Monday, August 12, 2013

How to get free coffee at a Starbucks store

A company owned Starbucks in Queens.
A licensed Starbucks in a service area of the New Jersey Turnpike.

By Victor E. Sasson

Not all Starbucks stores are created equal, and if you know the difference, you might be treated to a free cup of coffee or an espresso drink.

During a stopover at Miami International Airport last week, I caught up with my nephew at a Starbucks operated by HMSHost, the American travel-services subsidiary of an Italian company, Autogrill.

My nephew ordered a venti iced green tea, I had a tall coffee of the day, he had a slice of cake and I selected a tray of vegetables with ranch dressing.

His cake was dry (he got up to get a fresher slice), and my selection couldn't have held more than 3 or 4 ounces of vegetables.

When I looked at the credit-card receipt later, the total of $16.91 seemed high. The "1 Tray Veggie" cost $7.65.

This morning, I called Starbucks' customer service and was told licensed stores, such as the one at the airport in Miami, can charge what they please.

There are other differences, as I've discovered when trying to redeem a promotion, use rewards on my Starbucks Card or recharge the card.

Several weeks ago, at the HMSHost-operated Starbucks on the New Jersey Turnpike, I tried to take advantage of a half-price espresso drink promotion.

I showed the employee who took my order the promotion code on my iPhone, but she conferred with her supervisor, who was helping deal with a crush of customers.

I was told they couldn't honor the promotion, but gave me the espresso drink for free. 

And that wasn't the first time I got free coffee when I tried to use my Starbucks Rewards. It happened once before in Manhattan.

The Starbucks customer-service employee I spoke with today couldn't tell me how many stores are licensed.

But company stores, she said, usually are free-standing.

In Miami, the licensed store couldn't recharge my Starbucks Card -- I had a balance of $3.07 -- so I had to use a credit card to pay.

Coming soon:

A slice of heaven 
on a lush mountain in Jamaica.


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