Starbucks Drops Hidden Coffee Bean Fee After Mass. Probe

BOSTON (CBS) – Starbucks has dropped an undisclosed fee on certain bags of coffee beans after a state investigation uncovered the practice in Massachusetts.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found that Starbucks was adding a $1.50 surcharge to bags of beans that weighed less than a pound and did not inform customers as required by law.

The fee was not posted in the stores or on customers’ receipts.

“A consumer buying a half pound of coffee that was marked as $11.95 a pound would ordinarily think a half pound would cost 50 percent of the pound price or $5.80. Instead, a half-pound of coffee that was labeled as $11.95 a pound, for example, would end up costing $7.30, instead of $5.80,” the state agency said in a statement Monday.

State investigators estimate approximately 75,000 consumers were charged the extra fee.

Authorities say they were told about the hidden surcharge back in August.

The Office of Consumer Affairs did a survey of Starbucks in Auburn, Boston, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Chicopee, Dedham, Framingham and Holyoke, and found the fee at each shop.

The Division of Standards then inspected five Starbucks in Andover, Bedford, Reading, Concord and Burlington on October 31 and November 1 and found the same issue.

They fined the stores a total of $1,575.

“Last week, Starbucks agreed to end the fee in Massachusetts and other stores across the country, and early this week the company notified the Office of Consumer Affairs in writing that it had ended the fee in all of its U.S. stores,” the state said in a statement.

Alan Hilowitz, a spokesman for Starbucks, told the Boston Globe the coffee giant charged for half-pound bags to cover “the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers’ unique request.’’

  • Matt

    I would not automatically assume that when you buy a half pound of something the pound size cost is doubled. Usually buying a larger size the cost per unit decreases. I don’t see the problem here in charging more for the smaller size.

    • Mike

      The problem is that the fee was not posted. If a business wishes to charge less for buying in bulk the customer gets a discount for buying more. That’s great, no problem. When a business does not tell you they will charge you an additional fee for buying less and then does so, that is a dishonest business practice.

  • FireGuyFrank

    Bay State has investigators for this, but not child abuse, faulty bridges and other construction…

    Go figure.

  • Christine Spacone

    Actually last week for the pound I was first told it was $5.99 for the smaller bag by a worker passing the counter, and when I got waited on by another employee at the counter; the other attendant told me it was $11 and that the larger bag of beans was $20. I knew something was wrong, and I told her the other attendant told me it was $5.99. She was looking at something on the register screen. I only had $8 on me so I ended up buying a pack of 3 instant for $3.00. It was the Starbucks across from N.E. Medical in Chinatown. I was perplexed–the attendant was surly because I disagreed with her on what the cost was (nicely). I ASSUME THAT IT WAS JUST A MISTAGE, AS I HAVE BOUGHT THERE BEFORE. But, you must know what happened.

  • Bruce

    Let’s see they were fined $1575 for a 1.50 per customer (75,00 customers) overcharge which equals $112,500 not a bad deal for Starbucks.

    • Paul

      Starbucks did not make $112,500….this is massachusetts… least half of that was used to pay off politicians and other gov officials. (ooops)

  • Coffee pond

    The level of caffeine is actually major enterprise. You will find new cafes showing up all around us. A person find it difficult to get far without working in a a coffee house. “lets gather regarding espresso.Top Rated Coffee Makers

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