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America's Largest Coffee Chain Is Dealing With a Major Operational Glitch

And customers are frustrated.

Depending on whom you ask, mobile order apps are either the best thing to ever happen in fast food or the worst. While bringing customers unprecedented convenience in ordering food from their favorite brands, apps are also prone to glitches and malfunctions, and sometimes create more problems than they solve.

Starbucks customers know this all too well. The coffee chain has been struggling in the past year with a number of operational issues, many of which are directly related to difficulties with its mobile app. Glitches in the Starbucks app and incomplete integration of the technology into the chain's day-to-day business have left customers complaining of inaccurate orders, delays in order fulfillment, and difficulties with refunds.

While app troubles aren't anything new for Starbucks, they speak to a persistent rift between in-app and in-store customer experiences. Read on for a breakdown of Starbucks' current operational (app-related and otherwise) issues.

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Starbucks is struggling with out-of-stock-items frequently

Starbucks syrups

App-issues aside, Starbucks has been struggling in the past year to adequately stock its stores with basic supplies. In June, the coffee chain suffered a shortage of a number of key ingredients, including hazelnut syrup, toffee nut syrup, chai tea bags, and green iced tea. The shortages were so extensive they caused the chain to put 25 menu items on "temporary hold"—leaving customers (and employees) irate. One popular TikTok video, posted in response to the announced shortages, showed a team of Starbucks baristas screaming in frustration.

Six months on Starbucks isn't out of the woods, either: the chain is still dogged by supply issues, with a recent shortage of frappuccino base causing an outcry on Twitter.

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The chain's app has also has a glitch

Starbucks apps
sitthiphong / Shutterstock

The problem of ingredient shortages has been exacerbated by a problem with Starbucks' app. Following a survey of 21 current and ex-Starbucks baristas, Business Insider reported that the app does not accurately reflect the menu items and ingredients available at most Starbucks stores. The discrepancy is a thorn in the side of mobile app customers, as it results in botched orders where key ingredients are either missing or substituted with undesired alternatives.

The glitch has a number of causes. In some cases, the Starbucks app simply updates its inventory too slowly—or fails to update it at all. In other cases, certain items and ingredients are "locked" and employees are unable to update the app's menu to accurately reflect in-store availabilities. Even when the inventory is up-to-date, customers using the "Recent/Favorite" checkout service are still able to place orders for out-of-stock menu items. Collectively, the glitches have resulted in countless inaccurate orders and dissatisfied customers.

Frustration with the chain is growing

Starbucks customers
James R. Martin/Shutterstock

Starbies customers are growing impatient with the delays and headaches caused by the app. According to a number of Starbucks baristas interviewed by Business Insider, customers become annoyed and upset with Starbucks employees when their orders are inaccurate. In some cases, baristas just have to deal with "[an] awkward conversation"—but in others, customers become "exasperated, annoyed, and rude," and demand an explanation for the inaccurate order. Unable to provide a satisfactory response, Starbucks employees are left "look[ing] like a**holes."

Here are the shortages customers are reporting right now

Starbucks frappuccino

Having weathered multiple supply shortages in June, Starbucks is once again struggling to stock certain key ingredients. So far this month, customers have reported shortages of everything from oat milk and syrup to espresso and straws. In the past couple of weeks, though, the chain has been running particularly low on "frappuccino mix," causing many customers, fearful of a "Great Frappuccino Shortage," to voice complaints online.

There have also been multiple reports of grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich shortages:

For mobile app and in-store customers alike, the chain's supply shortages and operational issues look like they're not going anywhere any time soon. But, hey, you can always try your luck at Dunkin'.

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