Throwing $4 Drinks At Unfriendly Starbucks Managers Is Not Misdemeanor Harassment

A Portland jury recently found Latasha Curry not guilty of misdemeanor harassment for throwing a $4 venti iced mocha at a Starbucks manager who accused her of running a free drink scam. Curry was initially offered a free drink after she complained that her iced tea was too bitter. When she tried to redeem her freebie two days later, store manager Ryan Smith decided that Curry looked suspiciously like a woman who redeemed a free drink from a different store 11 months earlier. Smith accused Curry of running some elaborate drink scam, prompting Curry to serve Smith a free venti shower.

When asked by Curry’s defense attorney how he recognized Curry from 11 months ago, Smith said it was her glasses and her voice.

Curry later testified that she doesn’t wear glasses and produced a driver’s license as evidence.

Upset because she felt targeted, Curry said she began to raise her voice as Smith raised his.

Curry said when the other employee placed the drink on the counter, she grasped it, then let go when Smith grabbed it and tried to pull it toward him. He spilled the drink on himself, she said, when she let go of the cup.

“I was very much upset,” she said. “He accused me of going to a store in Jantzen Beach and in his words running a scam. I was offended. . . . I don’t need to steal for or scam for a $4.20 drink.”

Smith called 911 after the incident, claiming that “a customer [just] assaulted me with a hot drink.” We’d like to think that Curry would be entitled to a freebie if her iced tea was served scalding hot.

Starbucks’ corporate office essentially sided with Curry, saying: “Providing great customer service is part of (the company’s) commitment and if a drink isn’t perfect, we want customers to let us know and we’ll make it right.”

Dispute over spilled Starbucks mocha ends up in Portland court [The Oregonian]
(Photo: ka3vo)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sherryness says:

    Wow, what a bunch of clowns.

  2. Go to your rooms and face the corner for 15 minutes.

  3. donkeyjote says:

    Chick in photo -> hawt.

  4. mgy says:

    I can’t get my recipe quite right. Whenever I pour the boiling water in the cup, the ice cubes melt.

  5. rellog says:

    I can’t believe the DA actually took this to court. What an incompetent boob

  6. donkeyjote says:

    @rellog: Private citizens can act as private prosecutors.

    And re: photo. Her shirt is so apt in this article. “Must have Been My Evil Twin”

  7. donkeyjote says:

    @donkeyjote: @rellog:
    Not that it happened in this case, but they can.

  8. Lambasted says:

    You know the judge really wanted to say: Not Guilty due to mitigating circumstances. I.e., Starbucks coffee is so bad it is understandable someone would lash out in violence after drinking a few sips.

    Starbucks sided with Curry only AFTER she was acquitted. Where was their public support before and during the trial? Chumps.

  9. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Abuse of the police is out of hand and this is the perfect case for an example to be made. Normally people can get away with filing a false police report, but this person said it was a hot drink when it was not. That means this should be a clear cut case of filing a false police report. This manager needs to be jailed. People need to know you can’t use the police to get someone in trouble for a situation you started.

  10. humphrmi says:


    Private citizens can act as private prosecutors.

    So what? In this case it was a county DA that took the case to court.

    This case was riddled with errors, and the DA got his ass handed to him. First, there’s the “victim” who couldn’t even properly identify the defendant. Second, the “victim” called 9-1-1 to report that he’d been assaulted by a customer who threw a “hot drink” at him, but later admitted it was an ice mocha. Third, apparently the store lost the only real evidence they had of the event – the store’s surveillance video.

    I think the defendant has a pretty good argument that she didn’t throw a drink at the manager.

  11. morganlh85 says:

    You’d be surprised how many people steal free drink coupons though…sometimes employees will take them and sell them online, etc.

    But pretty silly for the MANAGER to accuse someone in public that way without any proof.

  12. forgottenpassword says:

    wait a minute….. so this manager assumed she was some free drink scamming mastermind because he THOUGHT he recognized her from a DIFFERENT STORE 11 MONTHS earlier????

    I am just trying to figure out if this guy is a barney fife type or just a prick.

    Maybe both.

  13. DH405 says:

    This manager needs to go to jail for filing a false report. It’s guys like this who make it impossible for me to get cops to respond when I’ve had situations in the past of people breaking the law.

    I even had someone ram my car about a foot and a half away from me because they wanted me out of a parking space. This was intentional. The guy even threatened to kick my ass before doing so. The cops said “Well, we won’t respond to an accident tonight. It’s raining.” while I stood outside of the restaurant that the jackass was eating at.

  14. algormortis says:

    It’s like morons all over.

    I know the *$ in question and they’re, ahem, awful.

  15. Indecision says:

    You know what’s really freakish about this (to me, anyway)? Last night I had a dream about a really pissy Starbucks manager who offended me so much, I threw my iced coffee at her. I never even heard of this case until now, about 20 hours later.

  16. easy2panic says:

    OVER $4.20?!?!?!

    Of course this is a serious matter! We’re talking about money that could buy a gallon of gas!

    Hmm… 16oz of sh*t water, or a gallon of gas, let me think about that one…

  17. hejustlaughs says:

    I’ve done worse stuff and haven’t had the popo on my ass yet.

  18. strathmeyer says:

    “I am just trying to figure out if this guy is a barney fife type or just a prick.”

    What kind of person tries to grab a cup of coffee out of a customer’s hands?

  19. ilikemoney says:

    Well, I don’t know about the lot of you, but I sure am glad that our justice system is looking out against unscrupulous individuals who would callously steal from such a respected national establishment, many of which often struggle to cover the losses that they incur when they give their outgoing administrators their relatively modest severance packages for their tireless work to makeup for the lost profits from the aforementioned would-be thieves.

    Obvious sarcasm is obvious.

  20. grouse says:

    Private prosecutions are usually not allowed in the U.S. I doubt that has anything to do with this case.

  21. kyle4 says:

    @donkeyjote: Seconded. I never comment on the photo but that woman is smokin’.

    Regarding the case, it was no wonder it was dropped. The guy must be a nut to say he recognized someone from eleven months earlier when he probably deals with hundreds of customers a day. Than he lied to the police about the temperature of the drink. There’s a huge difference between a hot and cold drink.

    I believe her that he put it on himself when they both grabbed it at the same time. He probably tried to yank her drink and it flew on him. He’s a big overreacting neurotic baby and he should’ve been charged with filing a false police report.

  22. InThrees says:

    You kids behave or I will turn this Starbucks RIGHT around and go home.

  23. P_Smith says:

    @strathmeyer: What kind of person tries to grab a cup of coffee out of a customer’s hands?

    Or worse yet, what kind of idiot *expects* a customer to take the cup out of his hands? I’ve lost count of the number of employees who “think” they are doing me or others a favour by handing the cup with their own hand wrapped around it.

    How exactly is the customer supposed to take hold of it? Is it too much to ask that the employee put the drink down so the customer can pick it up himself, especially when it’s hot and there’s a cardboard “protector” around it?

  24. pfeng says:

    Bad conflation of “very long drawn out low-budget scam” and “elaborate scam”…

    1. Complain about your drink and get a free one.
    2. Wait 12 months. Repeat once.
    3. PROFIT!

  25. PinkBox says:

    The Starbucks I go to gives out free drink coupons regularly for simple things, like if they think you’re waiting in the line too long, and I got four of them for asking corporate a question about the starbucks card giving you a discount.

    I’ve used maybe seven of them in the past two months as a result – but this girl who the manager thinks used two twice in one year is being called a scammer? Ha!

  26. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    If my iced tea was too bitter (from Starbucks? really?), I would be wanting my money back.

    If you’re willing to pay 4.20 for a cup of iced tea, there are several much better tea selections to be had in most any convenience store, typically for less than half of your 4.20.

    I believe 2.39 gets you a GALLON of Publix sweet tea, which kicks the shit out of anything you get in Starbucks.

  27. HungryGrrl says:

    $1 for McD’s new Sweet Tea…

    99 cents gets you ‘fresh bewed’ fountain tea at most fast food restaurants. The stuff at Panera is fine and dandy. Au Bon Pain have amazing Peach Icead Tea for $1.99.

    Dunkins are a little more expensive… I think they charge up to $2.60 for a large fresh brewed iced tea. And they don’t give a shit if you spill stuff in their store… and when their credit card machines go down they just give the drinks away!

  28. chiieddy says:

    Read this to my husband (a Starbucks manager) and he was appalled. I go to Starbucks quite a bit and am not afraid to complain when I know something is wrong. I often get the coupons. Recently got two, and in order to use them in the Epping, NH store I had to put up with the third degree. I was happy to tell her exactly what happened and how I didn’t appreciate being accused of theft.

  29. freejazz38 says:

    any putz who pays $4 for that crap is a moron anyway

  30. says:

    @mgy: put a metal spoon into it…it attracts the hot ions. The ice still melts, but not as quickly.

  31. OletheaEurystheus says:

    disgusting. My wife was assaulted by two customers who didint like that
    they missed their call for seating and after a hour it was given away.
    The woman went right up to my wife and threw the beeper at her. Brinker
    not only bent over backwards to give free stuff to the customers who
    ASSAULTED my wife, they tried to fire my wife for FOLLOWING SEATING
    POLICY that THEY MADE. It was only through her manager that she kept her
    job, because he went back to them and refused to fire one of his
    training staff because a customer assaulted her.

    Right then and there was when I realized that most major corporations
    are run by disgusting individuals who have no care for their staffs well
    being. My wife now works with the worst of the worst of students in a
    public school system and she flat out tells me that her job is a gem
    compared to serving customers. Yep thats right she likes working with
    gang members, drug dealers, and pregnate underage girls MORE than she
    did serving food.

  32. thelushie says:

    I brew my own tea and it is better than anything I can get from a restaurant.

    She began to raise her voice when she “felt targeted”. Why did you feel targeted? That is what destroyed her argument in my mind.

    Also, individuals need to learn to pick and choose your battles. On both parts, customer and manager, this was not worth picking. I don’t blame the customer, and I don’t blame the manager.

  33. forgottenpassword says:

    Just wanted to note that basically being accused of being a thief on extremely shaky & unfounded evidence….. can be infuriating & offensive. You call the wrong person a thief & if all you get is a beverage in your face…. then count yourself lucky. Not saying its right, but….

  34. PinUp says:

    @HungryGrrl: Au Bon Pain is THE BEST!

  35. PinUp says:

    @OletheaEurystheus: I just left retail sales after twelve years for that reason. Not only do people mistreat staff in all kinds of service positions in all kinds of crazy ways, but employers (on average) either outright blame their employees, or do a really half-ass job protecting us.

    Sales staff where I was working are jumping ship in droves after pay cuts added insult to injury. I shouldn’t mention the company in question by name, but they have a huge Thanksgiving day parade every year…

  36. macinjosh says:


    “Starbucks sided with Curry only AFTER she was acquitted. Where was their public support before and during the trial? Chumps. “

    They’re not going to stand by someone who allegedly threw hot coffee on one of their employees. Once they found it was neither “thrown” nor “hot”, they can certainly support her then.

  37. stuny says:

    This IS the silliest story I’ve read in a while. It’s like a satire detective show.

    Imaginary eyeglasses
    Some evil coupon racketeering organization
    Scalding iced coffee
    Three Stooges caliber “letting go of the cup so the other guy spills it on himself”!
    Unsubstantiated black-on-gay harrassment
    Nixon-style evidence tampering

    Thank goodness the writers strike is over so we can get such brillian comedy scripts!

  38. TPS Reporter says:

    Man, why didn’t I think of this. Scamming $4.00 every 11 months!! In 1000 years I’ll have over $4 grand. What a SWEET scam.

  39. eben56 says:

    Ah yes… I have discovered the secret now. I will scam Starbucks for a cup of coffee EVERY YEAR. When I retire I will have amassed a fortune of $48.00. No more debts.. BAHAMAS HERE WE COME…. Bwahahahaha.

  40. baristabrawl says:

    I’m a SBUX employee. I have to say, if you’re scamming us out of $4.20 it’s more worth it to me to just give you the drink and get you out of my face than to argue with you. Seriously? What is $4 in my day?

    If I let you make me mad and ruin my day, no matter how awful you are, how much your drink is a joke or how demanding you can be…there is a good chance that the next few guests will receive crappy service. It’s better to know that someone is bourgeois trash and move on than to risk having a drink thrown at you.

    Having said that: If you eve did throw a hot drink at me, you better be fast. Because for $7 an hour? I’m going to make a violet citizens arrest.

    That is all.

  41. VikingP77 says:

    Manager needs to be fired now!

  42. baristabrawl says:

    @stuartny: I think I love you! That’s really funny.

  43. baristabrawl says:

    @P_Smith: NEVER NEVER NEVER hand a cup of anything to a customer. NEVER!

    “Caution: The beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.” People will burn themselves and blame you. Honestly? I burn myself so many times a day now, my hands look like they’ve been run thru a potato peeler.

  44. baristabrawl says:

    @forgottenpassword: There are 2 types of employees at SBUX. This guy, who takes his job WAY too seriously. This is the same guy who asks, “How’s your day going so far?” (Which I hate because it’s so annoying. I also hate when they ask what you’re doing with the rest of your day. UG! How is that your business? Why are you asking? What if I say, “I’m going home to make love to my wife…or I’m going to go have hemorrhoid surgery?)

    The other type is a person who is just passing through on their way through college. These are the people I like working with. The over serious ones are the ones destined for managership. I keep hoping the manager ship will leave without me.

  45. donkeyjote says:

    @HungryGrrl: You have not tasted sweet tea until you’ve had real home made sweet tea.

    Or go to White Castle. Their sweet tea is store brewed, and orgasmic. THe McDonald’s tea taste like everything else at McDonald’s… Like sour old ass.

  46. hatrack says:

    I’ve seen people get offended if they hold out their hand to take a cup of coffee and the employee puts it on the counter instead.

  47. donkeyjote says:


    What if I say, “I’m going home to make love to my wife…or I’m going to go have hemorrhoid surgery?

    I would then offer you a ginseng tea, or prune juice, respectfully.

  48. WEGGLES90 says:

    They both need a time out.
    The manager was WAY wrong of accusing her of being a thief.
    The customer was WAY wrong to throw it at him.

    Both needed to do the STAR Stop > Think > Action > Reaction instead of being ass clowns.

  49. othium says:

    I agree that the manager doesn’t sound too believable in this situation.

    I do have a bit of sympathy for him though. Having worked in this field before, I do know how frustrating it is to have a “Latasha Curry” kind of customer demanding that you “Push the button on the register and do my job.”

    Sure glad I don’t have to deal with any of that anymore.

  50. hatrack says:

    On another note. She’s black and won. He’s gay and lost. Does this mean the “race card” trumps the “gay card”?

  51. @stuartny: I concur. I’m still waiting for Harvey Birdman to enter the courtroom.

  52. redwall_hp says:

    Not a misdemeanor? All right, time to go to Starbucks!

  53. humphrmi says:

    @WEGGLES90: Did you read the article? Or are you assuming she threw the drink at him because that’s what the post headline says?

    There is plenty of evidence that she didn’t. If you read the article.

  54. @hatrack: As a gay man, I have to say that we don’t necessarily claim his views as our own. :)

    I think he was a total douche for playing the gay card, and that was the point in the article when I literally exclaimed, “Oh, come on!”

  55. girly says:

    Wow what a scam!

    Once a year, you claim that your expertly crafted Starbucks tea is bitter, when everyone knows that it’s always perfect!

    How she heats the tea after merely touching it is the most clever part of the scam.

  56. cmhbob says:

    Just skimmed the replies, so sorry if this was covered.

    Two things:

    Bad post title. Throwing a drink at someone technically constitutes assault, at least in Ohio. It may be considered battery in other states. And the jury didn’t rule that throwing a drink wasn’t harassment. They ruled that the state didn’t prove that it was. :)

    Also, remember that the definition of victim is whoever calls 911 first.

  57. u1itn0w2day says:

    I just don’t get the whole Starbucks COFFEE over a 1$ per cup.And the manager getting into a fight over 4$ cup of coffee that’s probably only cost a 1$ or so to make???

  58. snoop-blog says:

    This once happened to me at an Arby’s. I was accused of trying to scam them for free food on an order they messed up two night before. The manager working the night my order was messed up, knew it was and said she was waiting for me to either come back or call. She was very nice and put my name in a book for the next time to get order replaced. The manager that was working the day I went to get my order replaced accused my of trying to scam him for free food. Not only that, but he was the GM. It got pretty ugly. I called coporate, and what it basically boiled down to is that about 6-7 years ealier, I worked at that Arby’s, and quit on the very first night of the new general manager because he was a dickhead. All I did was when I got my break, I went home and never came back. No exchange or anything. I just was not going to work for that asshole. I was a closer, so that probably pissed him off as he was closing that night too. I just can’t believe he’d even remember me as I barely remember him, but what really blows my mind away is that he carried this hardon for me the whole time. It was like he was getting off on being a dick (the reason I quit 7 years ealier plus get real it was a fast food job, how long was I expected to work there?). In the end, corporate offered me free food, which I told them I had no reason to ever go there again as long as he still wrked there. They told me that they told him he was never to talk to me ever again. He won’t even look at me and gets nervous everytime I walk in. This was an ongoing thing with corporate for like 3-4 days. I was threatening lawsuits and everything else. They jumped his ass!

    And to think he could have saved looking like an asshat to his manager(s) at corporate if he would have just gave me the damn $10-12 worth of food that was rightfully owed to me.

    What makes this story even better is after about a year of never going there, I started to eat there again. And sure enough after a few times they screwed my order up again, but this time they treated me like a customer, not a criminal, and apologized for their mistake, they gave me my food plus some extra cookies and stuff for having to come back. I think they learned there lesson.

  59. I adore Starbucks and I know that’s not a popular sentiment around these parts. But the manager just dug himself into a hole with this one, accusing Curry in public like that, basically botching the facts in the 911 call, identification of Curry and so on.

    That said, Curry was completely in the wrong as well, throwing her drink at the manager. Behavior like that is expected from a 4 year old, perhaps, but not a grown adult. Ban Curry from that Starbucks and leave it at that. There’s no reason to bring the authorities into the matter over a cold drink.

  60. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @thelushie: I make my own at home, and it’s better than most. 2nd to homemade is Publix, seriously. I may have to try Panera’s, there’s one down the road a piece :)

    Maybe we need a ‘best sweet tea’ thread?

  61. lincolnparadox says:

    @SMSDHubbard: If you actually call 911 or dispatch and they refuse to respond, call another police department with jurisdiction. If you called town police, direct dial the Sheriff’s Office or the State Police and let them know that the town cops refused your call for aid.

  62. @OletheaEurystheus: Ha! As a former waitress and former teacher, I’d have to agree with your wife. There is nothing worse than entitled middle-class folks. Nothing.

  63. Eigtball says:

    Hope that manager got canned.

  64. Sounds to me like Curry needs to learn some social manners. Same with Starbucks. I’m not siding with either of them on this one.

  65. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’m still not clear,did the Starbucks employee who put the drink on counter do it before or after taking payment,in other words was the store employee already filling her free drink offer?Or was a payment still to be collected even if it was a coupon?Was the drink technically the customers at the time she put her hands on it?

    And when the manager alledges free drink scam-what was his proof?Of all people a manager is supposed to be the calm one,the thinker of the bunch and should realize the consequences of a physical confrontation with a customer.Doesn’t Starbucks have somekind of don’t argue with the customer policy?Or better yet,how about a no fighting policy?

  66. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    It serves the manager right!

  67. BrianU says:

    O.K. it must just be me that thinks “Latasha” is a black female name, and the Portland manager is not black. Even without blatant racism ( of either or both parties ) there may have well been a difference in communication, then argument styles. If either, or both parties already had a chip on their shoulder about another issue, I could understand how the situation escalated. And BTW if any man was accused of throwing a drink on any woman, whether he actually did or not, he’d be locked-up then sued and have some sort of permanent record that would keep him as a 3rd class citizen for the rest of his life. I suppose I’ll be accused of being racist or sexist just because I recognized that some other people actually are that way.

  68. P_Smith says:

    @hatrack: I’ve seen people get offended if they hold out their hand to take a cup of coffee and the employee puts it on the counter instead.

    Some things the clerk should hand to the customer out of simple courtesy, e.g. change, receipts. But the weight of fluid in a cup and the heat of the drink make that next to impossible. I wouldn’t want to end up wearing a drink, even if it was cold.

  69. donkeyjote says:

    @cmhbob: No, its a correct post title. Throwing a drink at someone (Assault, in you case/state) is NOT Misdemeanor Harassment. It’s Assault :P

    @edicius: What makes you think she actually threw the drink? Starbucks refuses/lost/destroyed the surveillance tape, which, if it did show her throwing the drink, would (I 100% guarantee) never have been lost.

  70. Pro-Pain says:

    I would have thrown that pager back at that customer as HARD as I could throw aiming squarely for her head, NO JOB is worth that treatment. Some people are of less value than animals.

  71. u1itn0w2day says:

    One of the problems or god sends with a bad economy is that many just take A JOB for simply that reason-A JOB.To be blunt alot of people don’t belong in certain JOBS including MANAGEMENT.Some people actually find their calling or are just good at a particular JOB.I know of certain people currently working for Starbucks in management that shouldn’t even be in management let alone Starbucks.

    And if everyone including the customers would just remember certain people are just trying to do their job or the employees just remember the customers want what they asked for things would be alot better.

    If as a customer you think you’re being cheated complain or sue.As the employee you think the company is being cheated notify corporate security or even call the police.The employee is supposed to be the paid professional who is PAID to be polite.

    If you want to play Dick Tracy become an actor.

  72. joellevand says:

    Okay, as someone who once had a clock thrown at her head, I sympathize with someone being, essentially, assaulted.


    The manager falsified a police report. The manager bothered to call the police in the first place! The manager acted like an ass-hat.

    If anything, a simple “You’re no longer welcome in this store for this behavior” would have sufficed, as it is NOT acceptable to throw any kind of drink, iced or otherwise, on someone. (Did we learn nothing in kindergarten, kids?)

    However, this situation NEVER would have arisen in the first place if the manager wasn’t an idiot. Why did the DA even bother to go forward with the case? GAH!

  73. soxfantoo says:

    When the DA found out that Starbucks was supporting the customer, that should have ended the “prosecution”.

  74. IrisMR says:

    Hey. Oh. You don’t throw drinks at people, you overreacting animal. No matter how dumb they are.

    But what was that about hot drinks? Hey, no need to say it was a hot drink, manager. She shoved something at your face when she can’t, the result would’ve been the same.

  75. cerbie says:

    @IrisMR: I think that depends on how that manager was acting. it certainly didn’t seem like he just said, “ma’am, I believe you might be trying to take advantage of free drinks.” It wouldn’t surprise me if said manager might be a bit of a button-pusher.

    @donkeyjote: …and it’s a great photo on top of that. The hat makes it complete.

    @hatrack: Most Hardeez use real tea, as well.

    The race card beats the gay card, the gay card beats the WASP card, the WASP card beats the poor card, the poor card beats the race card, and union seniority card beats all cards for a single turn (similar to the, “Lives in a shoot-first state,” card, but may be used as an attack). I want to make a card game out of this. Who’s with me? Obviously, not this SB manager, that certainly has some unhealthy paranoia issues. He tried using the tin foil card, which…

    Oh, and I just noticed: Starbucks is not taking it seriously! Can I get a standing ovation over here for Starbucks PR?

  76. bobfromboston says:

    @doctor_cos: You might try reading the post again. The $4 drink in question was a venti iced mocha. You can argue whether you’d pay $4 for that as well, but even Starbucks doesn’t charge $4 for iced tea.

  77. Breach says:

    Sounds like they were both being bitches in this situation

  78. bobfromboston says:

    @snoop-blog: “All I did was when I got my break, I went home and never came back. No exchange or anything.”

    I think this says a lot more about you than about Arby’s.

  79. K-T says:

    I am not a big fan of the fact that she threw down the race card, but other than that I am on her side. The manager was (probably still is) a moron.

  80. Jabberkaty says:


    As if DAs have time to read half the cases before they’re heard… He’d be lucky if it was his first glance through… Bet he was just happy people showed up.

    I used to do stuff like that to my brother… Hold on to something he wanted to take, then let go at the last second so it would hit him in the face. I know, I know. I’m grounded…

  81. LUV2CattleCall says:


    If I buy free drink coupons on eBay…I’m not the thief. It’s the store’s own damn fault for making the coupons so easy for the employees to steal…

    It all boils down to my attitude toward douchebags employees (note: I try my best to go above & beyond to make nice employees jobs easy):

    -I’m profit.
    -You’re overhead.
    -Act Accordingly.