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Woman Sues Starbucks for $5 Million for Putting Too Much Ice in Iced Coffee

After Stacy Pincus filed a class-action lawsuit against the coffee chain on behalf of dissatisfied customers everywhere, we went to our local Starbucks to find out if you can just, like, ask for less ice.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, a woman in Illinois sued Starbucks for $5 million on the, ahem, grounds that the chain puts too much ice in its iced coffee. Filed by Chicago resident Stacy Pincus, who could just go to a local coffee shop but is nevertheless seeking damages, restitution, and injunctive relief against the chain, the suit claims Starbucks has been "misrepresenting" its cold drinks as having more fluid ounces than are actually delivered, resulting in a loss of money to the customer.


"In purchasing Cold Drinks from Starbucks retail stores, Plaintiff relied on Starbucks' misrepresentations of material fact regarding the true amount of fluid ounces contained in the Cold Drinks," the court filing reads. "Plaintiff would not have paid as much, if anything for the Cold Drinks had she known that it contained less, and in many cases, nearly half as many, fluid ounces than claimed by Starbucks. As a result, Plaintiff suffered injury in fact and lost money or property."

Pincus also seeks to recoup attorneys' fees, arguing that the suit "seeks enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest."

Indeed. Regardless of whether you take your iced coffee black or with cream, with simple syrup or with Sweet 'N Low, it is undeniable that the Cold Drink is critical to summertime caffeine transmission. Soon, it will be too hot to drink Hot Drinks, unless you're a freak.

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Nevertheless, Pincus's lawsuit highlights the lack of creativity possessed by much of the American public. In the wake of the suit, a representative for Starbucks, Jaime Riley, issued a statement reaffirming the chain's flexibility and generosity with respect to customers' iced coffee preferences. "Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any 'iced' beverage," Riley said. "If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it."


This was a revelation to me, as well as to many standard-issue menu orderers around the country, I'm sure. You can just, like, ask for less ice? That is what Riley is implying!

Eager to test this claim, I walked to the nearest Starbucks, located at 154 North 7th Street in Williamsburg.

"I have two questions," I said as I approached the counter. "The first one is: Can I have a grande iced coffee?"

"No," the barista said.

She was kidding. I proceeded to explain that a woman had recently filed a suit against Starbucks alleging that they put too much ice in their iced coffees; the barista was aware. OK. My second question: How little ice can a customer request before she is refused?

None of the baristas on duty was prepared to answer this straight. "It depends on the store, but if they say light ice, we give them light ice," one said.

Indeed, I found this to be true; not only was my subsequent request for light ice acknowledged, but the barista preparing my drink asked if I wanted to use my extra room for milk or for more coffee.

This is cool. However, I wanted to know more: How far could a picky customer take this? "How little ice would I have to ask for before you'd refuse me?" I asked another barista. She was not prepared to answer this question and got the manager, Angus James Dow Maxwell. He emerged "from the back" looking energetic in a newsboy cap.

Maxwell was also not prepared to comment on the least amount of ice a customer could request in her iced coffee. However, he did say that the store "will accommodate" most specifications. (It is clear that the hypothetical customer who might request an ice-less iced coffee is a rarity, perhaps because we are all cowards.) When I asked Maxwell his preferred ratio of coffee-to-ice, he replied that he actually goes "the opposite way," opting to put a tall-size amount of coffee in a grande-size cup to allow for more ice.

It takes all kinds. While Pincus's court filing does not mention whether Frappuccinos are included in the definition of Cold Drinks, earlier this year, Starbucks was sued for "systematically underfilling" its lattes by up to 25 percent.