The problem with Starbucks charging a $1.50 "service fee" on any bag of coffee beans under a pound wasn't that the company was charging the fee. The problem was that no one was telling customers about it.
The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation just announced that Starbucks will quit charging the fee, following an investigation by the agency that ended in a fine.
Essentially, for years if a person bought a half-pound bag of coffee that was listed 11.95 a pound, they'd pay $7.80 for it.
That's all well and good, but Starbucks employees never told customers about the fee, they never included it on receipts or posted it on the menu. When pressed, Starbucks admitted to charging the fee in order to cover "the additional labor and packaging needed to accommodate those customers' unique request."
Massachusetts regulators sent undercover buyers to multiple Starbucks locations to confirm that the fee wasn't disclosed and after the investigation, fined the company $1,575.
After the fine Starbucks announced that it would scrap the fee altogether rather than disclose it.
In a statement, Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation explains:
"While Starbucks, and any retailer, is allowed to charge any additional fees it wants on a product, those additional fees have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer before the purchase. We are pleased that Starbucks has decided to drop this fee, ending any confusion for consumers buying coffee in their stores."