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Starbucks Customers Are Upset Over This Botched Black Friday Deal

Some are calling it a "scam."
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

A botched Black Friday deal at Starbucks has fans of the coffee chain feeling betrayed. After promising a free $5 "promotional gift" to anyone purchasing a gift card worth $20 or more, Starbucks is being accused by some of its customers of false advertising.

The promotional deal was simple in concept. As spelled out in its terms and conditions, Starbucks customers purchasing an "eGift Card of $20 or more" at any time between Black Friday and Cyber Monday would receive a $5 eGift Card in exchange—effectively, a 20% discount on a $20 gift card.

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As the deal rolled out, however, complaints started to roll in. Inexplicably, some customers who purchased gift cards meeting the $20 minimum did not receive their $5 eGift Card. Fans took to Twitter to air their grievances, accusing Starbucks of scamming them, and calling the company's behavior "deceptive and unacceptable."

How could Starbucks, a company famous for its customer engagement and cultivation of loyalty among fans, have messed up this deal so badly? The answer, it turns out, was in the fine print. The terms and conditions of the giveaway specify that the it was valid only "while supplies last." In other words, only the "first 100,000" qualifying purchases were eligible for the $5 bonus.

Some customers were quick to point out that—neglected fine print notwithstanding—Starbucks continued to promote its deal even after supplies had officially run out, running ads on its app a full four days after the offer had, effectively, expired. Even if the company did give customers fair warning, it had also misled them, by failing to notify them of the shortage of supplies.

Starbucks has since issued a public statement, shared with Inc., offering an apology:

"The e-Gift offer was available while supplies lasted, for a limited time, and the offer sold out. We are aware some customers purchased the offer and did not receive the $5 e-Gift and apologize for this. Customers should contact the Starbucks Customer Contact Center at 1-800-782-7282 if they have questions about their purchase."

Customers, in the meantime, have every reason to start double-checking the company's fine print.

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Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more