Starbucks Finally Loses the Secret Surcharge on Coffee Beans

Starbucks Coffee SurchargeStarbucks is no longer adding an additional surcharge to coffee beans weighing less than a pound as of November 7, 2011. A Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation found in August that StarbucksĀ (NASDAQ:SBUX) was adding an additional surcharge of $1.50 to any bag of coffee beans weighing less than a pound without notifying the customer in any way. It wasn’t being noted on the receipt either. If the extra charge isn’t clearly stated or told to the customer, it’s illegal.

Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the Massachusetts consumer affairs said:

“While Starbucks, and any retailer, is allowed to charge any additional fees it wants on a product, those additional fees have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer before the purchase. People have the right to know how much they are paying for a commodity.”

Coffee beans that were listed at $11.95 per pound ended up costing $7.45 for a half-pound not the $5.98, or half the price of the full pound. It’s been estimated that around 75,000 consumer were paying that extra surcharge free of $1.50. Boston reported that State inspectors found in a price check in August at Stabucks stores in Auburn, Boston, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Chicopee, Dedham, Framingham and Holyoke.

Starbucks was fined $1,575 in five of there stores in Massachusetts for this extra surcharge. The agreement to drop the surcharge is not a legal settlement, but the state is in discussions with Starbucks on how to compensate customers.

Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz told The Boston Globe, which first reported the fine and policy change, that the company charged extra for half-pound bags to cover the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers. “We are pleased to be able to now offer our customers alternative sizes of whole bean coffee in all of our U.S. stores, free of any service charge,” Hilowitz reported.

Having to pay an inflated price for a coffee bean is bad enough, but when Starbucks decides to add on an additional fee to their coffee beans; that’s disappointing and sad. It’s good that companies like Massachusetts Consumer Affairs is out there working with the average customer by not letting other companies pull a fast one on us.

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