October 12, 2005

Coffee Clash

Here's a little ethical question for you...

My friend Lisa runs Hungry Girl, a site and daily newsletter full of diet hints and tricks.

A few weeks ago in a page of tips regarding the Starbucks menu, she wrote the following...

Hungry Girl Super Saver! If you want an Iced Caffe Americano or Iced Caffe Latte, it'll run you about $3.65. If you order an "Iced Dopio" (which is the exact same thing as the Americano, and the same as the Latte, minus the milk) with a shot of SF vanilla, Starbucks will just charge for the espresso shots (Dopio) and vanilla individually. That comes out to just $1.65. And if you want to turn that drink into a Latte, add milk from the coffee bar. This little trick will save you $2.00. Woohoo!

Lisa soon received an irate email from a coffee shop manager. This person said they felt it was wrong for customers to do this because the coffee bar is provided for people to fix up their coffee, and not as a means of creating menu items. This person also felt it was wrong of Lisa to pass along the tip to her thousands of subscribers.

This incident raised a lot of questions... Is a paying customer completely justified in doing this or anything else they want at the fixin's bar? If not, at what point is going too far? Is this tip as equally justified at a local mom & pop coffee shop? How would you feel about all of this if YOU were the owner of the coffee shop? Is this tip appropriate to be passed along to thousands of people? Does that even matter? Etc...

Lisa, her husband and I are all very curious to see what you think. (Also, I know opinions tend to run strongly about Starbucks, so I'm asking that we all please stay on topic and not let this slip into a coffee chain vs. coffee chain bash-fest. Thanks!)

The comment board is now CLOSED.

Click here for The Sneeze Home Page!
Posted by Steven | Archive

I wouldn't do it at a mom and pop place but at Starbucks?! Hell yes! She shouldn't feel bad.

Posted by: angela at October 12, 2005 11:27 AM

starbucks is pissed or whooever the store may be because the could posibly be losing 2 bucks from many people its a snowball effect.i say do it.save yourself 2 bucks.at the rate gas i we going we need to gyp em

Posted by: jake at October 12, 2005 11:28 AM

I have been seeing these sort of "work-arounds" for Starbucks drinks for a couple of years, and I think the real solution is to just charge the same amount for all drinks at Starbucks.

I'm sure there's enough sales data by now to determine a poularity-weighted average price point. I'm going to guess it's something like 3 dollars.

Posted by: Hal at October 12, 2005 11:37 AM

I refuse to pay more then $1.00 for a cup of coffee as it is, my wife however will mortgage the house for one.

I don't see anything wrong with this, if they shop doesn't want people using the bar this way, they need to find a way to limit the use of the products.

Posted by: Contagion at October 12, 2005 11:37 AM

I think it's a little tacky and silly (if you're really broke, brew your own coffee!) but still. She has the right to tell all of her subscribers about her discovery. And Starbucks has the right to lock up the milk and start charging by the tablespoon if they're upset about it.

I think it would be cool to add a note to suggest people drop that extra buck or two in the tip jar. I mean, if you can afford fancy drinks at Starbucks, you can afford to tip. And I think most people don't.

Posted by: ladylivewire at October 12, 2005 11:41 AM

I agree with the coffee shop manager on this one.

The milk at the fixin’s bar acts as a modifier to your drink choice in the same way a condiment modifies a burger. You would not simply pump a Big Gulp worth of ketchup into a cup and think that it's all right. Those items cost money. If customers start doing this, the prices on ALL of the drinks will go up to compensate for the newly increased cost of milk, or milk will cease to be offered at all.

As for thinking it is all right to essentially steal milk from Starbucks just because it's not a mom and pop shop shouldn't even be a factor. Plenty of "Moms and Pops" own Starbucks stock or own that particular franchise. In my mind, any attempt to reduce the price of the good being offered without full consent from the vendor constitutes theft. This is not like a coupon where the vendor has considered the benefit of earning new customers by offering money off of an item. The milk is provided with the good faith that the privilege will not be abused.

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2005 11:45 AM

As long as Starbucks allows for custom drinks, people will come up with their own blends. The only difference here is that Lisa posted it as an intentional workaround, not merely a custom coffee. I think what Lisa did was perfectly fine. I'm no Randy Cohen, but she can rest easy, in my opinion.

Posted by: JavaScript at October 12, 2005 11:46 AM

Coffee good. Less money into more coffee gooderer. Let the goodering begin. Coffee chain has just been pwned by l33t dieters. More power to the economical Haxxx0rs!

Posted by: Draconid at October 12, 2005 11:49 AM

Well, if I owned a coffee place, I wouldn't bone people with ridiculous prices.

Sure, you gotta make money, but a latte shouldn't cost that much more than an americano. After all, milk is milk. I guess the difference in price could arise from the time it takes to actually make the milk boil. If that's so, it's all moot since I'm not infringing on any milk boiling, and I'm certanily not boiling milk for anyone else.

Along with that, an americano + milk is a pretty half-ass latte. So if you're willilng to have a lesser product for a lesser price, the owner of the coffee establishment should deal with it.

And another thing. If I own a coffee place, my latte is going to be so Bob-be-Buggered delicious that no one will THINK of getting anything to substitute.

Take that, Starbucks.

Posted by: Tevin at October 12, 2005 11:49 AM

Unless Starbucks holds a patent on the production of lattes they have no gripe. All she did was point out two pieces of publicly available knowledge and synthesize them into a clever tip. They should be ashamed of themselves for charging $2.00 for a shot of milk when you could buy a gallon for less!

Posted by: Jonathan at October 12, 2005 11:54 AM

I would have to say that it is alright, but then again I have not moral barometer. I always drink my coffee black and have never once used sugar or cream at any starbucks or similar shop, but I still pay a small premium for the usage of that "modifier" bar and would like to offer my 10 years of daily contributions to that fund to the people that would like to use the bar to make that drink.

It is a work around and people find these all the time. If coffee shops want to charge for those condiments and take a little bit off the cost of my black coffee, I am happy for them to do that too.

Posted by: nick at October 12, 2005 11:54 AM

How is this any different than just going in and taking a stack of napkins home? And why should every other customer who IS willing to pay $4 for a coffee be screwed out of having milk available because they had to remove it due to the abuse of a few customers? This is theft, plain and simple. If you don't want to pay $4 for coffee, don't go to Starbucks. $4 coffee is NOT an excuse to steal from them, but it is an excuse to go somewhere else.

Posted by: CAFFEINE NOW at October 12, 2005 11:58 AM

1. It IS kind of shitty for people to abuse condiment bars. It makes me think of my grandmother who thinks buying the $3.49 grand slam breakfast at Denny's entitles her to the 17 single-serve jelly cups and every artificial sweetener that they leave on the table. Hey! She's a paying customer, and they provide these! So what if she shoves them all in her purse to use at home? Ugh.

2. I don't think Starbucks should lose a wink of sleep over it. Like someone else pointed out, that's a half-assed latte. But if you really just want the milk to fancy up your drink, knock yourself out! That's why it's there. How is making your Dopio a little milky any worse than anyone else who wants cream in their coffee?? But the truth is: in business, customers are good. If a thousand people read that trick, and even a quarter of them are motivated to stop by Starbucks that day to 'rip them off', yay for Starbucks! If I were a company, I'd imagine up ways to get customers to think they were getting one over on me... as long as I get them in my door.

Posted by: Sabrina at October 12, 2005 12:05 PM

Having never been to a Starbucks, I can't understand why they are so popular. Is the coffee really that good (free milk or not)? I'm tempted to go in there today and try this trick out (assuming the Starbucks in New Zealand let the free milk lovin' flow).

I'll report back later.

Posted by: JC at October 12, 2005 12:08 PM

Thank you, JC. You've made my point:

Starbucks has a new customer. And we all know they dope the coffee like the cigarette companies. It must be addictive.

Posted by: Sabrina at October 12, 2005 12:10 PM

It is just milk. If they are charging you an extra $2 for the milk, I say use some from the bar. If you can get around it, why not. It isn't stealing, just... cheating? You can buy a gallon of milk for $2.

I am going to start selling milk outside of starbucks. That way there will be no complaints. 10cent milk shots!

Posted by: Austin at October 12, 2005 12:11 PM

I agree with Contagion, and I think the best way for Starbucks to limit the overindulgence in their cream and sugar bar is to put it in themselves. I noticed Dunkin' Donuts has no problem putting cream in the coffee for me, why can't Starbucks? That way the customer is getting value--i.e. some justification for paying close to $2.00 for a cup of coffee--and Starbucks gets to spot people horsing around with the menu and charge accordingly.

In other words, I believe that it's not right to take more from the cream and sugar stand than would be expected from you, but I also believe that the solution is simply to provide better customer service. Once you do that you also get loyalty, and that gets them revenues. Win-win.

Posted by: T at October 12, 2005 12:12 PM

I'm sure Starbucks would be happy if the media caught wind of this. Free advertising is always the best, even if it's negative. The coffee shop owner who complained will be happy if 50 new customers come in his shop to "rip him off" at $2 a pop. They'll tell their friends and soon he'll need to buy a cow just to keep all the new customers happy (OK maybe not a COW). And don't get me started at the $2.50 for a croisant!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: timbo at October 12, 2005 12:12 PM

Ok, it is NOT the same thing as stealing ALL the sugar or napkins. That's CRAZY! That "fixin's bar" is there for you to fix drinks the way you want to. And who cares if you put 3 oz. of milk into how brewed coffee, or you add it to 2 shots of chilled espresso? The choice is YOURS! Lisa is right.

Posted by: Jen at October 12, 2005 12:16 PM

I think it's absolutely fine. It's put out there for the customer to use. I worked in the hospitality business as a chef for 12 years and I think it's insulting that they charge people so much for their product.

I wouldn't do it to a mom and pop place because they would never gouge people that much or they'd be out of business. People go to Starbucks because it's trendy. Their coffee is nothing spectacular.

Posted by: Jay at October 12, 2005 12:19 PM

The mark-up on retail food and drink is so high that even an independant retailer is still making a profit if people do this, so I don't think there is anything wrong with it.

Posted by: Christine at October 12, 2005 12:20 PM

The franchise owner of a Schlotzsky's told me once that an original ham and cheese is pretty much the same thing as a texas Schlotzsky's, just cheaper.

He didn't seem to mind saving me a couple of bucks.

I see nothing wrong with it thoughh.

Posted by: Lindsay at October 12, 2005 12:22 PM

We used to do that at our local A&W. If you order all the items from a "teen burger" individually, the clerk would have to ring up "extra meat, extra cheese, extra bun, extra etc". In the end the burger would be roughly $1 cheaper.

Posted by: HC&BR at October 12, 2005 12:23 PM

If you are going to offer your customers a Fixins Bar, then you are automatically giving them license to do what they want with it. Unless there are signs telling you what you can and can not do at the bar, then customers have free reign. Yes this means some jerk can get an empty cup from the barrista and then fill it up with free skimmed milk... that is just the risk you take in having free stuff out there. Someone will ALWAYS abuse it. But without it, you lose customers. So it is a necessary evil... just what you have to live with as a retail manager. Living with the custoemrs who take advantage. As far as publishing her tip - - - I think your friend was in the Right. She isn't breaking any rules, and she certainly isn't going to bring the Reign of Starbucks to an end. If people do this at a mom & pop shop, then Mom and Pop have every right to ask their customers NOT to do it, but at the end of the day, unless they post signs about it, then they too run the risk of dealing with those kinds of customers, customers who will be creative to save money.

Posted by: Marlespo at October 12, 2005 12:29 PM

I can't imagine how detrimental this "theft" is to the Starbucks corporation. A customer only has so much room remaining in the cup to add milk. Starbucks doesn't like it, then they should fill the damn cup to the rim (like the good people at BRIM).

I don't really get too excited about the milk, milk is inexpensive. It's the SPICES that I like to take advantage of. I like to bring in my own raw cookie dough and use the Starbucks bar to make my Snickerdooles. NOW you’re talking about significant savings, my friends.

Posted by: Kerry at October 12, 2005 12:29 PM

I think it's totally acceptable to do, especially when your funds are running a little low. It's all the more acceptable at a large coffee shop chain. If you purchased something, you are a paying customer and are allowed access to the fixin's bar. Plus, I doubt that this will make a large dent in the amount of money coffee shops take in- sometimes people are too lazy to make something themselves.

Posted by: Melissa at October 12, 2005 12:30 PM

If they're charging you $2.00 more for MILK? Yeah, it's totally justified. You can get a whole carton of the stuff for that much. Starbucks is way overpriced anyway, so stickin' it to 'em is more than enough reason to use this workaround. They're like the Microsoft of the coffee world. Paying $2.00 for milk is just as crazy as paying whatever godawful amount they charge for Windows.

Posted by: Ryan at October 12, 2005 12:30 PM

Is it "right" for Starbucks to devise ridiculously complex menus and order modifiers for the purpose of milking their customers, or is that "theft", too? If you can order the same thing two different ways, but saying one thing costs more than saying something else, I have to think that SB are the ones doing the fucking around in this situation. I used to order Americanos with extra shots of espresso, partly because I thought I was getting a good deal! HAH! I'm a sucker.

Posted by: Nerdbeard at October 12, 2005 12:30 PM

she isn't stealing, she's just beating the system. there isn't anything wrong with trying not to get screwed out of your money. it's the same as shopping around for a better price. bargain-hunting. 4 bucks is ridiculous for a cup of coffee, whether at starbucks or at a mom & pop place.

and I'm sick of hearing baristas whine about not getting enough tips. how much do you guys make an hour? if you get more than min. wage then your salary doesn't include tips. I'm not stingy at all-- I tip well... when it is deserved. If I'm supposed to tip baristas then I guess I should tip the kid at mcdonalds who has to slave over the grill all day for my $1menu burger. Don't kid yourself, fast food jobs are hard work-- and I'd definitely say the job of a barista is a step up from working in a burger joint. You all don't have to go home with grease on your shoes, smelling like cheap meat, all for a check that might not even break $300 bucks for two weeks. Get over yourselves. Learn some skills and get a better job if being a barista doesn't pay. Meanwhile, I brew my own coffee, thank you so very much.

Posted by: Sarah at October 12, 2005 12:33 PM

Starbucks gets enough money from loads of people to keep on opening in new places they shouldn't even worry about stuff like that.I mean, they are the ones ripping us off.At a local place they need the money. But have you seen how many starbucks' there are?

Posted by: margaret at October 12, 2005 12:34 PM

seriously, its starbucks. no I wouldn't do it at a locally owned coffee shop because I'm more than happy to contribute my $3.65 to keep a local economy healthy, but if I can save $2.00 at an overpriced coffee chain like starbucks, I will.

Posted by: drea at October 12, 2005 12:34 PM

I agree with angela, why pay an extra $2.00 to have them put in what you can for free at the coffee bar?

Posted by: Chase at October 12, 2005 12:35 PM

This is straight up grimy. Brew your own or pay like regular schmoes. Additionally, this kind of stuff is what crazy people do before they really go over. In five years she'll be the person holding up the line with a bunch of outdated coupons and demanding to see the manager. Lastly, of all the systems to beat, why waste your time with this one? If this represents big savings over time for you, you need to make coffee at home. If you want the convenience, pay for it.

Posted by: cg at October 12, 2005 12:37 PM

I agree with angela, why pay an extra $2.00 to have them put in what you can for free at the coffee bar?

Posted by: Chase at October 12, 2005 12:38 PM

As long as they allow you to do it and they have no rules prohibiting it, I say it's OK.

Posted by: Candy Addict at October 12, 2005 12:39 PM

At a local coffee shop, I would say to do this would be sort of wrong. But a local coffee shop would never charge prices as high as Starbuck's does. And at local coffee shops, the owners only have one store they are making money from, whereas Starbucks has many stores...

Posted by: Drew at October 12, 2005 12:39 PM

people. it's milk and coffee. holy schnikes, it's not like she's telling people how to perform tax fraud. prepared frothy coffee is going to be fancier, and you'd be paying an extra $2 for it. if you wanna skimp and add cold milk, it's your right. that's what the self-serve coffee fixing area is for. now, who wants to know how to turn a short bread cookie into a moist mocha n' milk shortbread surprise?

Posted by: anthony at October 12, 2005 12:40 PM

The simple fact of the matter is this:

Starbucks has the "fixins" out for the customers to use. With the food items that they put on the fixins counter, they should realize the potential for customers to modify their orders past simple flavour (Canadian spelling!) enhancements. If Starbucks doesn't want to give away free stuff, they shouldn't have free stuff to give away.

Posted by: A. Chisvin at October 12, 2005 12:50 PM

I think that its OK to do, because you are still paying far more than the price of the actual ingredients, and if you like your own mix of stuff used from the free condiments bar, then Starbucks can rest assure knowing that the person will remain a grateful and addicted customer.

Posted by: Annette at October 12, 2005 12:50 PM

Mmmm, cookies.

Let's have it, Anthony!

Posted by: cookie monster at October 12, 2005 12:55 PM

Coffee shops and other food places have been around for years, as have the ways around them. It's not a starbucks-specific thing; it's a general consumer thing. My mom doesn't like to pay for extra cheese on her tacos at Taco Bell, so she brings her own. I have yet to see one of the friendly employees complain about OH MY GOD, NON-PAID FOR CHEESE.

So..Stick it to Starbucks. If they can sell coffee- a buck fifty at gas stations for the same general product- for three+ dollars, I'm sure their profits aren't being harmed.
Not to mention that I know plenty of people far too lazy to do that.

Posted by: Karrren at October 12, 2005 1:05 PM

I think if you feel like you have found a way to jack the system (look what I can get for nothing!) you have crossed into the unethical. At the very least it is an overblown sense of entitlement. It is not unlike eating fungus from someone else's property.

It would be unjust for the people that use the condiment bar as it was intended to suddenly have to pay extra for the service because of rampant price dodging.

As profitable as Starbucks is, they employ lots of people and provide them good health insurance, too. Stealing from a corporate entity is no less stealing. Making a local Starbucks less profitable has an adverse effect on the local employees.

Posted by: Ru at October 12, 2005 1:07 PM

There's nothing wrong with a work around or savvy consumerism. If coffee shops don't like it, then they should hire some anti-work around personnel to research and preemptively counter the effects.

Besides, like many of you have said: Starbucks is way over-priced and their coffee tastes like watered down Coke. The only reason I go there is because I like pound cake.

Posted by: JD at October 12, 2005 1:10 PM

In response to Ru:

"Jacking the system" and stealing would be walking into Starbucks, taking a basket of napkins and straws for personal use, and then leaving without paying for anything.

Paying for an overrated coffee drink and then exploiting condiments is a totally different issue.

Posted by: JD at October 12, 2005 1:12 PM

I've heard that the actual cost of the food is a very small part of a restaurant's overhead. Thus one can consider the Starbuck's made version of the drinks as involving a service and therefore the cost of labor. If the customer uses ingredients that are already out there, this service and labor cost is not involved (though there will be an additional labor cost in provisioning the milks etc. that is out there).

On a related subject, THANK YOU so much for the link. I've bookmarked it (as well as your blog).

Posted by: Arlene at October 12, 2005 1:21 PM

I wouldn't do this at a mom and pop coffee shop, but Starbucks? Fuck em. Charging two dollars for a shot of milk is absurd.

Posted by: Zefnex at October 12, 2005 1:21 PM

Use a condiment bar if you want. If you are doing it to cheat Starbucks then you are not acting morally.

I think the moral reasoning exhibited often in the above posts to be ridiculous. If it is wrong to abuse a Ma + Pa store then it is wrong to abuse Starbucks - under the logic of many who have posted there is no real right or wrong to the matter.

The repeated justification for stealing was "They're rich - they're ripping people off..." This is the moral reasoning of a three-year-old. Your neighbor's house is bigger than yours - you can cheat them. You who would espouse such bankrupt logic (pun intended) should be prepared for anyone poorer or smaller than you to come and take what from you what they think is fair.

And now that we're at that point, please supply your address- I'm not real wealthy, myself and need a few things.

If their coffee is too expensive - don't buy it.

Posted by: Aubs at October 12, 2005 1:24 PM

I don't see the big deal with this. I'm buying a cheaper drink, adding a couple ounces of free milk, and walking off with a cheaper knockoff of a more expensive drink. Its not going to be as good as if the milk were steamed and I'd paid the $2 extra, but its a shorcut/tradeoff I'm willing to take.

I see McDonalds stores that charge $4.50 for a 10 piece nugget 'value' meal when all of the components of said meal are available on the dollar menu for $4.00. Is it wrong of me to order the items individually or should I suck it up and pay for the meal? Should I expect angry emails from store managers for pointing this out?

Businesses are out to make as much money as they can and as such they'll charge as much or more for something as what they think someone will pay. As a consumer, my money is mine to do with as I please. If I want a crappy latte knockoff with cold milk, I'll buy the cheaper drink. If I want something better, I'll shell out the extra money. If you've got something comparable or exactly the same on the menu that I can get for less, that doesn't mean I'm stealing. Just means I'm spending my money wisely.

I just see too many blatant examples of companies just grubbing for money to really take seriously a store manager that tells me I'm ripping him off by pointing out how I can be a wiser consumer.

I think my favorite rip off of all time would have to be the old silver cleaning informercials where they send you a chunk of metal and some activating powder for $20 that would magically clean all of your silver without scrubbing. As someone who watched Mr. Wizard as a kid I knew you could do this with hot water, a piece of aluminum foil, and baking soda. Hats off to whoever got rich selling chunks of aluminum with a packet of baking powder for $20 + shipping and handling. He or she certainly took the words of PT Barnum to heart.

Posted by: Brian at October 12, 2005 1:28 PM

As someone who is currently addicted to the Pumpkin Spice Latte (soooo....goooood!) and the Mocha -- I've tried to make knockoff versions of these drinks and have failed miserably. So I will not be using the condiment bar to try and make my own.

If I want the drink, then I'll use my "egg money" from playing orchestra gigs to buy the real thing -- brewed, steamed, and flavored.

That said, I don't see anything wrong with mixing up your drink however you want with the condiments available to you. My husband will buy an iced latte and put 20 packets of Splenda in it. (Ack! Sooo....sweet. Gag.) Is he "abusing" the condiment bar? Same thing if you use more than one Tbsp of milk. I don't see it as abuse.

I think the argument here lies in the users intent. If someone came in and fixed up their own drink like the Hungry Girl did JUST BECAUSE THEY LIKE IT THAT WAY, would they be "stealing?" Or only if the INTENT was to get a cheaper drink? Hair splitting at best.

Posted by: san antone rose at October 12, 2005 1:44 PM

it shouldnt be that big of a deal. this guy who complained sounds like a horses ass. i work at a taco joint and i will suggest a cheaper way for a person to get something all the time. the point is that they keep buying from that location.

Posted by: john at October 12, 2005 1:44 PM

I am a barrista at a 'mom n pop' cybercafe. In fact, I'm typing this at work right now. While we don't actively encourage customers to figure this out, if they do, we're not complaining. In fun lattes and such, part of what they are paying for is the steamed milk. If they don't mind it cold, then fine. But the steamer, and the time it takes to steam it is part of what you're paying for. On the other hand... screw starbucks, only do that there. Better yet, do it, but just don't go to starbucks at all.

Posted by: Leda at October 12, 2005 1:50 PM

I agree with Jonathon. If they charge so much for the milk, then people are going to look for a way to avoid paying so much.

Charge less in the first place, people won't try and invent a get-around.

Posted by: Delirium at October 12, 2005 1:53 PM

I worked at a starbucks. People would pull the "poor man's latte" pretty frequently. One of the resons why the prices are so high are because the 'bux must accomodate people doing this.

It's pretty pedestrian to pull this stunt. It's at the same level as not tipping at a restaurant simply becuase "you don't actually have to". I'm not sure of the official starbucks stance on this, but if I ran a coffee shop, I would definately look down on this.

Posted by: Austin at October 12, 2005 2:11 PM

I like pie.

Posted by: Keith at October 12, 2005 2:16 PM

I prefer cake. and cake jerky (cookies).

Posted by: Stinkyboy at October 12, 2005 2:22 PM

Along the same ethical lines . . . ? How many after-dinner mints are TOO MANY when leaving the restaurant. I get greedy with the individually wrapped butter mints. Is 2 OK? Would it be bad for my soul if I were to take 3? Does it matter that I just paid $90 for my dinner?

I must know!

Posted by: Kerry at October 12, 2005 2:35 PM

If they provide the means, they can't be upset when the public-at-large figures out a way to save some money. Some of us have slightly more intelligence than a government monkey. I'm just glad I don't drink coffee. Nas-tee! On a side note, I just realized that this is my third annual tree brain. I've wasted two years of my life reading The Sneeze! Wahoo!

Posted by: Gigantor at October 12, 2005 2:37 PM

Sounds like iced dopio's for this kid! Well... at starbucks, yes; at the local coffee shop where they provide free wi-fi; a stage for live music; poetry readings, etc... no way. In an iced latte don't they still steam the milk? (I don't order lattes... the steamer scares me).

Posted by: Polonius at October 12, 2005 2:41 PM

Where in the world do y'all live that a gallon of milk is only $2?? Good grief, it's almost $4/gallon here.

Anywho.. I got tired of them charging me 40 cents every time I ordered a Caramel Frap and asked for extra caramel sauce, so I bought a bottle of their caramel and I add it myself now. Saved me several bucks, and I still get what I wanted - is that cheating, too?

Posted by: Shylah at October 12, 2005 2:45 PM

Technically you're not cheating Starbucks out of anything until they put "cold milk latte" on their goddamn menu. Stop whining Starbucks.

Latte aside, Starbucks shouldn't be inflating the cost of a vanilla shot by giving it a new fancy drink name. It's their own damn fault. Change your menu or shut up.

Posted by: Alex at October 12, 2005 2:47 PM

I've always been one to concoct my own coffee drinks, no matter what coffee shop I'm in. I think it's insane to charge $2.50 extra to add a squirt or two of flavored syrup and some milk to a basic cup of coffee.

I'm of the opinion that if they offer a coffee condiment bar, I'm gonna use it to the fullest.

Posted by: krooie at October 12, 2005 2:49 PM

I don't see the moral line at all. Like was said previously, it's just coffee and milk. That extra price is, of course, the Starbucks "ambiance" and if you want a little $2 ambiance to make your coffee fluffy, go for it. If you just want some AmericanCanoe coffee, or whatever, with some milk, get the milk from the bar.
Along those lines, I've seen people POUR OUT some of their coffee, so they could add massive amounts of milk from the bar. Now I don't know if that's an official drink (coffee-flavored milk) but how is that different from what Lisa has done?

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2005 2:52 PM

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this. Starbucks should investigate things like this more clearly. If they find that people are exploiting something, they should fix it.

Usually, compilations of things are cheaper. The same concept is usually seen in unit prices: bigger containers of a product cost less per unit than smaller containers of a product.

Posted by: Brian at October 12, 2005 2:57 PM

I think it's more of a rip-off that they'd run a customer an extra two bucks for some milk. That seems a little crooked to me. I'd not only do that at a Starbucks, I'd do it anywhere! Serves them right for charging so much for so little.

Posted by: Niedec at October 12, 2005 3:06 PM

and does this coffee shop grunt think it's appropriate to charge more than 3.50 for a cup of coffee? that's over a gallon of GAS. shame on starbucks. screw em Venti

Posted by: dana at October 12, 2005 3:06 PM

By denying a corporation its due receipts, this is clearly an attempt to to ruin this fine country. Acts like these are why communism lies at the bottom of the ash heap of history.

Now, pass me that milk for my iced doppio. Mrs. Alan needs her caffeine.

Posted by: Fed Chairman at October 12, 2005 3:10 PM

I really don't get why so many of you guys think it is "morally wrong" for this girl to add cold milk to her coffee. Intent or no intent, "poor man's latte" or the real deal: if you pay for your damned drink you get to use the free condiments-- and that means however much you like of whatever you want to add, provided that you mix it right there at that moment into the drink you just purchased (i.e. you obviously can't just pocket the stuff for later even though you bought a drink).

I was at a starbucks with my friend who ordered a large tea. He wanted to put some honey in it because he was sick and had a really sore throat. The honey was behind the counter so he asked the barista for 6 packets. The barista rolled his eyes and made some rude comment under his breath about how many packets my friend wanted. It was a huge cup of tea and my friend was sick, get over it! He mixed it into his tea right there in front of him, he wasn't trying to pocket the stuff. If starbucks is really so stingy, they should just do away with all the free condiments and charge 5cents a packet. It sounds stupid to me, but if its really that big of a deal...

Posted by: sarah at October 12, 2005 3:11 PM

I find it extremely hard to believe that doing this little 'fix' would cause Starbuck's any severe financial harm. How much milk are we actually talking about here? Everyone is making it sound like half a gallon per 'fix'. And it doesn't taste the same anyway, so how many people are going to try it, say 'blech', and go back to ordering it the old fashioned, heinously expensive way? I totally agree with a few people up yonder there, if it gets customers in the door, then who benefits? Sing it with me people, "Starbucks".
I hate coffee anyway, doesn't matter how you dress it up. Like puttin' lipstick on a pig.

Posted by: Brandi at October 12, 2005 3:13 PM

Mom and Pops = no.
Starbucks or chain shops = yes.

Heck, I do that with my bagel. A bagel with tunafish is $5.00 but if I order a plain bagel and a 1/4 tuna separate it's $2.50. I can't fathom paying $2.50 for them to slice the bagel and smear the tuna.

Thanks for the tip Lisa. Guess what I'm ordering tomorrow at SB?

Posted by: pantrygirl at October 12, 2005 3:35 PM

I think Starbucks is a complete rip off and I can't imagine why people flock there to get coffee. The same coffee that used to be $.25 cent and free refills at any resturaunt. I say any way you can make the drink you want for less money is ok. The fact taht the manager was angry about it only confirms to me that the coffee is overpriced.

Posted by: Bigberd at October 12, 2005 3:38 PM

Self service gas is cheaper than full service gas.
Same for self service latte.

Posted by: Arlene (again) at October 12, 2005 3:41 PM

Starbucks is known for attempting to monopolize the coffeeshop market with its strategic positioning of coffeeshops, large marketing budgets, and the whole 'OMFG STARBUCKS' attitude I've seen happening. People go there because it's trendy and they want to appear trendy to everyone else or whatever.

I won't set foot in a Starbucks, so I'm not going to even bother trying... There are so many reasons why they bother me. I'd rather go to my favorite little coffeeshop and pay a good price for a good coffee or just make my own at home.

But I don't think it's wrong to use what they put out for customers to use. A freakin' shot of steamed milk can not cost two bucks.
Or I could just make my own at home, for even cheaper.

Posted by: katt at October 12, 2005 3:43 PM

It seems to me that Starbucks is just pissed because someone pointed out to the masses that they're charging two fucking dollars for MILK!

Posted by: Jen at October 12, 2005 3:51 PM

haha, screw starbucks, jip them, but leave the mom and pop places alone. its pretty much an ethical thing.

Posted by: shalom at October 12, 2005 3:54 PM

alright, someone used the example of abusing the condiments at a hamburger place....

well...what if they were charging $2 extra for a hamburger with ketchup on it and calling it something different vs. buying the hamburger and putting ketchup on it yourself?

would buying a plain hamburger with the intention of putting ketchup on it be abusing the condiment bar? The ketchup is there for you to use!

if you really want to get into condiment abuse, I know of plenty of people who will go into a starbucks, say inside a coffee shop or something; and get a small cup of milk from the condiment bar...free! or get a glass of water....free! OMG somebody shoot them!

Personally, I refuse to go to a starbucks so I don't care. I just think this whole thing is ridiculous. The condiment bar is just sitting out there, free for anyone to use. There is no "don't try to duplicate our drinks with these condiments" sign.

Posted by: waverly at October 12, 2005 4:00 PM

At starbucks, Yes.
At your local coffee shop, No.
Bottom line.

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2005 4:07 PM

This is so fucking trivial it isn't even worth a discussion. If the shop doesn't want you to use items in your coffee, they shouldn't provide them to you.

C'mon, this is generating a lengthy discussion..?

Posted by: Spork at October 12, 2005 4:27 PM

I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. It's not illegal so I agree with the stance that if the coffee shop is unhappy with their customers' use of the fixin's bar, then they should regulate it differently.

The drink described by Lisa is not really even the same thing as the true latte version anyway. In the latte, the milk is steamed and frothed and all that good stuff. Adding milk to an americano at the fixin's bar is an ok substitute, but it's really not the same, IMHO. So you would still need to pay extra for the real thing. If you're satisfied with a faux latte, then so much the better for you. I simply don't find this a morally depraved thing to do in the least, ma & pa shop or no.

Posted by: laura snora at October 12, 2005 4:32 PM

I always eat the condiments. I hoard salt and pepper sachets and carry a camelback to siphon the ice water into for later. I often use toilets at places where I'm not even a customer. Sometimes, I hang out at the deli counter at the upermarket just waiting for them to start a sausage tasting.

One thing I do not condone however, is Starbucks coffee.

Starbucks coffee is people!

Posted by: PK Moto Moto at October 12, 2005 4:37 PM

WHA? You mean she suggested paying for coffee and then- GASP- engaging in the highly unethical practice of putting the free milk they offer into the very same coffee?

Come on people- the condiment bar is there for customers to USE. Sure it may look like "beating the system" but seriously- if you purchase coffee you're entitled to use the condiments in appropriate quantities. She wasn't suggesting asking for an extra cup and filling it up with milk or taking 500 sugar packets to save for a muffin-baking extravaganza later on . . . if they don't want people to use the milk, why would it be there? Suggesting somethin like this will drive up the prices is pretty crazy- think about it this way: the milk is most likely there to supplement drinks that don't already have milk in them (black coffee, etc). The Dopio is a drink with no milk in it. Therefore, they've probably already factored milk-use into the price of the drink anyway. Go for it. The extra 2.00 in the latte price probably covers stuff like the steamer and the extra time it takes for the barista to make the drink.

So, in closing, WTF? It's just coffee.

Posted by: Rachel at October 12, 2005 4:53 PM

Mom or pop shop, or Starbucks, I would do what's both ethical and best for me. If a businessperson is selling ingredients x+y for less than x+y+z, and they're giving away z for free, the phrase for that is 'bad business'. It means they're overcharging you for x+y+z, or undercharging you for x+y.

If the company is still making a profit on x+y, even if you take some of that free z, then they have no sympathy from me. They can easily adjust their prices.

Posted by: Rob at October 12, 2005 5:08 PM

They should just charge the same price as if the customer got it the way Lisa suggests. Ma n' pa or chain place, they're both ripping you off in the end. Is the fact that they mix the milk in for you worth 2 bucks anywhere? I say nay.

Posted by: theJo at October 12, 2005 5:20 PM

The only reason there are so many Starbucks across this great country of ours is because they fleece everyone and make a ridiculous profit. I would never do the "shortcut" at a Mom & Pops, but I would ALWAYS do this at a Starbucks. Or a Wal-Mart. Both those places suck.

Posted by: dominoseven at October 12, 2005 5:28 PM

Its up to the shop to make sure they're not losing money at the fixin's bar. As far as i'm concerned, all of those things are fair game.

Posted by: seymour bibbons at October 12, 2005 5:29 PM

If you think Starbucks charges too much money, then DON'T GO THERE. They can charge whatever they hell they want to charge.

Posted by: Jimbo at October 12, 2005 5:34 PM

At Target Pizza Hut Expresses these are the following prices:

Medium soda: $1.19

Small Popcorn: $0.99
Small Popcorn + Medium Soda: $1.00

Vienna Hot Dog: $1.99
Vienna Hot Dog + Medium Soda: $2.00

This isn't considering that as far as food ingredients go, popcorn costs $0.02 per bag and a 6" cheese pizza costs approx $0.60 (you pay over $3.00)

Posted by: Target Guy at October 12, 2005 5:47 PM

For over forty years on Decatur Street in the French Quarter there was THE {THE!!!!} best coffee shop on the planet. It's name? Cafe Kaldi. They allowed the gutter punks to come in and clean up; they allowed free water and bathroom use (unheard of in the Quarter) and they allowed anyone and everyone to sit for hours playing Solitaire; playing their guitars; playing with each other. Locals loved em; tourists came in and received the [ahem] "fresh" breath of air only Quarter-locals can provide. It was in such a prime location and had such loyal customers that STARBUCKS decided they wanted to make it one of their own. Cafe Kaldi declined their offer, saying the need to remain individual and dedicated to their long-standing and beloved patrons was a necessity in the evergrowing Big Corporation take-overs happening everywhere else in the city.
The locals held their own revolution against the beloved Kaldi's being forced to "sell-out", petitions were signed, meetings were held and for a while it looked like Starbucks realized this particular attempt was futile.
{hee hee hee, thought the Evil Corporation}
The Quarter sighed an exhalation of relief and returned to the picturesque window-seating of Kaldi's, the ironrod tables inside and the rickety quiet-spots upstairs to continue life (and love and lust and well-behaved debauchery) as they knew it.
BUT HAHA! Starbucks BOUGHT THE BUILDING Cafe Kaldi's rented from; RAISED THE RENT TO AN OUTRAGEOUSLY EXORBITANT FEE--->>effectively running Kaldi's out of business. THEN {oh-ho-ho yes AND THEN} Starbuck's decided that;
"Hey, screw y'all...you didn't want us here?! MMMMKay then....We'll sell the building to a NON-profit TOURIST organization."
just a thing.

Posted by: dummy at October 12, 2005 5:48 PM

I had a girlfriend many years back who told me that diners would come to the very middle-class rib shack where she worked and order water, ten lemons, and several packs of sugar. Of course, they would not get charged anything for this order, yet they were able to make lemonade from these component parts. Classy!

The people who support this kind of activity are the same people who think that all rich people are evil. Is it not possible that a good person could strike it rich with a good idea and hard work.

I hate to get all Republican on you, but I am a small business owner who has been working my ass off for three years and barely making a buck. If I hit it big one day, I hate to think that people would start to think of me as the faceless "man" who deserves every bit of scamming he receives.

Posted by: Derrick at October 12, 2005 5:52 PM

Fact -Starbucks would never sell anything for less than it costs them. Ergo- if an "Iced Dopio" and a vanilla shot costs $1.65 you know they are making money on it (the shot of milk being negotionalble)
Therefore they or anyone else has no reason to complain. Starbucks makes money, we get the coffee, and no laws are broken. Kinda makes you think about the kind of money they are pulling in selling Americano's and the like

Posted by: Amazing Corbin at October 12, 2005 6:05 PM

The Starbucks I used to go to had a sign by the milk and sugar that said not to abuse the free stuff. If you really want to save money, buy yourself a small espresso maker. You will save assloads of money after the first 6 months of buying it. Also, you can make your drinks so they don't have that burnt ass crust after taste starbucks expresso tends to have.

Posted by: Josh at October 12, 2005 6:10 PM

I work at Starbucks and this particular thing is an age-old dabate.

Do I think its stupid for people to order and Iced doppio in a grande cup? Yes, but not for money reasons.

The milk sitting in those things on the condiment bar has been sitting there for an hour or more. I wouldnt drink a glass of it if you paid me. Have your two dollars. Enjoy the milk.

Also, if you tip after doing thing we'll like you more. We may even be more inclined to fill up your glass with fresh milk for "free".

Posted by: Chrissy at October 12, 2005 6:26 PM

I think that if an extablishment chooses to leave condiments out for public use, then the public can use it as they pleases. They put it there for you, so use it! If Starbuck's doesn't want to lose some of the ridiculous amount of profit they make, then they should not have a condiment bar.

Posted by: Jessica at October 12, 2005 6:33 PM

I save more than that. I don't like ordering things like that because I fear what I don't understand. I just buy my coffee at Dunkin' Donuts for $1.50. No sugar, no milk, no flavor shots, none of that stuff.... just cofee...

Posted by: Dazz at October 12, 2005 6:34 PM

As a starbucks employee these are the things I hate:

1) People whining about starbucks coffee being so expensive. How much does a bottle of water cost people? WATER?!? Jesus christ, is it so hard to fathom why coffee that is actually purchased from farmers in other regions of the world would cost a tiny bit more than folgers? If water (rememeber, fucking WATER) costs $1.50 a bottle is it so hard to belive that a fancy starbucks cup and a fancy starbucks latte made on one of two $25,000 espresso machines would cost $3.00? If you think it's too expensive, or that starbucks is ripping people off then dont come. If that's your thinking though I suggest you take a look at the label of your shirt. Where was it made? China? Indonesia? How much did that shirt cost? $20? $50? Guess what? Pennies to make, plus slave labor. There are more important battles people, at least starbucks tries to be a corperation with some conscience (unlike old navy or the gap)

2) People thinking starbucks is the devil. Listen, Im socially conscience, Im aware. I understand that its easy to blame starbucks for running that mom and pop coffee house that you loved so much out of buissness- they probably did, but the fact of the matter is that starbucks is only taking advantage of the demand for their coffee. Ive seen the american retail landscape change, for the better or worse- but its changing. Target? Home Depot? Walmart? Odwalla? Believe what you may about big buissness but unless you're boycotting all of them I find it hard to really hear your complaint. They're all the same.

3) Starbucks treats its employees well. I get health insurance for 20 hours a week. That pays for my $1,500 a month medication. Would the local mom and pop coffee shop be able to offer me health insurance? Ive worked there- they cant. They just pay me late and under the table. You want to look up some figure on how many people living in this country cant get medical care? You want to figure out how many people die because they dont have health insurance. How many babies?
Starbucks gives back to the communities they buy their coffee from. Do you think Target gives back to the communities they buy their slave labor made clothes from?

When it comes down to it there are bigger, more important, more deserving targets. People like coffee, starbucks has convinced them that they have good coffee. There isnt anything wrong with that, and putting mom and pop buissnesses out of buissness but creating 3X more jobs is way less evil than what the cars are doing to our enviroment, what the developers are doing to our wet lands, what factories are doing to our air and what our president is doing to our world.

Dont like it? Dont shop there. Enjoy those slave-labor made clothes and those abused and skinned alive animals you eat. Your living in a fragile bubble if you think starbucks is worth any of your anger.

Posted by: Barista at October 12, 2005 6:53 PM

Someone up there said "The only reason there are so many Starbucks across this great country of ours is because they fleece everyone and make a ridiculous profit."
NO! Starbucks is popping up all over the place because people are GOING to their stores and PAYING for their product. Starbucks is not out in the street lassoing people and tipping them upside down until all the money falls out of thier pockets. They are not "Fleecing" people. The people know what they charge and they voluntarily go in to pay that much. Sillies.
As for the whole milk get around thing. I see no problem with it. I put milk in my coffee all the time at home. I should be able to put the same amount in my coffee when I go out. Denny's gives you a whole bowl full of those snazzy little creamer cups. They don't care how many you use, What's the difference?

Posted by: txcynna at October 12, 2005 7:00 PM

I used to own a restaurant. A neighborhood cafe started by a few of us idealists, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week and a free 'no questions asked' spaghetti and salad supper every Sunday. We did our part to buy from local farmers, create delicious food in a wide range of prices (from free to $2 for rice and beans to $14.95 for an elaborate dinner special.

Despite our best efforts to 'meet the needs' of the community, we still suffered immensely from freeloaders and cheapskates!

From the people who paid for one $0.65 cup of tea and asked for 5 hot water refills and a whole lemon's worth of slices (not to mention gobs and gobs of good honey) to the people who set up camp at a 4-top by themselves and brought their freakin office with them and hogged space during the busy lunch rush. Not to mention the people who became irate when we would not honor a coupon that had expired -- a YEAR ago. Or the people who stayed past the dinner hour and into the music performance time and refused to pay a cover for the starving musician...The world is full of self important a-holes who think that everyone owes them something all the g-d time.

As for this creative scammer, she can try to justify that her invention allows her to be an outlaw, a rebel, and that she is 'sticking it to the man.' And a whole bunch of self-styled tin can revolutionaries will imitate her and think they are striking a blow against the machine...meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people are homeless on the Gulf Coast, poverty exists in every corner of this nation and you people think it's fun to rip off Starbucks.

Maybe you all should take that money you 'save' from ripping off Starbucks and send it somewhere it is needed, because if you have the time to figure out how to get a $4 latte down to $2, you have too much time, and money, on your hands.

Posted by: mark at October 12, 2005 7:02 PM

i would do it at a mom & pops or at starbucks. get atta hea, it's a $2 shot of milk. rip offff!
good for you, keep doling out the tips, lisa. i'll see you at your site. :)

Posted by: jani at October 12, 2005 7:11 PM

Of course you should save yourself money, and of course you should share the tip with everyone else to save money! But then again, im the kind of person who wouldnt tell someone they gave me too much change... to each their own, eh?

Posted by: ala at October 12, 2005 7:20 PM

Awwwww....Poor Starbucks!! That $2.00 will probably break them! Let's SCREW the MAN!!

Posted by: Don at October 12, 2005 7:55 PM

I think what she is doing is fine in a franchised coffee bar as opposed to a smaller and less insured business. It _isn't_ like she rolled a 1 ton piece of corporate art through their location. She ran off with 1-2oz of milk. Whoopy. Maybe the store will just tighten up, drop the freebie milk and lower the price of a shot of milk in its entire. Let us note, the free milk is a commodity they normally _charge_ for in a different form at the _same_ time!

I like their products, mind you I don't drink too much coffee myself, I normally just get a venti steamer with vanilla, as its more convenient to do that twice a month than buy the machine and lug it through life with me. It's calling "paying for the convenience". This is the sort of reason to _have_ a store do it for you in the first place, I'll note.

The total price of a fixed coffee item should include all of the individual parts of the coffee item at their _individual_ margin markup. It's better business, and also means that you, the customer, can watch when the price of a commodity in your coffee goes up in value. Aka, espresso shots going from 48 cents each to 51 cents, would show a total 3 cent difference before taxes up on the do-it-yourself-board... This would inflict a 3 cent rise on a drink incorporating 1 shot of espresso.

Milk would at tops cost 30 cents per equivicable shot and they'd still make a profit due to buying milk in bulk. 1 Shot of Expresso, valued at 48 cents by the company (cost of having it pulled, mixed if so, chilled, etc), might cost 48 cents as -part- of another product, or by itself. 1 shot espresso + 2 shots of milk = approximately $1.08 before taxes.

When you order it in pieces, as the customer, you are just enforcing this sort of pricing scheme. When a person orders a Caramel Macchiato, they're not ordering the individual parts... They're ordering parts, the _marketing_, the picture on the back wall, the cost of some executive to get his butt waxed for having such an awesome idea as to append an italian word to the end of a chilled drink. Oh, and they save money because the guy at the counter doesn't need a checklist for your order. He just notes down that its a 'carm mac' (or whatever) on the back, saving time. Which saves _them_ money through efficiency streamlining... Which does -not- lower the price of the drink. This isn't like ordering a combo meal where you can watch the price drop! By putting it altogether and obfuscating the product, they can charge whatever margin they feel they can get away with safely at current demand without pissing off customers.

Same reason why when I go to a fastfood restaurant, I'll order my food in individual menu items (this massive burger sans onions, those small fries, etc) and walk around the corner to get a -bottle- of coke for $1.25, where I pay the same and lose the 2:1 water:soda ratio from the fountain machine... They don't really care too much if you say 'hold the ketchup' and then walk out with 2 packets, because the additive on the burger is viewed as lost money just like the packets... It all depends on how the guy pricing the goods looks at it, loss vs expense vs good-PR.

I highly doubt Starbucks will care, but they'll probably act like it.. If for no reason than to rile up those self-righteous fanatical customers that love their brand and even drink their mass-marketed coffee out of their home machines and always feel guilty for stopping at a Starbucks-mongreled B&N now and again. They'll pump their friends with guilt for stealing the milk, and it will all come out in equilibrium. Free milk on the counter, and nobody abusing it because their franchise-friends will hassle them over embarassing them in a Starbucks where all the cool people are.

Hell, they might come up with a price-per-part value menu and market it at twice their normal customer base while claiming it is for higher quality purchasing and convenience, your way right away. (Oh, and hey SB guys, if you do this at _least_ send me a voucher for a couple of steamers for the idea. I'll rant at my friends how great you are after, too, tons of peer pressure. Thanks.)

Posted by: Deightine at October 12, 2005 8:05 PM

fn em fn em right in there ear. why are they chargeing 2 dollars for milk anyways. And the fact that they give it away at this fixin bar shows how ignorant the price structure is. F em. The little bastards that serve up this coffee have an overly sense of self esteme anyways. Take that coffee pouring monkey. I can imagine him crying to his freinds. I have worked from assistant flour mopper all the way threw the ranks of coffee pourer. And they can shove that tip jar up their ass. Pompous bastards.

Posted by: McPeePants at October 12, 2005 8:07 PM

I seem to recall an episode of Head of the Class in which Jawaharlal tried to pull that stunt with some Iced Chai. Dennis told him it was stealing, and that's good enough for me.

Posted by: Robert Berry at October 12, 2005 8:17 PM

seeing as how america overpays for really poor coffee as it is, i think its fine to do it anywhere, designer store or mom and pops, its still lousy coffee thats overpriced.

Posted by: cheap at October 12, 2005 8:30 PM

I think coffee shops have giant cojones charging what they charge for a cup of coffee anyway. The size of the cojones grow exponentially by the size of the tip jar demanding tips for pouring me a cup of subpar coffee that I then have to add my own sugar and cream to.

Lisa's tip was for a special coffee drink- one that would be requested by, I would imagine, a relatively small percentage of her mailing list. I say that if a few people take advantage of an end-around, go for it.

Here's a tip for the franchised coffee bars- get over yourselves. That'll be $4.75, please.

Posted by: cdarbs at October 12, 2005 8:39 PM

Alright Steve, here's the thing:
The Fixin's are free and the owner of the coffee shop has the right to decide whether or not they want to put the fixin's out there. If they wanna be bitches and not do it and lose customers by not offering them special touches to make their coffee-experience more enjoyable, they have every right to do that as well. Congratulations to Lisa for finding out this information, and I have one more very important point which I think many are neglecting. You are not just paying for the coffee drink in Starbucks, or Caribou, or Mom and Pop, but you are paying for the SERVICE! Look at it this way: It costs less because you make part of the drink yourself, and its not going to the paychecks of the people working there because they did not make that part of the drink, so in some sort of crazy logic, it all evens out in the end

Posted by: Jeff at October 12, 2005 9:10 PM

Well, it all boils down to convenience. ATM's all over the place charge 1-2 bucks extra to your account if you are not using an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank. But it's closer than an ATM owned by your bank must be, otherwise you would just go to that one and save the 2 extra bucks. Using the same principle, getting the whole cup o' oe wit hall the fixins already made for you will cost an extra 2 bucks, mainly for convenience. Would you rather play with the sugar and milk and everything when you've gotta bo to work in 10 minutes, or would you rather pay a couple extra greens and have it all set for you? Some people would risk it, but not me. I would say that I spend a good 10-15 dollars a week on "convenience expenses" - anywhere from an ATM to pre-prepared microwavable foods to the nasty, highly trafficked downtown hookers as opposed to the nicer, cheaper ones in the good parts of town (I live downtown, go figure). But then again, I have friends who will go that extra mile to be with Angelica Troy rather than Sandpaper Sally...but that extra mile means extra gas money (suckers).

Posted by: Cliff at October 12, 2005 9:13 PM

I dislike Starbucks heartily, but I don't condone doing this even there. Providing free milk for people to touch up thier coffee is a really decent thing to do, but taking advantage of this to circumvent the pricing strategy is just plain wrong.

I've been doing a similar thing myself for some time at KFC: Wednesdays are 50% off kids meals, so for the past several months I've been buying bunches of them every wednesday. I love me some chicken strips, and didn't feel bad about it at first. Afterall, if they wanted it to be against the rules to sell kids meals to people other than kids, they could instate said rule.

I've finally come to the conclusion that the feeling of fullness the chicken strips provide is not outweighed by the feeling of guilt for manipulating the system.

Posted by: jer at October 12, 2005 9:13 PM

YES! Down with the corporate machine!! But people should have enough integrity to no do that to a mom and pop store.

Posted by: Nathan at October 12, 2005 9:16 PM

Look people - this is just called 'being smart'. It's like taking advantage of a tax loophole. I'm sure starbucks knows this goes on, if they cared, then they would not offer an expansive coffee bar for all to use.

I mean come on, what if I like to control how much milk I put in my coffee drink (and furthermore, what kind of milk, maybe I want a splash of half and half, and 1oz of Fat Free). When they put the fixings bar out there, they are ALLOWING you to use it at will -- it is there to CUSTOMIZE your drink.

Furthermore, it is NOTHING like taking all the napkins or sugar packets etc. -- b/c you can only take as much milk as will FIT in your cup. As I see it, as long as they allow you to customize your drink, the way you want it (that's called good customer service), then this is a perfectly fine thing to do.

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 12, 2005 9:17 PM

This may have been said before – I'll be honest, I only read through the first dozen comments or so – but charging so much more for an americano than for a dopio is just highway robbery. I work at a coffeehouse, and we keep all of the milk and other pricey add-ins (Sugar in the Raw, plastic utensils, etc) behind the bar, so we don't have to complain about customers over-using them. Because once you put them out in their hands, you're basically saying that however much they take is limited by their sense of courtesy – and nobody, especially marketing wonks, can deny that some people don't have that sense.

We also charge the same for an Americano as we do for the number of espresso shots that go into it. Why? Because water is frickin free(ish), and there's almost zero employee labor in flicking the hot water tap. The cost for hot water is waaaaay down the line, on the utility bill, not the food cost bill. On the other hand, steaming milk costs money (milk is rather expensive, and fluctuates), and takes time (employee labor, even higher in a small coffeehouse, where it's not done by machines), so a hot latte is justified in being more expensive than an americano. An iced latte involves less labor (no milk steamed), so we make up the price difference by making them slightly larger than their hot counterparts. Our iced americanos we don't even add water to – we don't have a cold water tap behind the bar, so we serve them as shots over ice, and then let the customers add the water from the free water tap at the end of the bar. If people want milk in their americanos, we'll do it, but just flat-out refuse to add enough to make it a latte. If they want a ton of milk, I'll usually politely suggest that I'll keep adding it, but that they'll have to be rung up for a cappuccino or a small latte to cover the costs of the milk.

At any rate, the point is that if Starbucks doesn't want people to abuse their condiment bar, then they should restrict what they put into it. Keep the milk behind the bar, and people can't pour themselves full cups of it. If they're really losing that much money through people stealing cups upon cups of milk, then the labor costs of having employees pour it for the customer is worth the tradeoff.

Posted by: laurie pye at October 12, 2005 9:25 PM

Since they're providing the "coffee bar", I have no problem with people using it to jazz up their drink however they see fit.

Besides, Hungry-Girl's tips are faboo, so I would never be inclined to disagree with her.

Posted by: Des at October 12, 2005 9:38 PM

I think that it is obscene what Starbuck's charges for it's various coffee beverages (doesn't stop me from buying them, but still - it is just fricking coffee!) - the company is so completely rolling in dough and will continue to be because Americans love their coffee - that I would not feel an ounce of guilt about using the coffee bar to make budget versions of a beverage to stick it to the [Starbuck's] MAN. That said, even if a thousand of her readers remembered to do this the next time they went to Starbuck's and had the exact same beverage (what are the odds, really?) - big whoop - $2000 - a drop in the big starbuck's bucket. A rice krispie treat will still cost $6 - so it all balances out in the end:) If Starbuck's can afford to provide full benefits to all of it's employees - INCLUDING PART-TIME EMPLOYEES [for any of you recently unemployed folks who can't afford to pay for COBRA - that's another money saving tip! - a couple of part-time shifts in addition to whatever work you are doing to get by can provide benefits during a dark time.] - somehow I think they can afford it. Plus I think it is payback for all of their employees standing around taking their sweet-ass time making my venti mocha frappuccino whilst discussing who's fucking who in their nose-ring social circle...

Posted by: Vanessa at October 12, 2005 9:40 PM

Ok, Lisa aka Hungry Girl here.

First off, I am pleasantly surprised by this outpouring of support from the masses, so thanks. But I feel I should make a few points here. For starters, somewhere along the line people got the idea that this drink somehow involved "steamed" milk. I am talking about an iced "latte" -- a cold coffee drink that when prepared by a "barista" contains COLD milk. Not steamed milk. So the drink is exactly the same.

That being said, my intention is not to "screw" Starbucks. That isn't what this is about. It's about using the condiment/fixin's/add-ins bar that they provide for you, in a completely fair way. What's the difference if you use 3 ounces of milk in your Venti brewed coffee, or you add it to your chilled espresso shots. There is none.

Anyhow --- just wanted to chime in here since I started it all...


Posted by: Lisa at October 12, 2005 9:53 PM

Some of you guys really scare me! I have no idea if it should be ok or not - I generally can feel if something is right or wrong, and since I would be anxious doing this, I would guess that it is wrong. But what really scares me is those people saying it is ok because it is Starbucks! What are you guys, communists? it's ok to steal from them because they are rich? Someday I hope you all win the lottery and then have friends come over and steal stuff at your house because "hey, you can afford it!" give me a break....

Posted by: Aaaagggghhhhh!!!! at October 12, 2005 10:02 PM

I don't know about anyone else, but my first reaction to this certainly wasn't "Awesome! Now I'll definately go to that coffee shop I never go, and buy the drink I never buy, just because if I did do any of this, I'd save two bucks!"

Even with telling thousands of subscribers, I doubt that each and every one goes to Starbucks regularily. Nor to each and every one of them get Iced Caffe Lattes. So someone caught their little trick, big whoop. It's not going to dramatically dent business... Unless a horrible disporportionate amount of people buy Iced Caffe Latte or Americano.

Posted by: anon at October 12, 2005 11:05 PM

Umm...it's just coffee. And milk.

Moving on...

Posted by: LUVAH at October 12, 2005 11:31 PM

Starbucks does not sell coffee. Starbucks sells image and fantasy. Coffee and all that goes in it may be the vehicle, but it's the image you're buying. Shall we make comparisons to the bottled water fad? The energy drink fad? It's all the same scenario, and image is an easy (sort of) solution to the core problem of advertising: How can I make my product stand out from all of the almost-identical competitors' product?

What's probably eating this coffee hut owner (without realizing it) is the fact that his product's image is being stripped away. Someone wants the *coffee* instead of the image? How dare they!

If you want coffee, buy coffee. Stop buying an image.

Posted by: Septyn at October 13, 2005 12:10 AM

If the taste is really the same, I don't see an issue with it. I mean, sure, it's sort of cheating the price but if the price wasn't so high (and we all know that the costs are very low, so i don't think they NEED to charge that much :), there wouldn't be a need to resort to creative ordering.
That said, a year ago my job transferred me to a different coutnry and the nearest startbucks is an hour away, and if I actually drive that hour, I think I would also just pay the real price, because HG's way of ordering could easily be replicated at home.

Posted by: marina at October 13, 2005 12:26 AM

If a shop wants you to only order iteams off the menu, then don't have a coffee bar. Maybe shops the Netherlands and Germany give you a helping of milk and suger with your coffee, free of charge.

Posted by: Ebony at October 13, 2005 1:35 AM

If a shop wants you to only order iteams off the menu, then don't have a coffee bar. Maybe shops the Netherlands and Germany give you a helping of milk and suger with your coffee, free of charge.

Posted by: Ebony at October 13, 2005 1:36 AM

The milk is there for the express purpose of adding it to your coffee. I don't see how anyone could get their panties in a twist over someone adding milk to an iced dopio. I'm sure people have more important things to worry about, like correcting customers who come in and dare to order a mocha latte, when the drink is just called a mocha (said with a slight sneer).

Posted by: Marlena at October 13, 2005 3:25 AM

Putting milk in your Iced Dopio at Starbucks is as immoral as downloading MP3s.

Posted by: Nick at October 13, 2005 3:55 AM

Okay, here in Ireland we have one Starbucks. It opened last week and I haven't been there yet!! But if by 'fixins' you mean free shit on the counter - hell yes, I'll use that and save myself 2 bucks!! First off, because I'm a poor, penniless student, secondly because Starbucks is an international franchise and can afford to be charitable to us poor students. But most importantly, because in Ireland they'll overprice. So you pay 2 bucks more. I'll probably pay 4. No exaggeration. To the shortcut takers, I say - Go! Go, you crazy kids and spread the joy for the poverty stricken everywhere!!!

Posted by: Roxanne at October 13, 2005 4:20 AM

As much as I like to find the hidden deal, I'd have to agree with Mom & Pop on this...the fixin's bar is just that.

If, however, some skunk drains the milk bar for their cheapo latte and there isn't a spot of it left for my tea...I'm going to be pissed.

Posted by: Anna at October 13, 2005 5:07 AM

Um $2 bucks? F'it, I don't care if it is mom and pop or Bill Gates. Money is money, and prices are prices. If you want product A, pay for product A.

If everyone is so poor, then maybe you should skip coffee? And if your not poor and just "thrifty" (a nice way of saying cheap) do you tip? Not that I think some one that pours coffee into a cup without putting milk and sugar in it deserves a tip.

But again $2 bucks will not change the world, nor will it put you in a bigger house, no matter how much coffee you drink.

Now if someone has a work around to turn a draft budweiser into a Sam Adams...you have my interest.

Posted by: Riot at October 13, 2005 5:42 AM

I don't see why adding milk to this is any different than adding milk to your coffee. All this shows us is that the Iced Latte is $2.00 overpriced. Ok, $1.50 if you factor in the steaming. I'll give them that 50 cents, because I'm generous.

Posted by: Lisa at October 13, 2005 5:42 AM

In college did a similar thing. Ordered water, took it to the fixin's area and add a bunch of lemon juice packets and sugar. We called it po'man's lemonade.

Posted by: Jay at October 13, 2005 5:45 AM

I'm drinking a grande coffee frappuccino with whip cream right now, so...

If the Starbucks coffee manager is so upset about this, he needs to simply tell his employees not to allow people to order the Iced Dopio. Solves the problem.

I wouldn't feel bad at Starbucks or a mom and pop place doing the same thing. If they let me order it, the fixin's are free - there's no sign saying you can only use 1 oz. of milk, and two sugars.

Posted by: Julia at October 13, 2005 5:51 AM

Come on! It's just a few ounces of milk fer cryin' out loud! It's not like she's filling the entire cup with milk. I have worked in the service industry and the crime committed is the rate charged for the same drink minus the $.05 ( or less ) of milk they add.

Posted by: evilqueen at October 13, 2005 6:15 AM

I see by Roxaane's post that Starbucks has invaded the land of Guinness, which by the way it a much more enjoyable drink.
as far as ordering a "DOPIO"....
I can't ehlp but be reminded of Cornholio..and I don't want him anywhere near my food
if ya know what I mean

Posted by: timbo at October 13, 2005 6:23 AM

admittedly, i didn't read through all the comments, but i have to disagree with the woman who said it's "tacky". what a poor choice of word. tacky is wearing polka-dots with stripes, not saving $2 and making your own concoction yourself.

personally, i love that idea. i read Hungry Girl on a daily basis. i'm not one to buy from Starbucks, but i have many friends who do. and i'll be passing along this information to them in order for them to save some cash. i am a dunkin' donuts girl, where my medium (no snooty french names here!) french vanilla, cream, and equal costs me a mere $1.80 every day. i feel no sadness if starbucks loses $2 per coffee. they are making it up from the hard-core users that buy 3 or more coffee's a day.

Posted by: honey bunny at October 13, 2005 6:36 AM

Sounds like that manager is a tight ass.

Posted by: Niemster at October 13, 2005 6:47 AM

You people need a real job.

Posted by: JD at October 13, 2005 6:54 AM

I would do it anywhere that charges such ridiculous prices for their products. If they don't like it, change your pricing

Posted by: theGOOCH at October 13, 2005 6:55 AM

I love my coffee. Hell, I even love Starbucks' coffee.

What I don't love is paying upwards of five dollars for a stinking large coffee.

Maybe if the prices were more reasonable, folks wouldn't have to resort to "tricks" to enjoy some Starbucks.

Posted by: Margi at October 13, 2005 6:58 AM

I posted a similar type of coffee tip on my blog last month. I call it the poor man's latte. I suggest getting a caramel americano and get them to leave room for milk.

Topping up an americano with milk or cream is one thing, but I think if you're pouring more than half a cup of milk into your glass, you're probably pushing it a little.

Posted by: Jon Ciarlo at October 13, 2005 7:01 AM

1. If you are getting coffee at Starbucks, then you probably aren't that concerned with saving money. My sister spends 3-5 bucks a day there, but won't buy a $1.00 coffee at the quickie mart. $5 a day = $1825 a year. That's not chump change.

2. In most retail food chains, the paper cup and lid usually cost the company more than the ingredients within.

3. I really doubt that this discovery is going to lead to a widespread use of the condiment bar in this way. Most people don't want to go to the trouble of mixing their own beverage, and a lot of people order fancy drinks that you couldn't mix up yourself (frappachinos).

4. I can't believe I'm taking the time to post about this.

Posted by: Courtneymochalatte at October 13, 2005 7:03 AM

You could say that Starbucks is gaining customers from the publicity. I say it will stay the same because I will continue not going to starbucks. This will peg starbucks down to only way more revenue than any one human can ever generate in their entire life of mining gold out of some jackass mountain somewhere.

Posted by: Benface at October 13, 2005 7:25 AM

Who cares? Really. Who gives a crap? This is a completely moronic thing to argue about and I can't believe that Hungry Girl, et al., cares about what some random coffee shop manager has to say about the way the customers pour their milk. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. The Subway bread cutting argument had more substance.

Posted by: JennyK at October 13, 2005 7:28 AM

I managed a small, independently owned coffee shop for two years, and have skimmed these contents with significant interest. However, here's a few thoughts I'd like to add:

1. I am astonished by the number of comments from folks who seem to hate Starbucks, but spend their money there. To anyone who is so opposed to Starbucks that they think it's okay to "screw them over," STOP PATRONIZING THEM! Okay, so they have a drive-thru so you don't have to get out of your car. Walk a little! So they have a totally standardized product that is exactly the same all over the world. Try living a little bit! Go for something local! Accept variation as a good thing! Not spending any money at Starbucks will make a much louder statement than using extra milk at the condiment bar.

2. MILK IS THE SINGLE GREATEST EXPENSE IN A COFFEE SHOP. The prices are variable and consistently rising. Coffee beans, even free trade ones, are cheap by comparison. If you're ordering a 16 oz drink with two shots of espresso and one shot of syrup, you're probably getting a cup with about 5oz liquid, plus ice. Filling that 16oz cup with milk, to make the equivalent of an iced, flavored latte, will require about 8oz milk (after accounting for the space taken up by the ice). A gallon of milk generally costs nearly $4, or 50 cents per 8oz serving. Very different than the 6-12 cents of cost when someone adds 1-2 ounces of milk to a typical cup of coffee. A typical restaurant mark-up is supposed to be 150% of the food cost (to cover labor, rent, supplies, and utilities)... therefore $1.50. Another 50 cents is a big mark-up, but people, again, you are CHOOSING to go to a coffee shop.

Live ethically, folks. Pay for what you want. You're making a choice to patronize Starbucks, or any other coffee shop. Got a problem with their practices? Make your own coffee!

Posted by: Amelia at October 13, 2005 7:32 AM

Anyone who gouges the customer with those horriffic prices for a cup of coffee deserves to have the chinks in their armor exposed.

Posted by: Toast at October 13, 2005 7:54 AM

I think it's fine to use the milk in this way. Businesses that go the extra mile to be accomodating usually end up with more business (and thus more money) in the long run.

In college, I used to go to 7/11 for nachos all the time. Instead of pumping the chili and cheese on our nachos, we used to fill the entire lid of the nacho tray with both. 7/11 never complained and we ended up buying nachos there several times a week.

Posted by: Stange at October 13, 2005 8:16 AM

ok, honestly I've never actually tasted coffee. I'm 45 years old and at this point I probably never will taste it. But I don't think the product is the point. If you don't want to pay the high prices, don't go to Starbucks. I don't think it's better to rip off a corporation vs a mom & pop. How do you think mom & pop shops become corporations? Anyway, the fixin bars are there for fixin, so have at it. I completely disagree with the people that use the fixins bar to make things at home. It's wrong. but if you are using the fixins bar for things you are consuming at that establishment, I say go for it, that's what they are there for.

Posted by: Kathy at October 13, 2005 8:18 AM

As much distaste as I have for corporate franchises that bilk customers, I have a soft spot for private businesses. My grandparents ran a burger joint when I was a kid.

The fixins area is to complement your order, it's not a creation station. The bottom line for me is that it is an abuse of the intent of the area and ultimately it hurts other customers who
1: have to wait behind you while you concoct your beverage
2: get to the fixins area only to find its supplies have been used up
3: have to pay more for their drinks because there's been a sudden spike in costs for fixins.

This isn't a black or white issue but I tend to sympathize with the mom-and-pop stores who struggle to make a go against corporate franchises.

Posted by: Gary at October 13, 2005 8:19 AM

Just spend the 2$.

As for adding money to the tip jar (as ladylivewire suggests); that's a whole other issue. Take that jar off the counter, youre not serving like a waiter. Thats obnoxious. Should I tip a 7-11 cashier too?

Posted by: Murf at October 13, 2005 8:28 AM

So the logic of many above is:


Stay the hell away from me.

Posted by: Aubs at October 13, 2005 8:32 AM

I think it's ridiculous that everyone keeps comparing this to taking a "whole stack of napkins home" or "17 jelly packs". No one's picking up a jug of milk to take home with them, they're just adding a little bit to a single drink.

If you have a fixin's bar, it's for all patrons to use regardless of what they bought. If Starbucks doesn't want this to happen then they need to ask patrons what add ins they want and mix it for them.

Which I think they should be doing anyway, if I'm paying $4 for a cup of coffee the least they could do is stir my sugar in it.

As far as putting the money saved in the tip jar, why is anyone tipping Starbucks employees anyway? Unless they come to my table, take my order, bring my coffee to me, and come by several times to make sure I'm doing okay & to offer me a re-fill, they don't deserve a tip.

Posted by: Marie at October 13, 2005 8:35 AM

The condiment bar is for me. I'm a paying customer, it is my world. If I want to load up my hot dog with a pound of relish, that's what I'm going to do. If my coffee requires seven Sugar In the Raws and they have six, I'm sending someone to the back for more. If it's on my side of the counter, I'm going to use it. I'm not advocating leaving a mess and licking all the spoons, but if they put it out there to be used during the course of a day, I'm going to make sure it gets used.

If I was owner of a shop and someone passed around this tip, I would have one of two options:
Make it a feature (Add your own stuff, save a buck!)
Charge more for the lower priced drink

Other than that, it seems a little petty to be up in arms over this (especially when it's not even your coffee shop). Who gets on Heloise's case when she posts a hint from some grandmother who talks about combining coupons to get cans of kidney beans for pennies? When my bike tire needs air, I may stop and fill it at a local bike shop that I did not purchase my bike from, does that matter?

Some places choose to provide goods and services for free. That is their choice, just as it is mine to remember this free service later on when I need to purchase something from them in the future. The two bucks she saves every time likely come back in the fact that she goes there twice as often.

Posted by: Mccrum at October 13, 2005 8:47 AM

Sounds like a story my dad told me about when he was a young man in the 40s. People would go to a diner and order a cup of hot water, then pour ketchup into it to make tomato soup. It got to the point that the manager stopped leaving the ketchup bottles on the counter.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with fixing up your way overpriced coffee with the milk from the bar. What if you'd never heard of the coffee with the milk already in it? Is Starbucks going to give you the stink eye because you haven't tried everything on the menu?

Posted by: Pam at October 13, 2005 8:52 AM


It takes more than a "little bit" of milk to turn two shots of espresso into a latte.

and Toast,

A company has every right to "gouge" its customers that it wants to. Any company's goal is to make money. They can set their prices wherever they want. That's how it works. If you think it's too expensive, then don't give them your business.

I'd love to see any of you start a company and make sure everything is super cheap so people will just be happy.

Posted by: Tajan at October 13, 2005 9:09 AM

Ameila (an owner) points out that milk is the single most expensive ingredient and regular markup to cover labour and expences brings the value to $1.50. My first point is that , sure It would be worth $1.50 if they put it in and mixed or frapped it or whatever - but they don't, it's just left on the table therfore it's not worth any more than the milk on my table at home. Another point is that an owner admits to the Starbucks markup being 50 cents higher than it should be!
Now for all you who say buy your coffee elsewhere - I do! I'm not knocking Starbucks- just a principal that is wrong. Theres nothing wrong with debating a practice that does not affect you directly.

Posted by: Amazing Corbin at October 13, 2005 9:10 AM

If there were only a small difference in price, I would say that it's in bad taste to use the workaround and would feel that the store owner is shortchanged. But come on, 2 BUCKS, for MILK! I can buy an entire half gallon of milk for that much. Maybe this is should be a sign to Starbucks that their pricing is way out of whack.

Or you can look at it this way: when you pump your own gas, it's cheaper than if you go to full-serve. In my mind the $2 is cost for the priviledge of having a barrista add the milk!

Posted by: Kara at October 13, 2005 9:21 AM

To quote a bit of American cinema history...

"NO!! No wheezing the juice!!"

Store owners/managers will always come down on the side of the store. Customers will always come down on the side of the customer. To me "the point is moo." (Ahha! Television history too! I'm a wealth of culture, no?)

Posted by: Trint at October 13, 2005 9:39 AM

I understand the whole concept of making a profit and charging what you like. I think that Starbucks is overpriced, and as such I DON'T give them my business. And yes, $2 for milk is gouging your customers. If they don't want people "abusing" their milk, then don't leave it on the coffee bar.

Posted by: Toast at October 13, 2005 9:42 AM

I think it perfectly allright. If they put it out there, you should be able to with it what you want. They are charging a lot of money for "OK" coffee. And really, are a lot of people going to do this, probably not.

Posted by: hihat at October 13, 2005 9:49 AM

This is no more or less wrong than charing $2 for something that's made available for free.

Your friend should publicize this money grubbing coffee shop owner for who/what they are, and encourage her readers not to patronize his establishment.

A business is not guaranteed the opportunity to suck money from the consumer, only the opportunity to try.

Posted by: Dann at October 13, 2005 9:52 AM

As much as I appreciate Starbucks as an outstanding model of corporate responsibility, 3 or 4 bucks out of my pocket is not something I'm willing to do every day. If Lisa wants to pass around a tip she heard or discovered she has my support.
But here's something to consider. If you step into a Starbucks at 6 or 7 in the morning after and you're butt-tired, are you even going to have the will to make the drink yourself?
I'll leave that question to the philosophers.

Posted by: Brett at October 13, 2005 9:53 AM

We say "Stick it to the Man!"... :)

Posted by: Dana and Paul at October 13, 2005 9:57 AM

You know, baristas wouldn't complain if you tipped decently. Not the $.37 you get for your change, but maybe a buck. You'd drop that into a street musician's case or a bum's hat, but giving it to people that actually work? Fuck that.

And ripping off starbucks is okay, because their coffee really isn't that good.

Posted by: SB at October 13, 2005 10:04 AM

I REFUSE to call them "baristas". That's just stupid.

The other day, I had a 16 year old girl at Starbucks thell me, "This is my 1st day as a barista!" I wanted to shove two biscotti up her nose.

By the way, that "workaround" is awesome, more power to you.

Down with the Baristas!

Posted by: tioem at October 13, 2005 10:06 AM

People who say it's wrong to do it at mom and pops, but okay to do it at Starbucks, are fooling themselves. If it is wrong to exploit the fixins bar at a mom and pop, it is equally wrong for the same reasons at a chain store. Personally, I think that if a coffee bar sets the fixins out, then I can pour myself a whole glass of milk from that bar if I want to. It is free, and I can use it anyway I like. HOWEVER, such exploitation will inevitably lead to removal of the fixins bar, or charges, etc. if you're lucky enough to not be thrown out of the coffee shop after you've drunk the milk.

Posted by: Ron Fields at October 13, 2005 10:09 AM

Hot or iced, a latte's still a latte and therefore consistently priced. The fact you opt to not let the barista steam the milk for you is your choice, like opting not to eat the chocolate on your hotel room pillow.

The milk is provided on the condiment bar as a service to you, the customer. As the customer, you are entitled to using as much dairy and sugar as you need to suit your taste. That's why it's there. What's not okay, though, is that you purposely deceived the baristas in the effort to save money. You lied.

If you wanted the doppio, then order the doppio. Add as much condimenty goodness as you like to suit your tastes. That's fantastic - I'm glad my shop could provide for your beverage needs. When you start plotting these clever little menu loopholes though, that just leads to the Dark Side.

Posted by: Matt at October 13, 2005 10:13 AM

Because I'm a stickler for correctness, I'd like to point out a few flaws in Amelia's justification for charging so much to add milk to a drink.

A gallon has 128 oz., which is 16 8oz. servings, not 8, and therefore, even at $4 a gallon, the milk they're putting in your drink cost them $.25, not $.50. And I know that prices are different all over the country, but I live in a metropolitan area that is pretty average, and milk is just under $3 a gallon, which brings the cost of the 8oz. of milk Starbucks is putting into my coffee to $.19. Even at a standard 150% markup, they should not be charging much more than $.30 to make my drink milky. But I understand business, and I can see adding a dollar. Whatever. I don't care. I'm here to splurge on a drink I must really like, right?

But, if one is going to start getting all technical and start justifying the absurd prices, let's be realistic.

In short, business is business, and the milk they add might cost less than 20 cents, but they can charge whatever they please--because people are willing to pay it. But if someone else is smart enough to buy a less expensive drink and add milk, as if they had ordered a regular old cheap coffee, who cares?!!?!? That is NOT cheating Starbucks, and it is NOT stealing.

Posted by: Sabrina at October 13, 2005 10:17 AM

I cannot believe the socialist rhetoric that is taking over America. It sounds like the BS attitudes here in Canada that keep driving up our taxes so that the lazy can stay home and collect a cheque. Make your own damn coffee at home or play by the common rules of courtesy. I guess if they leave the furniture on the customer's side of the counter it is ok to take that too.

Posted by: Dale at October 13, 2005 10:17 AM

Ooops, crap. I'm a stickler, and I blew it. I meant at 150% markup, they should be charging $.60, not $30.

Posted by: Sabrina at October 13, 2005 10:20 AM

Steve, I usually like it when you open the ol' Comment Board, like with the Cattlepult Cowcatcher e.g.

This time, it's a snooze. "Boohoo, Starbucks charges so much", "Support mom-n-pop stores", "Abuse is petty", "I am entitled to do whatever I want". Now repeat these same 4 stinking points a hundred times.

Come-on people! If someone else said EXACTLY the same thing, why are you posting?


Posted by: Otto at October 13, 2005 10:22 AM

Honestly, I wouldn't like it if someone did it in front of me, so if it's there you might as well do it. Since I have little love for coporations I would favor this a little more. My own moral compass would not allow me to do it. Also, once in a while would be fine, though I wouldn't go in there every single day and do this ... they'd catch on.

Or just don't drink coffee, I don't.

Posted by: Nate at October 13, 2005 10:26 AM

Shit Nate!

That's is so brilliant! Wow! Thanks for adding your insights here with us.


Posted by: Otto at October 13, 2005 10:28 AM

Has it occurred to anyone that they're OVERCHARGING for the latte?

If they can sell an Americano for $2 less, even though the only difference is 15 cents worth of milk that someone pours into the cup, it's pretty clear they're gouging their customers in the first place.

Posted by: Chris at October 13, 2005 10:35 AM

1. "Is a paying customer completely justified in doing this or anything else they want at the fixin's bar? " Yes. It's there, it's 'free' (though you're actually paying for it when you buy your coffee). This is similar to taking extra ketchup packets from McDonalds for future use. However, if enough people start using this tip, and it begins to affect the coffee shop's costs/profits, you can count on higher prices for your Dopio/Latte, or there will be some sort of portion control at the fixin's bar.

2. "If not, at what point is going too far?" The point at which what you do results in a policy/price change by the store.

3. "Is this tip as equally justified at a local mom & pop coffee shop?" Of course.

4. "How would you feel about all of this if YOU were the owner of the coffee shop?" I'd feel pretty stupid for being exploited in this manner and not catching it sooner. I would then change the process (raise prices?) to prevent this from happening in the future.

5. "Is this tip appropriate to be passed along to thousands of people?" Hell yeah... with the understanding that it may cause a policy/price change by the store to prevent this from happening.

6. "Does that even matter?" Sure it does, because it affects YOUR pocket book/wallet.

Posted by: Zclone at October 13, 2005 10:40 AM

Milk comes from a cow's teat.

Posted by: Dan at October 13, 2005 10:46 AM

i personally think the fixin's bar is free, so why not abuse it? i regularly make entire meals out of complimentary items, throwing crackers, pickles, condiments, lettuces, etc. together into an extra two items to go along with my cheapass purchased item. it's like an all-you-can-eat deal, if the owner has a problem with abuse of the extras, they should make it cost money. THATs capitalism in action

Posted by: edgar j allenby at October 13, 2005 10:56 AM

I get Lisa's daily email and I was happy to hear the tip! I don't think it is such a big deal. If Starbucks doesn't want people to abuse the milk then they shouldn't put so much of it out.

Remember when Wendy's had a salad bar? It's the same deal. Buy a plain potato for 99 cents and add your own broccoli and cheese. People have been doing this kind of stuff for years. Starbucks needs to relax.

Posted by: JB at October 13, 2005 11:04 AM

I am personally of the opinion that loopholes such as this one are perfectly fine. It doesn't just apply to the food service industry. I know people who do this sort of thing with electronics and such... and if they can beat the system and technically legally get away with it then more power to them.

This reminds me of an incident in high school where I programmed my calculator to practically take my tests for me. Some students complained because I could finish the hour long tests in five minutes but the teacher said that if I was smart enough to figure it out then I should be entitled to use it.

Sorry for the tangent... but yeah, I think its brilliant.

Posted by: Media_Hack at October 13, 2005 11:04 AM

I had a similar experience. I once went to the Chicken Ranch, an upscale whorehouse just oustide Las Vegas. When I got into the private room with my whore, Melanie, she informed me that a straight fuck would be $250. But if I wanted to go down on her (which I very much did), that would be an extra $50. I thought this was ridiculous. I felt that if I paid the money to fuck her, I should also be able to get my oral fix at no additional cost. I deemed the extra $50 a complete rip-off, so I told her "no thanks" on going down on her. So then, as we were fooling around (pre-sex), I would sort of guide her fingers inside herself, then guide her fingers into my mouth. This wasn't exactly as satisfying as going down on her, but I did get pretty much the same taste, smell, and subsequent joy. After a few moments of this, she caught on to my little trick and tried to make me pay the extra $50 for oral. We argued about this for almost an hour. Personally, I feel I was entitled to my trick...and I feel a Starbucks customer is entitled to the milk trick. So fuck Starbucks and fuck Melanie (which I did).

Posted by: Zacker at October 13, 2005 11:28 AM

I think ultimately the customer has a RIGHT to being an educated consumer, and if putting the milk in at the bar versus having the barista put the milk in, thus saving $2, is such a "threat" to that coffee shop person who is against Hungry Girl's friendly suggestion, imagine, if you will, how much MORE of a threat it would be if customers just started saying "NO" to Starbucks all-together? It's nothing but nasty-ass, ultra-burnt coffee, which has no more caffeine than a comparably sized Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Posted by: NuggetMaven at October 13, 2005 11:33 AM

Rock on Zacker! Excellent point.

That reminds me of the time Melanie tried to charge me for giving her a shocker. We talked for an hour about if a thumb is a finger. Good times.


Posted by: Otto at October 13, 2005 11:34 AM

Enjoy your bourgesois luxury items produced by the sweat of thousands of slave-wage vassals in your third-world colonial empire, expolitative capitalist dogs!

Just kiddin', I love Starbucks.

Posted by: Ian at October 13, 2005 11:35 AM

Those of you who say this is wrong:

Say you went to a restaurant and plain toast was $.50 and buttered toast was $6.00. Now lets say there is butter on the table for free. Wouldn't you order the plain toast and butter it yourself? Its the same thing.

I think its wrong when you abuse the condiments, but when you use it for the item you bought and don't take extra with you it's not dishonest

Posted by: Brad at October 13, 2005 11:49 AM

I don't think it's particularly wrong, I just think it's tacky and cheap. I have a friend who would do something similar at lunch. He would order water and grab a huge napkinful of lemons. He'd then proceed to squeeze all the lemon wedges into the water, add some sugar, and make lemonade right at the table. It's not particularly wrong, but it's uncouth.

I don't have any problem with her posting it on her website. She has every right to spread tips about how to be cheap. Just like I don't have any problem with a coffee shop owner complaining that it's tacky.

Posted by: Jeff at October 13, 2005 11:58 AM

Sure you get to save a few bucks but really you're just screwing the coffee shop. They pay for the milk for you to put in your coffee. If people start ripping off the gratius milk, then the gratius milk will end up behind the counter where you will have to ask for it, and then you won't get to fix your coffee excatly the way you like it. Worse yet the coffee place will just raise the price on all the coffee to pay for the milk. You might save some bucks at first but in the end you are screwing everybody. Especially the Mom & Pop shops who cannot afford to absorb that cost. Really folks if you don't want to pay whats on the menu then do shop at the store.

Posted by: Brimmy at October 13, 2005 12:08 PM

There are a number of things I'd love to say on this subject, but don't have the time or energy, and it would end with me just bashing on Startbucks, so I'll hold off on those. I will however mention that if they provide the milk for you for free, then when you pay money to have it put in your drink what are you paying for? You must be paying for the service of them adding the milk. If you add it yourself, why should you be obligated to pay for that service??

Posted by: Sam at October 13, 2005 12:13 PM

I would not at a Mom and Pop sort of coffee place, but at a Starbucks I would take as much as possible. I'm sure that by not buying a latte that I am severly hurting the corporation. There really is no use crying over spilled (or in the this case "borrowed") milk.

Posted by: Jimmie at October 13, 2005 12:23 PM

Starbucks preys on peole who don't know any better. Their logo is a siren for chrissake.

When I go to a fast food restaraunt that has a self-serve soda fountain, I order a small drink and refill a few times. It's my responsibility to manage my own finances; not the finances of the businesses I patronize. Should I enthically be ordering a large and never refill?

Posted by: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout at October 13, 2005 12:34 PM

Sounds the same as the "WeAdaBABY ItsAboy" commercial. Kinda freeloading off of the calling collect service.

But hey, there's no rule legislating the ammount of milk you may put in a drink so it kinda just comes down to are you cheap/a college student OR are you willing to just pay the full price? Neither is wrong in my oppinion.

I worked at a fragrance counter once and people DEMAND TONS of samples, and when you give them, they say, "Is that the best you can do?!" Is it wrong? Probably not. Annoying? Yes, especially when they beg for samples for "their daughter cause it's her birthday."

What are you gonna do?

Posted by: TheIdleReceptionist at October 13, 2005 12:42 PM

Fuck Starbucks. Fuck them in their yuppie asses. Fuck 'em.

-a poem by aliendave

Posted by: aliendave at October 13, 2005 12:44 PM

You would save even more money if you also brought your morning bowl of cereal with you (sans milk) and used the coffee milk for that too. In fact, everyone should go to Starbuck's for all of their milk needs...think of the savings! Baby hungry? Starbucks milk. Kitty Treat? Starbucks milk. Homeless person hungry? Bring'em a free cup of Starbucks milk!

Posted by: Cofeedrinker at October 13, 2005 1:14 PM

Are you really ripping them off by not paying 3.65 for a cup of coffee? If a Mom and Pop store overcharged like that, I'd have no problem using a trick to save some money. It's more ethical than charging 2 bucks for a little bit of milk.

How much milk do you have to add to turn it into a latte? It wouldn't change my opinion, I'm just curious

Posted by: Greg at October 13, 2005 1:38 PM

Hi, Steve. First time caller, long time listener.

Just a comment on those making the analogy with ordering a glass of water and lemon slices and making lemonade or making tomato soup with ketchup. It's weak. Give it up.

The difference is that she PAID for the coffee at an establishment that offers a self-serve condiment bar. This entitles her to make use of the fixin's for said coffee. That's what it's there for - the use of the PAYING customers. As a paying customer, you're entitled to use the condiments as you see fit. And this should be OK in a Starbucks, a mom & pop coffee place or wherever. I see no difference between this and someone who likes to put 10 sugars in their coffee. Or my wife who likes 1/2 cup of lemon juice on her Caesar salad. Or me, who likes 5 ketchup packets with his burger and fries.

To be honest, I'm shocked that Starbucks hasn't realized this gap in their pricing structure and raised the price of the non-milk version. At least not yet....

Posted by: Jamie at October 13, 2005 1:51 PM

I don't have any insight into the issue. I think its a bit tasteless but not unethical, but then I'd never buy a rotten over-roasted Starbucks coffee anyway. I really just want to gloat about living in a society where multi-nationals are losing ground to independent operators. So here goes.

In NZ, Starbucks and their ilk have had real trouble getting a foothold in the market. So much so that Starbuckses have been closing down. It's great, because it means that the independent cafes in NZ are staying open instead, and people are even prepared to pay more for coffee sourced in an ethical manner, roasted locally and made properly. Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonalds are also suffering the same fate.

Posted by: H to tha Izzle at October 13, 2005 2:00 PM

Every time I read the word "fixins," I giggle!

Posted by: pamelaNeko at October 13, 2005 2:12 PM

i. hate. this. stupid. argument.

But, I did enjoy the hooker comparison. Put a little happiness in my pants.

Posted by: JennyK at October 13, 2005 2:29 PM

It might turn out that the saving the $2 dollars might make that customer return more often, and in the end, that customer might spend more because of that little walk around. The business owner should be embracing anything that might result in more frequent visits.

Posted by: Kels at October 13, 2005 3:04 PM

Starbucks is a giant stupid corperation. Screw them!!! I say that that is a great idea!!! Go Lisa!!! you're so cool!!! *foams at the mouth*

Posted by: Kitty at October 13, 2005 3:31 PM

I have been enlightened.If you are stupid enough to go to Starbucks when you know its going to be freakin' 10 for two drinks just buy them!

Posted by: Margaret at October 13, 2005 3:33 PM

Oh yeah, and a friend of mine used to be in charge on a starbucks and they actually had to close the fixin's place because people 'abused' it.I'm I the only one who gets a funny picture in there mind when say abusing a fixin' place?

Posted by: Margaret at October 13, 2005 3:43 PM

In the grand scheme of things who cares. You bought the item and now you choose to upgrade it to your taste with items provided at the shop, fuck them if they say you can’t. It’s your right as a consumer to use their condiments anyway you see fit, especially if you are a paying customer and you’re using it in the store. Don’t take the pitcher of milk home with you or stock up on cinnamon and sugar packets but if you want to add milk to your drink and suddenly that transforms it into another trademark drink, oh well. If you’re buying a $5 cup of coffee no one in the store should say a word about anything you do; in fact I would go so far as to expect to see big toothy smiles on every employees face so I feel a little better about the fact that I just got robbed.

Posted by: Overthinker at October 13, 2005 4:34 PM

Starbucks coffee is icky. It's over-roasted and sour and bitter. Lattes are my favorite, but I'd never even buy one from them, much less try to doctor it. If you can handle the taste, then you might as well, but they definitely don't have the most sanitary habits either. (My best friend works at a little coffee shop, so I've been totally turned off of Starbucks.) Then again, it's kinda funny.

Posted by: Audrey at October 13, 2005 4:36 PM

Oh my God Steve!

Please end this already!


Posted by: Otto at October 13, 2005 5:00 PM

Dunkin Donuts > Starbucks

Posted by: Toast at October 13, 2005 5:23 PM

While it is true that ripping off a large corporation may not seem like a big deal, it is still stealing in some form. Much the same as overloading hotel rooms or taking hotel towels... they are there for your use, but only while you are a paying customer. The bottom line here, in my opinion, is if you don't want to pay exorbitant prices for coffee, then don't go to starbucks. I love mochas, so what'd I do? I bought a coffee maker, some chocolate syrup, and some coffee, and i make mochas... they're just as good as starbucks, and cost less than 50cents a cup
on average.

Posted by: gus at October 13, 2005 5:26 PM

So many of the comments made hear are from jackasses. I normally don't talk this way, but to justify stealing because it is a big company or a small company or you deserve it or they overcharge anyway or whatever other stupid excuse you come up with is STEALING none-the-less. I can't wait till you own your own business and see people shove condiments in their pockets (for later on there own bagel). It's just fine until someone does it to you. Many of you people have no ethics and would steal from anyone you felt you could justify it for and you would "feel bad" if you got caught. YOU are the problem with America today. I'm glad I'm not your employer. You'd probably rob me blind, but heck you deserve it...right?!?

Posted by: Jake at October 13, 2005 5:38 PM

While everyone may be focusing on the cost of a gallon of milk, consider this:

*How much does the rent cause that houses the milk?
*How much electricity is used to refrigerate it and have lights on to see yourself steaming it?
*How much do I have to pay in insurance to keep my doors open and protect myself from 2 people who have sued me after tripping over their own feet?
*How much does it cost to pay employees not only a fair salary, but also benefits?
*How much does the machine cost that is grinding the beans and brewing your espresso?
*How much does dish detergent, mopping solution, register paper, trash bags, and the million other things needed to run a business cost?
*Am I entitled to make a living and feed my child by being in business for myself and turning a profit?

My husband and I have owned a shop for almost 4 years now and we work ours butts to the bone for everything we have. We try to offer incredible drinks and excellent service, all for a fair price.

What people do not realize is that maybe prices continue to go up because people take advantage of the "freebies" in life. Everything within the 4 walls of my space cost me money. The only way we can support our family is to bring in more money that we pay out.

Bottom line....if you think that you can do it better than me, give it a whirl. That way you can see what it is like to have your paycheck affected by people taking advantage of what you try to offer.

Posted by: Broadway Joes at October 13, 2005 5:52 PM

I see nothing wrong with the tip, nor do I see anything wrong with it being published in the magazine. The customers are still paying to get the coffee, and hence Starbucks profits whether or not they add the milk or buy the drink with milk in it already. That is the deciding factor for me.

Posted by: Suzie at October 13, 2005 6:15 PM

I think it's Starbuck's responsibility to either change the Iced Dopio price or ration out milk from the coffee bar. This would apply to any coffee shop.

Posted by: Eddie BUrns at October 13, 2005 6:24 PM

Totally justified. Sticking it to "The Man" when the opportunity arises is almost mandatory. If Coffee Manager guy wants to get bitchy, he can put the trillions of dollars of gas into her car and pay her bills and feed her family for her. Stretching a buck and passing on a simple workaround that is discovered to fellow consumers helps the many. And as Spock said, "The Needs of the Many outweigh the Needs of the Few." And now that I've exposed myself for the geek that I am, I'll quietly slink away....

Posted by: Margo at October 13, 2005 6:34 PM

You have a choice to pay $4 for coffee, or brew your own, so don't whine at the prices being high. A company provides a product at a price. If you take more than a reasonable amount you are stealing and causing a future mark-up for an already high priced coffee. Stealing is stealing, no matter who its from.

Posted by: Mark at October 13, 2005 7:07 PM

i work at starbucks, and instead of reading all these comments i'm gonna say this at risk of repeating someone else.

a venti (the biggest) caramel frappacino costs about 3 cents to make. we charge 4.59 for one. the drinks themselves are mostly water anyhow (half ice, half mix which in itself is half water). we make all our money from the damned things, so all the americanos and lattes are really icing on the cake.

and, by the stupid way, i think an americano is only about 1.80, not 3.65. not that it matters at all.

go ahead! take ALL THE MILK YOU WANT.

Posted by: dan at October 13, 2005 7:20 PM

Thanks Dan for confirming my point earlier... Starbucks isn't LOSING any money, they are just making a tid-bit less..... Good job to the smart consumer!

Posted by: Annette at October 13, 2005 9:43 PM

Fuck you starbucks...

if you put all the fixens out there for free that will turn that coffe into a latte. It would appear you are overcharging for your latte???

just in case you missed it...


Next time I am in there I will make sure to knock over the milk on "accident"

Posted by: nard at October 13, 2005 9:47 PM

Hey Dan! I think your math must be off a bit. Even if that 20 oz. drink is all milk, it must cost at least 30 cents to make. More likely it costs about 75 or 80 cents just for the materials. Maybe the reason they have to charge so much is they are paying you too much.

Posted by: bill at October 13, 2005 10:36 PM

Lisa can say whatever she pleases, it's a free country. The milk at the condiment bar is free, there is no limit sign . I see no problem with doing this. I really doubt most people will run and make their own drinks at the bar, the point of going there is for the service of having it ready made for you! Make your own drink at home if you are too cheap.

Posted by: danielle at October 13, 2005 10:43 PM

Actually, if out of the hordes of people that Lisa may have inspired, are the Starbucks across the country not going to make MORE $money$ now that a few people that have never been there before will go out of curiosity to spend money, albeit $1.65?!?

Posted by: yiayia at October 13, 2005 11:33 PM

I live in Austria, maybe that's why I can't understand why anybody would ever go to Starbucks and pay ridicoulos amounts of money for what - coffee ??
I can get an excellent cup of coffee for a maximum of 2 bucks here. It usually comes with a glass of water and sometimes even a small piece of chocolate or a small cookie.
And compared to what's in it, even the 2 bucks are anything but cheap.

Back to topic, I think that Starbucks is ripping you off all the time. If some clever people find out about ways to save a little money, why not?

But then again it's all a thing of give and take. I loathe people who will go to a resonably priced buffet, eat all they can and put as much ketchup-bags, sweetener, jelly and stuff into their purse as will fit in.
Or raid hotel rooms completely, up to the last roll of toilet paper.
Can't make a rule here, just be fair if someone if fair to you.

Posted by: Wolfgang at October 14, 2005 12:47 AM

At almost four bucks for a cup of coffee? Hell YES I think that it's a good idea and something I'd feel completely justified in doing. And frankly, I think that the manager should be reported to Starbucks for complaining about it. I mean- hello- ever hear of customer service? How about the old idea of 'the customer is always right'?

That said though- if I'm going to pay $4 (heck, if I'm going to pay more than a buck) for a cup of coffee (which I do on many an occasion) I'm going to choose something that I *can't* make at home, but that's just me.

Posted by: Sahm2littlebean at October 14, 2005 1:23 AM

Starbucks is upset over this tip because it proves how much they overcharge. I say go for it; how a customer orders his/her coffee and what (s)he puts in it is his/her business.

Posted by: Angie at October 14, 2005 2:18 AM

I feel any way we can save money nowdays is fine as long as we aren't breaking the law. I frequent the Mom and Pop coffee shops, but I can't afford Starbucks. If Starbucks would make their coffe more affordable perhaps I would become one of their customers. Many others would probably do the same and then they would make even more than they do now. And how can they say one customer can't use more cream than another customer. It is a personal taste preference.

Posted by: Cost Consciences at October 14, 2005 2:57 AM

I got started reading Lisa's site when my sister sent me the articles about Starbucks, because she knows what a coffee nut I am, and that I am really careful on my calorie intake. I have since given every "Girl" I know her site address. Just because she posted the article on how to save money at Starbucks, doesn't mean everyone is going to use them. So many of us use the drive thru.....and Im thinking the person at the window isn't going to doctor it up like that for me.......Keep up the wonderful work Lisa..........I and many others LOVE YOUR SITE!!

Posted by: Lowie at October 14, 2005 3:20 AM

I can't believe anyone cares....It's Starbucks!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: stuie at October 14, 2005 3:36 AM

You can't say, "We as a business have provided this milk for our customers to use..." "...but only in X, Y, and Z instances."
It is provided for the customers and they should therefore be able to use it in anyway they please. If Starbucks doesn't like this, they should start offering the creamer in reduced fat, non dairy, and half in half in individual packaging.

Posted by: Amanda at October 14, 2005 3:41 AM

I've been using Lisa's hint for a few weeks and have found that I truly use MUUUUCH less milk than they normally would add to my iced latte - so ordering a dopio actually saves me more than just the ca$h that I was spending previously. Had to ask the barista for the nonfat milk when we last traveled (they kept it behind the counter b/c it didn't stay cold enough???) but otherwise, I don't really have a problem with it. Since I'm saving money, I go more often and ultimately spend more... mentioned what I was doing to my friend, who's a Starbuck's manager, and she didn't have a problem with it... knew I'd still come in.

Kudo's to Lisa and Hungry-Girl for finding a way for us to enjoy our iced latte's and still be able to afford them!

Posted by: alison at October 14, 2005 4:00 AM

Starbucks needs to get over it. They'll hardly go broke over this one little tidbit.

Posted by: me at October 14, 2005 4:06 AM

Everyone knows Starbucks is expensive coffee. If you have to find ways to cheapen the drink, head to Mc' Donalds for a cup o joe. Not to mention, spare the workers some confusion.

Posted by: Nadene at October 14, 2005 4:23 AM

It's even worse for those of us who are "lactose challenged." It's 40 cents extra for anything they make with soymilk, and there's no soy creamer at the fixer-upper bar. Plus, Starbucks uses a vanilla soymilk with extra calories (!) making a small soy latte somehow 160 calories. So here's my workaround:
I order an Americano, hot or iced, depending on my mood, then ask the barista if I can "borrow" the soymilk and pour in a glug. They seem to have no problem with that.

Posted by: GeeGee at October 14, 2005 4:29 AM


Posted by: lynn at October 14, 2005 5:20 AM

Okay, first of all, we don't have a Starbucks within 300 miles of us (guess those of us in so-called rural western states aren't good enough for Starbucks!) but I do visit their stores when I'm in an area that has one.

I paid $10 last weekend for 2 lattes. I did not use their "bar" of stuff at all ... YOU CAN HAVE MY MILK THAT I DIDN'T USE!! I didn't see very many people at all using that little bar area, so I'm sure there are others willing to "donate" their "share" of that milk to others!

If it were a smaller shop (like we have here) I'd still do it. Like someone said earlier, how much milk can you actually fit into their coffee when they give it to you? Not much. It's not overflowing, but it's still already pretty full.

Suck it up, Starbucks! You charge $5 for coffee, and people are willing to pay that (there are always lines when I go) so take your profits and quit crying over a little "spilled milk trick!"

Posted by: CoffeeHound at October 14, 2005 5:31 AM

Its too good not to do. If I'd not seen the suggestion in my Hungry Girl daily email, I would've come up with it myself as I'm always finding ways around a menu at fast food places. I do it at Pollo Tropical with the salsa which transforms a simple dish into one with vegetables and flavor without adding fat. Sorry Starbuck's and Pollo Tropical, you're not fast enough for nutrition conscious, economical folks like us!

Posted by: Maria at October 14, 2005 5:34 AM

I have to throw my two cents in here. Everyone's picking on Starbucks, but they are an example of a well-managed organization that happened to be in the right place at the right time. They shouldn't be penalized or cheated because they're a big corporation. They should be admired for what they've created.

#1) Starbucks is not expensive unless you order the tricked-out drinks. I can buy a grande coffee for under $2.00. That's about $.75 cents more than I pay at a gas station/convenience store, but their coffee tastes like piss. I drink decaf and Starbucks is one of the few locations where their decaf coffee actually tastes like coffee rather than the aforementioned piss.

#2) While I'm not familiar with the Dopio or any of the other tricked-out drinks there, it seems that there's a relatively easy fix to this situation. Provide a cup that's sized appropriately for the beverage being purchased. If you're buying a shot of espresso, Starbucks should put it in a 3 oz. cup which should provide for a relatively normal amount of condiments to be added. When I buy my grande, they ask me if I need room for cream. If I say yes, they put a little less coffee in it. I would never ask them to pay for a small (I can't remember my starbucks size names at the moment) and then ask them to put it in a grande cup so I could add 8 ozs. of milk. That's just not right.

Posted by: Deb at October 14, 2005 5:37 AM

I'm curious to know why she (the Starbucks employee) was upset about this? What, does she think Starbucks is all of a sudden going to go broke over this?! Please...I'm sure several people were doing it anyway....besides, there is a difference between steamed milk (served in many of their beverages) and regular milk - so it's not always the same and I think plenty of people get the "regular" drinks. I really don't think HG was telling any BIG secret that's going to put Starbucks in the poorhouse now. I told my own cousin who is a manager at Starbucks and she said, "Hey, if that's what they want to do, go for it!" Sounds like this Starbucks employee is a bit anal and maybe needs to lay off the caffeine a bit. ;-)

Posted by: Melanie at October 14, 2005 5:41 AM

Why do the put the extra milk, cream sugar, etc
out for customers...If we are paying $3, $4, $5..per drink they can put it in for me...Oh I forgot the more time they spend on each customer the more money they lose... (time is money) they don't want to make people wait..they may get sick of waiting & leave...Star bucks sucks....it is so over priced...I'd rather go to 7 eleven & make my own coffee creation!!!!

Posted by: KATH at October 14, 2005 5:51 AM

I think it's funny this has sparked so much debate as I was the person who made the comment to HG. I agree, coffee is overpriced when you go to starbucks or the like (fyi, I am coming from a local "mom and pop" shop NOT A STARBUCKS). But you have to take into account that we also pay for the delivery, the shipping, etc., not to mention all the employees. So yeah, the coffee is going to cost a bit more. I still don't feel this justifies the action. Again, if everyone took HG's tip, it could lead to even higher prices of the drinks/food, possibly limit the menu of what we offer, or even the loss of the business.

Posted by: Erin at October 14, 2005 5:53 AM

Starbucks DOES suck- but to stay on topic, I'll add that using the milk bar could be quite dangerous, given the fact that the milk stays out all day. I'll go with paying the xtra 2 bucks (which I DON'T, because I brew my own coffee) to avoid a trip to the ER or, at best, explosive diarrhea.

Posted by: MAE at October 14, 2005 5:57 AM

HG just openly let everyone in on what everyone is accually doing any way.
My husband always orders one thing and when he is finished with the fixings bar, he comes out with a completely different drink!
Hey save $2 and do the work yourself. You probably waited in line long enough to deserve that luxury.

Posted by: Tonya at October 14, 2005 5:59 AM

I say "cry about it!" to Starbucks. This is not a corporation that is soon to go out of business. I use to work as barista and saw people being inventive like this all the time and I thought, good for them!

Posted by: Lacee at October 14, 2005 6:05 AM

Well, you are getting a lot of comments here, only a few of which seem to side w/ sb. I would like to remind your readers of the 'old days' @ sb when you could actually buy a regular brewed coffee-- iced--- and pay the same price as hot brewed coffee, which is the cheapest thing on the menu. I cannot tolerate milk, and dislike paying a $100 upcharge for soy, so that is what I always ordered. About a year or two ago, sb came up w/ a bright idea to "pre-chill" the iced coffee and charge TWICE as much for it. I attempted to argue this point w/ several barrista tenders, none of whom saw the ridiculous-ness of doubling the price for the same product overnight. They claim they have a special "shaken-not-stirred" method of preparing which warrants the extra cost. I say, forget the James Bond-esque verbage and sell me the same drink I have been ordering for years. In a nutshell, SB is raking it in, hand over fist, and has no qualms about over charging consumers, and even thinking of sneaky ways to force those who PREFER the cheaper drinks (like me) to pay more. I say that Lisa is a goddess among women who diet and work on a budget. She has done nothing wrong, and the sb manager should dry up and shove it.

Posted by: Katie at October 14, 2005 6:21 AM

We all remember the Seinfeld episode.......can you say Coffee Nazi.

Personally, I hope I never visit this parties coffee shop, for I envision this manager in black leather boots and a riding crop standing at the condiment bar smacking her crop on the counter and shouting "No milk for you!"

If you put it out there, it is there for EVERYONE'S use, regardless of what you purchased. As long as you made a purchase that condiment bar is there for the purchasing public, regardless of what you bought. If I bought a Chi Tea and wanted to put a cup of milk in it, you have given me that right by providing it.

If Starbucks wants to limit that, rock on. But putting it out there for use by ALL of it's customers leaves them wide open, regardless of it's use.

Now, should she have shared this with all of us. I say why not? Again, if Starbucks feels they are being "over-run" by people taking advantage of it, then they should find a way to deal with it.

Now....instead of worrying about that, why don't you worry about people's kids who find it fun to mix up concoctions from the condiment bar only to throw them out? Get your priorities straight Ms. Coffee Nazi.

Posted by: HEYLA at October 14, 2005 6:27 AM

I think that Hungry Girl is an awesome sight, and these types of Money saving tips are shared all over the place. Frankly I think that those in the industry who are 'bent' should stop for a minute and think about the way this has sparked conversation about an otherwise seldom discussed topic. Furthermore the coffee giants should appreciate their brand names and pictues of their products being posted and discussed on a very popular website.

Posted by: Luci Miller at October 14, 2005 6:33 AM

I am a big Starbucks fan, but I'll be the first to admit they are pricey. Let's face it, either way they are still making big money, so even if someone chooses the cheaper option, Starbucks still makes two bucks on that cup o' joe! I think they'll live.
Thanks for the tip HG!

Posted by: Shannon at October 14, 2005 6:45 AM

How about if I buy a regular coffee, dump it out and then fill the cup with milk. Is that OK? Does it matter that I don't like coffee?

Off topic prediction: Next year Steve, Don't Eat It features "tree brain" which will taste like skunk in a horses ass.

Posted by: Jay at October 14, 2005 6:49 AM

Personally, I think that if Starbucks (or any other establishment) is NOT willing to make MY coffee, MY WAY....who needs 'em?

*quotes Sally from When Harry Met Sally* I just want it the way I want it....


Posted by: JAM at October 14, 2005 6:51 AM

I think it's tacky to use the fixings bar to create your own drink just to save a few bucks.

Would you go to a bar and make a meal out of the bartender's garnishing tray of cherries, lime and orange slices?

VERY tacky. If you want Starbucks coffee with milk added - every grocery store sells the coffee by the bag. Make your own!!!

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 14, 2005 6:52 AM

if you can save 2$ by ordering the same ingredients in a different way than the company isn't 'losing' any money. they should base thier price based on what it costs for the product. therefore the cheaper price should be what it really costs. the over inflated oprice is just that-overinflated! so screw starbucks and drink up! serves them right for charging 3$ for a hot cup of flavored water.

Posted by: laura at October 14, 2005 6:56 AM

I took three extra straws from Starbucks this morning. I bought a 16 oz mug from them and their straws are the only ones big enough to fit the mug. I paid $14 for a cup and a frappuccino and stole three one cent straws. Is that wrong? Stupid, maybe (paying the $10 for the cup), but wrong?

Posted by: Shannon at October 14, 2005 6:58 AM

when you buy coffee from any type of place, franchise, local, what have you, you're not just paying for the product. you're paying for the packaging, the supplier, the shipper, the coffee roaster, the employees, etc. etc. if you don't feel like having to pay for those "extras", make your own damn coffee.

Posted by: kat at October 14, 2005 7:15 AM

I don't know all the crazy combinations that make up the stupid coffee drinks at starbucks, but I do like the fixins! So lets say I order extra shots and add ingredients at the fixins bar and it accidentally equals another drink. Is that stealing too? Should I stop being so creative with my fixin's! Honestly, I'm a little afraid to go near the fixin's bar now.

Posted by: Fixins Freak at October 14, 2005 7:39 AM

I think that, if Starbucks puts the milk out for customers, they should be allowed to use it in their drinks however they desire. A previous commenter stated that if Starbucks did not want you to use it your own way then they should charge by the teaspoon. I totally agree. I personally love Starbucks (and am usually willing to pay the outrageous price for my 'treat') but if they give me a bad time for doctoring my drink how I want then I am out of there! Personally, I can't imagine my local Starbucks being that petty- but who knows! Sue

Posted by: Sue at October 14, 2005 7:49 AM

I had to really think on this one to be honest with you. When HG first sent out this email, I was excited and thought it was a smart and thrifty idea. And I don't fault people for saving a buck or two.

Then I thought about ethics and morals. Yes, we're only talking milk here people, but if you want a latte, order a freaking latte! I guess ethically I wouldn't be able to do it at a coffee shop.

I also don't think the debate of Starbucks versus a Mom and Pop shop should come into play here. It still is what it is.

Then again, remember this is the good old US of A and we all have the freedom of speech. Lisa was welcome to say whatever the hell she wanted on her email and frankly, look around the web. I do think people could be a hell of a lot more offensive than Lisa, who was just trying to help some folks out. Overall, I say relax people. Geez, I'm opinionated this morning!! LOL

Posted by: Steph at October 14, 2005 7:50 AM

I seem to be in agreement with many posters; speaking as one who ran a privately-owned coffee shop (where our prices were fair and our coffee ALWAYS fresh and delicious), if the "fixins" are available, no one has any right to tell you what or how much of anything to use in your beverage. If they do not want people adding milk freely, do not make the milk available to the general public. It's just like the napkin issue at fast-food joints: left to their own devices, the employees will give you 2 flimsy napkins with a 3-piece chicken meal. *I* will take a giant handful of napkins from the dispenser on the way out, and be set for the week at home. In short, the "fixins" are accounted for in the prices of the retail items, and if they don't want you taking advantage of that, they should keep them behind the counter and make you ask for them.

Posted by: Kerry at October 14, 2005 7:54 AM

I love my coffee. I get it out of my thermos, that each day, I lovingly fill with the rich, filtered go-juice that steadies my temperament and endows me with tolerance. Keeping me from going postal. Because of this, Starbucks and I don't really know too much about each other. I like my coffee just fine and act plenty silly about throwing money away on other things that other people do just fine without.

But, if any business establishes that a section of the population is willing to act plenty silly about throwing their money away on what they're offering - WooHoo! They might just be taking their kids to that other school with the championship waterpolo squad and dressage lessons on the south campus. I'm sure they're still very grateful to all the folks that made it all possible. And as long as they don't break the rules, participating in insider trading and fuck me over for trying to get a slice, we're all good.

But is it ethical to incite the potential misuse of goods or services provided by another? How specific can one be? ....At this point, I was going to get into some tangent about the ethics of "information management" and intent to use. Screw it, I'm going to pour myself another cup of joe and go back to scratching myself....before the boss catches me reading The Sneeze again on company time. Besides, I just ordered a mod chip for my playstation and I need to go learn how to solder.

Go get 'em!

Posted by: Gregg at October 14, 2005 7:55 AM

Yes this is a perfectly reasonable tip. Why not help your fellow man in saving a buck or two. Especially w/ prices these days. Not to mention the prices at starbucks are outrages anyway. & as far as the coffee bar goes I think adding milk counts as a "fixing up" not makeing a new menu. If that where the case then simple adding sugar to a cup of regular joe would be switching up the menu. Adding the sugar is probally saving you money anyway, If you have them do it they will charge you 2 dollars for labor costs.

Posted by: tatie at October 14, 2005 8:09 AM

This "tip" isn't just about adding a little milk like a normal customer -- it's about filling a cup with it.

If you want to be a tacky moocher, have at it.

Posted by: stone at October 14, 2005 8:14 AM

If you were stealing the other items like cocoa powder, nutmeg, vanilla sugar and others to use in your cooking at home, I would say don't. However, since it is milk that you add to the coffee you bought form them,(assuming that what it is there for), it should be already embedded on the cost. So you go girl.

Posted by: Shakthi at October 14, 2005 8:17 AM

yeah, Screw Starbucks! A mom and Pop type place wouldn't charge that much. The fixins bar is there for you to use, whether you wanna use half a cup of sugar, or a whole cup of milk. If you create your own kind of drink, can they stop you? No. Starbucks went after a great bar owner in Austin, because he brewed his own beer, which was a version of a mix between Lonestar and Bock beer, calling it Star Bock. Starbucks sued..idiots...check it out here www.starbockbeer.com

Posted by: turnpikesteve at October 14, 2005 8:37 AM

I know you don't want us to voice our prejudices for or against Starbucks, but I don't see how I can avoid it. My position is that everything changes when the chain in question gets people hooked on caffeine AND trains both employees and customers to be STUPID; it's like peddling permanent brain damage drugs. Starbucks does not sell good coffee or speak good English. For all its P.R. work it's a culturally offensive operation. So, again, if it's Starbucks I don't think normal rules would apply. Starbucks is SPECIAL when it comes to doing things inappropriately. I also note that "mom and pop" might buy a Starbucks franchise. If that's the case, then they're no longer mom and pop.

My local non-Starbucks coffee place is decent because decency breeds decency. They will make whatever you want them to make for you, given that you've been trained in the unnatural vocabulary and choices of a Starbucks. But it's not written in stone, and they don't price their drinks illogically. Who the hell came up with "doppio" in America anyway? Starbucks did. Before that it was just cups of coffee and however much milk you wanted to add.

Ah, brave new world. I do not care for Starbucks or their unfortunate franchisers and employees. I know I'll make tons of new friends by saying so, but you have to be really stupid to be a returning Starbucks customer - it's more slavery than commerce. I do not care that they offer health insurance as if it were a precious gift. I do not care about the wellbeing of Starbucks, or people who are enslaved to working or buying there. These are my prejudices. I will change them when Starbucks disappears. Ignore them if you have to.

Posted by: Erika at October 14, 2005 8:46 AM

Starbucks is a multi-gazillion dollar corporation run by Satan. I'm almost positive the major ingredient in those fancy lattes is liquid crack. I'm a reformed addict myself. I don't see an ethical dilemma in helping yourself to the bar to create your own beverage every so often. Especially after being a patron for so long and for what they charge for plain ole' milk and coffee????? I'll relish the opportunity to put a Starbucks manager in his/her place if they even dare admonish me for the act!

Posted by: Addy at October 14, 2005 9:01 AM

Okay, I will admit not having read all 254 ( or even a good portion) of the comments. So please bear with me as I'm almost sure I will be posting a rehash of a previous sentiment.

If starbucks doesn't want to "lose" $2.00 on a CUP OF COFFEE THAT COSTS $3.60 + to begin with they can just remove the coffee bar.

God! Almost four bucks for a cup of joe...

Posted by: Soylent at October 14, 2005 9:01 AM

I love Starbucks, but hate the shop prices. Here's my tip: Buy their coffee at the grocery store and have a month's worth for about $7

Posted by: Brad at October 14, 2005 9:11 AM

Lisa didn't say "Pay less for the coffee because I don't want Starbucks making any money" In fact she gave Starbucks FREE advertising. I NEVER used to go to Starbucks because I always thought it was way too fattening, but guess what? I now visit at least 3 times a week knowing there are options with fewer calories, so why complain? FREE ADVERTISING and NEW CUSTOMERS, sounds like a win win to me. Yeah so those people who want to cut calories may pay a few bucks less, so what, it saves us money and fat calories for sure. Mr. Starbucks manager find something more important to complain about, write the state a letter about our high gas prices.

Posted by: Amanda at October 14, 2005 9:32 AM

Is the "tip" really that much different than telling folks that when there is a special on McDonald 2 double cheeseburgers for $2, it is cheaper to order that special and asking that they "hold the cheese" than paying two double hamburgers?

Posted by: thrifty at October 14, 2005 9:49 AM

I might have a stroke if one more person says "a cup of joe is over $4." The biggest regular brewed coffee you can buy at Starbucks is under $2. The price only goes up when the baristas get involved making it - like for the shots of espresso in the tip being discussed.

If you think their specialty drinks are too much money, you are probably right-- but at least get your facts straight.

Posted by: Tajan at October 14, 2005 9:56 AM

just to note...
the milk on the condiment bar at starbucks is in little thermoses that keep it really cold.
if you filled a double espresso with enough cold milk to fill the cup, you'd have a cold milky drink that isn't my idea of a latte. yuck.

Posted by: bailey at October 14, 2005 10:17 AM

I do think Starbucks is very expensive but this has not kept me from buying it. I think if people want to use the milk to add 1 - 2 TBLS thats one thing, but to use 1-2 cups is not ethical. This cost someone. Guess who? The customer paying $3.65 a month. If the overhead becomes to expensive the cup of coffee will go up to $4 or more. Just because someone was smart enough to make it big (nation wide) does not mean you can take advantage. The starbucks I go to they have a coffee card that gets stamped and after 8 coffees you get a free one. Also they give me free coffee often for being a good customer.

Posted by: Twila Compton at October 14, 2005 10:18 AM

OOOOOOPS! I meant $3.65 per cup.

Posted by: Twila at October 14, 2005 10:23 AM

In the Beginning, Starbucks insidiously drew us in with that fancy-schmancy, delusional lingo and then our civilization all went to Hell. A "Tall" is actually a small, duhr...but we felt like it was.... So Much More, thus encouraging them to amp up the prices. The co-"fees" really skyrocketed after they started coming up with uber-ridiculous creations such as some of those specialty mutant beverages. "I'll have a..ah.. .I'll have the Behemoth-non-fat-decaf-mocha-soy-steroid-wheatgrass-peanuthoney-vinaigarette-
meth-amphetamin-smackfrapp-o-cino....easy on the whip, scalding hot, light algae sprinkles on the left side only, one dash of confetti- served triple sleeved on a red carpet by the mother of bleeding Christ, pleeeasse!"
Something that complicated will take some time to prepare using that abominable mini-nuclear reactor that hisses the Bible backwards while you wait in line. They call it an Espresso Machine. (which is really the result of an aberrational mating between a gargoyle and a Mr.Coffee Maker.) No wonder they feel warranted, however unjustified, in charging us $6.75 for a large cup of hot brown bitter water with a bunch of other crap in it. It's simply all in the name and the preparation......and as far as I'm concerned ANY coffee shop serving a beverage with a name like "Doppio" should have their condiment bar raided and pillaged daily.

Posted by: Lola at October 14, 2005 10:35 AM

As this becomes a barely on-topic bashing (as predicted), I have a feeling I'm going to be shutting off the comments soon.

Posted by: Steve at October 14, 2005 10:38 AM

Let me get this straight, it's ok for Starbucks to rip us off by charging over $3 for a shot or two of espresso, water and some ice, but we are not supposed to use the milk from the coffee bar?

I really don't think there is a mom & pop store out there brave enough to charge over $3 for an espresso with water. Plus they give us cream in little individual servings not a pitcher full. Who is the smarter one on that issue?

Thanks for the tip Lisa - you go girl!

Posted by: Looking4anywaytosave$ at October 14, 2005 10:45 AM

For this perticualr case i'm going to have to vouch for the manager. For several reasons, the first being that starbucks is a franchise not a chain. Meening that the manager does not get re-embursed for used milk cups and other such items, he must pay it out of his stores income. If it were a chain i'd say screw it im in lets get me some cheaper coffee because the manager would have a fixed salary so would all the employees and all the profit would go to the head office and all the ingredients would be paid by them as well. Secondly they could have just as easily not let you put your own milk and sugar in it just like at tim hortons where they ask you what you want in it and do it with pre-mesured equipment and ajust the price accordingly.

Posted by: The Seb at October 14, 2005 11:10 AM

I worked at Starbucks all summer, and I always pointed out different ways for customers to get the same drink for cheaper. However, as many have pointed out, adding cold milk from the condiment bar is not the same having the barista add steamed milk to your drink. Starbucks prides itself on helping customers to feel at home. They really don't mind how much milk, etc, you use. If you found a cheaper way to get a drink you want, go for it. Starbucks doesn't mind. But if you're suggesting that you can make your own latte from cold milk, that's just not true. Finally, rest assured that, while incredibly expensive and rather addictive (I can't stop going even though I don't work there anymore) Starbucks is really a solid company that treats its customers and employees well, is concerned about the environment, coffee farmers, neighborhoods where the stores are located, etc. So go to Starbucks and enjoy!

Posted by: mindy at October 14, 2005 11:15 AM

Starbucks does charge a lot for its coffee drinks. I learned a long time ago that if I want an iced drink they fill the cup with ice and the amount of product you get is about one third of what you would receive if you drank the same drink hot! I now order my venti latte with a venti glass of ice on the side. Please don't tell me I am stealing! Starbucks charges the same amount for that drink (within 20 cents) iced or hot. Now that's stealing!! If someone wants to use her tip - good for them!

Posted by: m&m at October 14, 2005 11:42 AM

If you want not to be overcharged for unevenly-roasted coffee prepared by pretty people using trendy euphemisms for their mundane techniques and cup-sizes, there are alternatives, such as shopping elsewhere for coffee or preparing it at home and carrying it with you.

However, if the alternatives really are not available, I don't see anything wrong with bypassing the trendy euphemisms and doctoring the recipe to suit yourself ... part of the overcharge is for the extra service of the preparation, right? So if you're doing the prep, why should you have to pay them for it?

(I have a friend who goes to Starbucks sometimes and says, "How do I just get a large coffee, regular?" This has genuinely confused some of the baristas.)

Posted by: golfwidow at October 14, 2005 12:00 PM

I wouldn't feel bad at all - I'm the customer which means I can order what I want and do whatever I want with it/to it after I get it!

Posted by: e at October 14, 2005 1:31 PM

Slightly off topic:

If you want to save some money at Starbucks, you can bring in your own mug and they will knock 10 cents off any drink. Yeah, 10 cents really isn't a big deal. You could save more money by switching to Geico, or maybe perhaps not buying any silly car insursance.

Also you can get refills of drip coffee for cheap after you buy the first cup at regular price. I think the refill price is about 50 cents?

Posted by: Austin at October 14, 2005 1:44 PM

This debate is ridiculous. First of all, not everyone and their sister is going to go into Starbuck's and order this drink. Nor are they always going to order it in the future if they do initially. Every person that visits Starbucks will at some point pay $4-$5 for a drink, buy food or something else. They send their friends there, and so on. Starbucks has the luxury of being such a profitable corporation that they can offer these things at the fixins bar at no charge. I am sure they thought this long and hard before offering it, knowing there would be people that use it continually and some in massive amounts. There is NO difference in ordering a "coffee of the day" (black coffee WITH ROOM) which runs about $1.60 or an Americano with Room (which runs a little over $2) and adding your own PREFERENCE amount of milk VS ordering the DOPIO and adding milk. Who knows how much milk the people that walk in and order straight BLACK coffee of the day are using? Is that unethical if you prefer more "cream" or "milk" than someone else? I always order the Americano WITH ROOM and never thought twice about using the milk at the bar, I always do that! So someone else might prefer a Latte, that's their choice in taste and flavoring, and price. It doesn't matter what you order, how much milk /half & halfyou use. That is what the freakin bar is for- to make your drink the way YOU prefer it. If they wanted to charge for milk and not offer this as an "extra" then why would they even have the bar? What they do know is that they are not ever going to offer the syrup flavors at the bar- that is really what people pay for! Take a place like Subway- they offer FREE refills on soda. Is it wrong to refill twice, three times? The cost of each soda is about 1-2 cents. They sell it for over a dollar. You aren't going to drink 99-100 sodas so they profit no matter what and then of course on the food. These corporations have it all figured out. We as consumers don't need to worry about them not making money or robbing them. If they see that happening (and I am sure HG's one comment is not going to take Starbucks down) they can change their free bar options.

Posted by: dm at October 14, 2005 1:50 PM

while your mixin in your milk dont forget to snatch a couple splendas from the bar on your way out...he he he....

Posted by: Vanessa at October 14, 2005 1:57 PM

I was the owner operator of an independant coffee house in the Tampa area of Florida back in 1998.

I didn't care if people did it. The mark up is pretty darn high. If I put something out for my customers, they could use it anyway they wanted. In the first 6 months the store was paying its own bills except for the rent (for a new business, that's pretty good.)The only reason I had to close was due to a despute with the landlord over my customers (I had a big punk/goth crowd. He said I scared off business to the restaurant nextdoor.)

Where you make your money in in "up selling." Someone gets a coffee then I try to sell them a flavor, or a chocolate covers spoon for the coffee. Then you offer a slice of cheesecake. If they buy it, how about chocolate sauce and whipped cream for an extra .50.

I used to give away food just to get people in the habit of having a snack with their coffee. My line was "I just changed bakers, what do you think of these cookies?"

If a guy came with a date, he was dead. You throw all the expensive stuff at him. What's he gonna do, look cheap in front of his lady? "Would the lady care for strawberries or blueberries on that cheesecake for only a dollar?"

All a retailer wants to do is get you in the door. Take all the milk, jelly, of sweet and low packets you want. We get it all back in the end.

Love the site, long live treebrain!

Posted by: Joe Gioielli at October 14, 2005 2:08 PM

At a small coffeeshop, I wouldn't. They probably need the money. But then again at these places, they probably wouldn't charge that much. At Starbucks, however, they deserve it. If they're going to try and gouge you, the paying customer- who can easily go somewhere else, then they can expect that people are going to find another way.

Posted by: Honey Beech at October 14, 2005 3:25 PM

It was crazy for the manager to have complained about that. Everything suggested was perfectly within the rights of the paying customer.

My feeling is that the manager is getting all huffy because it was shared on the internet for all the world to see. It's like the movie and music industry's paranoia about file sharing. It was always OK for me to copy a CD and share it with my buddy. Or record an HBO movie on my VCR. But now that the same thing is being done on a bigger scale (internet) and it is percieved to threaten profits, it's suddenly evil to copy a music track or movie and share it with other people.

It's OK to price-gouge customers cause that's free enterprise, right? But, when consumers figure out ways around it, it becomes unethical?? Give me a freaking break....

Posted by: Henry at October 14, 2005 4:48 PM

Why not? Starbucks thinks it's okay to rob people blind charging them $3 for a cup of coffee... So why shouldn't customers be able to take as much milk as they want?!

Perhaps if they are worried about it, they should actually MAKE the drinks for people and not make them add the milk / cream and all that themselves. Maybe then there would be some change in the tip jar.

Posted by: SeLiNa at October 14, 2005 5:45 PM

I am curious why just the coffee bar should be upset. I am a realtor and many people advertise and support the 'do it yourselfers'. Is that suggestion any different than the coffee bar savings? All the same.
The truth is that the people who will hire the realtor willl still hire the realtor and those buying the full blown Americano will continue to do so.

Posted by: Linda at October 14, 2005 6:20 PM

If people really think a 'Barista' is some sort of important job that requires years of training, they'll spring for the extra $2 to have an 'expert' do it. But if they, like any sensible person, realize that mixing milk into coffee isn't exactly rocket fucking science, they'll do it themselves. If the coffee shop wants to cut out this practice, they'll have to eliminate the 'free milk' policy altogether, and then we'll see how well they do.

Posted by: drew at October 14, 2005 7:29 PM

Oh my friggin' god. What happens if I like my coffee with a lot of milk in it? Would it be tacky to use the milk provided to me to make my drink the way I want it, or will you crazy people be telling me to go buy my own milk & make my own coffee because I don't like it black. I don't actually drink coffee & I'm never been to a Starbucks in my life (although someone got me a latte from there once & it tasted like ass), but I'm sure whatever it was HG said to put together is probably not EXACTLY the same as whatever drink they're trying to make anyway. You're still paying for something, & you know every price on the menu accounts a set ammount of whatever the hell they have set out for you, so you're just making up for the people who don't add any milk. I highly doubt Starbucks will have to double their milk budget because a few people want to try to make their own whatever-the-hell-that-drink-is-called.
Oh, & there's no way it's stealing in any light. Abusing at the most. Calling it stealing is definitely an overraction. But I also think that it's weird people would do it to Starbucks but not a local shop. Aren't Starbucks' individually owned & operated? Maybe not, I really don't know, but I'm imagine so. It's not a matter of being a mega-enterprise, it's a matter of not wanting to get ripped off. If a mom & pop coffee shop charges nine bucks for something, I'd try to get around it there, too.

Also, I very often take stacks of napkins & piles of hot sauce packets & sporks at Taco Bell, & I hardly consider it stealing. I don't use them to stock my kitchen though, just my glove compartment. Ever been through a drive-thru where they forgot to give you a fork or a napkin (or half your friggin' order...)? I'm being prepared, so whoever was complaing about that, you're nuts, too.

& so am I for spending waaay too much time reading people argue over milk.

Posted by: Alyssa at October 14, 2005 9:05 PM

I'd like to mention the tip jar, if I may.
I worked at Starbucks for three months and I never bitched about any person not leaving me a tip, nor did I witness any of my coworkers doing so. Furthermore, you know what the average tip was? About a nickel. The tip jar exists so people can dump small amounts of change they don't want, like the two cents when they bought a grande coffee (which doesn't cost four bucks - it costs a buck ninety-eight, including tax. Bar drinks cost more because they're custom-made instead of poured from a pot - we have to pull the shot, steam the milk, pump the syrup, etc). This way the tills accurately reflect how much cash goes in and out, and the baristas can make a little extra money. You don't *have* to tip (I pretty much never do), but some people do, and we appreciate it. The Starbucks I worked at gave free drinks to cops on duty, and they were usually the best tippers.
About providing the condiments seperately, there are two reasons for this - the first being so people can get the exact quantity of whatever it is they want, and second, because Starbuckses are often insanely busy and most people would rather add the milk and sugar themselves than spend more time waiting in line while the barista adds it.

Posted by: Jester at October 14, 2005 11:58 PM

Starbuck's makes enuf $$$, I think they can afford a few WW's doing their 'trick'. If they don't like it, then lock up the fixins' and charge per fix!!

Here in Jacksonville, I've had no probs yet but, I won't say which Starbucks I visit.
I'm just pleasant, smile, TELL THEM I'M ON WW and there's not been a prob.

Posted by: kel at October 15, 2005 9:56 AM

It isn't about whether or not Starbucks is making money, losing money, or charging to much. It's about the lame excuses and justifications we use to cross over moral boundries. It's cheating and stealing. When we cheat or steal we need to come up with excuses like their riping us off, they make millions, it's our right, Big corp against little consumer, blah, blah, blah...excuses and justification. Doing what's right is much harder and doesn't always produce immediate results but in the end its who you what to be. Think about it quietly for a moment. You know I'm right.

Posted by: Cathy K. at October 15, 2005 10:12 AM

I feel I must side with the Starbuck's manager on this one. Condiments/fixins' are set out for those who order the drink/food that goes with them. Others who use them just to save money are pushing the limits of honesty. If you can't afford the fancier drinks, stick with the regular coffee and then feel free to use the coffee bar to fix them to your liking.

Posted by: Sandyo at October 15, 2005 11:51 AM

I've read every single comment on here until mine, and I think that the shadow sides of Starbucks bigwigs would laugh over the length of this debate, and feel smug over how many people who have chosen to comment have taken a falsely conscientious view in favor of Starbucks over the average customer who (quite naturally, I think) wishes to cut costs.

I think the manager who contacted Steve's friend was out of line. He was also just one individual who took it upon himself to speak for and from his individual franchise. I don't imagine that he was directly authorized to do so, or even that he checked with his corporate headquarters for advice before making his move. Were this a real issue, then an attorney or representative from the corporate headquarters of Starbucks would have contacted her, probably with a Cease and Desist letter instructing her to remove the offensive blog entry under threat of lawsuit. Still, that doesn't guarantee a serious issue. Courts of law are the final say on that. One value of a culture which has embraced megacorporate values is that it tends to look the other way when minor employees or the corporate heads behind them try to intimidate both individual customers and faceless consumers.

*Unless* those customers or their friends say or do something about it! Thank you, Steve, for bringing it to everyone's attention, and I don't know if this is a case for contacting the upper eschelons of Starbucks for a comment, but you've certainly opened quite a debate.

I am shocked at people who are more critical of the occasional ?abusive/frugal? customer's values than of the entire scheme to make coffee shops into something that is other than coffee shops, i.e., glamourous. I think that *is* a fundamental part of the debate. As to whether such customers are frugal or abusive, I don't think that all these opinions have managed to decide anything on it.

A capitalist culture which is based upon profit as the primary value will in time breed a consumer base espousing profit as the primary value. That is the natural consequence of selfish profiteering and massive public relations generated to hide the profiteering aspects. I think there is nothing at all wrong with suggesting a doppio with cold milk as an inexpensive alternative to a latte, whether that suggestion comes from a barista, a girl who blogs on the internet, or somebody's mom.

Personally, I like regular coffee with a small amount of milk. Lattes never impressed me (scalding hot milk, didn't another chain have a lawsuit over something like that?), and an americano is really watered-down espresso not brewed coffee. I dislike the Starbucks brand in any case. It's always smelled like a men's bathroom to me, but that's just my own personal impression.

Posted by: Kat Benedario at October 15, 2005 12:55 PM

As a former "mom and pop" coffee shop manager, I say: go for it.
The milk used by this little reach-around operation isn't any more than a normal coffee customer might use. The espresso beans, service, dry goods, and, yes, milk, are all covered in the price of the coffee. Each drink is priced to (AT LEAST) cover an avaraged useage. By using the free milk, you're only dipping into POTENTIAL profits, not actual profit.
And anyway, half the folks who just get an espresso shot top it off with a whole damn bunch of milk anyway.
And if getting around the vanilla cost is sticking in yr craw, then consider it the owner's responsibility to track useage and cost to determine of the price of a flavor shot needs to go up.

Posted by: Bryan Delano III at October 15, 2005 8:14 PM

I'm glad Lisa gave the Starbucks tip. It seems to me that Starbucks is a little ticked that someone found a way to save a little money. So sorry that Starbucks and their over-rated, over-priced coffees may take a little financial hit. Trying to save a few bucks at a Mom and Pop shop....no way.

Posted by: Steph at October 15, 2005 8:19 PM

FYI, it's not just milk. it is shipping, employees, overage, etc. Yes, specialty drinks are more expensive, however, gipping the coffee place isn't the answer. THat's jsut plain stealing. I work at a coffee house and if you don't pay full price, eventually i'm going to get a pay cut. so don't think of it on such a small, "$2 extra dollars for milk" scale. think of it instead, as how the franchisee makes the money. because although starbucks is a huge corporation, it is also a franchise and franchise's cost an ass load.

just don't be a fucking tight ass, if you want the drink, pay the money.

Posted by: Barista at October 15, 2005 8:24 PM

It's not stealing, it's being a cheap bastard. And if
you're so darn cheap what are you doing in Starbucks anyway? I'd rather eat a nice piece of pie.

Posted by: Simon at October 15, 2005 9:34 PM

It's stealing milk if you take more than someone would normally add to a cup of coffee. Clearly, they don't provide all-you-can-drink milk, which can run from $2 to $4 or more a gallon.
The fact that the prices are so high does not justify taking all the sugar packets, all the milk, and all the coffee stirers.

Posted by: MacG at October 15, 2005 11:04 PM

I can't justify paying more than $1 to $1.50 for a cup of coffee that I'll be seeing again in an hour or so. If you like Starbucks good for you, pay the price and drink away. However, if you really want to add a bunch of milk to your coffee and not pay for it, ask them for some of those little creamers (you know, the ones you get when you buy coffee for someone and you're not sure how they take it). I haven't found one coffee shop that hasn't given me at least two handfuls of the little things (and boatloads of sugar for that matter) upon request.
Actually, I didn't buy milk or sugar all through college account coffee shop creamer/sugar generosity.
If you get enough of the creamers, add a glass and a shot of water and presto, MILK!

Posted by: caffreak at October 16, 2005 12:28 AM

I work for a Starbucks in Canada and i just want to clear up a couple things.

1) I takes ALOT more than a little bit of mike to top off a iced dopio, but it also depend on the size of the glass
2) the milk is not left there the whole day, we do have temp standard, it's usually changed every hour
3) We don't expect tip, but it is a nice gesture. Espically for people who decides to leave all their garbage behind for us to clean up if they decide to stay.
As for this whole issue, i believe is just a matter of cheapness. If you want an iced doppio, order an iced doppio. If you want an iced latte, order an iced latte. If you want to save 2 bucks, brew your coffee at home. Acutally we really encourage people to try to brew coffee at home. We actually teach people how to brew good coffee at home.
I don't think starbucks is an evil coroporation, they treat their commuity and employees very well. What we provide is service, and we like to give stuff out. At my store we are always sampling food or new drinks to our customers. We try very hard to make our customers comfortable and happy. We don't care that you ask for water only, cause it's great water, all the water we give out is filtered and we don't charge for them. All we ask is that you don't budge in the front of the lineup when there is 20 ppl lining up at the counter, i mean, it just common sense.

Posted by: Jax at October 16, 2005 1:19 AM

Let's look at the math. 256 tablespoons per gallon of milk. each patron uses two tablespoons (i use one). Proprietor sells 211.00 dollars worth of coffee per gallon of milk. coffee shop owner sits down and shuts the f*** up.

Posted by: keith at October 16, 2005 7:21 AM

I don't see what the big deal is. I generally put a lot of milk in my coffee no matter where I'm going, but I don't order lattes. And Starbucks coffee in particular is so over priced, they can afford to let the milk be free. It most certainly isn't stealing if they offer an ingredient free.

And, I also agree that all this posting about it is probably going to earn Starbucks a few new customers. Free advertising is free advertising.

Posted by: Celeste at October 16, 2005 10:51 AM

Anyone who charges 4 bucks for a coffee, I don't care what it tastes like, if it doesn't have crack in it, its a rip off and that store should be shamed, big or small

Posted by: Lizzae at October 16, 2005 12:13 PM

It's Starbuck's fault for having an inconsistent menu.

Posted by: Bobby at October 16, 2005 12:16 PM

I think the stockholders of Starbucks can rest easy; this little trick isn't worth the trouble for the most part. People have a tendency to go for the same stuff everytime they order...and, yes, I'm addicted to their coffee..though I consider it a luxury, not an essential. The markup is incredible on the drinks; this little tidbit of knowledge on how to get around paying for the original menu item, while not necessarily ethical, will not amount to a hill of (ahem)...coffee beans.

Posted by: Lisa at October 16, 2005 2:21 PM

I say go for it. Austin Powers proved to us all that Starbuck's is merely a front for Dr. Evil.

Posted by: Derrick at October 16, 2005 3:38 PM

hey, starbucks has great coffee...i can tell you it's worth paying the money for what you get there. the first thing my father bought when he got back from Kuwait was a mcdonald's cheeseburger and a starbucks coffee at the airport. it was worth all $7...

Posted by: Mande at October 16, 2005 4:29 PM

In England (and probably other places in europe) they don't do free extras - you pay for fixins, water at restaraunts, concert programs, etc. i was annoyed at the time, but it makes a lot of sense to do it that way.

and she's perfectly justified in pointing out a loophole. If they care, they should fix the loophole - not try to keep it under wraps.

Posted by: KitKat at October 16, 2005 6:35 PM

It's ridiculous that 300+ posts have been devoted to this little dilemma, when the real question should be whether it's right to even step foot into a Starbucks - or similar coffee chain - in the first place.

Without the advertising available to a franchise shop, or the expected revenue to justify moving into a 'prime' location, life is tough for the Mom & Pops. Despite the fact that the profits from local joints remain in the community, and that they're more likely to provide such options as organic, fair trade, or locally-grown products, each new opening of a chain coffee shop is almost sure to drive at least one, if not more, small-time cafes out of business. Now considering that the independent shops also often serve as venues for local artists, I would suggest that it is unethical to purchase coffee from a large chain when a locally-run option is available.

If the ethical argument hasn't quite convinced you, how about the fact that the coffee in the Mom & Pops usually tastes better AND costs less - plus you get friendlier staff and a cozier decor. Just go easy at the milk bar.

Posted by: Turd Ferguson at October 16, 2005 6:52 PM

I'm in England and Starbucks DO have free fixings here as do a lot of other food places, and I have no doubt they're abused though I personally don't. You can also get free (tap) water at any food place and I believe concert programs are not free in the US either so 'KitKat's comment doesn't ring true i'm afraid.
I figure anything free will get abused, that's probably largely why Starbucks is so expensive to begin with! Things like that will be used in their risk assessment plan when pricing. To be honest I think most people who go to Starbucks wouldn't do what the post is suggesting. For one it probably wouldn't occur to them and two if you're going to a shop to buy coffee in the first place then it means you don't have the time, facilities or inclination to go home and make it yourself so you want to buy your coffee and go/sit down to drink it not spend time at the fixings table. Yes it may only take a minute or so but it's the same reason why people buy ready meals instead of cooking from scratch, jarred sauces instead of fresh, bread instead of ingredidents to make their own etc etc.

Posted by: Lizzy at October 17, 2005 1:44 AM

the coffee shop manager justs wants to make money. You can make ANYTHING yourself at home for LOTS cheaper than going out. People are just lazy and will overpay for anything so long as they don't have to do it themselves. God Bless America!
p.s. Lisa has the right to put whatever she wants on her website. Making coffee is not protected under anything as far as I know. The consumer needs to know!

Posted by: amanda f. at October 17, 2005 6:36 AM


I hope this isn't a repeat of one of the previous 304 comments, but its like when McDonalds had 49 cent hamburgers. Buying two and then reconstructing them into one was way cheaper than buying a double hamburger.
If the establishment is still getting money off of one of their products; and since you bought the product and therefore own it; and because the condiment / whatever bar exsists only because of the business management, the consumer should be able to do whatever they want. If they dont like it, take out the condiment bar thing.

Posted by: the entire stat of washintgon at October 17, 2005 6:50 AM

I think part is right, part is wrong. To do the first one with combining two ingredients you pay for separately that happen to come out cheaper at the register is cool. But to do the second one where you go add a heaping helping of milk from the courtesy bar to save your cheap butt a couple of bucks is wrong. The cost of the milk will get passed to customers in the end. I say buy some milk from a Stop n Rob or bring some from home to add to your coffee.

Or is this just a ploy to spread these tips to thousands more viewers? Mew-wa-ha

Posted by: Heather at October 17, 2005 9:04 AM

I think it well within anyones rights to do it. Life is like a battle of the fittest if you can find a shortcut without breaking any laws then he/she isn't doing anything wrong. The manager can't say that if he/she went to another coffey chain and knew this they wouldn't save a couple of face it this manager was just pissed because it was happening at his/her shop!

Posted by: Shannon at October 17, 2005 10:48 AM

Making coffee doesn't make you a barrista.

Posted by: Knowitallguy at October 17, 2005 11:13 AM

I'm not a coffee drinker, nor a milk drinker, but this reminds me a lot of my grandfather talking about his brothers, who managed Horn & Hardart Automats in NYC years ago. During the Depression, people would pour themselves a cup of hot water (which was free - you paid for the tea bag) and add ketchup in order to make faux tomato soup. Just thought it was interesting that this isn't a new dilemma.

Posted by: msmargie at October 17, 2005 12:56 PM

Something vaguely related I heard in Psychology today:
Put 5p in the parking ticket machine thang of a KFC, get a ticket, and it has a "Buy-one-get-one-free" offer on the back.

Posted by: Andrew January at October 17, 2005 2:23 PM

I think it's fine. I am not a coffee drinker, I've never had a coffee drink at Starbucks or anywhere else.

That said, when I was pregnant with my son, someone got me a passion iced tea and BANG I was in there every morning. I learned to order with "light ice" or NO ice though because they fill the cup 3/4 up with ice and after a few good slurps the 1.95 iced tea was gone. Do I feel bad about this? No. Also, I like sweet and low in my tea instead of the syrup. Sometimes they get it wrong or they put splenda in instead. Do I drink half of it before I take it back? Yes.

Also, I have learned to visit my local Starbucks around 7:30-8:00 PM because that's when they empty the pastry counter and give out "samples". They consider HALF a muffin to be a sample. Frequently, they say "Just take them all, that's fine" as I roll in with my three kids. So, I have learned to take advantage of the system at Starbucks just a little bit. But believe me, Starbucks comes out the winner. They made so much money on me the past year it's not even funny. I've even bought the Tazo passion tea and tried to make it at home but it tastes like crap besides I don't have the time to brew it up, can never get the water/ice/tea mixture just right, plus with a small frig and three kids I don't have room for a giant jug of tea, nor the patience to wait for it to cool from hot to iced. So I pay Starbucks. But that's ok. They are always really nice there, I like the big comfy chairs, they always remember my name and what I drink AND I like that they have health insurance for all their employees, that's fantastic.


Posted by: Melissa at October 17, 2005 5:21 PM

I can't believe I forgot this.

WTF is a barista anyway? Did they make that word up? And I hate having to say tall, grande and worst of all "VENTI". The other day someone with a bone to pick said they were going to have a little "venty" (ok yes it was a girl) and that is ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT the whole time she was talking. Venti venti venti venti. Does venti mean large in Italian or something? If so, WTF is up with the words tall and grande??


Posted by: Melissa at October 17, 2005 5:32 PM

I do wish they'd just change the names of the sizes. For one thing it confuses people who order a tall and then say "That's not the size I wanted!" when you put write up a small cup. For another I think the level of pretension surrounding Starbucks can definitely stand to be taken down a peg. (I realised it was time to quit when I ordered an iced quad grande easy ice five pump no whip white mocha at work one day.)

Posted by: Jester at October 17, 2005 9:06 PM

I manage a cafe in the east village. It's not a chain, and not a HUGELY profitable buisness. Fistly, This would not be the same as an Iced Americano, OR an Iced Caffe Latte. It's close, I guess, but...Anyhow, I wouldn't care if this happened to me. Kudos to you for figuring it out! As for passing the info along to her readers? That is ENTIRELY her right to do so. As for it being done at a Starbucks? What are you doing buying coffee there?!

Posted by: me at October 18, 2005 6:36 AM

OK, I am all for free enterprise, but seriously, coffee is getting out of hand. Now, I love me a large cappuccino with the cinnamon and cocoa powder and cream and stuff, but 3.25 for it. Come on. It is a little bit excessive. Everything they sell is obscenely overpriced. Sure it's good, but they cater to the coffee house crowd, who will pay any amount you charge for expensive hyped up coffee because it is trendy and sounds a lot better then Maxwell House robust blend. If someone decides to doctor up their coffee at the fixins bar and save some money, more power to them. They are still buying coffee at your store. They are still putting money into the owners’ pockets. If they really decide to fuss about it, those people will just go down the street, or God forbid, buy a coffee machine and make their own drinks at home.

Posted by: Matt at October 18, 2005 7:12 AM

To those of you that B*TCH about the mark-up at coffeeshops and think they are just SOOO outrageous, get a clue! That mark-up not only pays for the actual product cost, but salaries, rent, lighting, heat, tables, chairs, cleaning supplies, insurance, cups, lids....EVERYTHING. It is often a very delicate balance of costs and prices to even stay open, much less make money. The people that think they DESERVE to use the "free" condiment bar and work the system because the actual cost of the coffee and milk may be a relatively small portion of what is charged are clueless. The "cost" of that milk is way more than the $.023/oz from the grocery store. The people that bust their hump and take the risk and work the hours to get a place up and running and actually make money deserve every last bit they get.

Posted by: Dan at October 18, 2005 8:59 AM

It's simple. If you don't like what it costs, DON'T BUY IT!

Posted by: Dan at October 18, 2005 9:02 AM

What the hell is wrong with all of you?? IT'S TWO DOLLARS!!!! I work part time in a pub and sometimes I come across people like you. You order your drinks, meal etc. But anything extra, you whine about. When it comes time to pay, I'm ashamed by the shitty tip you left because I gave you great service. You can't tip properly, you complain about anything extra, oh but you can still drive the fucking SUV and wear designer name brand clothes. Nice Nikes...do you know who makes thoses? You losers.

So the same thing boils down to Starbucks. Don't fucking complain about 2 dollars when you fucking spend loads more in other useless crap. I personally have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER paying the full price for my latte, especially when the majority of the people serving it to me, are serving to me with a smile. Because I know how fucking hard it is to be nice all the time when you get assholes treating you like shit. But hey, if your pocket is hurting, go buy coffee from somewhere else.

Posted by: Christina at October 18, 2005 9:36 AM

I'm late to the game as usual... but really I have to say wake up to the economic reality of the situation. Sure it's your right to use the condiments however you want, tell whoever you want about it. But you will eventually end up without condiments because the $3.65 you paid to cover all the condiments etc., may end up not being enough again - causing the price per cup to go up or no more free condiments. It would have been helpful to have the actual comment by the manager to see if it was stupidly nasty or if they made essentially the same point.

If I were the owner/manager, I would make it a point to tell people filling up a whole glass of milk or the like about available shelters/free meals in the area (and if you don't know where they are you haven't been supporting them, so shame on you!) and if the person still feels like they have to get a meal of the "free" condiments, well bless their hearts. Let them have at it 'til I couldn't pay the rent.

Posted by: hornhead at October 18, 2005 12:06 PM

Oh, and I'd also like to say I must be the only poster from NC, 'cause you haven't been able to buy a gallon of milk here for $2 in years. And my friends, I have to run to the store to get it. Guess who pays for the delivery of basic goods to franchises? It ain't Sodhexo/US foods.

Posted by: hornhead at October 18, 2005 12:11 PM

I used to work for Starbucks and the mark up on those drinks is CRAZY!! They can afford people cutting corners and abusing the bar. It is tacky, but if you need to save some money, go for it. Starbucks has better things to worry about then people abusing the condiment bar.

Posted by: Cat at October 18, 2005 12:47 PM

Think about it, in an extreme way: If a customer walks into a Starbucks with a large bag and takes all of the sugar, milk, napkins, stirring sticks and straws, and this happens once a day at every Starbucks in the nation, think of what a price hike all of the other customers would have to suffer.

I used to work at Starbucks and now I work at a specialty coffee shop, but in both cases, the CONDIMENT BAR is supposed to be used IN MODERATION, with CONSIDERATION.

Sure coffee shops charge a big markup on coffee and milk, but take into account the ammount of milk and coffee that are wasted by beans expiring, oversteaming milk, etc etc... and who pays for all of corporate's salaries? All of the stores. Taking advantage of the condiment bar is just increasing overhead for the company and forcing higher costs. Its what the government has been doing for ages.

and who wants to be like the government?

Posted by: Ian at October 18, 2005 1:07 PM

I can't believe i just spent like, an hour reading this... and i didn't even read all the posts. i wasn't going to comment, because i figure, who cares about my opinion?
but then, i just read all of your comments, so maybe some sucker will read mine.

I personally love my grande skinny peppermint white mochas. ive been to dozens (i am not exaggerating) of "mom and pop's" seeking a concoction that even comes close to the deliciousness of my favorite drink. i am willing to pay the ridiculous 4.55 at starbucks because they give me what i am after. i don't want to pay 3.50 at another place to have a drink that doesnt even resemble what starbucks makes. so i get what i am paying for.
and, when i am giving business to mom and pop places i get their regular coffee for 1.50 or whatever and add a crapload of cream and sugar because i like my coffee SWEET and not even coffee like really.

if you want a crappy latte, then i say, do it. its not any different than me adding all my milk and sugar at mom and pops cause i don't want the crappy latte they would make me.

additionally, the point is moot because i've probably paid for every milk "stealers" share who has posted on here by paying my 4.55 for a drink and not ever using the bar.

haha, u wasted 5 minutes reading this!

Posted by: goose at October 18, 2005 1:25 PM

In response to Melissa:

A Barista is a true Italian word for a person who is skilled in the art of pulling espresso and making espresso drinks.

Venti is Italian for 20, as in French it is "vingt" (pronounced vehn with a soft n) or Spanish "veinte". All are derived from Latin. The other day some asshole blowing hot-air up everyone's ass had the nerve to tell me that Venti meant "the big one" in Italian... fucking douchebag.

As for "small" being "tall", you can blame Starbucks for being lazy. In the beginning they had two sizes, short and tall. Short is 8oz and you may never actually see one in Starbucks. To sate the American appetite and lust for large portions of everything, Starbucks gradually created the "grande" which means big, and the venti which means 20, since it comes in a 20oz cup. Starbucks also thinks Americans are stupid (which, if you look at Starbuck's clientele, there are quite a few retards) so made the iced venti such, even though it is 24 oz.

thats the end of my little rant.

Posted by: Ian at October 18, 2005 1:28 PM

I think there are a lot BIGGER things to worry about in this world!
Making way too much over a little milk!

Posted by: Klee at October 18, 2005 8:26 PM

When I read it my first thought was that it was kind of "cheating". I prefer to remain above-board.

Posted by: Kitty at October 18, 2005 8:45 PM

Well, I'm at work and hardly have time to read all these comments (I'll save that for a day off), but I do want to put my two cents in.

Technically, the consumer who buys the cheaper coffee and adds milk from the coffee bar is doing (in effect) what the coffee shop manager is saying the fixings bar is there for anyway. I buy a coffee, don't like the way it tastes, I add milk...voila! Personally, I say, stop at BP and pick up a FREE coffee creamer or two and stick it in that b!tch....then you're screwing two entirely TOO high priced places all at once. That's right America, stick it to the coffee and gas overlords every chance you get. That's the American way after all! LoL

I can't complain, I go to Arabica and my best friend makes me coffee at half price. Screw Starbucks. ;)

Posted by: Serpentia at October 18, 2005 9:06 PM

Doesn't Starbucks have a "Just Say Yes" policy? If they're gonna complain about giving out free milk at the condiment bar, then so be it on how their customers deal w/ their condiments. Lisa must've been barista before!

Posted by: barista at October 19, 2005 12:49 AM

I have worked in the food industry in the past and any of you who have worked in that industry know that companies whether they are mom or pop shops or Starbucks size have a loss figure that they calculate into their budgets and the prices of their products to cover customer overuse, inventory spoilage, etc. Pizza chains for example charge an average of $12.00 for a large pizza, when the ingredients purchased in bulk only cost them about $3.00 per pizza.

Whoever this store owner was, they were just angry that someone was smart enough in this country to figure out the ingredients that they put in their products and found a way to use the FREE amenities to get the product for a reduced price.

If we had more smart people in the United States today, then we would probably not have to pay the high prices for products that we do. If people stop going to any merchant because they get the price cheaper somewhere else, then that merchant has to 2 choices, lower their profit margin and figure out how to reduce costs; or lose business.

It is called the American way, and fair market competition.

Hungry Girl did nothing wrong and I applaud her and anyone else that can be that smart.

Posted by: solarwind22 at October 19, 2005 11:11 AM

My girlfriend works for starbucks and if someone orders an odd drink that turns out to be something actually on the menu, she'll charge them for the menu item. they get mad at times but meh, they want to drink expensive coffee. but me? i get it all for free baby! one pound a week! i live the good life.

Posted by: Teddy at October 19, 2005 12:55 PM

Sadly, I occasionally will plunk down the $4.50+ for a white chocolate latte if it's a payday. However, usually I get a venti coffee and I treat it like I treat the coffee I make at home--with embarrassingly large amounts of half and half (1/4 cup) and Splenda (5 or 6 packets). I could get a latte (and I do occasionally)--but I prefer the taste and temperature my doctored coffee. If someone adds an equal amount of cream and sweetener to a shot of espresso, who am I to turn my nose up?

The choice I make for myself, I'm choosing to pay for my caffiene habit. If I'm unhappy with the prices, I can make it at home. I have a coffee maker and, until it recently broke, I had a cappucino maker too. If I want a coffee, I'll buy it and doctor it like just like I do at home with little guilt. But if I want a white chocolate latte, I'll pay for it until I buy another cappucino maker.

Ultimately, if you have enough money to be a customer at Starbucks, don't whine about it being too expensive--you have a choice to not go there. If you want Starbucks to change their prices, take your money elsewhere and write them to tell them that you're doing such (and urge others to as well). Otherwise, your money is still paying to support that which you despise and the raised prices to support the fixins bar will affect the prices of ALL the drinks and you'll end up paying for it anyway.

Posted by: Jen at October 20, 2005 11:42 AM

I would say that making your latte at the fixins bar is lame, tacky, and ultimately will only make them charge more for all drinks (thus...it's defeats the purpose). However, I will not say that it is ethically wrong because you're taking what is offered to you.

Sadly, I occasionally will plunk down the $4.50+ for a white chocolate latte if it's a payday. However, usually I get a venti coffee and I treat it like I treat the coffee I make at home--with embarrassingly large amounts of half and half (1/4 cup) and Splenda (5 or 6 packets). I could get a latte (and I do occasionally)--but I prefer the taste and temperature my doctored coffee. If someone adds an equal amount of cream and sweetener to a shot of espresso, who am I to turn my nose up?

The choice I make for myself, I'm choosing to pay for my caffiene habit. If I'm unhappy with the prices, I can make it at home. I have a coffee maker and, until it recently broke, I had a cappucino maker too. If I want a coffee, I'll buy it and doctor it like just like I do at home with little guilt. But if I want a white chocolate latte, I'll pay for it until I buy another cappucino maker.

Ultimately, if you have enough money to be a customer at Starbucks, don't whine about it being too expensive--you have a choice to not go there. Lots of people who live in poverty drink coffee too--but they make it themselves or go somewhere cheaper. If you want Starbucks to change their prices, take your money elsewhere and write them to tell them that you're doing such (and urge others to as well). Otherwise, your money is still paying to support that which you despise and the raised prices to support the fixins bar will affect the prices of ALL the drinks and you'll end up paying for it anyway. Starbucks will still be laughing their way to the bank with your money.

Posted by: Jen at October 20, 2005 11:53 AM

To everyone who has posted: Just remember... The milk's not in a fridge, and has been sitting on the condiment stand for probably an hour.

Would you put milk that's been sitting out in the open, used by many people, into a clean cup with clean ice and freshly pulled espresso shots?

Hey, if you would... Good for you. I know I wouldn't.

Posted by: Shinri at October 20, 2005 3:27 PM

I've seen odd pricing strategies at some of the dining facilities on my campus. Its $3.98 for a cheeseburger but a hamburger is only $3.58.
Adding cheese to any sandwhich is only $.29.
Anyone understand why a hamburger with cheese is $3.87 and a cheeseburger is $3.98?

Same amount of cheese....1 slice of white or yellow american.

BTW.....instead of paying for a mocha latte, I just dump the cocca from the bar in my regular latte....tastes fine to me.

Posted by: JimBot2 at October 20, 2005 7:26 PM

I think some people missed the point that the original Lisa was making... she was talking about ICED lattes. And they don't foam and heat the milk for an iced latte, they just dump it in there.

So it's not a "poor man's" anything in this situation. It's the same darn thing for $2 less. And if Starbucks doesn't like it, they need to do some adjusting so people don't feel like they are getting ripped off.

Posted by: AnotherLisa at October 20, 2005 8:43 PM

Iced this or hot that...same difference...You're still a cheap ass by not paying the damn two dollars. And I agree with everyone who's talked about the cost of the drinks..it pays for wages, shipping expenses etc. And for those that commented on baristas...you know what? You guys are jerks...a jobs a fucking job, it doesn't matter what you do...no, making coffee isn't rocket science, but someone needs to be behind that counter to make your coffee, you white-collared judgimental pigs.

Posted by: Christina at October 21, 2005 5:39 AM

You know, at 5:39 in the morn, I would be pissed off and judgimental too.

Posted by: Guido at October 21, 2005 6:17 AM

Umm where I posted from...it wasn't anywhere near that time...try like 4 hours later...You're pretty bright, you do know we're not all on the same time zone right?

Posted by: Christina at October 21, 2005 6:46 AM

This is what's wrong with America. Plain and simple.

Paying for something at a retailer does not then give you free reign to exploit whatever the retailer is offering.

In our community (coffee professionals), we call this "The Ghetto Latte." It is a recurring story in the coffee retailer/professional barista community... and it sucks.

Why not just take it to the next level? Ask for a couple empty cups and then just go and help yourself to whatever milk is available at the condiment bar? This happens more often than you would think.

"Hey, let's go to Starbucks and get my favorite drink: Cinnamon Milk! Take a cup (bring your own or ask for a free one), go to the condiment bar, fill it up with your milk of choice, top with cinnamon, add 'Sugar In The Raw' to taste... voila!"

And to those who say, "Do it at Starbucks, but not at mom and pop's" are just as bad. Your "screw the Man" attitude is also a commentary on what is wrong with this country.

Act like freakin' civil people, not like animals. Treat people with some respect and/or courtesy... and retailers are people too. Can't believe that some people need to be reminded of this fact.

As for Lisa, et al., if you're interested in any more opinions from coffee professionals, feel free to post a question at any of these websites and forums: baristaguild.org, scaa.org/forum, specialty-coffee.com/forum/, portafilter.net, coffeegeek.com. I'm sure you'll hear more of the same... and none of these sites really involves Starbucks.

Posted by: Nick Cho at October 21, 2005 1:38 PM