Starbucks sued for too much ice; what it means for your bar & restaurant

Starbucks is getting sued for "deceiving it's customers" and using too much ice in its cold drink offerings.

"Starbucks is advertising the size of its Cold Drink cups on its menu, rather than the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they purchase a Cold Drink -- and deceiving its customers in the process," the suit says.

Starbucks is calling the suit frivolous.

"Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any 'iced' beverage," Starbucks spokesperson Jaime Riley said last week. "If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it."

Starbucks was also sued recently for serving lattes that were 25% smaller than advertised, so measuring isn't the coffee chain's strong suit, apparently.

This latest lawsuit brings to mind the McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit (Liebeck v. McDonald's) in 1994. For those who may need a refresher, Stella Liebeck sued McD's after she spilled hot coffee into her lap. Liebeck became the butt of jokes because the lawsuit. Of course hot coffee is hot! She should've known! But the issue at hand was McDonald's was keeping it's coffee at a bubbling 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit, about 40 degrees hotter than it needed, and caused some vicious third degree burns on Liebeck's lap.

Liebeck and McDonald's eventually settled out of court, with Liebeck getting a settlement of under $600,000. Stacy Pincus, the woman who filed suit against Starbucks, is suing for $5 million for too much ice/not enough liquid and is seeing class-action status.

Apparently Pincus is all about go big or go home.

This Starbucks lawsuit isn't about safety vs. stupidity, however; it's about restaurants playing loose with advertising claims and measurements.

What does this mean to bars & restaurants?

The issue at hand is how much deception (or stretching of the truth) restaurants are allowed to get away with.

Sure, a Starbucks Venti cold drink is supposed to be 24oz, but you only get 14oz of liquid (the rest filled with ice). Most quarterpound burgers we've come across sure as hell aren't a quarter of a pound of meat either by time it's hit the guest's table either. We've also rarely had a meal that looked as glorious as it does in TV ads or on menu images. It's sort of part of the game.

But the outcome of this lawsuit could change the rules to that game and have major impacts in how restaurants advertise their menu items. If you offer an 8oz beer but only give them 7oz, will you be open to a lawsuit for false advertising? If you fill one person's drink 17oz and another person's 15oz, does that open you trouble or are you safe because it averages out to your advertised 16oz? Or will it only matter to instances like Starbucks, where the liquid offered and advertised are greatly different?

Where will we draw the line?

Honestly, restaurants are super busy as it is without having to worry about exact weight or measurements of their food and drink. It would make for amazing customer service if establishments were more honest and accurate with their measurements, but that's not typically the case. Sometimes it's deliberate; sometimes it's by chance, but most places aren't worried about being 100% accurate.

This lawsuit may tell us how inaccurate is still accurate enough, however.

What do you think about the lawsuit? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or email us!

Starbucks image by m01229