Dear Starbucks Customers: Beverage Size Clarification

Recently, it was in the news that a Starbucks customer in Dallas, Texas bought a Frappuccino which totaled about $54.00 and went into a personal cup that was about 128 ounces. The news called it “the most expensive drink ever,” though I have some doubts if that’s the case. About a year ago, a Starbucks customer in Wisconsin did the same kind of thing, buying a more expensive drink. The Wisconsin customer also used a very large personal cup and paid cash for his drink!

What came out of this was an awareness of what Starbucks can offer their customers in personal cups. Yesterday, I had a conversation with an official Starbucks spokesperson (Linda Mills), and she told me the following update to their policy on using personal cups for blended beverages:

“As you know, we love the personalization we can offer customers. But, from time to time we need to clarify and reemphasize a guideline for our partners and to ensure our core benefits can be enjoyed by all our customers.  In this instance, that blended beverages and espresso drinks  cannot be served in sizes larger than a Venti (24 oz cold cup/20 oz hot cup) – including personalized beverage request. This clarity will help our partners  deliver a consistent experience and quality beverages for our customers, and rewards program benefits that can continue to be enhanced and relevant.”

The bottom line is this means the largest cup a Frappuccino may be served in is the Starbucks Venti Cup. The largest cup size an iced tea or iced coffee may be served in is the Trenta cup size. So if you’re ordering a Frappuccino, don’t be alarmed to hear your barista say that the largest cup size for a Frappuccino is the Venti size, and that your personal cup (if larger than 24 ounces) would not be acceptable.

By the way, to be clear, I don’t want any of what I’ve written to discourage you from using a personal cup. It’s good for the environment for you to not use a plastic throw-away cup, and you’ll save ten cents on your beverage. My previous article on the personal cup discount is here. And while you’re cooling off with a Frappuccino in your personal cup, be sure to be reading the book I wrote, Tales of the Siren: A StarbucksMelody – any Starbucks fan will love the stories of friendship, coffee passion, and examples of servant leadership via the Cliff Burrows’ stories.

I thought it would be worthwhile to pass on this updated policy.

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32 Comments

  1. purple1
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:17:03

    Melody I find the SB official comment very interesting. I may be cynical but I really wonder if that response is totally accurate. I just wonder if they are concerned that more customers will come in and order that $54 drink. And then what would that mean for their bottom line?

  2. nwteacher
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:23:27

    Why can’t use a 30 oz personal cup to purchase a 24 oz blended beverage? It just will be filled part way, that’s all.

    If I buy a venti iced tea with extra ice, why can it not be put into my 30 oz personal cup? Don’t they give only a set amount of tea regardless of whether my iced tea is in a 24 oz cup or larger?

    Call me dense, but I am confused.

  3. DaveZ
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:24:23

    Eh, I don’t like the personal cup (or refill cup) stuff. Doesn’t seem sanitary.

  4. Rebecca
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:37:13

    I *think* what Lynda is saying is that the largest volume of liquid we’re going to hand out is 24 oz for frappuccinos. ie. you can have whatever size cup you want, add as many modifiers as you want, but you will get 24 oz of frappuccino. I don’t have many customers who bring in personal cups larger than grande, honestly, but we follow those guidelines when we do. :)

  5. SnowWhite
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:43:54

    I’m glad to see SBux corporate make a statement about this, even more pleased to see the regional and district management to communicate this clearly to the partners. No one in their right mind would expect to get a drink that wouldn’t fit in the average cup for free. I just hope corporate and customer service continue to stand by this if and when customers complain.

  6. Kathy Bard
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:45:06

    I agree with DaveZ

  7. Kristina
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:49:16

    Yikes! I wasn’t aware of the $54 drink news article. See…this is how one person can ruin a good thing for many. I’m sure we all have added an extra shot or two to our Lucky Dozen reward drink, but sixty? C’mon now. Talk about abusing the system. Geez. I know baristas aren’t necessarily supposed to serve as the “policy police,” but something should have gone off in the barista’s mind that what he/she was doing [allowing] was not a morally right and fair business practice. I have no problem with Starbucks issuing an updated personal cup policy whether it’s just to provide clarification or indeed to protect their profits…they are a business, ya know. :)

  8. Melody
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 07:54:52

    @Kristina and @SnowWhite – Starbucks is huge and makes billions in profit, and a few 60-shot drinks won’t destroy their year’s profit. In my humble opinion – and this is a wild guess – I think at its core there may be another issue (notice that the WI customer paid cash) – I think that customers who consume these crazy beverages with many, many espresso shots may get sick. I think there could be some legal liability about serving drinks that are almost guaranteed to at least give you a tummy ache. I’m not totally convinced that the form of payment (reward or cash) is >all< that’s going on here. Again, this is just my wild guess, but I don’t think the issue is >entirely< whether the drink was purchased via a reward or not.

  9. IzzyJ
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:05:28

    I heard about the big drink, but thought it was an urban legend. @Melody, thanks for the clarification about the policy.

  10. purple1
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:10:44

    Melody I never thought of your angle as being a possible reason for SB updating the refill policy. I understand what you are saying re the legal liability, but certainly aren’t there so many restaurants, etc. that would fall into this situation- where customers get sick because of a size of a drink or the ingredients in it? How then do you control this?

  11. Melody
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:15:40

    @Purple1 – Maybe you’re right. I’m on the fence. I just don’t think the issue is only the fact that it was a reward. The times this is going to happen will be very, very rare. Heck, the publicity the Rewards program got out of it might have been a benefit. Most people genuinely want to use their reward on something they’ll enjoy. So I think, from the perspective of Starbucks, there could be something else going on? Personally, you’re responsible for your body, and I don’t care what you put into it. Though I think it’s such a waste if you order this kind of excessive drink and then don’t drink it.

  12. Valerie
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:32:04

    Thanks, Melody. We have had some people ask for Trenta frappuccinos thinking that it was a standard. There is a ringing procedure for hot coffee in large personal cups. You see how many ounces it is and charge for the combined total to make up the size. A 40 ounce personal cup would cost the price of two venti’s. That’s in the Bev Manual also. Hot coffee is the only drink, so far, we can do that with.

  13. Kristina
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:35:20

    @Melody Perhaps liability is the issue here, I don’t know. I hadn’t checked out the WI customer link prior to commenting, so my thoughts were only regarding the $54 free drink.

  14. SnowWhite
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:00:53

    I don’t really see it as an issue of whether or not SBux can afford to give away a few extra shot drinks (although at a certain point, with a fanbase like this, fans constantly trying to out-do each other, it could get expensive) but there’s a huge issue of waste as well, both of time, resources and raw ingredients. It takes like 20 minutes to pull that many shots, how many customers are not being served in the meantime as a result of one super-fan intent on breaking the record? How many of those customers will never come back as a result of the poor customer service? And honestly, can you truly drink something with 54 shots? If not, it’s just going down the drain.

  15. mahoro
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:06:31

    60 shots? I don’t know how that can possibly taste good. To me that would be a waste of a reward.

    Concerning the issue of the cup size. Reminds me of the time that I ordered a “regular” Venti Frappuccino but wanted it poured into a Trenta cup. The manager said that the only way she could do that was to charge me for 2 Grandes.

    Can someone tell me why that is? I wasn’t asking for more drink. I just wanted the 24oz poured into a larger cup. I know they can do Grande in a Venti cup. So I didn’t understand why the Trenta cup was an issue.

  16. AllieAustin
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:50:05

    I know when Starbucks rolled out the Trenta size partners were told explicitly that we could not put Frappaccinos in Trenta size cups. I believe that had to do with the fact that the amount of calories/fat/sugar that would be in a Frappaccino of that size was outside of the standards that Starbucks has set for themselves as a company. I know that these drinks even in a Venti size aren’t exactly healthy, but it seems like that is the limit they have set.

  17. Lisa Olivieri
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 10:52:44

    Melody , Thank you for posting this. I was afraid we would start seeing customers come in in with huge cups, jugs, punch bowls or whatever else that could come up with to see if they could get a record breaking drink.. I am sure, I am not the only partner that works at a Starbucks , that looked at this 60 shot drink and said” how is that even possible”. I am still having a hard time believing this drink was really made. Why you may ask !?!! Number 1 doing 60 shots in a store that has two machines( done to standard) would take 12 minutes, just to pour the shots,add in an additional 3 minutes for adding more coffee beans to the hoppers as well as having to dump the discarded pods from the machine. Not to mention no store manger would allow all the other customers in line to have to wait for this one drink , so more than likely all 60 shots would come from one machine so add like another 10 minutes. 2) The blenders that all Starbucks use can only handle 60 oz of liquid and ice , and that is pushing it, if you tried it you would have to hold the top down to not have it go all over the store. 3) in order to get a blended beverage the right way the portions of ice, liquid and base have to be the correct amount or the beverage will come out too liquefied.4) and the most compelling , to make me think this is all fake is that it would taste horrible, as a 17 year Starbucks partner I have tried lots of different drink combinations and trust me some not so good, just tying a 6 shot blended drink is harsh on the tummy.

  18. Julie
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 11:32:32

    I think the people that get these 60 shot drinks with their free reward are trying to get “internet famous” from them. There’s no way a 60 shot frappuccino with at least 1 shot of every syrup, plus a banana, plus macha powder, etc is going to taste good, so what other reason could they be doing it for?

    When I use my free drink reward I normally get a venti frappuccino with 2 added shots of espresso and some extra pumps of syrup and sometimes I add in java chips and add another drizzle on top. I expect to just receive a venti cup, but every so often I will get handed a venti and a tall (with all the leftover drink). It just depends on who the barista is that makes my drink if I get that added tall. I never ask for it, but it’s a nice surprise. I would never go in with a 30 oz cup of my own though and expect it to be filled to the top when ordering a venti drink though.

    hmmmm, ok I’m done rambling on now. lol

  19. Kurt
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 11:34:59

    I vote for “nipping a trend in the bud.” You can still walk in with a 200 ounce mug and order ten venti lattes with extra shots, and pour it in. You can still buy 120 items in a month and use your ten rewards for ten venti lattes with extra shots, and pour them into your 200 ounce mug. The policy nips in the bud all those bored teenagers who might run around trying to top it, either in price, size, or number of shots. (Cento Dopio anyone?)

    Now can we get back to serious stuff, like which Clover setting works best for all that Kati Kati that might be lying around behind the counters now?

  20. Woahdessa
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 13:38:59

    Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately with the uprise of social media, these orders are not as rare as they used to be. Literally the day after “the most expensive drink” hit facebook someone ordered an even more expensive (and larger) beverage at my store. Basically if partner resources feels the need to share or clarify a policy like this it’s because there’s a trend in several stores of this happening.

  21. Back2Starbucks or George
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 18:03:43

    I saw something like this on YouTube once, where someone asked for a vbf with 8 shots … The Barista wasn’t able to fit it ! Lol.
    Thanks for updating us Melody.
    George

  22. bmommyx2
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 19:55:02

    Maybe it was slow & the partners where bored? He did say it took him several days to drink it. I will say that Starbucks go a whole lot of free publicity & a lot of attention for their rewards program.

  23. Tim
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 21:40:08

    Hello @Melody- Cold Venti is now 26oz (at least in Licensed stores) instead of 24oz! In my opinion going to 30oz (Trenta current size ) from 26oz isn’t a big jump for Frappuccino especially in Cold Beverage heavy markets, is a solution to such size madness and can be a very profitable upsell. Maybe only sell Trenta Frappuccino in Cold Beverage heavy markets instead Nationwide?

    Starbucks Cold Beverage Markets: (May have to Copy&Paste: http://qz.com/195631/what-people-order-at-starbucks-around-the-united-states/)

  24. Cecille
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 21:40:25

    I know a customer of mine gets 15 shots in a venti hot cup but 60 shots is too much and even then wasn’t the guy used his reward for it, I think the most expensive drink should be actually paying for that amount to be considered the most expensive drink at least in my book, I don’t know what other people else think

  25. Launce Bugbee
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 16:27:57

    So… a business that says no. Interesting. As a small business owner, I don’t like to say no to my customers. Maybe one day I’ll get too big for my britches and be able to do so. I guess I’ll bring my gallon sized cup and order multiple drinks and do it myself.

  26. Karl Dahlquist
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 20:09:43

    I would think trenta frapps aren’t allowed as they are not on the menu, nor calorie listed on the board or on the web.

    How did “the media” miss the $0.00 on the receipt? MSR drinks should be capped at $6 or something….the customers in line behind this clown’s time is worth far more than “the most expensive drink”

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  28. becca
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 23:18:31

    While I do not want to make any 60 shot $50 beverages I LOVE when customers have fun with their free rewards.. They get this giddy look and go wild with the third or fourth shot of espresso or usually get bold but they “splurge” on a mocha. I’m glad they clarified but we don’t really need baristas to get all power trippy. For example the customer above who would want their iced tea in the 30oz mug and get extra ice…I think any barista who would say no to that should hang up their apron.

  29. MJM
    Jun 13, 2014 @ 02:19:37

    Sometimes I get a Trenta water to go along with my daily purchase at my favorite SBX. Now I was told twice by two different partners on two different visits, “No more Trenta waters…we can only do Venti waters (and below) from now on”. Really?

  30. Laily Haikal
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 21:46:09

    I’m happy about this clarification, but it’d still be nice to put a limit on rewards ($10 maybe?). I’m a customer & I hate seeing those people looking for their 15 minutes of fame who think it takes some kind of skill to be a freeloader & taking advantag-er. Not to mention the waste of good ingredients to make an undrinkable monster of a creation. Do they think they cannot get 1 upped each time? It’s so easy to beat the “most expensive Starbucks drink” by just adding an extra shot. Hopefully this policy will stop that abuse, because I don’t want a few idiots ruining MSR for the rest of us decent, mannered customers.

  31. bk18
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 08:37:51

    what’s the policy (or considered acceptable by baristas) with regard to ordering a drink and asking for it in a different sized cup? I frequent SB for just drip coffee and I often wonder whether it’s acceptable to get a tall in a grande cup? I add H&H at the condiment bar and so would appreciate a full tall with space to add that and not be to the brim (subways and stairs, even with a splash stick, are better navigated with a cup that isn’t overflowing).
    Is this an okay request or not?

  32. Valerie
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 09:00:09

    I know at our store we honor that request all the time and sometimes even suggest it. You deserve the full amount of your beverage. If you like extra cream in your coffee, that’s your preference. I have a customer who gets a tall white mocha in a venti cup, fills the rest with whipped cream and mocha drizzle. We would ring it just as you order it (tall coffee in a grande cup) so that the appropriate stock is accounted for.

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