Loyal Starbucks customers across the country were shocked, horrified, and outraged to read the news this morning that the coffee giant has been -- wait for it -- charging a hidden fee on some bags of coffee beans. *Gasp!*
For years, the company has been tacking on a service charge of about $1.50 to the price of a bag of coffee beans weighing less than one pound, and failing to put up signs in the store about the fee or itemizing the extra charge on receipts. Starbucks patrons were largely oblivious of the secret charge -- that is, until a state consumer agency in Massachusetts fined five Starbucks locations near Boston for not notifying customers about it. Now, Starbucks has agreed to drop the extra charge nationwide, but customers are still all kinds of angry.
Is a hidden coffee fee really so very shocking?
These days, there's practically a hidden fee everywhere you go. Banks, airlines, hotels, and countless other businesses charge customers extra for the most mundane of services -- using the ATM, hydrating with a bottle of water (ahem, Spirit Airlines), even using the in-room hotel safe.
Of course, it's absolutely illegal not to tell customers that you are adding an extra fee to a product (bad Starbucks!). But the reason the fee was there in the first place -- to cover the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate the customers' request for the half-pound bags -- doesn't seem so arbitrary. Given the prevalence of hidden fees, we're lucky Starbucks isn't charging us for every swig of cream and every packet of sugar we empty into our coffee cups.
I believe the reason people are so pissed off about this particular service charge is because -- unlike big-ticket items like vacations where you expect to drop extra cash -- something as insignificant as your daily cup of coffee seems so much more personal. The stranger at the ticket counter is one thing; but we don't expect the barista we see every day to take advantage of us. The sad fact of the matter, however, is that we are paying hidden fees everywhere we go. And to single out Starbucks for doing what every other business is doing doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Which hidden fees piss you off the most?
Image via niseag03/Flickr