Hoax Costs Starbucks Real Bucks

Jul 19, 2002

Counterfeit Starbucks coupons were circulated illegally by e-mail earlier this week by an unidentified source offering a free 12-ounce Creme Frappuccino, reports the Washington Post. This was the first time the coffee chain had encountered this kind of problem.

When Starbucks Corp. learned of the hoax on Tuesday afternoon, it immediately notified authorities and got word out to its stores to stop redeeming the coupons, says Audrey Lincoff, a company spokeswoman. Because of the three-hour time difference, store managers in the Washington metro area got word of the prank just before closing time, after some of them already served free Frappuccinos.

The fake coupons resembled ones that Starbucks and radio station Z104 mailed out to Washington-area residents recently as part of a legitimate promotion. Those coupons were double-sided and sent out by regular mail.

“We gave away lots and lots of them because we didn’t know,” says one Starbucks employee in D.C., who asked to remain nameless. “It’s hard to believe this is real. We’ve run out of the vanilla Creme Frappuccinos.”

Moderator Comment: How can retailers and food service operators protect themselves against hoax’s such as that perpetrated upon Starbuck’s?

Better communication of promotional programs down to
store-level would certainly help.

Of course, the joker(s) that pulled this stunt on Starbuck’s
may have inadvertently helped the chain. As we’ve discussed here before, sample
leads to trial and future purchases. Here’s hoping that enough new shoppers
came to Starbuck’s in response to the fake coupons to pay-off in the long term.
Anderson – Moderator

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