Something’s Not Quite Right

Starbucks overcharge

Let’s face it. Starbucks coffee is overpriced and overhyped. At last in my opinion. That said, I’ve been known to stop for a mocha frap on more than one occasion. Like most folks, when I do, I charge my drink. I’ll even add a reasonable tip onto the final bill. But I have never had something like this happen and, trust me, you’d be hearing about it if I did.

“This” is a situation where a Starbucks in the Tulsa area supposedly charged a man the right prices for his drinks but then there was a “glitch”, “user error”, or something that happened and the result was the man was charged over $4k for a tip.

From everything I’ve been able to find, all that did happen. The issue comes with how the tip was actually entered, at least according to Starbucks. But I have more questions and this whole this is a lesson in always checking the total before pressing “enter” and then checking the receipt when it’s handed to you–oh, it is also a lesson in always asking for a receipt because mistakes do happen.

Here’s where I start having questions about what happened. First, neither the customer nor the barista apparently noticed the issue. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to notice that my $10 bill (the normal for what he ordered) is suddenly over $4k. As the barista, I’m certainly going to notice that this fellow (who I assume was a regular there) tipped me over $4k. Hell, I’d ask him if he meant to tip that much. Of course, that might happen after I picked my jaw up off the floor and my brain started working again.

But that’s not where the questions end. After the customer got into contact with Starbucks–and it isn’t really clear if he talked with corporate or the local management–he was issued a refund. But this refund was in the form of checks. Yes, multiple checks for a single transaction.

This brings up questions one and two about the form of refund. Why checks and why multiple checks? Wouldn’t it have been quicker and easier to issue a refund on the credit card used to make payment?

Oh, but it gets better. The checks bounced. Or were declined. Or something. All we know for certain (if anything is certain about this) is that these first checks weren’t any good.

This is where I’d be going, “WTF?!?”

Starbucks says there was a typo on the checks. That’s why they didn’t go through. Again, wtf?!? Something is starting to smell and it isn’t the aroma of freshly ground coffee.

This means new checks were issued. Another delay in the customer getting his money back.

And again, why not just credit his account?

As for what happened to start this ball rolling, the sides don’t agree. The customer says he was told by the district manager (iirc) that the mistake in the tip amount was caused by a network error. Starbucks says the customer entered the amount himself and it was his fault. The implication being they are being really good guys by issuing the refund.

Now for the timeframe. The original purchase took place January 7, 2023. On February 7th, a Tulsa TV station reported on what happened and the customer was still awaiting payment. (Remember those bounced checks?)

A Starbucks representative told Fox 23 that they didn’t have many details on why the charge occurred or why the checks sent had bounced but confirmed Starbucks was aware of the situation attributed to human error. They also said the company was in communication with the O’Dells about reimbursement and that the issue had already been resolved. The couple should receive the checks in the mail any day now, the representative told Fox 23.

Another report notes that Starbucks officials said the issue was known and dealt with and the refund checks were cashed on Feb. 6th.

What the hell?

Are you kidding me? One month to get this corrected and the monies refunded. Again, why not reverse the charges or refund them directly to the credit card (or debit card)? There has to be more to this story than we’re being told so far.

But there is a moral. If you go to any store and charge something, check not only what you are agreeing to pay but also demand a receipt and check it before walking away from the cash register. Hell, go home and check your account to make sure nothing untoward happened. The only way to prevent something like this is to be proactive. If you are, then you at least have a stronger leg to stand on if something does happen and you have to try for a refund.

Speaking from personal experience, some companies will try to deny refunding back to the “credit card” if you use a debit card. I went through this with one of the local papers after they erroneously renewed my subscription after I’d already canceled it. Instead of giving them my bank account info, I used my debit card. They kept trying to claim the card was no good, so they couldn’t refund to it. Then they claimed there was something else wrong. Finally, they said the only way they could give me a refund was to send a check. The key factor then was they claimed checks are only issued on a certain each week (or it might have been every other week. It’s been a couple of years so I don’t remember the exact details). Because of that, it did take almost a month before I got my refund back. What struck me during all this was how they didn’t take me seriously until I filed a BBB complaint. Suddenly, they were falling all over themselves to help me.

So take both the Starbucks story and my own as a cautionary tale. Look at that final tally. Make sure you entered what you meant to on the tip line. then grab up your receipt and check it.

Especially if you are going to Starbucks.

I’ll be posting the next snippet in the WIP later today. The above was just too “WTF” not to post about.


Featured image created using Midjourney AI.


  1. That actually happened to Papa Raptor a few years back. He and Mama Raptor went to Trader Joe’s and bought 3 cans of their spray-on sunscreen. Rather than scan all three cans individually, the cashier did whatever it is you do to her terminal to ring up multiples of the same item with a single scan. Only she wasn’t paying attention (I’m told she was chatting with a colleague,” so instead of entering a quanitity of 3, she entered either 30. And Papa Raptor didn’t notice. But he always checks his receipt whenever he purchases anything… except this one time. They drive home and then Mama Raptor looks at the receipt and freaks out because the total is something like $1,000 and they bought less than a dozen things. So Mama Raptor studies the receipt and immediately spots the issue.

    Fortunately, it was Trader Joe’s, and the store manager immediately realized what had happened when they explained the situation (IIRC, I believe he told them something to the effect of “I doubt we even had thirty cans of sunscreen in the store to begin with!”). Unfortunately, they did have to drive back to the store to get the issue taken care of, and said store is something like 90 minutes from their house. But if it had been any other company, it probably would taken them forever and a half to get the situation resolved.

    1. On the other end of the spectrum, I ordered a turkey from Amazon (grocery delivery) for Thanksgiving. I specified the weight range. So imagine my surprise when it arrived–along with the rest of my groceries–and was the size of a standard baking hen (chicken). Yes, I immediately contacted customer support. The solution was to have a full refund or get another turkey–oh, and I could keep the one they brought by mistake at no cost to me. I chose to have the right sized turkey delivered and didn’t have to worry about getting another bird for Christmas. That was a good adventure in customer service.

    2. Lowe’s did the same to me– except it was 30 chunks of wood that became 300, in a BIG repair buy I was doing; the system was having an utter meltdown, the checkout girl was new to running the system, there was a big line behind me, and I was riding herd on the kids. If I remember right, I was about six months pregnant, too, and I KNOW it was summer time.

      Gads, that was a miserable trip.

      Get home, trying to figure out how I was THAT FAR off of my mental estimate, and then found the error.

      Drove back, explain everything, the manager looked at me like I was insane, but pulled up the video– took one look at that, laughed, and gave me a refund to the card on the spot, thanking me for my patience.

  2. Sounds like a nightmare. Luckily for me, because I’m paranoid about getting my card skimmed (often the vendor doesn’t even know!), I use two accounts and move the cash required to my card account only when I’m about to spend it. Nobody is going to overcharge me because there’s nothing more to take in that account. Yes, it’s extra work. But it’s peace of mind.

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