“I feel like Starbucks is stealing money from me”

Question: I need your help with a problem I’m having with Starbucks. Over the years, I have regularly purchased Starbucks gift cards on eBay at a discount and simply transferred the balance to my loyalty card registered to my Starbucks account.

I recently discovered a website called Raise.com that was selling Starbucks gift cards at a 20 percent discount, so I purchased about $1,600 worth of cards from the company. I thought these could not only be used by my family and me, but would be great gifts for coworkers.

Realizing that I bought these from a third party, I tried to protected myself by transferring the balances to cards registered to my Starbucks account.

Two weeks later, Starbucks froze my account without notifying me. I called them and asked why they froze my account and they said that a few of the gift cards I had purchased had a chargeback placed on them by the bank, and they had traced the cards to my account and froze my entire account. That included funds from gift cards that I had received for my birthday and had purchased.

It turned out that four of the cards I had bought from Raise — about $1,200 worth — and one from eBay had gone bad. I’m guessing they were purchased fraudulently. I received a refund for all those cards from both parties.

Here’s my problem: Prior to this unfortunate incident, I had $444 of funds in my account. Starbucks is refusing to unfreeze those funds. They insist that I must send them a copy of a credit card statement or store receipt in order to receive it.

I told them that it is totally unreasonable to ask for that, especially when I received some of these cards from friends and colleagues, not to mention it being a privacy issue to obtain a friend’s credit card statement and send it to them. They told me that unless I send these documents to them, they refuse to refund the balance of my account after these bad cards are deducted.

I feel like Starbucks is stealing money from me. In no part of their terms of service do they prohibit purchases from third party vendors, and I have done nothing wrong. I would appreciate it if you could help in some way. I have spent hours on the phone with them and have reached a dead end. — Peter Volpe, Chicago

Answer: You’re right, Starbucks doesn’t specifically forbid buying cards from third parties in its My Starbucks Rewards terms and conditions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean what you did was correct or that the company’s actions were unwarranted.

Scroll to the end of the terms, and you’ll see a line that says the company “reserves the right to terminate your account and/or your participation in My Starbucks Rewards if Starbucks determines in its sole discretion that you have violated these Terms of Use, or that the use of your account is unauthorized, fraudulent or otherwise unlawful.”

In other words, the fact that you had purchased these cards was enough reason for Starbucks to close your account.

I contacted Starbucks to get a few details of this dispute. Let’s just say it was a long conversation. The company is well aware of your case, and a spokeswoman told me these scammy card purchases are a problem with other customers, too.

Here’s how the deception works: A thief will steal a credit card number and charge thousands of dollars worth of Starbucks credit to it, then resell it at a discount through a site like eBay. By the time the crime is discovered, the bad guys are long gone, leaving the cardholder or the site to sort things out.

My best advice? Avoid buying Starbucks credits — or any similar credits — through a third party website. They could be legit, but they may not be.

In my discussions with Starbucks, it became clear that you had a history of dealing with the company, and that the interactions haven’t always been positive. Starbucks released a statement that said it has been “in ongoing conversations” with you.

“We temporarily froze his account due to a number of cards that were found to be fraudulently loaded and subsequently transferred onto his Gold Card,” it added. “We have issued him a new Starbucks Gold Card and look forward to crediting his account once he is able to provide us with the necessary documentation verifying that his card was not fraudulently loaded.”

Starbucks’ position is that because a fraudulent card was used to make some of the purchases in your account, the entire account is suspect. It will only return your credits if you can prove them wrong.

According to its terms, it can do that.

Did Starbucks handle Peter Volpe's complaint correctly?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • dourdan

    this is yet another example of “we don’t need you as a customer.”

    Starbucks could easily credit him 444$ but it won’t. the OP has proved to be someone who likes to work the system (going to a random 3rd party site just to save a few bucks), so if they loose him as a customer, they will never have to deal with him again- and they are probably happy.

    they have bazillions of customers who do not try to cheat the system. so if he wants the credits back- yes he had to track down his friends and family who gave them as gifts- he needs to prove to Starbucks that he is worthy of being a customer. — otherwise he can get his coffee elsewhere.

  • EdB

    If none of the other cards have had a charge back, what is the problem? How would it be they are not legit? I understand taking the money back for the ones with the charge backs. But to hold back the rest? That doesn’t sound right.

  • dourdan

    they cannot trust that he did not try something else “sketchy” to get the other $444. and since they are the big corporations, -they makes the rules.

    PEETS coffee taste better anyway… lol

  • jpp42

    Yeah, I agree, Starbucks clearly doesn’t need this customer and is proving a point. Their business is selling drinks and food – the gift card / rewards stuff is a sideline to help that primary business – they aren’t a bank and no one legitimately needs $1200 worth of coffee credit on a gift card. This person could try suing Starbucks in small claims court, I guess, but may find there is an arbitration clause in the terms of the gift card account preventing this. I suppose there is a chance the court or arbitrator will find in favor of the customer. Regardless I think that the arbitrator or small claims court may be the only venue for this kind of dispute, not a consumer web site, because this is not normal consumer activity.

  • TonyA_says

    How to prove you have $444 in a coffee card to begin with?
    This is too incredible. I find it hard to believe what I am reading.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t drink coffee and I don’t go to Starbucks, but I call BS on the entire thing. I showed this to my husband who does drink coffee and goes to Starbucks every workday. His impression is that the entire thing is an elaborate fraud. No one has that much money on their Starbucks card. Mr. Volpe didn’t trust the 3rd party cards he’d purchased, so tried to dump the risk on to Starbucks? He was going to give gift cards to friends and colleagues?? But they’d bought *him* $444 worth of gift cards???

    Starbucks did the right thing.

  • y_p_w

    $1600? Wow. I don’t think I spend anywhere near that on coffee in three years. I brew at home and maybe average $5 worth of brewed coffee a week.

    Besides that, I’m thinking of getting gift cards at Costco. However, they’re smallish amounts that I don’t need to register.

  • PsyGuy

    I completely disagree, why should Starbucks get to keep $444 of the guys money, and not give him coffee, just keep the money. We have consumer protection laws, they aren’t called giant business protection laws. Starbucks thoughts based on some of the cards being fraudulent doesnt prove that the other CAS or previous balance are, and we live Ina. Of try based on proof and evidence which is the burden of Starbucks, not the customer.

  • Greg Paul

    This is a case of self-inflicted wounding if ever there was one. Buying questionable cards (even the purchaser of the cards admits he knew there was something potentially scammy going on when he quickly transferred his balances to a legitimate card) is NEVER a smart idea. So he contributed to his own loss. Having said that, Starbucks has given fair warning and made their point. They should cut him a check and send it with a written warning to stay on the straight and narrow from now on.

    Of course,if he COULD figure a way to send them in the documentation; that would put Starbucks in a poor position to continue withholding his money.

  • sirwired

    Wait, he bought them as “gifts”, but then “realized” he bought them from a third party, and then tried to “protect” himself by loading them all onto a single card?

    His complaint is nominally in English, but it makes no sense whatsoever.

    Starbucks made the right move by “firing” him as a customer. And I don’t blame them for wanting proof that the other $444 wasn’t also fraudulent (but simply hasn’t been caught.)

    Edit: Ah, another example of the Elliott.org Headline Reading Rule: If the headline contains quotes, and the quotes contain a word signifying an illegal action, nothing of the sort took place.

  • Kevin Mathews

    When $1200 of $1600 was fradulent, why wouldn’t they assume the rest is as well?
    My question is that IF starbucks can see that these were fradulent cards, why wouldn’t they also be able to detect any past cards that he loaded onto his account?
    Why would they need HIM to prove it?

    From a legal standpoint, when they loaded past cards on his account, it was incumbent upon them to check and verify the cards. Given that they caught the $1200 on the new cards, why wouldn’t assume that they would’ve caught any past transactions too? It should be incumbent upon Starbucks to prove his past cards are also invalid… not the other way around…I mean seriously, after you load a giftcard into an account and it successfully takes, how many people a) Hold onto the used giftcard or b) Still keep the receipt? My guess is very few…

  • Kevin Mathews

    I tend to agree that the entire thing sounds fishy…
    I mean seriously, who buys $1,600 in Starbucks Gift Cards at one time?
    Even if he is going to give them out as gifts, most people don’t tend to give more than $5-$10 to coworkers, so does he have 160 friends at work he’s going to give them to?
    To me, this sounds like it has Scam written all over it…

  • Kevin Mathews

    $400 on a coffee card I could buy into. If you are an avid Starbucks drinker, $400 could be a month of coffee…
    I know people in my office that have a cup on their way into work and go out at lunch and get one every single day. That’s at least $10/day…
    The $1600 is what I call BS on…

  • TonyA_says

    Lesson to everyone, use CASH :)

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m a loyal Starbucks customer and know the folks over there pretty well. But there were a lot of red flags on this story — on both sides.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    How true!

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe this could interest you. It got me hooked a long time ago.

  • Guest

    Just out of curiosity since you say you are a loyal Starbucks customer and the questions about the amounts, do you have an idea of how much a month you spend there? Is $1600 that out of line for some people?

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Ok … If the OP had bought a reasonable amount of gift cards, I’d have some sympathy for him but his whole story raises too many read flags for me. I know many Starbucks addicts. People that really need to visit Starbuck Anonymous. Even for them $1600 would be half a year’s worth of coffee. He then then bought them from a third party for pennies on the dollar. I’m sorry but this has scam written all over it. After finding out that the majority of the cards on the account were fraudulent, it would make sense for Starbucks to want proof of purchase for the rest.

  • Bill___A

    Although I think that Starbucks should be able to figure out which cards were fraudulent and which ones were not, they may not have the automation in place to do so. I do not condone the purchase of the gift cards from an obscure third party. I purchase credits or cards directly from Starbucks. No funny business from me and no funny business from them. Mr. Volpe was trying to get a 20% off deal and it surely looks like he has failed.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Jeanne, I never really liked coffee until I roasted my own (more than a decade ago).
    You can buy green beans (of different types from different regions) by the lb. and roast them to your desired level (called “city”).

    It’s a fantastic hobby, very rewarding. But when I developed vertigo last year, I had to switch to *green* tea (and not tell my doctor I am still taking some caffeine).

    I have turned on my whole family (including my old folks) into roasting their own coffee.

    Now I just visit them so I don’t need to roast my own :)

    No need to blow $$$ on burnt coffee from Starbucks.

    Great read here: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/11/george-howell-coffee-connection-starbucks/
    Tip: Want the best tasting coffee? Roast your own and use a Kona or Yama siphon.
    Absolute heaven !

  • BillCCC

    Looks like money laundering to me. Transferring from one card to another appears to be way to hide sketchy(!) transactions. He knew exactly what he was doing. If I was Starbucks I would just refund the original money, close the account and have no more to do with this customer.

  • http://www.jeffkolkerart.com Jeff Kolker

    It would appear that $444 is the cost of the lesson learned. But over time, if he bought cards at discounts he probably made that up previously. The whole deal seems weird.

    Perhaps he should invest in a good Keurig machine….

  • Meghan Guilford

    He says: “I feel like Starbucks is stealing money from me”
    Starbucks says: “I feel like Peter is scamming us”

    Big business will win. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the $444 was obtained legally, even through ebay gift cards. (I have sold gift cards on ebay before, they were given to me as gifts and bought legally before I sold them.)

    The problem is that once he found an amazing (scam) deal and jumped all over it, Starbucks lost all trust in him as a customer. And losing one customer isn’t going to hurt their business.

    Sorry Peter, move on. Save some money, improve your health; brew your own coffee drinks at home.

  • Casa Mariposa Panama

    It seems to me that this is a classic case of someone finding a way to take advantage of a system whereby a company offers gift cards for purchase as a means of assisting their primary business, which in this case is selling food and drink. In cases like this, I always go back to thinking in basic terms. Seems to me that Starbucks should adopt a policy that gift cards are only able to be purchased with cold hard cash at any of its three zillion locations. This way, all this credit card fraud potential is removed from the equation, and Starbucks cards are simply like cash for those people who choose to use them, or in the OP’s case, to give away as gifts. I believe Starbucks did the correct thing here, because it has a long history of “dialogue” with the OP. This suggests to me that there is a good chance the OP is a player, and I think Starbucks is correct in saying it will not play with him any longer. As an aside, some folks spend upwards of $400 a month on Starbucks coffee? Really? Is it that good?

  • l2y2

    I was in Costco a few weeks ago in California and noticed they sold Starbucks gift cards in a pack, at a discount. If you want to save money, buying them from a legitimate source keeps you on the straight and narrow. If you buy them from Costco, they have record of your purchase on your Costco card. He was involved in a scam and Starbuck’s has no way of knowing if the $444 was also part of a smaller scam job. I know Starbucks is expensive, but he went a little too far to save on his daily jolt. If he had $1600 to spend on the eBay scam cards, he should write off the $444 as a lesson learned.

  • KarlaKatz

    The OP tried to play the system, and Starbucks is well rid of him. Their loyalty program is designed to reward regular customers, and isn’t set up for gamblers. Say “ciao”, OP! And, try scamming someone else.

  • Tom_Blackwell

    Before becoming involved in a complex transaction like that, he should have called Starbucks customer service and discussed the proposal with them.

  • KarlaKatz

    I wonder how many times the OP has purchased the Brooklyn Bridge, and cried “fowl!”…?

  • MarkKelling

    Correct! Because, when I use a credit / gift card at Starbucks, it means I don’t have any change to give as a tip. I’m sure this disappoints the workers there.

  • adventurebaby

    I knew this was a scammer the second he said he quickly purchased $1600 worth of Starbucks credit. Nobody in his right mind would purchase that amount for coffee credits. It just screams scam. Good going Chris on uncovering the true story.

  • MarkKelling

    I think Starbucks did the right thing in this case. While the remaining ~ $400 is possibly from valid gift card purchases, that doesn’t mean there were not previous funds on the card which were from fraudulent transactions that were used and just not caught in time. Especially since this OP has a “history” with the company.

    On a good week (for Starbucks) I will spend $50 on their products. That includes coffee and a breakfast item and then an afternoon coffee daily. I am “lucky” enough to be able to see two separate Starbucks out of my office window so it makes it way too easy to walk over when I need to get away from the office for a bit. Most weeks I spend a lot less than $20. Still unless this guy has a real addiction and lives at his Starbucks, I don’t understand why anyone would want to keep anywhere near that much of a credit balance on their card, or even why they would buy that much in advance. I feel a better approach would be to load the gift card funds to the main account as needed.

    I have received a lot of Starbucks gift cards lately in $5 & $10 amounts from various companies I deal with (utilities, credit card companions, etc.) for various things I signed up for like online billing and applied those to my registered card, but I have never gone over $100 available balance on my card. I have also purchased gift cards from friends and coworkers that they were not going to use, sometimes at face value and sometimes at a discount. I don’t see anything wrong with this, since the cards were purchased with good funds originally and what the recipient of the card chooses to do with it should be of no concern to Starbucks. I would be very leery of any resale company dealing in gift cards.

  • Simone

    I agree with PsyGuy.
    Yes, the OP Peter Volpe has done some sketchy buying, but those have been handled to the satisfaction of both Volpe and Starbucks. (and my guess is he’s not going to do it any more) But the $444. had been on Volpe’s account before all this happened and it’s not right of Starbucks to freeze his card when they know that it’s impossible to track down gift history.
    At the very least, Starbucks should have said they’d split the different and give Volpe $222. on his Starbucks account.
    I don’t like that Volpe has tried to scam the system, but then I don’t like that Starbucks has the right to freeze someone’s money in an existing account and then demand almost impossible proof to unlock it. Throughout the year I get plenty of Starbuck gift cards – but I’m not a huge fan of their coffee – so I often bundle my credits and give my college student niece $100. gift cards to use. Had someone given me a credit from a third party, which resulted in her losing all her credits, I’d be plenty angry. I’d never be able to trace all the people/companies that have given me the credits.

  • MarkKelling

    Since I discovered Kauai coffe on a recent trip to Hawaii, I have started brewing more at home too (although I do find the convenience of Starbucks hard to beat when I am running late to work). It beats anything else I have ever found – just use good water. When I brew my own, even using the expensive Kauai coffee and bottled water, I think I spend not more than $5 a week.

  • JenniferFinger

    Given that it had to “prove” that some $1200 of charges were fraudulent, it’s hard for me to blame Starbucks for not being willing to take chances with the other $444.

  • Iv

    Something about the OP smells bad and it ain’t the coffee! Starbucks did the right thing.

  • Dane Carpenter

    I’m curious of how much he paid for the $1200 worth of cards that were deemed fraudulent.

  • William_Leeper

    He should feel lucky. Depending on the state he lives in, he could have been charged with receiving stolen property. I know here property obtained by fraud and resold can get you in that mess even though you “bought” it.

  • $16635417

    Reminds me of the complaints people have on the frequent flyer accounts being frozen for fraudulent activity. Get caught breaking the rules once and everything earned is in jeopardy.

    Since he claimed he got his money back for the fraudulent purchases…perhaps Starbucks would accept that money to reload his card at $1 for $1 and unfreeze the $444.

  • emanon256

    Wow, I think the OP brought this on himself. Buying thousands of dollars worth of Starbucks cards from random third parties on various web sites? That is just asking for trouble.

    I always figured some of the cards on these sites would be fraudulent, so I steer clear. Having $1,200 of the $1,600 in cards be fraudulent, wow! Its even worse than I thought. Another case of the cheap coming out expensive. Trying to game the system to save a few bucks results in losing even more. Is it really worth wasting all this time to try and save some money that you may not even save?

    Seriously, why not invest the $1,600 in a nice mutual fund or CD if you have that kind of money to throw around. Putting it into a gift card account is a huge waste of money as it doesn’t earn interest and it looses value as inflation goes up.

    The fact that the OP has a history of problems with Starbucks makes me even more wary. I have spoken to them a few times over the years here and I have always found them to have some of the best customer service possible. I go there at least once a week (I know, bad habit and waste of money).

    I had to vote yes, if I had a history of problems with him, and he has $1,200 in fraudulent cards, I would have suspended his account too. If he has a problem with proving he made valid purchases, then he should have made valid purchases to begin with. I for one never have a balance on my gold card over $25 mainly because I would rather keep my money.

  • Marilyn P Daggett

    Some people just get too greedy! And I wonder with all of that ‘credit’ – even if he had credit from before – just how much of that would be gifted as he claims, or was he really planning on keeping it all for himself? That would buy an awful lot of coffee for one person. He should have quit while he was ahead.

  • Michael__K

    The OP says he regularly bought Starbucks gift cards on ebay at a discount. And a search on ebay reveals that there are dozens of Starbucks gift cards (values ranging from $5 to $500) for sale at a discount at this very moment.

    Would the OP’s ebay transaction confirmations be proof enough for Starbucks or not?

    If yes, why can’t the OP at least provide those?

    If not, then Starbucks is asking for something impossible in this situation. They should either take steps to kill this secondary market or they need to be able to sort out these transactions and distinguish the scammers from the victims themselves without asking for impossible to provide proof.

  • emanon256

    Also how do they know which money came from what when it was already pooled? Was the bad money spend already and valid money remains? Was it the reverse? That’s the problem with pooling money like that and why most accountants will simply freeze the whole account until they can get proof as to what is valid. (I speak as a former financial systems consultant).

    And I agree about Peets, but we don’t have them in in my neck of the woods :(

  • PsyGuy

    They aren’t asking for proof of the discounted cards, but the original balance which he claims were gift cards actually received from friends and family as gifts.

  • emanon256

    I have my card auto reload to $25 when the balance falls below $5. But I also only get a regular coffee, which usually runs me $2.10. But have met the people you are talking about :) They get the fancy drinks twice a day.

    I just don’t get why someone would pre-pay that much when they could keep their own money and pay as they go.

  • emanon256

    I’m shaking my fist at you Tony because I think you just got me hooked too!

  • Simone

    I gotta say this….and this has nothing to do with who’s right or wrong – Volpe or Starbucks.
    WHY are people saying to “brew your own” or “I don’t like Starbucks”.
    How do you feel those comments are relevant to the discussion at hand?
    I make my own cappuccino at home every morning. However, to those of you who suggest we “make our own” at home, are you now suggesting that perhaps we all go home in the middle of the afternoon to make another cup of coffee? Just how ridiculous is that? Many people commute an hour to work. (I’ll be back in two hours boss, I gotta go home and have a cup of coffee”) And now please, don’t the thermos lugging people chime in!
    I’m not a Starbucks fan, but years ago when there was one in my office building, I bought plenty of it. I couldn’t exactly tell my boss that I’d be walking 5 blocks to/from to buy a better/cheaper cup of coffee.
    Having a cup of coffee – even an overpriced one – with our friends, co-workers or by ourselves – is a centuries old tradition. Suggesting that we run home, or to another part of town, in the middle of the work day is just plain silly and irrelevant to whether Starbucks should give Volpe $444. credit.
    Maybe those of you who can’t stay focused aren’t drinking enough coffee! :)

  • emanon256
  • Nikki

    Must agree with Jeanne here. I used to be a Starbucks regular, and I know I didn’t spend that much on coffee unless it was around the holidays – a time when I was likely to drop some serious coin on gift cards and coffee bags to add to gift stockings.

    This one’s got “scam” written over it, under it, around it, behind it, in front of it… yeah, ya get the idea… lol I normally don’t agree with Starbucks for any number of reasons on a LOT of things – but this one, I do.

    Personally – the OP’s lesson?… Don’t play with someone that wrote the rules to the game. :D

  • emanon256

    Although I really want to roast my own now, in Starbucks defense, if you don’t get their house or pikes place blend, they do have some good coffee. They will brew an individual cup of any of their blends for the same price if you ask them. They used to have a Mexican Shade Grown coffee that was the best I think I have ever had! They also have a really good African blend available seasonally.

  • TonyA_says

    Once you taste your own roasted coffee, you will never go to StarBurnt again :-)

  • emanon256

    Where I live all of the Starbucks removed the tip jars, and some even put up signs saying not to tip. I asked one of the employees about it once and she told me they get paid well above minimum wage, so the local management decided to not allow tipping due to all the controversy they were having. I still tip when I go to a local coffee shop, but sadly the ones between my home and work are not open when I go in.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    $1,600 worth of coffee cards?! This isn’t just a First-World problem, it’s like a 1/10th of the top 1% in the First World problem. I don’t care if Starbucks keeps the OP’s $444 or not. Sometimes when you try to game the system, you end up getting played.

  • PsyGuy

    I really can’t believe with this group I’m hearing this. I know exactly what this guy did because I do the same thing. I don’t believe he bought the cards for friends as gifts, but it doesn’t really matter. He went onto eBay and bought $1,600 WORTH of Starbucks cards but he only paid about $.20 on the dollar so that $1600 really only cost $300. He also knows that this is at no risk, because if any of the cards turn up worthless he gets reimbursed (and he did) from Ebay or his credit card. While I wouldn’t be able to drink $1600 worth of coffee for some one who drinks a lot of Starbucks I know people that have one in the morning, one at lunch, and another if they stay late. That’s $20 a day and for someone like that being able to buy a year or 6 months worth of coffee ($1,600) for $300 is a very good deal, when you consider that for these people Starbucks is like toilet paper, your never going to “not” need toilet paper.

    What really disturbs me is that the majority of posters think Starbucks is entitled to enforce justice. Again, how does this company think they should be able to take his money and not give him coffee. If I gave any of you $400 for whatever service or product you sell, and you thought it was fishing or a scam you don’t just get to keep my money. You call the bank to investigate and then you call the police and report it, and then you turn over the money to the government to prosecute. You don’t just get to decide yourself because “you think” it’s ill gotten that your going to keep it as some sort of punishment or fine. That’s called fraud, its not the businesses decision to decide who is the rightful owner of the money, we have courts and law enforcement who carry out that process.

    This is nothing more then vigilante finance.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    In a case like this I think it is sort of on the customer to prove his/her legitimacy. The OP freely admits the large majority of the money involved was fraud of some sort. If the fraudulent cards were all still separate from the OP’s original card, then probably it gets sorted out and he keeps his money. But he tried laundering the fraudulent cards by transferring them onto his other card and now it’s almost impossible to tell what was legit and what wasn’t. Sometimes when you try and play the system, you’re the one who ends up getting played. Lesson to learn there.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    It’s WAY out of line.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Your “enforcing justice” is my “protecting themselves from further fraud.” These cards are essentially just like cash, so once the fraudulent amounts got transferred together with the rest, it’s awfully hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. Sort of like a big basket of counterfeit money with possibly a few real bills in there. I think it’s on the OP to definitively prove what is real and what isn’t. Plus, we’re only getting the OP’s word he had $444 on his own card prior. What if the dates of the cards make it appear his “real” card came along at precisely the same time as all the fraudulent ones? Is Starbucks just supposed to take his word?

  • TonyA_says

    You are one step closer to becoming a coffee geek. You care WHERE your coffee beans come from.
    Other than being able to select the beans, or the blend, or when to blend (before or after roasting), you have full control of how much you want to roast the bean. I lightly roast the best beans so I can smell or taste the floral bouquet.
    Most coffee shops burn the beans so they have batch consistency regardless. That is why micro roasting is better because you can control it to get exactly, or close to it, what you want.
    If I am spending hundreds of bucks a month on coffee, it better be perfect.
    Needless to say, I don’t spend anywhere close to a hundred bucks.
    Final tip, if you want excellent coffee by the cup, anywhere, anytime for as long as you can get clean hot 200 degrees water, then use a single serve drip coffee from UCC. They come in 8 origami looking drip containers in a box for less than 6 bucks. That comes out to 75 cents a cup. No way will that reach even $100 a month. Cheers!

  • cp

    Me too Tony. I have been roasting my own coffee for about 8 years and Sweet Marias is my “supplier”. My kids call me a coffee snob. Coffee is like wine, there are different aromas, flavors, nuances, etc. with each one. Once you actually taste fresh roasted coffee you will never go back. Great idea to share.

  • Scott

    Just commenting on the sheer amount loaded on the card and not whether Starbucks was/wasn’t corrected in how it handled this one:

    I feel like I’m going really over the edge if I load $50 on a rewards card. This guy had $1,600 loaded? Whoa.

  • TonyA_says

    I bet you don’t spend anywhere close to these guy’s habit and still enjoy the best coffee in the world!

  • Sanibel Syl

    Not being a coffee drinker and not frequenting Starbucks for anything, this story sounds so flaky I well understand Starbucks’ hesitancy to do “business” with the OP. The volume of purchases raises a big red flag for me, and the third party purchase makes the OP’s lament most questionable.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Now my husband says he wants one. Thanks a lot!

  • TonyA_says

    Try the UCC single drips I mentioned above. If you want mild get the BLUE ones. If you want a little stronger get the GREEN ones.
    The Japanese together with a few coffee heavyweights (like Starbucks) corner the bean markets.
    The problem with Starbucks is its BIGNESS is a weakness when it comes to roasting and serving.
    It can get away with this in America, because most people here do not care for coffee quality. It is just a waker-upper.

    Starbucks quality (or lack thereof) is nowhere near most of the Japanese (small) coffee houses.
    This is only my opinion.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t drink coffee or go to Starbucks either.

    Of course, the OP should probably have realized that a 20% discounted gift card was too good too be true. And he sort of did realize it based on his “I tried to protected myself by transferring the balances” comment.

    But is it so hard to see why a big-spending Starbucks customer (with friends and family who are big spenders too) would be eager to stockpile a big balance on a gift card if they could do that for 80 cents on the dollar? And is it so hard to see why people familiar with his habit would give him gift cards for his birthday? (Note the OP doesn’t claim that those gifts alone added up to $444)

    Based on the OP’s own account, we can see that he was foolish and greedy. But it bugs me that people feel the need to take the additional leap to smear him has a “fraudster.” Can’t rule anything out, but I don’t think most fraudsters would want Chris to publish their name.

  • TonyA_says

    They are following Japan. No tips.

  • TonyA_says

    I suggest the poll’s question read: Who is greedier? The OP or Starbucks?

  • emanon256

    Where can I find the single serve drip coffee from UCC? Google didn’t help. I am now intrigued!

    I used to have a travel/camping french press I carried around, but sadly it broke. It was a great product, but it was well used. It lasted far longer than I would have expected. Back in the day before I started traveling, I would buy my preferred beans and burr grind them every morning. I miss those days. Now that I am off the road again I wish I could resume, but not very easy with the baby.

  • emanon256

    I just tried eBay (out of curiosity, don’t want to buy a scam card) and some are going for $1,000+ Yikes!

  • Mel65

    Starbucks was correct to flag the fraudulent activity; however, in this country it’s “innocent until proven guilty” and even though Volpe sounds like an a$$, it’s wrong for Starbucks to say “since you were wrong about THESE, prove you weren’t wrong with THOSE cards, too.” They obviously have sophisticated methods in place to detect fraudulent activity, and it worked! So, they need to assume their measures would also have worked if the earlier points were fraudulent, as well and release the frozen points. I think there’s a good chance they WERE shady, but that’s not how we’re supposed to deal with things here. It’s really really hard to prove a negative, especially when it occurred over time. Unfreeze his points and maybe tell him that once they’re gone, he’s no longer a welcome member of the Starbucks rewards program.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I appreciate you giving the OP the benefit of the doubt. It’s great to see someone who consistently takes the side of the person writing in to Chris Elliott; your unbridled faith in humanity makes me take pause and look to see if I’m being overly critical.

    I brought my husband into the discussion because he goes to work with people that are big-spending Starbucks customers and because he himself doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary for paying $2.10 for funny-tasting water. (My own editorial slant on coffee.) My husband works in the financial services industry. Because of those 2 facts, I put a lot of weight on his opinion on this particular story. He says people don’t carry $2044 worth of credit on gift cards as that financial instrument is too easy to lose, either physically, because of company financial problems or because of changes in the rules. ($1600 purchased, $444 original balance.) Heck, the $444 original balance is way too high, even for a dedicated Starbucks customer. This smells to high heaven, and not of roasted coffee beans.

    We’ve seen other questionable transactions take place, where the parties have given Chris their full names, in order to claim a credit or discount where none existed. Mr. Volpe’s agreeing to having his name published isn’t a particular up or down for me.

  • Stephen0118

    I don’t like coffee in general, but I love their Frappucinos (java chip) and their iced tea. Because of the hours I work, I usually stop by and grab a Frappucino on my way home so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel.

  • y_p_w

    I think the key here is that the Starbucks Gold card is registered and can be used to consolidate other gift card balances into one account. And of course there are rewards – looks like one free for every twelve purchases. And a new card can be issued if the old one is lost, with the old one invalidated and the balance transferred to the new card.

    However, buying anything on eBay that’s not a “tangible item” should be the lesson here. Just don’t do it. I’ve seen retail store gift cards for restaurants rejected for not being activated. Gift cards can be traced back to stolen credit cards or chargebacks and canceled.

  • Stephen0118

    I have Starbucks load $25 to my account automatically from my Discover card as soon as the balance falls below $10.00.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Had a thought while I was composing a reply to Michael_K.

    If Mr. Volpe purchased $1600 worth of cards (at a discount) and added them on to his card, and he’s saying he had $444 worth of credit after Starbucks flagged the $1200 worth of fraudulent cards, I’m wondering if he started with $444 + $1600 = $2044, or if he started with $44 + $1600 = $1644 minus $1200 = $444. $44 makes a great deal more sense to me on a card, since gift cards are bought in small denominations and he’s a regular drinker, so that account would be regularly drawn upon.

    So, just wondering if Starbucks isn’t suspicious that if $1200/$1600 was bad, the other $400 was bad, and it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks gets dinged for it?

    Just supposition. Christopher Elliott, did Starbucks say whether the other $400 of the $1600 worth of gift cards that the OP bought were good? Did that make up part of the $444 balance? Because otherwise the math doesn’t work out.

  • y_p_w

    It was 80 cents on the dollar.

    It’s been possible to get that good a deal at Costco, although maybe not now since they have limited quantities and do sell out until they decide that they want to do it again.


  • y_p_w

    That’s a standard for criminal conviction in a court of law. Businesses aren’t subject to that. I once bought a fraudulent event ticket from a scalper and I was booted pretty quickly. Accounts can be frozen for any suspicion of fraudulent activity.

  • TonyA_says

    I buy mine from the Japanese stores in Hartsdale.
    Try your local Japanese store if there is one in Denver.
    Mitsuwa has Key coffee online.
    UCC is imported by JFC international.
    Note there is an expiry date in the back. My last batch has 01/25/2014.

  • y_p_w

    We have coffee at work. One coworker even keeps a French press on his desk. It is easy to brew your own.

  • y_p_w

    The piece says at a 20% discount.

  • emanon256

    You beat me to the criminal court statement :)

    Also to add, In civil court, where this case would fall should one party or the other sue, they would simply have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. In my book, purchasing cards from third party from random websites and/or eBay and quickly transferring the balance in case they were fraudulent, is evident enough that the OP was aware that he was doing something wrong.

  • emanon256

    Thanks, we do have a few, I have to go check it out. They are sort of far from me. I wonder if World Market would have them, one just opened by my house.

  • Owassonian

    The burden of the proof should be on Starbucks to prove the cards charged were wrong or frauds. Whatever happened to innocent till proven guilty? Yes, some of the cards looked suspicious and Starbucks found out which ones they were. OP is not asking a refund on those cards. It’s the remaining balance which he had from before, which Starbucks has not proved that it is fraudulent. It does not matter whether OP is a wholesale buyer of these cards or a one time buyer. If OP did not perform the the actual credit card theft and fraudulent purchase of Starbucks cards, there should not be any reason that he has to provide the receipts of purchases. I am positive he can track using ebay order history and/or paypal or credit card charge summary but the point is that he should not have to dig up these.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think you’re being a way too harsh on Starbucks. The OP loaded $1,200 of fraudulent cards onto his account. Yikes! If I were Starbucks, I’d be suspicious too. That’s a lot of fraudulent dough and the sheer volume / amount would make me think something’s fishy here. If I were Starbucks, I would be afraid that after unlocking the account, more of these come back fraudulent as the original victims of the credit card scam dispute their cards and more gift cards get charged back.

    The OP needs to take some serious responsibility here. Did he really think that buying $1,600 of Starbucks cards from some website at a 20% discount was legit? Any reasonable person would suspect that all is not right here. I will bet that in the next 60 days, the remaining $400.00 of cards not already deemed a total fraud are canceled. Remember people the post earlier this week about HolidayCars and how suggestions were made to dispute the credit card 150 days (or possibly much more) AFTER the card was charged? What’s Starbucks gong to do after this guy cashes out his account and the rest of the balance is disputed by the victims and the gift cards canceled?

    This is totally on the OP. It’s the old “too good to be true” story — nobody is selling $100 bills for $80 over the internet. The OP had to know this was slimy at best, and most likely a total fraud. But he went ahead and did it anyway, and now wants Starbucks to help him cover the loss. Really people, of the $444 the OP says is still on his account, $400 of it is part of this whole slimy scam (remember, he bought $1,600 worth and so far $1,200 has been charged back, leaving $400 pending dispute.) How much you wanna bet that $400 goes south in the next 90 days.

    As a goodwill gesture, Starbucks could put his account in ‘suspense’ for a year and if no more chargebacks come through, release it then.

  • TonyA_says

    The real sad part about this story is that most people have no clue where their money is going when they buy a cop of joe.
    Spend a few minutes learning about the coffee trade and how little money the farm worker makes picking up beans by hand on a hill or mountain.
    Unfortunately, we will talk about the greedy OP and the equally greedy company that kept his money more than the real folks that make coffee happen.
    Next time you drink coffee, please try to spread your wealth around a little more. Stop buying from large corporate stores.

  • TonyA_says

    NO, it (*buck$) is not THAT good.

    Panama (for me) grows some of the BEST coffee in the world.

    I try to buy Panamanian beans whenever I can.
    Read here http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.archive.new.php?country=Panama
    Are you in Panama?

  • y_p_w

    Starbucks knows what the balance is. I’m guessing that tracking down various gift cards and how they were purchased isn’t going to be easy if they came from various sources. Especially if some of those sources were eBay resellers.

  • TonyA_says

    Hmm. Since you are talking Finance, here is one more *questionable* topic – taxes.

    Over the past three years, Starbucks has reported
    no profit, and paid no income tax, on sales of 1.2 billion pounds in
    the UK. McDonald’s, by comparison, had a tax bill of over 80 million
    pounds on 3.6 billion pounds of UK sales. Kentucky Fried Chicken, part
    of Yum Brands Inc., the no. 3 global restaurant or cafe chain by market
    capitalization, incurred taxes of 36 million pounds on 1.1 billion
    pounds in UK sales, according to the accounts of their UK units.

    I wonder what else is roasting?

  • y_p_w

    There are some individual producers in various parts of the world that produce stellar coffee. Even Brazil (known as the king of low altitude/high yield/low flavor coffee) has some high altitude coffee plantations that produce high end coffee. I’ve even had some fine coffee from India. It’s just a matter of growing in areas suitable for it.

  • SusieRuby

    Woohoo man. Swim with the sharks and you will get bitten

  • Michael__K

    I take exception to your characterization of me (“someone who consistently takes the side of the person writing in to Chris Elliott”, “unbridled faith in humanity”).

    I call things as I see them and I don’t pile on when I have nothing to add. But what I see all too often (and I don’t mean to pick on you) is that it’s really easy and common for people to smear and disparage strangers who do things we’re sure we wouldn’t do ourselves. It’s a lot easier to grandstand and smear others (and implicitly elevate ourselves) when we can’t imagine ourselves in their shoes. And it must be comforting to believe that people get exactly what they deserve.

    FYI: physically losing the card is pretty much a non-issue based on Starbucks’ terms:

    If your Starbucks Card becomes lost, stolen or damaged, you should contact us immediately by calling 1-800-STARBUC. Your Starbucks Card balance is only protected from the point in time you notify us that your Starbucks Card is missing. We will freeze the remaining balance on your Starbucks Card at the time you notify us and will load that remaining balance on a replacement Starbucks Card.

    There are also laws protecting gift card balances from expiring:

    Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 815, §505/2SS(b)On or after January 1, 2008, no person shall sell a gift certificate that is subject to an expiration date earlier than five years after the date of issuance.

    And the OP wouldn’t have spent $1600. He would have spent $1280 to get $1600 worth of credit.

    But why should we let facts like these get in the way of what we want to believe?

  • TonyA_says

    There is no set rule for coffee other than it is highly variable and you better have a good cupper’s advise before you buy the beans. One year can be great and the next year trash.
    I have been roasting for almost 2 decades now, and can never get the same experience twice from the same farm.
    Added: IMO, That is why *buck$ burns the beans. Burnt beans taste the same no matter what batch it comes from.

  • Nigel Appleby

    So does Tim Horton’s

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sorry, thought I was being nice. You always stick up for the OP and are sometimes the lone voice of compassion in a particular thread. I thought that was commendable of you, to stick to your principles in the face of a majority not sharing your opinion.

    The other points:
    While Starbucks cards might be replaceable, many other gift cards are not. It was a general statement.

    Nebraska doesn’t have the same consumer protections on gift cards that you cite (from Illinois) above, so I’m going to generalize and say that gift cards aren’t protected in all jurisdictions.

    And I know that he didn’t spend $1600, but the balance on the Starbucks gift card increased by $1600. Starbucks took away $1200 of that balance. I’m unclear whether the OP let go of the $400 in credit from his online purchases or if it’s part of the $444 he’s claiming is due to him.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I gotta be honest, I was more than a little taken aback at someone buying $1600 worth of Starbucks credits. I get what he’s saying, they would make for great gifts, but $1600 worth? In one fell swoop? Who drinks that much coffee?

    I do feel Starbucks should take him back to his original $444 but I also see where they’re coming from. In my opinion, he’s exhibiting behavior that’s most likely proven in the past to be the work of the scammers themselves. All this changing credits from one card to another, then to another – man, it has my head spinning just thinking about it.

    I’m not sure this shouldn’t be taken as a lesson learned by the OP and that he move on. He could be opening up a giant can of worms he wouldn’t be comfortable opening.

  • TonyA_says
  • emanon256


  • LFH0

    It may be that Starbucks may be entitled close an account, but just as when a bank or stockbroker elects to close a customer’s account, the business does not then get to keep the value of the account that it elected to close. Imagine if that were not true, and whenever Starbucks needed cash it could arbitrarily close the accounts of some customers and confiscate the value thereof.

    “Freezing” the account value might be a good temporary measure to take if there is reasonable doubt as to the ownership of the value of the closed account, at least until a court is able to sort out the competing claims as to the proper owner of the account value. Here, however, I suspect that Starbucks has no proof that it has ownership of the $444 account value, and in that circumstance a court might award the account value to the customer (if only because in the absence of either party having proof, the customer had possession of the value).

    (I place the blame for creating this environment on Starbucks and all the other retail businesses which hawk “gift cards” which may not be returned for a cash refund. That failure to provide refunds has inspired the creation of websites in which such non-refundable cards may trade at a discount, so that the unlucky recipient of an unwanted gift card can take solace in receiving at least a fraction of the intended gift. But if these retailers permitted cash refunds on gift cards, the secondary markets would disappear.)

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I don’t think Jeanne’s comment was meant that way.

  • Michael__K

    I stick up for the OP when I think they are being smeared unfairly; not because I think the OP’s are always right. They most certainly aren’t.

    The OP is from Illinois so I cited Illinois law.

    But even in Nebraska, if there is no expiration date “clearly and conspicuously” present on the card when purchased, then the gift card holder is still protected.

    The article says he bought about $1600 worth of cards from Raise.com, and about $1200 worth of those cards were bad. Plus one eBay card (amount unknown) was bad. Apparently the remaining ~$400 in cards from Raise.com were “okay” as far as he knows. My reading is that he’s not pursuing that $400 because Raise.com reimbursed him for the full $1600.

  • emanon256

    The burden of the proof should be on Starbucks to prove the cards charged were wrong or frauds. Whatever happened to innocent till proven guilty?

    “Innocent Until proven Guilty” only applies in Criminal Court. That would be if the OP was arrested for a crime, and the state brought criminal charges against him. In civil court, where this case would fall should one party or the other sue, they would simply have to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. If the OP is claiming Starbucks wronged him, he would have to prove his case by showing evidence that they were legitimate cards. Therefore, in this case the burden of proof is legitimately on the OP.

    Also, the OP applied $1,600 in credit to his account, after Starbucks became aware that $1,200 worth of those cards has been charged back, they froze his account. The reaming $400 from that particular transaction, plus the prior balance from other transactions could still be charged back, as consumers have several months to charge them back, and then the process can take several months. So it makes sense for Starbucks to freeze the account unless the OP can prove they were legitimate cards. At this point in time, it would not be possible for Starbucks to prove what was fraudulent and what was not. Only the OP could prove what was legitimate.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Whatever happened to innocent till proven guilty?”

    A) It’s not a criminal trial
    B) The OP admits in the letter that most all of the cards were fraudulent, so he’s basically been proven guilty via confession. The only question is whether all his cards were fraudulent or if $444 was legit. And there seems to be nothing beyond his word to prove that. If this were your store, would YOU take him at his word?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Totally agree. Is this guy willing to sue over this and expose himself to questions about how he came to have all these fraudulent cards, how he tried shifting the amounts all around to get them onto his other card, etc.? Starbucks is basically daring him to do so, figuring he won’t have the nerve or the proof required to win.

  • MarkKelling

    They should be easily able to trace back the transfers, at least for some number of the cards. That’s how they found he had the bad ones transferred into his account. How far back does the audit trail go? That is the question we can’t answer. Starbucks probably built in only so many previous card transfers before the older ones roll off the list leaving only the newer ones. Most people only transfer a couple cards into their main account in a given time frame. How many cards made up the $1200? Probably more than the system can remember.

  • MarkKelling

    My closest one just relocated to a spot having a drive through. Their clear plastic tip container is proudly displayed outside the drive through window with a $5 bill glued inside it.

  • y_p_w

    Bank and securities accounts are heavily regulated industries and those account balances have a legal cash value.

    A gift card is more or less funny money. That’s why some pay full cash price while others pay a steep discount. That’s why sometimes I can pay $5 for a $10 gift card via Groupon (I’ve done that myself). That’s why they have a list of terms longer than the T&C for a bank account. That’s why a balance can be reduced if there’s a chargeback with respect to the original gift card purchase. They do in fact have terms that say that they can end it at any time.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t think it was a constant shuffling of credits. He got a SB rewards card which allows one to transfer gift card balances to a single account. However, it doesn’t sound as if doing do really washes that credit clean from whatever source it came from.

  • y_p_w

    Depends on the kind of gift card.

    I know there are the store type gift cards where the store has to activate them at the register, and where the store’s register system has to be able to communicate with the card issuer that the purchase has been made to activate them. The activation can even determine the amount to be added. Of course this can also be done at a Starbucks location.

    Then there are the ones at Costco where the purchaser has to go to a pickup area. I’ve never seen a Costco pickup clerk do anything more than mark down the type of gift card and quantity, then hand them to the purchaser. These are obviously live cards from the time they were delivered to Costco and not traceable back to any particular purchase of the card.

  • y_p_w

    They are consistent. Consistently burnt. Still – I was looking for coffee, found one, and figured they would be reliable if not spectacular.

    I used to work near Sweet Maria’s Coffee in Emeryville (before they moved to Oakland) and once picked up some coffee cups there. I think they’ve been one of the big names in home coffee roasting. It was a warehouse full of home roasting equipment.

  • emanon256

    Good point, I don’t think the Costco ones could ever be disputed if that is the case.

    I looked at Raise.com and all of the gift cards for sale were the electronic ones you buy at Starbucks.com and get a code that you enter into your phone app, or into an existing Starbucks gift card / rewards account on Starbucks website. The majority of the ones on eBay are the same. No actual physical gift card ever exists with these.

    I can see how easy it would be to buy one, sell the gift card number on-line, and then dispute the charge. Or just buy with a stolen credit card.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hi Michael. Just wanted to let you know that I didn’t downvote you on either comment. I’d appreciate it if others would not downvote you for misunderstanding me, if that’s why it’s happening.


  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you. I really do admire people who can defend people that they think are being smeared unfairly. It’s an act of bravery to go against public opinion (you wouldn’t know about that, would you? *wink*) and a positive character trait.

  • Donna Wilson

    Starbucks and every other organization needs us customers more than we need them. They should be respecting their customers privacy while also trying to convenience them in any way. The only real winners here in my mind are Ebay and Raise for their customer service and standing behind their return / satisfaction promise. In any marketplace, or any time you shop online, your taking a risk with what your buying, these problems are inevitable. However, it’s how willing the company is willing to go to please the customer. Thanks for sharing Raise, I’ve since found plenty of other great discounts on popular gift card brands that will help me save money on everyday shopping needs. I’m sorry about your problem with Starbucks, it sounds unfortunate, but Dunkin Donuts is better anyways. Starbucks is overrated, expensive and their employees are very snobby most times.

  • DavidYoung2

    Because the card was purchased with a stolen credit card, and the victim just hasn’t reported it yet or the dispute hasn’t been settled. But in the coming weeks, that $400 of ‘suspicious’ cards will also be charged back by the victim’s credit card company, thus invalidating the Starbucks gift cards. They’re not fraudulent ‘yet,’ but there’s a high likelihood of them becoming so once the original credit card fraud gets finalized.

  • fshaff

    Let me bring up something similar. I am a collector of US stamps, my hobby for many, many years. I often see ads in various stamp mags that offer discount postage (new, never used, bulk lots) for sale, sometimes for 20% less than face. These are legit offers, yet I don’t understand how they can do it. Personally, I have NEVER bought any of these. Ads state you can buy $100 face for $80 (or thereabouts). I guess bulk mailers can use them, but not me. All my stamps are in my album(s).

  • y_p_w

    I wasn’t sure what Raise.com did. I looked them up, and apparently they’re trying to be a marketplace for people who have received gift cards that they don’t want by selling them at a discount from their redemption value. However, this would also seem to be a means for credit card fraudsters to launder their purchases. The scam isn’t even all that new.


    As for Starbucks, their reloadable card T&C seems to give them a lot of leeway to determine what is or isn’t considered “fraud”. It appears that they’ve determined that the OP was essentially in receipt of “stolen property” and decided to freeze the account. They are actually within their rights to do so. I doubt they do this for the average customer, but apparently he was playing with fire, especially if he has a history trying to “clear things up” with his reloadable card.

  • y_p_w

    Yeah – I looked up Raise.com too. Apparently they’re trying to be a marketplace for unwanted gift cards. Just the perfect place to try and launder gift cards purchased with stolen credit card numbers.

  • TonyA_says

    Sweet! I have bought from Tom since the old store, then he moved to Ohio when the wife went to school then moved back to the Bay area. Super guy to deal with. Never let me down, ever. A real expert and great cupper. His reports are accurate and fair.

  • TonyA_says

    Strange. When I was commuting to Manhattan and Queens, I don’t remember they even precharged my ezpass close to $400. Tolls are more expensive than coffee, I believe.

  • Redduke

    Crime has victims. In this case the victim was the person who purchased fraudulent “tender”. That is; gift cards from a third party. To then try to pass that fraud onto another victim isn’t right either. If we buy a stolen TV and then try to sell it, that amounts to the same thing and is against the law. Starbucks made a business decision that they no longer wanted a relationship with this customer. Perfectly within their rights.

  • y_p_w

    Typically a retailer that wants to terminate a relationship with a customer will return anything prepaid. For example, suppose an attorney accepts a retainer from a client then declines to represent that client further. The attorney can’t choose to keep the unused portion of the retainer.

    However, the funds in this case are more or less funny money because it’s not really cash.

  • Michael__K

    Apologies for misreading what you were trying to say.

  • mythsayer

    Peets Coffee is freaking amazing! It is SO GOOD. That’s all :)

  • mythsayer

    My mom goes to Starbucks for several hours several times a week and probably spends around $10 each time she’s there. When I was driving into work, I probably bought mochas (so not just “coffee”) four times a week. They cost around $4ish (average depending on size). So… I probably spent at most $15 a week there… maybe $40 a month? And my mom probably spends $100 a month. And she literally sits there for two to three hours three to four days a week. Unless you’re buying coffee for an entire office every single day, there is no way in any world even $400 a month would be reasonable. Just the AMOUNT on the cards is unbelievable. That’s probably a year’s worth of Starbucks for an average person.

  • mythsayer

    UCC coffee is great, too. The Japanese really know how to make coffee! It’s super tasty!

  • mythsayer

    Oh and I can probably get you UCC coffee… there is a Japanese grocery store near me that I recently discovered. I miss Japan (I just got back from living there for three years), but this store had most things I like and I’m sure I could send you some if you want. You can email me if you like… my username at gmail.

  • mythsayer

    Yeah see… this is what I thing is weird, too. There is no reason to assume that the rest of the money is “fake” or whatever. The cards he loaded basically “bounced” (i.e. no good). If the rest of the money didn’t bounce then there is no reason to assume that it’s not valid money.

  • Ian Parrish

    I think there’s a lot more red flags on one side than the other. $1600 worth of discount gift cards is pretty bad. This sounds like the Starbucks version of a “mistake fare.” There’s something definitely fishy when you get this at a discount in a $1600 volume.

  • PsyGuy

    So if I understand correctly, if I assume this guy is a scammy fraudster, and this is $440 is stolen, then its appropriate for Starbucks a company, not affiliated with the judicial process to steal it, and keep the stolen funds?

  • Joe

    Starbucks is doing the OP a favor. Most of their “coffee” products are actually milk and sugar products with menial amounts of espresso. They charge exorbitant prices for the pleasure of drinking one’s way into a diabetic coma. It’s only a matter of time before the world falls out of love with the mermaid logo, and checks their bank account to find that they could be using that money to go out and live life, rather than sipping their way into bankruptcy. The CEO’s attitude toward customers and shareholders who don’t agree with their social agenda is even more reason to dump them.

  • Emanuel Levy

    I have had some issues with Starbucks in the past and they were always pleasant and helpful. I think this person brought the trouble on himself by being greedy.

  • Frank Windows

    My goodness, that’s a lot of coffee.

  • BMG4ME

    Usually if something looks too good to be true it is. If you want to get discounted Starbucks cards then use Groupon or other methods. Buying them on a site you’ve never heard of is just asking for trouble.

  • http://www.lipglossandabackpack.com/ LipglossandaBackpack

    I’m not allowed to run a coffee maker at work- I work in public service and we’ve been told that taxpayer dollars are not to go to running coffee makers, microwaves, toasters or mini-fridges for employee use. There is one coffee machine in the staff room- pay per cup- and it’s terrible. Running to Starbucks on my coffee break is the highly preferable option in my case.

  • y_p_w

    Just on a related note, I was looking up stuff on tickets for one of my local public transit agencies – Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). They’ve had issues with people buying tickets with stolen credit cards or credit card numbers, and do have the ability to cancel tickets purchased with such cards. Individual transactions always result in a ticket printed with a ticket machine code as well as the date purchased and a serial number. Since they have a record of all transactions, even adding value to obtain a new ticket won’t wipe the ability to trace a ticket to an original fraudulent source.


    In a similar vein to some of the discussion here, I buy a discount ticket that isn’t really all that traceable to the purchase. The tickets are active as soon as they are delivered to another transit agency.

  • DMN

    It’s typically a loss-leader type of thing – they want you to join their subscription club where they can charge you lots of money for not very valuable items and it’s a lot cheaper than buying mailing lists. In the long run, they make money but they lose $20 on the first sale.

  • Lolo

    What Starbucks did? To close the account without doing research or asking the cardholder? Starbucks does not do any correct action to protect their customers but to protect their own benefit. If they do care about their customers then they should at least start a case. Clearly, it’s not necessary to purchase Starbucks card, because they can close any suspected accounts. By doing this, Starbucks can get incredible benefits and steal much money from their loyal customer!

  • 2xmama

    I had the exact same thing happen to me. Except as far as I’m aware there is only one $500 Starbucks card that has bad funds on it purchased very recently from ebay. And Starbucks froze all money on two other cards to which I had transferred the balance of the “bad funds”. The money has been on my account for many months and as far as I was aware , there wasn’t any issue with those accounts. (I’ve been pregnant so haven’t been drinking Starbucks – the money has been there for at least six months.) I do make purchases from third parties, but I’m pretty darn sure those cards were purchased by starbucks by third party vendors (such as my local grocery store, my credit card rewards program, etc.).

    Additionally, Starbucks refuses to give me any information about my frozen accounts (the original bad card + the other 2 cards). So I can’t go back to try figure it out myself. After multiple conversations with several managers, they finally confirmed that the card purchased from ebay has fraudulent activity and refuse to give me any more information on any of the accounts. It took about 4 hours on the phone with Starbucks to just figure out this information.

    We drink a lot at Starbucks and therefore I purchase large dollar values in Starbucks gift cards pretty regularly. And by the way, I have seen discounted Starbucks cards through legitimate sources: Costco and my local grocery store.

    Obviously, I don’t expect any of the $500 in fraudulent charges to be credited to me. But it seems completely unfair to hold the rest. Especially, since that money has on a gift card either by me or someone in my family many months, if not a full year.

  • Nikki10481

    I work at a corporate office for a restaurant company and handle the gift card program. Firstly. We are not responsible for third party sellers. It’s an unfortunate downfall of discounted cards. Most turn out to be purchased fraudulently. And the only reason they are asking for receipts or statements is to be sure they release the correct amount that is rightfully yours. It’s a tough situation but we would have done the same.

  • dweick

    How did he “cheat the system”?

    He purchased gift cards in good faith from a legitimate seller and paid with good funds.

    Shouldn’t the burden be on Starbucks to assert and prove any of the remaining funds in his account were linked to fraudulent gift cards? They don’t seem to be making that accusation.

    There is a rule of law that goes something like this:
    If I steal a TV from a store and sell it the store has the right to recover the stolen goods
    if I pay for a TV with a bad check or a stolen credit card then the goods cannot be recovered from a buyer in good faith

    Starbucks is wrong

  • dweick


    Nobody needs $1200 worth of Starbucks credits? Did you just make that up?

    An average purchase at Starbucks is around $6, so that is about 9 months worth of coffee.

    Starbucks doesn’t need customers who spend hundreds of dollars on their coffee?

  • jfringer

    Look, I innocently bought a $200 Starbucks Gift Card from eBay (from a seller who had a 100% positive feedback rating) and transferred its balance to my Starbucks Gold Card. How was I supposed to know it would turn out to be fraudulent and Starbucks would close my account and confiscate my total balance, including the (non-3rd party) $152 that was on the Gold Card before the transfer? I didn’t know Starbucks had a strict “no 3rd party” gift card rule! So what if this guy had $444 in his account and wanted to add $1600 more? That’s not the issue. The issue is that Starbucks should be able to tell which funds are fraudulent, especially since I told them I bought the $200 gift card on eBay (and the seller is readily issuing a refund, implying he knows he’s guilty). I won’t buy any more eBay gift cards and I will do my best to prosecute the fraudulent seller, but Starbucks should not confiscate my VALID Gold Card balance because I was the victim of some crook. I’m also VERY disillusioned about buying things on eBay after this. I left that seller positive feedback right after I received his gift card. When I called eBay and told them I wanted to change my feedback to negative after I found out he ripped me off, they said, “Sorry, we can only change negative feedback to positive; not vice-versa.” That rule makes NO sense to me. How many other of that seller’s defrauded victims wanted to change their feedback but couldn’t? And how many of them wouldn’t have been victims had they seen more negative feedback? Bottom line: If this happened to you, you’d be a lot more sympathetic, especially considering Starbucks makes over 1000% profit on its cups of coffee/espresso, and it’s pushed most of the independent espresso shops out of business.

  • bodega3

    Sorry, but how stupid is it to buy that card in the first place? This isn’t Starbucks fault…strictly yours.

  • jfringer

    Oh, you must be so smart and have all the answers. You’ve never bought anything on eBay, and you’ve never been ripped off in any transaction? I’ve bought plenty of things on eBay, and never been ripped off like this, Mr. Wise Guy.

  • jfringer

    You know what I call stupid? Judgmental people who jump to conclusions, name-call, and put others down to build themselves up like a third-grader would.

  • bodega3

    Seriously? You bought a Starbucks card on ebay. Why? Was is offered for less than face value?

  • Bill___A

    I stand 100% behind Starbucks on this issue.

  • Lisa J

    He didn’t transfer the balance because he thought they could be fraudulent. He doesn’t explicitly say why, but I am in his shoes now, and I am going to be transferring the balance to my gold card for the purpose of so the original gift card holder can’t still use the gift card code to purchase things online.

  • MisterBill

    Maybe the seller got it at a discount. Maybe they cashed out credit card points on the gift card and wanted to turn it into cash. Are you an expert on purchasing gift cards? You do realize that there are ways to get gift cards at a discount sometimes, right?

  • bodega3

    I realize that you can get ripped off with these, do you?

  • bodega3

    So you learned a lesson…I would hope!

  • Latresha

    I think the Ebay Seller should be responsible for this transation. Just recently noticed that $200 was charged to my account from a hacker that hacked though a retail system and purchased gift cards from Starbuck Card. I don’t go to Starbuck nor drink coffee. I was able to get the amount credited back to my account in a timely fashion and the giftcards that were used balances where no longer going to be on the card. Individuals who purchase these gift cards to save a few dollars…. it’s really best to purchase the gift cards yourself. With that said, I feel it’s the Ebay Seller responsibility to refund the seller. However, it appears that the Ebay Seller are the ones who are scamming individuals.

  • Jan Do

    Starbucks doesn’t seem to have any actual proof of fraudulent use or activity. They just “claim” it is fraudulent. My office (an attorney) is dealing with this matter for one of our clients at the moment. An internet search shows that this type of theft BY STARBUCKS has gotten worse since 2013. They regularly claim fraud and take people’s money. I would suggest a class action suit or at the very least making a report to the AG’s office. Also, buy your coffee from the local coffee shop. It will be just as good a a lot less expensive! (Glad I don’t like coffee!)

  • Jan Do

    How do you or Starbutts know the cards were fraudulent. The only “claim” they have no proof. That is what they are doing to our client right now. The theft is there alright, but the thefts are being perpetrated by Starbutts.

  • zim312

    I bought plenty of starbucks (or other) giftcards thru Raise.com .. They were electronic delivery, and pretty fast.. I never saw 20% off,but I never bought over the $50 value cards, I did see 18% off quite often. It no longer seems to be the case, 9% off is the best they have for starbucks now, and its all $90 or higher value cards. 18% off $4 lattes and fraps doesn’t seem so impossible to me..

  • Jonathan Westerman

    This exact situation just happened to me today with Starbucks. Do not use Raise or other 3rd party companies to buy gift cards. Starbucks will freeze the entire account at their own determination. In my case, I had bought 10 gift cards over the past 6 months. Because one of the cards I bought was “fraudulent” they seized my entire account. Customer service won’t tell me which of the cards was bad yet they hold onto all of my funds – and not just the amount of the one card which was bad. There should be legal action as it is not a crime to seek out a good deal on a 3rd party website. As to the question why did he have 1200 on a coffee card? Maybe he travels for business or entertains clients? That is not a crime either.

  • bodega3

    Wish I could feel badly for you but I can’t.

  • Harry Hirsch

    No Starbucks is NOT wrong. Read the last part of the article again:

    “Starbucks’ position is that because a fraudulent card was used to make some of the purchases in your account, the entire account is suspect. It will only return your credits if you can prove them wrong.”
    You want to have an account with Starbucks, you accepted Starbuck’s Terms and Conditions.

  • Guest

    You are confused about something, namely there is nothing in Starbuck’s Terms and Conditions that say that.