We live in a world of misaligned consumer expectations—one in which Caesar salad is mostly iceberg lettuce, “fancy mixed nuts” means peanuts with a sprinkling of cashews, and a paid Netflix subscription comes with those pesky in-house ads. We live in a world, in other words, in which iced coffee comes with more ice than might be strictly necessary to cool your beverage.
Most of us adjust quickly to these admittedly not-very-burdensome indignities. When faced with the litany of disappointments inherent to modern capitalism, we might feel briefly betrayed, perhaps complain using the avenues that are presented to us or vow never to submit ourselves to that experience ever again, and then move on to the next purchase. But not all: In what might be the ultimate first-world-problem lawsuit, an Illinois woman is suing Starbucks for chronically underfilling its iced drinks.
For the past 10 years, the plaintiff has purchased cold drinks from Starbucks and found herself repeatedly chagrined by the copious levels of ice, according to the suit. So rather than stop purchasing drinks at Starbucks, she decided to take legal action. Her class-action lawsuit accuses the coffee giant of false advertising, fraud, and unjust enrichment, calling Starbucks’ cold drinks “defective.” It calls for $5 million in damages on behalf of herself and the millions of Americans who have purchased a Starbucks iced coffee over the past 10 years.
“In essence, Starbucks is advertising the size of its Cold Drink cups on its menu rather than the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they purchase a Cold Drink and deceiving its customers in the process,” the suit alleges. A customer who orders a Venti-size iced coffee, which is advertised as 24 fluid ounces, will typically receive about 14 ounces of coffee and a heaping shovelful of ice, it adds. (This isn’t the first time Starbucks has faced such accusations: A different suit last month claimed the chain’s lattes were 25 percent smaller than the menu implied.)
The suit then suggests an amazing fix: that the coffee chain increase the size of its cups, this despite the fact that a Trenta-size coffee is already larger than the human stomach.
The naïveté is almost charming. A person unfamiliar with American business practices might be forgiven for expecting that a drink advertised as 24 oz. will actually be 24 oz., or that a Big Mac actually looks like this glorious image, or that a footlong Subway sandwich should actually be 12 inches long. But reality will quickly dispel such idealistic notions. Like most everyone else, Starbucks has already dismissed the suit as having no merit. “Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of an ‘iced’ beverage,” the company said in a statement.
But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at this. Perhaps we should applaud this brave soul for doing what we could not: taking a bold and refreshing stance on behalf of those of us who have become so conditioned to a consumerist existence that consistently underdelivers on our expectations that we can’t even see that our standards have been tragically diluted. So thank you, lady suing Starbucks, for forcing us to confront our choices. It’s about time we all expected more coffee and less ice.