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Frivolous Starbucks lawsuit should be iced

— From the The Journal Times of Racine

You probably recall the case where a woman sued McDonald’s because the coffee she was served was too hot. There was an obvious logic to that lawsuit, because we all understand that coffee served too hot can burn your lips and mouth.

When we read recently that a woman was suing Starbucks because her cold coffee drink had too much ice in it, we wondered for a moment if we’d inadvertently clicked to the website of The Onion, the satirical newspaper with fictional stories.

But no, it was MSNBC.com which reported recently that an Illinois woman, Stacy Pincus, has filed suit in Northern Illinois Federal Court against Starbucks for $5 million over the amount of ice used in its drinks.

Pincus’ suit says because of the amount of ice Starbucks uses in its iced beverages, customers often end up with half of the amount of drink that is listed on Starbucks’ menus in fluid ounces. The suit alleges that Starbucks is purposefully tricking customers into paying for more product than what they are provided with.

“The word ‘beverage’ is defined as ‘a drinkable liquid.’ Ice is not a ‘beverage’ by definition. Accordingly, Starbucks actually gives the customer much less beverage in the cold drinks they order and pay for,” the lawsuit says.

This has all the indicators of a lawsuit intended to do nothing more than get money out of a multibillion-dollar corporation, either through a jury’s verdict or an out-of-court settlement.

Setting aside our cynical interpretation of the actions of Pincus and her legal representatives, Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge LLC of Chicago, let’s presume for a moment that Pincus’ outrage is legitimate.

Did she not, even for a moment, consider returning the iced coffee drink and requesting one with less ice in its place?

If she didn’t, was this her first-ever visit to Starbucks?

Because if you’ve ever stood in line behind someone ordering, as an anonymous barista quoted by MatadorNetwork.com put it, a “triple grande half-caf two-pump vanilla two-pump hazelnut half-soy half-nonfat 1.5 Splenda latte,” you know full well that Starbucks, and the other chain restaurants with $4 coffee drinks on the menu, will make every drink to every customer’s exacting specifications.

Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Riley told NBC News that Pincus’ claims are “without merit.”

“Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any ‘iced’ beverage,” Riley said. “If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it.”

Starbucks isn’t unique in the business world. If you are dissatisfied with your purchase, the overwhelming majority of businesses, large or small, will replace the item with something more to your liking, or otherwise work with you to achieve customer satisfaction. Which is why we strongly suspect Pincus isn’t quite as outraged about the ice in her drink as her lawsuit would suggest.

If this is found to be a frivolous lawsuit, as we suspect, Pincus should be ordered to pay all legal costs.

The decision to sue a business should be a last resort, to be set aside in favor of first seeking satisfaction as a customer.

Let’s try harder to be business owners and customers, not defendants and plaintiffs.

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