Starbucks to drop small purchase surcharge

Nov. 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM
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SEATTLE, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. coffee server Starbucks Corp. said it has dropped its practice of charging customers who buy smaller than one pound bags of coffee an extra $1.50.

"They don't charge you a fee when you buy half a pound of bologna at the supermarket," said consumer Frank Kidd, 67, at a Boston Starbucks Sunday.

But they did charge a $1.50 surcharge for purchases of smaller bags of coffee at Starbucks. That meant the price of a half pound of coffee beans was not $5.98, which is half $11.95 price of a full pound.

Instead, the price was $5.98 plus the surcharge of $1.50, which was not advertised and did not show up on store receipts, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Starbucks stopped the surcharge after the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation fined the company $1,575 for overcharging customers in five stores.

"While Starbucks, and any retailer, is allowed to charge any additional fees it wants on a product, those additional fees have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer before the purchase," said Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of consumer affairs.

"People have the right to know how much they are paying for a commodity," Anthony said.

Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz said the surcharge was imposed to cover costs when a consumer made a "unique request."

Hilowitz also remarked on the change in store policy.

"We are pleased to be able to now offer our customers alternative sizes of whole bean coffee in all of our U.S. stores, free of any service charge," he said.

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