte with vanilla syrup”. Same thing, but helps the cashier process it as a latte with syrup when keying it in.

    Of course, I’m infamous for not liking the amount of syrup I get. Makes the drinks way too sweet. I order a “grande non-fat 2-pump vanilla latte”

  44. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @mike6545: People who are not trustworthy in small things are not to be trusted with large things, either.

    I have worked in corporate offices for twenty years. Ten of those years I was an office manager (I’ve been a software trainer for the past five). I hired and fired and promoted secretaries. Say you were the manager of five secretaries, and four of them regularly pilfered small things… a few packs of Post-It notes, a couple pens, the creamer from the break room, an open package of copier paper, a quarter from Petty Cash… which secretary would you trust to manage the office if you had to be out on a business trip or sick?

  45. ahempton says:

    I agree… not all employees know how to take the discount. I feel like I’ve been there so many times, and heard how to do it, that I could train them how… press card benefits, swipe the card, press total, swipe the card…

  46. Me. says:

    There are two Me’s in this thread…

    *looks around suspiciously*

  47. Sneaky1 says:

    Hmm, “retail-speak”. . .? I guess the moon walk was staged as well.

    In a two week period prior to this rewards card launch I worked 65 hours each week so I could personaly train 121 Baristas on how to ring it up the benefits (they don’t need to know if the card is registered and you don’t have to change the way you order). We went through as many as 10 transactions each. I walked away very confident in their abilities. What I DON’T have control over when I am not there is their willingness to do a job right.

    You don’t need to order a certain way, ask for benefits before hand or tell them your card is registered. What you DO need to do is raise your kids to want to work an honest day in an honest job and stop this entitlement attitude that the world owes you a living for nothng or that they really are going to be the next American Idol.

  48. shortandsweet says:

    @AT203: Starbucks calls their employees partners because they are all business partners. They all own stock in the company. Starbucks is an employee friendly company and their employee’s voted them onto Forbes Best Company to Work top 10 list in 2007. So I guess their “partners” enjoy the term.