Did Starbucks steal $167 from this woman?

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When Marianne Finnigan’s Starbucks cards are frozen, the fast-food retailer wipes out her store credit. Can it do that?

Question: I have been a Starbucks gold card member since 2008. I keep a large balance on my card. Recently, I purchased four discount Starbucks gift cards from Raise.com — $25 cards for $21 each.

I transferred their balances to my gold card and used the card for three days afterward. On the fourth day, when I pulled up to the drive-thru, I was told my card was frozen. I called Starbucks and was told their fraud department had questions about the source of some of my funds.

I called Raise and notified them of the problem. They found the bad card and gave me my money back on that one card. I called Starbucks and told them which card was bad. They still refused to unfreeze my card and told me I am out all the money.

Before I put the Raise cards on there, I had over $167 on the card. They can just keep my money? I told them which card was the problem and asked them to remove those funds and free up the rest of my card, but they refused. They said it was in the fine print.

I can’t believe they can keep $167 and I have no recourse. Can you help me? I have receipts and paperwork to back me up. — Marianne Finnigan, Tampa

Answer: Starbucks can’t just help itself to your money. But is it really your money?

Maybe, maybe not.

This isn’t the first Raise.com Starbucks case to cross my desk. The last one ended up with a polite but firm denial from Starbucks.

When you buy a card, you’re essentially getting store credit from Starbucks, but it’s governed by the fast-food company’s own terms and conditions.

I’m sure the lawyers made them do this, but here’s the line that allows Starbucks to keep your money: “We may suspend or terminate this agreement and revoke or limit any or all of the rights and privileges granted to you at any time without notice or liability.”

Now, in fairness to Starbucks, it says if it finds termination “without cause” it will refund or issue store credits equal to the balance held in your Starbucks card account less any amounts that you may owe the company.

The key phrase here is “without cause.”

Put differently, if Starbucks believes that you intentionally tried to game the system with a fraudulent card, it will take all of your money. Worse, you can’t sue them to get your money back — there’s an arbitration clause that keeps your lawyer out. How clever.

In reviewing your correspondence with Starbucks, I thought you had a solid case. Your only “crime,” it appears, was buying a discounted gift card through Raise.com. You weren’t trying to game the system, at least not from my perspective.

I contacted Starbucks on your behalf. After several requests to comment, it finally responded with a denial.

“While I’m not at liberty to divulge about the specifics of this customer’s individual account with you, I can assure you that our customer care team has taken her claims seriously, have investigated the matter and responded to the customer directly about this,” a representative said.

Perhaps I had missed some correspondence between Starbucks and you, so I circled back to find out if the company had indeed “responded to the customer directly about this.” Apparently not.

The lesson seems clear: Don’t buy Starbucks gift cards from a third party like Raise.com. Better yet, don’t buy them at all. You’re just giving the company an interest-free loan. And in the end, it can do whatever it wants with your money — even when it’s wrong.

Should Starbucks have confiscated all of Marianne Finnigan's credit?

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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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  • polexia_rogue

    “We may suspend or terminate this agreement and revoke or limit any or all of the rights and privileges granted to you at any time without notice or liability.”

    and as you said this is not the first story about someone who saw discounted starbucks cards and bought them.

    so… do not f–k with starbucks. in the giant block of text that people click “i agree” to they put in all the necessary legal language to take ALL your money.

    and if you want to claim “but I’m a long time, loyal customer!”- they’re STARBUCKS they have millions of long time loyal customers.

    write it off as a life lesson.

  • PsyGuy

    Really Chris, they HAVE to go to arbitration???

    I would strongly consider taking them to small claims court. The following is taken from said clause (http://www.starbucks.com/card/card-terms-and-conditions).

    “…your use of the Starbucks Card (whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation or any other legal theory) will be resolved by binding arbitration except that (a) you may take claims to small claims court if they qualify for hearing by such a court,…”

  • jpp42

    I’m pretty confused. What exactly did she do that was thought to be fraudulent? There is mention of one card with a “problem” – what precisely was the problem?

  • FQTVLR

    Why would anyone keep that large a balance on a Starbuck’s card?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would advise the OP to sue in small claims court. The legal argument would be unconscionability. Unlike the Twilight Zone world of travel, Starbucks has to abide by the laws of the state.

    There is a maxim in law, specifically, the law abhors a forfeiture

    If for no other reason, it would be fun to watch the Starbucks representative argue that it has the right to confiscate credit which was purchased with real American money.

  • Jim

    I would be surprised if they even show up for the hearing. Get the judgment and then have the sheriff (depending on how you state does it) seize the espresso machine and you’ll never have to go back again!

  • PsyGuy

    Coffee is expensive, lots of venti sized coffee with steamed milk, caramel, double shots of syrup, and whip is more expensive.

  • PsyGuy

    The card with the problem was purchased fraudulently with a stolen, or reported stolen credit/debit card, then sold at a discount on Raise. You steal credit card, which you cant use at an ATM (no PIN), and banks (or other financial service merchants) will ask for lots of ID to do a cash advance, so what do you do? You buy 20 $25 starbucks cards either online or at a retail store with lazy cashiers. and sell them online for $21 each in real money. That’s $420 in real money you just got (minus transaction/sale fees). So what happened is the card was reported stolen, and after refunding the credit card holders money, Starbucks blocks or flags the Ecertificate number on the back of the cards as invalid, someone tries to load the value using that Ecertificate and it doesn’t work, and alerts Starbucks that the person owning that card who tried to transfer the balance from the “bad card” is, they block that persons Starbucks account.

    The view of starbucks is this, would you give me $25, if I agreed to give you $21? Why would anyone pay more for less, you wouldn’t, unless the $25 wasn’t legal or legitimate. Such as stolen money you need to launder, or any other type of stolen property that’s “hot”. Starbucks view is that any deal like that you should know is too good to be legitimate or legal. Simply put, Starbucks believes you knowingly or should have known that you were buying stolen gift cards.

  • PsyGuy

    Why take the espresso machine? Those things are valued at over $1000, and you would have to auction/sell it and return whatever amount over the judgment you obtained. Far better to just have the Sheriff or deputy go in and do a pull on the till. Wouldn’t even happen anyway, Starbucks would just settle, and cut you a check for the damages and court costs.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I am on my second cup of espresso (not Starbucks) this morning. Good coffee is not cheap.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I asked both Starbucks and the customer, and they would not offer any details beyond what we know. I can only report what I know.

  • PsyGuy

    Neither is bad coffee.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Truer words were never spoken. Something discovered on my long drives through flyover country.

  • PsyGuy

    It’s called “fly”over country for a reason.

  • TonyA_says

    She really got roasted at Starburns. Is this crap legal?

  • DChamp56

    Curious why you didn’t suggest she try contacting Raise.com about the bad card?

  • John Baker

    I’m going to get blasted for this but …. I don’t necessarily disagree with Starbucks here. There are so many red flags that the LW may potentially be up to something nefarious. First, she carries an inordinately large balance. I love my coffee too but my balance is never above $30 on any card and that’s only when I reload it. Second, she admits to purchasing cards from a site that is known to traffic in stolen goods and, in fact, she purchased stolen goods from the site. If anyone tries to sell me a $20 bill for $15, I’m probably not taking the deal simply because something isn’t right. Gift cards are same as cash so an exceptional markdown should cause you to question the source (Yes, my local Costco sells gift cards at less than face value but … its always less than 5% and Costco is a business not a guy on the street).

    Ultimately, I think Starbucks should have invalidated that large upload instead of all of her funds but I can understand why they might question the source of her funds given that she’s admitted to receiving stolen goods.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I contacted Raise on her behalf, but it didn’t respond.

  • FQTVLR

    I do not drink coffee at all and have no idea of price. Still $167 on a Starbucks card seems a bit too much…

  • John Baker

    @carverclarkfarrow:disqus I really think this would be an interesting case in front of the courts. One one side you have the gift card laws that most states now have and on the other you have someone who accepted stolen goods and then took steps to make it harder to separate that value. Sounds a lot like this case http://elliott.org/problem-solved/i-feel-like-starbucks-is-stealing-money-from-me/ .
    I think Starbucks argument is going to revolve around your last statement… Is what was in her account really purchased with real American money or fraudulently obtained and at one point does someone bear some responsibility for purchasing goods from a source that is known to traffic stolen goods.

  • Don Spilky

    Very well written and described. Well done!

  • Don Spilky

    I wonder if her $167 balance was from purchases from OTHER “fencing” type sites? I buy from sbucks daily, but I never keep more than $30 on my card.

    To all those saying the deal was too good to be true.. I load up on those Starbucks groupons “$10 card for $5” a MUCH better deal than the OP received. Should I now worry that Starbucks will freeze MY card?

  • VoR61

    This reminds me of the teacher who gives students a “zero” for not writing their names on the paper. Fairer I think to deduct some points rather than void their entire effort.

    Same applies to Starbucks. If they want to penalize someone for purchasing points that turn out to be bad, take away those points and leave the rest. After all, they (the valid points) were a legitimate purchase at one time.

    And the result is good for all. Customer is out only the money they spent on a calculated risk, and Starbucks doesn’t get a black eye.

  • BillCCC

    I agree with Starbucks. The only way to stop this type of fraud is to start cancelling cards. I am willing to bet that the other 3 cards also turned out to be bad.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    While I have to agree that $167 is a large balance, I can see how someone might sell a gift card for less than full value. I don’t drink coffee, but received an “egift” of $20 in starbucks money from a very reputable company. If I could sell the egift for $18, I probably would, since I’d rather have the money than $20 in coffee credit (Instead, I’ll probably give it to my coffee drinking niece). Further, my kids still get gift cards from various businesses all the time, from aunts and uncles for their birthdays, holidays, etc., when cash would be better. Some (like Amazon), we can convert for them, but others, (like Starbucks), we also have no use for, and would be happy to sell them at a discount.

  • sirwired

    I don’t blame Starbucks here. I do believe they are trying to discourage people buying “discounted” gift cards from sketchy sources. Essentially they are saying: “We know at least part of your gift card balance was stolen; we don’t want to reward you by letting you keep the rest, some of which may ALSO have been stolen, and just not discovered. Instead, we’d prefer you buy your giftcards from less sketchy places.”

    Really, is it THAT common for people to end up with Starbucks gift cards they don’t want to use and can’t think of somebody to re-gift to? I could understand selling a gift card to a kitchen store if you don’t cook, or a local store where you’ve moved out of town, or a Home Improvement store if you live in the middle of Manhattan. But Starbucks is so ubiquitous and has such wide appeal, that I imagine that many of the “discounted” gift cards sold by resale places are indeed stolen.

  • VoR61

    Difficult to label this as “fraud”. Raise(.)com receives good scores at gift-card-exchange-review.toptenreviews(.)com/raise-review.html.

    This is not like buying out of Fast Eddy’s trunk.

  • MarkKelling

    She did. It is noted in the article. Raise refunded the money for the one card identified a fraudulent as stated in the article.

  • MarkKelling

    By doing what Starbucks did in this case it sends a message to others tempted to buy discounted cards from sketchy sources. And that message is : Don’t do it!

  • VoR61

    I can think of many reasons:

    1. Death or divorce. Spouse drank coffee – I didn’t.
    2. Move to a location where nearest Starbucks is too far away for me to use.
    3. Quit drinking coffee, and not interested in their other offerings
    4. Got the gift card in a raffle – can’t use (I would fit this category)

  • Alan Gore

    What OP should have done is just used each Raise-purchased card by itself. If one turns out bad, then that’s life. Why did she go through the exercise of transferring each of the Raise card balances to one Starbucks card? This was probably flagged as suspicious all by itself.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t understand why anyone would want to keep that much money on their Starbucks account as any one time. Maybe if I had to buy coffee for the entire office every morning it would make sense, otherwise there is no reason. You can add funds at any time and they are available within minutes. I have a feeling that there may have been more going on with the money than was mentioned by the LW and more than just the one bad card was involved.

  • MarkKelling

    Your Starbucks card gets you “free” coffee and food. One free drink every 12 purchases, free refills of basic brewed coffee and tea, free food item on your birthday. So having the card is worth it for some people.

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah, crazy. It’s prepaying for coffee.

  • Alan Gore

    But didn’t the Corporate Supreme Court rule a few years ago that an arbitration clause in that clickthrough contract trumps the Constitution? There is that odd phrasing in the Starbucks contract that allows you to use small claims under certain circumstances. Would Starbucks have to agree to go to small claims?

  • VoR61

    So, if YOU bought a $100 Starbucks card (from them) and then added $25 from raise(.)com, you’d be okay if Starbucks cancelled all of it and kept your $100?

  • jpp42

    Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. Now I can see why the “customer” is beig pretty coy with Chris on this. It also explains why Starbucks is going to stay mum about it – they can’t publicly accuse the customer of being a fraud, and also don’t want to give away details of their fraud detection policies.

    Still it is a bit frustrating for the OP if she really is innocent and naive in all of this. Fortunately the $167 lost isn’t a fortune and can be written off as a lesson in why you shouldn’t get involved in things that resemble money laundering.

  • TonyA_says

    How would she know if the 4 cards were all good immediately after she bought them?

  • VoR61

    Exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sirwired

    I didn’t say it was impossible to end up with a Starbucks gift card you can’t use, just uncommon enough that I’m sure raise.com knows that a lot of their business in such common cards is stolen merchandise.

    And re-gifting is what most people do with one or two gift cards they cannot use…

  • E_Woman

    Starbucks sells many many products beyond coffee. Food, kitchen ware, teas, juices, plain bottled water. I find it hard to believe there is nothing in there you can’t use. Or you could regift it. Still seems like third party resale would be a last resort.

  • VoR61

    My wife likes Starbucks non-coffee products. For me, it’s a “druther”. If I had my druthers, I’d druther not. So no, Starbucks could fold and I’d be completely unaffected …

  • EvilEmpryss

    I’ve never been to Raise, but I have sold at good discounts gift cards I received from unthinking family members. I loathe Starbucks, so when I got a gift card for one for my birthday I put it on Craigslist. Sold a $25 card for $20 just to get some cash. It’s still a gamble on the buyer’s part, but those transaction do happen legitimately.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I am a Starbucks junkie but I don’t have a Gold Card because…why?

    Anyway, I was behind this dude who wanted 10 drinks rang up separately because he got more “Gold Points.” They need to suspend that guy’s card!!! Talk about rude and holding up the line.

    In this case, the OP has no case. Don’t use Raise dot com. It’s full of stolen cards. DUH. That’s why they are selling them at a discount.

    (Annoyed that this “has to be approved” if I use the link that is quoted in the story.)

  • VoR61

    Maybe. It seems you have to be at their Gold level …

    Gold

    Collect 30 Stars within 12 months and you’re at the Gold level. Once you reach Gold level, keep those benefits for another 12 months by earning another 30 Stars. With Gold level, you get all the Welcome and Green level benefits plus:

    Free Drink or Food Reward Every 12 Stars

  • Raven_Altosk

    I am a Starbucks junkie but I don’t have a Gold Card because…why?

    Anyway,
    I was behind this dude who wanted 10 drinks rang up separately because
    he got more “Gold Points.” They need to suspend that guy’s card!!! Talk
    about rude and holding up the line.

    In this case, the OP has no case. Don’t use Raise dot com. It’s full of stolen cards. DUH. That’s why they are selling them at a discount. It’s kind of like all of the crap you see at a flea market–probably stolen, maybe not, but is it worth it to take the chance?

    (Annoyed that this “has to be approved” if I use the link that is quoted in the story.)

  • EvilEmpryss

    I’m one of those people: No one I know likes Starbucks. Their coffee is always bitter and I can’t stand the smell in the place.

  • EvilEmpryss

    2. Move to a location where nearest Starbucks is too far away for me to use.

    Hold on to that gift card: I’m sure a SB will open near you before it expires. :-p

  • VoR61

    Very funny (the guy who wanted them rung up separately). Now THAT’S gaming the system!

  • Extramail

    I don’t understand the world of gift cards, period! I don’t give them and I don’t buy them. A credit card is so much easier to use with its legal protections. Or maybe I’m just old enough to not see any value in gift cards. The couple of times I have been given one, I always found them to be onerous to use. If you don’t spend the entire amount, then you have to keep track of exactly how much is on the card because the cashier has to enter an exact amount every time you go to make a purchase. As this person found out, Starbucks can take all of your money with seemingly little recourse. And, what happens if you lose the card? The money is gone again. Not for me – and I think Starbucks coffee doesn’t taste good enough to warrant their prices.

  • VoR61

    Me, I wouldn’t want to take the chance

  • VoR61

    Gift cards work well for us, as family is no close. They know what restaurants we frequent, and get us a moderate amount that normally covers 1-2 visits,

    Now, on some giveaways, yes, their cards could easily be useless …

  • TonyA_says

    Seems to me sbux has their ass backwards.
    Why not prevent and stop the purchase of gift cards using stolen credit cards upfront? Aren’t they in a controlling position to do this?

  • VoR61

    And I didn’t interpret your statement that way. But you asked “is it THAT common”, so I gave a few examples. I think it’s more common than you believe.

  • MarkKelling

    True. Because nothing is really “free.” ;-)

    But if you keep that much money on your card you must really like coffee and probably have no difficulties collecting stars.

  • MarkKelling

    No. I would not be OK with it. But then I would never do that so it can’t happen to me. :-)

  • VoR61

    When it’s your money you say no, but when it’s others’ you are in favor. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm …

  • MarkKelling

    You can buy Starbucks gift card almost everywhere (at Starbucks, from grocery stores, gas stations, anywhere that sells gift cards pretty much). As long as the selling merchant receives an approval on the credit card transaction at time of purchase they activate the gift cards (not just Starbucks, but any cards that are sold) and the purchaser goes on his way. The credit card company doesn’t know the credit card was stolen until the actual owner reports it and the selling merchant will not activate a gift card without an actual approval from the card issuer. Sure, some transactions are caught and denied before the stolen card is reported stolen, but only if those transactions are way out of the normal purchasing habits of the card holder.

    When gift cards first became so popular, you had to buy them with cash. Short of going back to that and disallowing credit cards as the funding method for those purchases, how can any gift card merchant know their funds are 100% real and not fraudulent.

  • TonyA_says

    That’s the risk the vendor must be willing to take if they accept credit cards.

  • TonyA_says

    No, that’s a stupid system. Apparently a star is earned for each swipe of the card. Therefore they are rewarding card swipes. Duh.

  • MarkKelling

    In the specific example from this article, and the previous one noted that Mr Elliott also covered, there has to be more going on than either the LW or Starbucks is admitting. We don’t know what those things are. Maybe these persons have a history of purchasing fraudulent cards. Could be any number of things that caused Starbucks to take the action they did.

    I would only load one card at a time into my account. So I would use up most of that $100 before adding the $25 in and would not be out more than a few dollars. There is no urgency to load Starbucks gift cards into your account because the funds do not expire so I’m not sure why anyone would keep so much in their account.

    I’m just saying that since I would not do anything that would cause my Starbucks account to contain any fraudulently obtained funds, I would not experience this issue. And neither would anyone else not using fraudulently obtained gift cards.

  • VoR61

    “fraudulently obtained gift cards” is assuming facts not in evidence. I found one gift card site that reviews raise(.)com positively. It’s logical for someone to believe that they are a legitimate site.

    So the issue for me remains: why take away ANY legitimately obtained amount? Carver spoke to this earlier.

  • mdy2k1

    Nice post, but there are several legit reasons to sell a $25 card for $20. If you were given the gift card as a gift, bought it with points or through a special promotion.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There are innumerable ways to get around an arbitration contract. For example, if memory serves, if you are attacking the validity of the contract, as opposed to a party’s nonperformance, you can do an end run around an arbitration clause. That’s the scenario here. The LW would be arguing that the contract should not apply to her because its unconscionable.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Need to have a lot more caffeine (and not from Starbucks) before I can make a reasonably intelligent comment today. I’m wondering about the large previous balance of $167, but Starbucks gift cards seem to be ubiquitous offerings – on Facebook, as a gift for someone celebrating a birthday or anniversary, at the grocery store, at Costco, etc. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the OP’s friends and family know that she’s a Starbucks junkie, and so has been inundated with gift cards, all legitimate, that went on to her account.

    But geez, adding even more credit to the balance at that point just seems off, even given the 16% discount. Seems like another life event (birthday, anniversary, holiday) would come up and the same folks that gave gift cards last time might do it again.

    I wonder what the average Starbucks gold card balance is, just for the sake of perspective.

  • Sherry

    Here are my thoughts on why she would have loaded so much to her card at once. If you are buying gift cards at a discount site like the one mentioned, then someone had to input that card number into the site. What is to stop that person from then going and listing the same card with another site? Maybe she quickly loaded the cards so that the funds would be immediately on her account and couldn’t be applied elsewhere.

    While I know that doesn’t explain the need to purchase so many gift cards at once, it could explain loading them immediately.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s fine. But let’s think this one step further. The end result of this scenario is that Starbucks has benefited $167 because of its suspicion that the LW was involved in activities which are against its policy.

    You cannot invalidate the transaction and keep the proceeds. You have to return the consideration paid by the other party and undo the transaction.

    Whatever sketchy business the lw might have been up to, she should still get her money back.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Where did she admit to receiving stolen goods? I do not see that.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The OP gets excited knowing that the $167 only cost them $100 (or whatever). It’s like they’re getting coffee on sale. The fact they’ve tied up a large amount of money probably never even occurs to them. Or they know some of these deals are shady. Take your pick.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Let’s have a little cross-examination fun. The scenario

    John Smith buys $100 on his gift card. The money is beyond reproach, clean as a whistle.

    John then uploads $25 from questionable sources.

    How much should Starbucks be allowed to invalidate.

  • andi330

    Actually, if you practice envelope budgeting, putting a month’s worth of coffee money on your card at a time is a good practice. Say I know I spend $100 on coffee every month. Envelope budgeting basically means that I take my whole paycheck, put it in cash and then put it in envelopes that I put in my wallet to carry with me. When I buy something, I take the money out of the appropriate envelope. This has gotten harder as we have moved toward a cashless society, and also many people don’t want to carry all that cash around with them, particularly if they get paid by the month. So the opportunity to use gift cards is great for envelope budgeters. You load your starbucks card with your monthly coffee allowance and once it’s gone, you have no more coffee for the month. You can do the same with the grocery store and other places. This has gotten especially easier as companies have started to create reloadable cards that have some protection. If you lose your starbucks card that you have registered, or it is stolen, if you report it you don’t lose your money. Before these kinds of protections were available for some gift cards, I absolutely would never have touched them.

    Raise was founded to allow people who say, unthinkingly bought a gift card and then decided they didn’t like anything it could be used for, or people who got gift cards they would never use, a way to get some money out of it. For example, teachers get tons of Starbucks cards. Parents assume that all teachers drink lots of coffee, and also many of them go to Starbucks themselves, so it’s a quick easy gift for teacher appreciation week or the end of the year. But I don’t drink coffee, or really go to starbucks at all, so for me, it would be a great deal to sell a $20 gift card for $15.

    Unfortunately, it has opened up avenues for credit card thieves to make a quick buck. If you are going to purchase a card from this or similar sites, you need to recognize that you are taking a risk, and also don’t transfer the balance to your main card. I know why that is tempting. You get awards for using that main card, but you also run the risk of having your balance confiscated if Starbucks determines that you bought a stolen card.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Any gift card that was purchased fraudulently should be cancelled. But I would point out that in those cases, the vendor is ultimately not paid by the credit card company, thus the vendor does not have a windfall. In this case, the vendor, Starbucks appears to have benefited by $167. That’s the big issue.

  • JH

    Why would anyone buy themselves a card like that? Those are to give others. Just pay the few bucks each time you get an over-priced cup of coffee.We’re card nuts, it seems. I see people using credit/debit cards in the market for $10 worth of groceries. Well, maybe they are collecting those all-important “points.” But otherwise, carry cash and there can’t be any mix up after the sale.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s an article about the real Starbucks scam.
    Excellent read.
    gigaom dot com/2013/08/07/how-scammers-drained-1700-from-my-bank-account-using-starbucks-cards/

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have a slew of Starbucks gifts cards sitting in my desk at the office. I get them all the time and I don’t particularly care for SB coffee. Much like the change in my desk, I would resolve them in batches. When my change jar gets full, I take it to the bank. Similarly, were I to sell my Starbucks cards, I would sell them all at once.

    I disagree that regifting is what most people do. I think they sit in people’s desk for a loooong time. I have a 10 year old gift card there.

  • John Baker

    As I read her narrative, one of her cards was obtained fraudulently. Raise refunded her money and then she called Starbucks to tell them that.

    In OH, purchasing a fraudulently obtained gift card is receipt of stolen goods (although I’ve never heard of someone being prosecuted for it)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why?

    If you have a $25 gift card and can sell it for say $10. Why not? The alternatives

    1. Sell it for $10
    2. Buy crap you don’t want
    3. Give it away and lose the $10

  • John Baker

    @carverclarkfarrow:disqus Going back and reading the last time Chris dealt with this, it appears that Starbucks policy is that they will release the funds if you can prove that you obtained them legally. In her case where she purchased them through third parties where one was already shown to have “issues” on the legal front, I’m not sure if she’d be able to do that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s hard to take yourself out of what you do and see why other’s may do something different. My college roommate used to buy $100 in quarters for laundry at one time. I thought he was nuts. It just seemed strange to me until he pointed out that its not like they go bad. I would have to remember to buy a roll of quarters for laundry. He never had that issue.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Some stores give incentives to use their gifts cards. If I have $25.00 in cash I might do to any coffee shop. If I have a $25 gift card, I’m substantially more likely to shop at Starbucks. Accordingly, an incentive such as a discount can be mutually beneficial.

    My coworker loves starbucks. He goes twice a day. He has a card because it gives him whatever benefits.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The larger issue remains. Starbucks shouldn’t be able to double dip. Get paid for the card and not provide the service.

  • TonyA_says

    Seems to me Starbucks should know there is a big problem out there.
    whatsthatcharge dot com/STARBUCKS-CARD-RELOAD-800-782-7282-WA
    From what I can read, I’m thinking instead of tightening online reloads and gift card purchases, they have adopted these harsh seizure methods.
    I think the onus is on sbux to change to a safer reload policy.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That was Starbucks conclusion, which might be wrong. I don’t see where she admitted to it.

  • TonyA_says

    Money laundering? Ha?

  • John Baker

    But they’re argument will be that they weren’t paid for the initial gift card so they aren’t double dipping. If the LW can prove that she did pay for the cards, they will release the funds. I doubt she can since she paid third parties…

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hey! I know you’ve driven through my part of the world and it is often called “flyover country”. But for you to perpetuate that stereotype? Fbbblllllllttttt! {raspberry sound}

  • TonyA_says

    Starbucks Airlines, then everything plus more.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    That was what my husband called it in last year’s story. He’s not prone to exaggeration either, not even while fishing, so if it looks like a duck . . .

  • TonyA_says

    They can freeze the transactions related only to that purchase. I agree with you.
    But to invalidate and seize the whole account that loaded that questionable account is CONFISCATION without a trial.

  • bodega3

    I have a Starbucks Gold card. If you move the value of another SB card to the Gold c card, you get protection should your card get lost. I was just given a SB card as a gift and transferred those funds to my Gold one. The question you should ask is why she is buying discounted card online?

  • bodega3

    I love my Gold card. It is registered and my funds are protected if the card is lost or stolen. I earn free food and drink with it. The only negative is that these cards can only be used in the county the money was used to acquire it, so you can’t use it when traveling overseas.

  • TonyA_says

    I still have rolls of NYC Bridges and Tunnels Tokens used before EZ Pass came along.

  • bodega3

    Get a gift card, register it, add to it to continue using it and if you use it enough, even buying bags of coffee and submitting the Star code will earn you a Gold card.

  • TonyA_says

    Because they are cheaper

  • bodega3

    In college, once a month I would get ‘x’ amount of quarters and dimes and they went into a piggy bank. That was my laundry money. No other money was placed in that bank. I knew then that I always had money to do my laundry, no looking through change on the counter for it. I also took the bus to and from school, so I had a second bank for those quarters that I also got at the first of the month. It worked for me.

  • bodega3

    The money is protected as a Gold card is registered with SB.

  • bodega3

    Duh and stolen. You can register those cards, so SB would know that if the first owner reported it.

  • TonyA_says

    I love my cash more :)

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I was just thinking about using a starbucks card to buy coffee in Vienna airport. I guess it won’t work there?

  • TonyA_says

    Stolen points? No. I understand it is the credit or debit card that was used to acquire those points that were stolen. So even if you did register the card, sbux can claw it back later.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    If I go to a place often, I like the vendor card because it helps them to save money from individual swipe charges from the credit card company. They send special discounts to card holders. It’s a win-win.

    Behind the scenes, there’s a bit of a game going on where the company sells gift card credits to third parties such as Raise or Costco at a discount and they hope that they’ll get lost. Someone sends them as a birthday present and the kid loses the card or only uses a fraction of the credits before forgetting about it. It’s a game but we all play it. I like to go shopping for Christmas decorations on December 27th and candy on February 16th.

  • TonyA_says

    I think you need to read this facebook post.
    facebook dot com/Starbucks/posts/10152122204773057

    Thief hacked her Starbucks REWARD account which had her debit card linked to it. Thief was a reloading other cards and buying egifts using her SB account.
    Maybe SB front end security is not strong.
    That’s why we are hearing about these fiascos.

  • bodega3

    No it won’t work there.

  • bodega3

    No Tony. She bought cards, each with a value on them and she transferred the balance of each card to her Gold Card. You enter the number and code on the back of each card you wish to transfer, one at a time. She got caught loading a stolen card and SB is very clear on their program and I applaud them for doing what they did.

  • bodega3

    Only when they have a promotion going on.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Gift cards are seen by some to be more personal than giving cash. In some cases I agree with that, though some of the most-remembered gifts I ever got as a kid were from my aunt sending me crisp $5 bills in a card.

  • bodega3

    Doesn’t the government do something similar and freeze people’s account if they are involved with certain illegal activity?

  • TonyA_says

    Read this and then drink more coffee.
    jonathanstark dot com/card/

  • andi330

    Teachers get tons of Starbucks gift cards. My dad had a stockpile so big he used to buy one of the more expensive Keurig machines from their website, which is great because he does drink coffee, just not Starbucks coffee. And that was just from one year of student gifts on things like teacher appreciation day, Christmas and end of the year. But if he didn’t have any use at all for the cards, selling them on a website like this would be better than losing out on them all together, even if he didn’t get the full value.

  • bodega3

    But I get FREE coffee drinks with my card that cash doesn’t get me.

  • TonyA_says

    Where’s the dirty money and how is it getting cleaned? And, how is the LW the perpetuator?

  • MarkKelling

    She was in possession of fraudulently obtained merchandise she purchased from a third party even if she didn’t know it was fraudulently obtained. I think in most courts this would be enough to prove you are guilty..

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry but it is true.
    economist dot com/blogs/gulliver/2014/07/amtrak

  • andi330

    It could be either one. The company knows when one of their registered gift cards is stolen (if it is reported) and so it could be that. But they also know which card numbers were issued to which credit card transactions. So if a credit card owner reports their card stolen and disputes the charge for a starbucks card on their bill, starbucks will know which card was sold on that transaction and will flag it a fraudulent as well. Either way, the card was either purchased with a stolen card, or it was someone’s stolen gift card. Frankly, the stolen credit card is more likely because it was a flat $25 card. If it was someone’s stolen, registered gift card, unless they had just loaded $25 on it, the amount on the card would likely have been more random.

  • MarkKelling

    They should be allowed to revoke the $25. If you are able to prove the source of the other $100, which is spelled out in the rules, then you should not lose that amount. There is no indication that the LW made any attempt to do that.

  • Lindabator

    Stolen credit cards used for purchase – there’s the “dirty” money

  • MarkKelling

    Well, Raise bought “out of Fast Eddy’s trunk.”

    Raise might be a completely above board and honest company. We have nothing to indicate they are not. Since they immediately refunded the money to the LW when the one card was identified as fraudulently obtained, that does raise my impression of them.

    But that does not mean that all the customers offering their gift cards for sale on Raise are also fine upstanding citizens. In this case at least one was not. This is similar to a pawn shop that buys any type of merchandise from their customers. They require some sort of ID when they give you money, but nothing is stopping the person providing the ID from either using a fake one or pawning goods that are not his. If you then purchase the pawned item and it is later determined to have been stolen, you are out the item and the money you paid for it.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think the ‘life lesson’ here is that you don’t get anything for free. Really OP? You thought you could buy $25 worth of credit for a 20% discount and nothing seemed fishy to you? If I walked up and said, “will you buy this $20 bill for $16,” you wouldn’t think anything is amiss?

    This is all on the OP. Every bit of it. The OP got scammed by raise.com, not by Starbucks. Anybody who tries to buy what is essentially cash at a 20% discount either knows or should know it’s a scam.

  • MarkKelling

    Yes they do. The RICO statute allows for this. But that is the government, not a corporation

  • Lindabator

    Because of stories like this, just use them as “passthru” gifts — just regift to someone else who may very well enjoy them!

  • MarkKelling

    But he didn’t get the points all on one account. At least not if he would do that now. You are allowed one star per visit. A visit is defined as one purchase at one location within a couple hours. You can visit multiple locations within that time frame and will receive your stars for each.

    Of course if he brought everyone’s individual card and used each for the individual purchases, then they each got points.

  • bodega3

    I think we are addressing two situations, not one. The LW bought a bad card. How that card initially was purchased could have been purchased illegally or it could have been reported stolen. You don’t have to have a Gold card to register your gift cards.

  • MarkKelling

    I used my Starbucks card, bought in Denver CO, multiple times in England and Scotland last month. No problems at all. Also got a better exchange rate than I did on my Visa card.

    The card does not work elsewhere in Europe.

    I used my card in Toronto, Canada also recently. No questions asked.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Shadiness aside…

    $100 for $167 is excellent financial planning, especially if you will use all $167, Even if it took a year, wouldn’t you tie up your discretionary income in an investment that gave you 67% return.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Because it would look cool.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If Starbucks wasn’t paid for the initial gift card then I would support Starbucks cancelling the card. However, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. This came to the SB’s attention because of the LW’s action in loading multiple cards. Starbucks has not stated that cards 1-3 are fraudulent and that they were not paid. Card 4 perhaps.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No court would convict on those facts. All crimes, except for infractions, e.g. traffic tickets, require some level of knowledge by the accused. American law specifically forbids strict liability crimes, i.e. a crime in which your unwitting actions are sufficient to convict.

    For example, I was given a counterfeit $100 bill. Possession of counterfeit money is a crime. As I did not know it was a $100 bill, I was not in any legal jeopardy.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Again, let’s walk through this.

    Can you prove that all the money in your wallet was from legitimate sources? Of course not. That’s why the onus is on the accuser to prove the allegations made, not for the accused to prove innocence.

  • bodega3

    The T & C’s say they can terminate your account for certain reasons. It doesn’t say what they will do with any remaining funds. I guess if you play a game of buying cards at a lower value, you are taking a risk and know your account could be closed and you lose your fund. I am sure this will be fought in court at some time.

  • VoR61

    Agreed. And thus the onus is on Raise to resolve this, and Starbucks should just deduct that amount from the AP’s account, not zero it out!

  • SK

    I agree the funds may have come from a stolen card, but it may have just as well come from a customer who has received a Starbucks card as a gift and doesn’t intend to use it. So, why not get at least some of its value in cash.
    My point is, the OP has no way of knowing whether the funds she purchased were from a fraudulent or legit source. So I believe Starbucks shouldn’t be so harsh on her – unless she’s a repeat offender.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Best reason I can think of!

  • William_Leeper

    Hey now, this stuff down here is “cowboy coffee.” Feel really lucky if you got a cup without grounds in it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s why I say its unconscionable.

  • FQTVLR

    I lived in Omaha for 6 years with my spouse’s job. When we left I never looked back.

  • TonyA_says

    If the LW was doing the stealing or part of a conspiracy, sure she deserves having her account frozen. But from what I can surmise, the LW seems to be in a habit of reloading her registered account by transferring the balance of discounted SB GCs bought on the internet.
    I assume that when one of those transfers came from a gift card that was originally fradulently acquired, SB security looked further at her reloading history and saw she what she was doing.
    They did not like what they saw and they decided to play god because they gave themselves god like powers in the contract.
    While we can criticize the LW for stupidity, we can also criticize Starbucks for acting like a gestapo.
    If they cannot prove the rest of her balance is dirty, they should at least give her money back.

  • Emanuel Levy

    Raven, let me apologize on behalf of that person. I do have a Gold Starbucks card. And I do ask for individual ring up’s when I am buying more than one item but ONLY when there is no one behind me.

    If the OP used the Starbucks Mobile app she could have added each card to her account and kept them separate for spending but still get all the perks of gold.

  • Emanuel Levy

    Mark, you are incorrect. If I buy 3 items on my registered card and pay one at a time I get 3 stars.

  • TonyA_says

    I mean the LW. How is she involved in money laundering?

  • Raven_Altosk

    While coffee is a hot topic (pun intended), did any of y’all see the article on CNN about the AirBNB nightmare? Seems this lady rented her condo to two guys who are taking advantage of California’s very liberal squatting laws….

  • TonyA_says

    According to SB you get a star per transaction.
    So the customer who bought 10 cups wanted 10 transactions instead of one big transaction.

  • The Original Joe S

    I do it all the time, being forgetful. Just yesterday I took two quarters and a dime out of the washing machine….. They were nice and bright!

  • William_Leeper

    I get 3-4 Starbucks cards a year as gifts, and people give them to me because they know I like Starbucks. The problem is that the closest Starbucks to me is 70 miles away. I regift most of them, but I have sold some online too.

    On that note, most gift cards prohibit them from being resold unless you are an authorized retailer, so that could be part of the problem here. I have not looked at Starbucks terms and conditions.

  • FQTVLR

    She said the balance before the Raise cards was $167.00. So I wonder why Starbucks kept that amount.

  • flutiefan

    she wouldn’t offer any further details? sounds sketchy to me….

  • TonyA_says

    What reselling platform for gift cards do you or Starbucks for that matter consider non-sketchy?
    Without a way to recycle these unused cards, Starbucks would just have windfall profits from them.

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe she switched to dunkin donuts

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I thought you outlined it beautifully in one of your links earlier today. Thief steals credit card number. Thief buys something of value with stolen card number, then turns around and resells it to another individual. Now the thief has “clean” money. The buyer of stolen property enables the thief to clean the money. The OP genuinely be unaware of her role in that scheme and have only been looking for a great discount. She could have used the cards individually for their value. But by depositing the stolen goods into her own Gold account, she’s taken it a step further, made them “cleaner”.

    Again, she may have been totally unaware of her role in money laundering. Which is why I thought *this* time maybe Starbucks ought to give back the $167 that was originally in the account.

  • The Original Joe S

    That’s why I stopped using my debit card for most things. Put on credit card and transfer funds to it to pay off. Pay a few cents in interest to avoid difficulties.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’m sorry it was a bad experience for you. Really; there are some real drawbacks to around here. I grew up in Omaha, lived 2 years in Seattle and absolutely hated it and previously had lived 2 years near Minneapolis and hated it (different reasons), but both places are absolutely fantastic to visit. Millions of people live in those two metropolitan areas quite happily. So, what makes one person happy makes another person very unhappy, and I get that. I don’t get a blanket condemnation of thousands of square miles of people, geography and climate.

  • The Original Joe S

    Didja ever buy your Saeco Vienna Plus? (As I turn mine on for another belt of wake-up juice.)

  • ORguest

    While I’m no fan of Starbuck’s, would they really be this customer-unfriendly? I feel like the LW isn’t sharing a key point in her story.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I interpreted the sentence, “I have receipts and paperwork to back me up.” from the end of the OP’s letter to indicate that she have sufficient documentation on the $167 amount. It’s an interpretation, mind you.

  • y_p_w

    There’s good coffee, and then there’s Starbucks.

    Their claim to produce a top-quality coffee experience went out the door when they scrapped nearly all of their manual espresso machines in favor of super autos where the employee merely presses a button and cleans the machine at the end of the day.

    They use the term “barista”, but in the coffee world that should mean that the employee at least knows how to tamp the coffee and pull a decent shot using a manual machine.

  • MarkKelling

    You are lucky. :-)

    I have bought multiple items at a single store within a two hour window and have never received more than a single star. Maybe I am just unlucky.

  • y_p_w

    I buy discounted gift cards at Costco. I would never consolidate them because of the possibility that they could wipe out the entire amount should the retailer consider one of them invalid.

  • MarkKelling

    No. But neither can you prove that ALL the money in my wallet is from illegal activities. The government apparently does not have to prove that either when they confiscate all property found where a drug related crime occurs. And yes, a corporation is not the government so the confiscation rules the government follows should not be the same as those used by a corporation.

  • y_p_w

    The terms would have to be made clear. I’ve got a gift card in my wallet and it makes no such statement. It does in fact say it can’t be redeemed for cash unless required by law (that’s the case in California if it’s under $10). I could imagine buying these discounted cards (legitimately from Costco), using enough off of each to get under $10, and then asking for the cash back. I wouldn’t do it though.

  • MarkKelling

    But it doesn’t work so well when you launder you dollar bills. They come out all wet and wrinkly.

  • y_p_w

    I think if that option is taken, the marketplace company can verify that the balance is what it should be. So if it’s sold on raise.com, another marketplace will know the balance has been redeemed.

  • emanon256

    Like I always say, the cheap comes out expensive. When people try and wheel and deal on these shady websites to save a few bucks, they often get burned. The stupidest part was carrying such a high balance on a stores value card. I have a Starbucks gold card and never let it get above $25. I also only but credits from Starbucks. Almost everyone I know who used a scammy discount gift card side has been screwed one way or another by the cards.

  • y_p_w

    Not sure if this would be legal in California. Gift card (they’re legally interchangeable with gift certificates) balances are considered property of the “beneficiary”. I suppose the balance purchased with a fraudulently used credit card could be legally withheld, but to wipe away any other balance because it was consolidated wouldn’t seem to be legal. It would be like taking away my entire wallet because I had one counterfeit bill that was accepted in good faith as real.

    1749.6. (a) A gift certificate constitutes value held in trust by the issuer of the gift certificate on behalf of the beneficiary of the gift certificate. The value represented by the gift certificate belongs to the beneficiary, or to the legal representative of the beneficiary to the extent provided by law, and not to the issuer.

  • MarkKelling

    Mere possession of the counterfeit $100 is not a crime. Possession with fraudulent intent is. (Title 18, Section 472 of the United States Code)

    Which I guess proves your point that simply possessing the gift card obtained fraudulently by the original purchaser would not make you guilty unless you knew it was fraudulently obtained.

  • MarkKelling

    As would any company with outstanding gift cards that will never be used.

    I don’t know which sites are non sketchy. I have never had a reason to either sell or buy a recycled gift card so I have never considered that aspect.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It took me a moment to understand what you were trying to get at.

    As a rule, the government returns all property seized if it fails its burden to show the presumptive owner obtained the property through illegal means. For example, if I scam $1000, but my conviction fine is $300, I get to keep the remaining $700.

    Their are certain RICO type exceptions. Those operate under the theory that the money itself is criminal/contraband, not merely proceeds and thus the forfeiture does not violate your due process rights. That is a very specific exception in law.

    This is of course, a meaningless red herring. As you correctly stated the power of a corporation is hardly comparable to the authority that our government has. And that’s a good thing. Thus an analysis of RICO sheds little light on Starbucks taking the $167.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    :-)

  • TonyA_says

    No really go ahead and let’s speculate.
    You mean she knew she was buying fraudulently acquired gift cards in raise’s website?
    That would be too far of a stretch in my book.

  • MarkKelling

    I really need to go back to law school so I can shake some of these cobwebs out of my brain and begin thinking rationally (or at least lawyer-ly) again. :-)

  • ORguest

    Not sure where you see speculation. As is often the case, it doesn’t sound like we have all the pertinent facts. I have no idea what that might be, and am not guessing.

  • The Original Joe S

    Wet, wrinkly and faded, but clean! Now, don’t put cigarettes in there. It makes ’em soggy and hard to light.

  • The Original Joe S

    Just ask Jackie Mason……

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Sure, right up until I lose my $167 because I just had to try and add a few more bucks to the card. Now, she’s got a negative ROI.

    And, there are two big “ifs” to this even if Starbucks doesn’t freeze the entire card: 1. Is she drinking her normal amount of coffee or going far more often? 2. Is she in a place where she could comfortably afford tying up hundreds of dollars in prepaid coffee? I’ve seen plenty of people go nuts at Sam’s Club buying in bulk because “it’s so much cheaper” only to discover that a lower unit cost still means additional spending when you have to buy in gross.

  • The Original Joe S

    I believe that statutory rape is a strict liability crime. Correct?

  • The Original Joe S

    Just a question: If you buy from a pawn shop and it turns out to be stolen, and you keep the receipt, is the pawn shop liable?

  • Annie M

    To save $4 per card? Are you kidding me? I would never buy a gift card from that site and specifically for this reason – who knows if the cards are legit? An easy way to get rid of stolen cards!

    Perhaps the bigger issue on why she wasn’t refunded might be that Starbucks has consistently had problems with cards purchased from Raise.com and this Marianne was on the receiving end of Starbucks frustration.

    If she was a gold card holder, Starbucks should have at least given her back the balance she had before she bought those cards and added them. You’d think a little loyalty would have meant something. But perhaps this is a lesson to stay away from those discount card sites.

    An expensive lesson learned to save $16.

  • John Baker

    Ah the old Mens Rea and Actus Reus arguments (I had to take a law class prior to commissioning and had a pre-law roommate).

    I just wonder if purchasing items from a market known to traffic in stolen goods at less than market value would cross the plane from strict liability to negligence.

  • The Original Joe S

    I agree w/u. One card we got as a gift was basically worthless – you had to go to the restaurant with two people two times to get the money out of it. You couldn’t use it all at once for one meal. Gee, isn’t it OUR MONEY we gave THEM? It’s a nice restaurant, but their sneakiness got them on my blacklist.

    Another card we got for a dinner at a nice place is still on the ice box after about a year or so.

    Give money – it’s better, and it’s not a loan to the company.

  • The Original Joe S

    And…. How much is a cup of burnt, bitter dregs at Starbucks? Buy a machine, fill it with GOOD coffee, and enjoy!

  • The Original Joe S

    She needs to call Uncle Vito……

  • The Original Joe S

    Further -> Stupidity!

  • brianguy

    exactly!! these scammers are no match for the “pros”… they could also easily help her recover for what she’s owed, by demanding immediate payment or give them the options what can happen if they don’t. and assess and help record damages they’ve caused to her place. she should’ve turned the utilities off weeks ago. the CA laws suck, but how naiive can you be.

  • brianguy

    it’s not her fault, it’s the website’s fault for selling her stolen goods. and Starbucks, their “fine print” notwithstanding shouldn’t really be keeping her $167.

    the part I can’t understand which is the only pointless behavior is her loading up on more credits when she already had $167 in her account. how much Starbucks can you drink in one month… I go there a lot and never spend more than $40 in that time.

    be more careful as Elliott points out, “loaning” money to them is pointless!! I never reload my card unless it gets down below $10. she also could have not merged the purchased gift cards onto her gold card until they had been in her account for a while and her gold funds ran low. buyer beware, but thumbs down to Starbucks for having no shame. the punishment doesn’t fit the crime they’re alleging she did (but didn’t…)

  • The Original Joe S

    Be his friend….. Kiss his hand…… (for those of you who saw the movies)

  • brianguy

    she merged them for convenience. But I agree you don’t have to, and she didn’t really need to anyway…not immediately since her balance was so high. she should’ve done more research into the company she was buying them from. I’ve seen way more reputable ones than that, and they’re sold legitimately with never a problem getting stolen gift cards.

    the reason (non-stolen) GCs are worth less than the face value is people get them for gifts but have no interest in using them and would much rather have cash. so you can buy for 80-90c on the dollar from legitimate sellers.

  • jim6555

    Discounting gift cards is not unusual. For example, Publix, the largest grocery chain in the Southeast, runs a promotion about once a month where if you spend $35 in their store, they will allow you to purchase a $50 gasoline gift card for $40. There are four cards from different gasoline retail suppliers available at my local store. They are Shell, BP, Hess and RaceTrac. I know dealing with Publix is much different than buying something from Raise.com. The point that I’m attempting to make is that gift cards are sometimes sold at discount and that I don’t think that it is unusual that a card is offered for sale at less than full value.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Might even kick it up to recklessness (known or should have known)

  • TonyA_says

    Ok I see the thief is the one laundering money.
    But I am still conflicted with the role of the LW.
    If she knew she was buying stolen gift cards, then shame on her.
    If she was naive and thought she could buy 100% clean SB cards on the internet then bless her innocent soul.
    But as I said in my other post, there has to be a decent marketplace for unwanted gift cards. That’s important for an efficient consumer based society.
    And if Starbucks is fully aware that there are so much fraud involved with unauthorized paypal and debit card purchases of their gift cards or reload mechanisms, they need to do more to protest innocent victims.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Corporate Stupid Rides Again. Surely there must be someone at HQ with a brain to solve problems like this before the company looks stupid, or worse.

    I did have to laugh at your referring to Starbucks as “fast food” since I am regularly deprived of my favorite coffee because I don’t like to wait. Now I will try some others to see if they can make good coffee.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Better yet, never buy Starbucks over-priced coffee.

  • LFH0

    A “gift” to someone is an item believed to be what someone else like to receive. Gift cards simply allow the giver to feel good about themselves in satisfying a gift obligation, but without actually providing anything meaningful. That is, gift cards are cash gifts with restrictions on how that cash may be spent. If it is acceptable in a set of circumstances to give cash, then give cash. If it it not acceptable to give cash, then neither is it acceptable to give a gift card.

    To me, gift cards are worthwhile only if they’re sold at a discount. If a merchant were to offer me, say $30 of value for an up front payment of $20, then I might accept that offer. But gift cards for the sake of burdening someone else with their receipt? No thank you.

  • AH

    i am sooooo glad i’m not a coffee snob! no milk, caramel, syrup or whip (stuff) for me!

  • bodega3

    Yes, in Europe my card was not accepted. Starbucks does say a currency conversion will take place if used outside of the country that the card was purchased. My exchange student son bought one in SF that he didn’t use up and can’t use it in his home county, but he does get to England so I will let him know you had luck using yours there.

  • bodega3

    No different than a gift certificate. We buy them all the time to give as birthday gifts to employees.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agreed.

  • Raven_Altosk

    My comments keep getting deleted on ConsumerTraveler. What gives???

  • bodega3

    Hard to do that when you are out and about…except, we have a FJ Cruiser with a plug in the back, so we travel with our little cruisinart coffee marker and make our own. Problem is the motor has to be running to do it, but at least we can!

  • Tom_Blackwell

    The fine print sounds misleading to me.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I can only surmise

    1. I don’t see any reason why someone would drink additional coffee because of this deal. Assuming $4 a latte and 30 days per month, the $100 is consumed monthly. Not enough time to think that you have this huge amount of coffee money that you’ll never be able to use.

    2. Perhaps, but its not the same. This appears to represent one months worth of daily coffee, i.e. a span of one or two paychecks. Its not as if she’s tying up this money for months, unlike buying in bulk at a warehouse store where a purchase might tie up your money for months and months.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It appears that statutory rape is a strict liability crime in 22 states. I did not know that.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Assuming that you are innocent, the pawn shop must refund your money as the transaction was unlawful.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That would be a enough of a reason for me never to darken their doorway. I’d be wondering what other sketchy things are they doing. Perhaps rat meat in the burgers?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I just give Amex/Visa/MC gift cards.

  • Bill___A

    I find the amount on the card suspicious, it isn’t normal to keep that much money on a Starbuck’s card. I do not have any further information, but certainly something seems very amiss.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    By reading the comments, this is my take:

    1. Someone stole a credit card (physical or virtual) and buys Starbucks cards before the card is reported as stolen, etc.
    2. “sell them to a site like raise.com to cash out their illegal gains.
    3. the credit card victim reported the card as stolen and the transactions are cancelled but the credit card company and/or merchant end up eating the loss…in this case, Starbucks.
    4. the buyer of the discounted Starbucks card get their card(s) frozen since Starbucks know that thethese card(s) were purchased with a stolen credit card and Starbucks have already been charged back by the credit card company.

    It seems to me that the party is responsible for payment to the OP is Raise.com not Starbucks…why should Starbucks eat the loss on the stolen transaction (i.e. a thief purchased $ 500 of cards which Starbucks were charged back) then eat the loss a second time (i.e. the $ 500 cards were sold for $ 450 and now Starbucks have to give away $ 450 in free products)?

    It maybe a poor analogy but it is like stolen art. If you purchase a piece of art from a dealer or an individual collector that turned out to be stolen. You will lose the piece of art to the rightful owner and you are out of your money that you spentinvested…your recourse is with the dealer or the individual collector not the rightful owner of the art.

    The original owner of the cards was Starbucks…they were purchased with stolen funds and sold to a site like raise.com and were purchased by a honest person. The cards needs to be returned to Starbucks (i.e. the value returned to zero) and the honest person needs to get their refund from Raise.com not Starbucks.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t find it suspicious at all. If someone goes every morning for a coffee drink and pastry that’s maybe $6. Then lunch and another beverage for $8. Then a drink on a weekend morning. Someone could easily burn through that much in a couple of weeks to a month if it’s a regular part of their lives.

    I just drink the coffee from work. Not great stuff but I’m not paying $3 for a large cup of coffee. It all adds up. I figure if I bought my beverages I’d be paying maybe $150 a month easily.

  • The Original Joe S

    Ah, NOO PAD GAPROW! Hacked up whole rice-rat stir-fried with garlic, Thai peppers, sugar and fish sauce. An Isan favorite…. And, if you can’t get a NOO, there’s always CHINCHO (small lizard) and TOOKAY (big lizard) GRATIEM PRIK THAI (stir fried with garlic and white pepper. For a change of pace…..

  • The Original Joe S

    Neither did I, until just yesterday. In all candor, while I was reading the history of some obscure common-law precedents, I happened upon that tidbit.

  • CeeJay

    “Anybody who tries to buy what is essentially cash at a 20% discount either knows or should know it’s a scam” – not necessarily. I can imagine a perfectly legal market in reselling unwanted gift cards – someone who doesn’t shop at that particular store, or doesn’t drink coffee, may want to sell the card to recoup some money, but will sell at a discount since no-one will want to pay full price to a 3rd party.

  • PsyGuy

    I have friends that go through about a $100 a week in Starbucks.

  • PsyGuy

    Well there are legitimate sites that deal in gift card exchange, they are real popular just after the Christmas holidays. I dont know if the customer here is just turning a blind eye to something they know is fishy, or they really are just that naive.

  • PsyGuy

    Sure there are legitimate reasons, there are also a lot of fraudulent reasons, but then those cards aren’t reported stolen or bought/obtained through fraudulent means. In which case ALL the cards would be good.

  • PsyGuy

    What pulling the espresso machine, because it would really only be a “cool” benefit if you got to keep the machine.

  • PsyGuy

    Its a nice theory but as she said she bought 4 cards on raise and transferred them to the new card. 4 cards isnt a friend or family member exchange of one card for some cash. They can see in her transaction history that she added 4 cards (probably at one time) then transferred those balances all to her regular card.

    We also don’t know if she’s done this before, in my experience Starbucks tends to error on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt.

  • PsyGuy

    I drink espresso or tea, a Frappuccino is a milk shake with coffee flavoring.

  • PsyGuy

    Excellent example, another one is where the card owner perpetuates the fraud themselves. They buy the cards, sell them then around the 50 day mark since the transaction, they report the transactions as fraudulent, get a new card and they just made $1,700 themselves.

  • MarkieA

    I think you’re being a bit too harsh. BJ’s Wholesale Club sells discounted gift cards for several restaurants. Are these scams?

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I am no longer actively involved in Consumer Traveler. It’s possible that the links are blocking your post from appearing. Try posting something without a link.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I wanted to make a little announcement. This is the fourth straight day that we’ve exceeded 100+ comments. I’ve always said that when we’re ready for a forum, we’ll start one. Well, I think we’re ready.

    If anyone here has any experience creating and running forums, please send me an email. We should have our forums up and running very soon.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Oh, on the contrary, imagine, the sheriff walks in during a busy lunch while the baristas are making espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, and takes the machine that they’re working on. Imagine the look on the faces of the employees and customers.

    Priceless.

    I believe Joe has a story about seizing a Delta 767 on San Jose morning. Hilarious.

  • Josh Josh

    it is not a scam, RAISE is (I thought) a legitimate business though it appears that someone is gaming them and that they might need to tighten controls a bit. However, if starbucks doesn’t participate fairly and kindly with it, then maybe RAISE should take them down off their system. Also, raise has a 45 day guarantee, and they should be held accountable for this loss. Starbucks is overreaching by assuming that because there is one bad card that they were ALL fraudulent.
    The lesson I got from this is if you’re going to use potentially fraudulent cards, then don’t link them to your personal “rewards” account. Take the 20% discount, don’t try to get another cup of coffee for free on top of that, or whatever convenience the starbucks rewards system supposedly offers.

  • Josh Josh

    I don’t think you should pay interest, though.

  • Josh Josh

    Innocent until proven guilty… STARBUCKS needs to deal with the big problem but cherry picking one user who did 4 cards (we’re not talking $1700 here) is NOT a very viable solution. The fraud will still run rampant until they tighten controls somehow, like setting a max of how much cards you can buuy unless you have a vetted account. Like, the only person who would need $1700 in cards is a corporation giving $10 gift cards to their employees, or nonprofit selling them as a fundraiser.

  • Josh Josh

    It is two months worth, if you must know.

    If you have no idea, don’t comment!

  • bodega3

    The whole resale concept is based on greed.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    I buy Starbucks gift cards at Safeway because they give double gas rewards on all gift card purchases. It does add up. If Safeway were to sell me fraudulent gift cards, I feel Safeway should be responsible.

  • Stefan

    Last week I noticed my Starbucks Gold card was just under $60 and decided to troll eBay in search of a great deal. This isn’t the first time I’ve purchased gift cards on eBay and I only bid if I can purchase them at 70% (or below) of the full cost. To my surprise, I won three, $100 gift cards from two sellers for a total cost of $210! I paid the seller and was immediately emailed the three Starbucks card codes and pin numbers. Everything was good and I was happy with my $360 (give or take) balance. The next two days I purchased a few drinks and some food with no issues but this morning I looked at my balance only to find that it was at $0.00. I’ve emailed Starbucks Customer Service and hope to receive good news but after reading this article, I’m not sure that I’m going to like the end result. How can the purchaser verify the card’s validity? Further, why would the newly purchased card work (i.e. load to my current account) if the card is stolen or fraudulent?

  • bodega3

    There is a very easy answer to the last question, but I refuse to say why to give it away to scammers. You gambled and lost.

  • Stefan

    Very cryptic of you. I don’t deny that I “gambled and lost” but my point is that it doesn’t seem logical that I can plug in the card information to the website, see that it works, only to find out later that it was stolen. To me, the logical thing would be that the card would not work when I plugged in the numbers and would say something like “invalid card number” or something like that.

  • bodega3

    I know the answer but won’t give it openly, but it is easy to figure out.

  • bodega3

    I bought a gift card at an ice cream store as a gift. The recipient went to use it in another town and the value showed zero dollars. She called me (a relative) and I contacted the owner of the store, who I know and brought the card it. The receipt, which I always include with the card and the tag showing activation didn’t match the number on the card. The card hadn’t been activated and they took care of it for me for full value.

  • RonBonner

    Might have something to do with your remarks about other people.

  • William_Leeper

    Let’s keep it civil, and no one’s comments will get deleted. @Raven_Altosk was just asking a question.

  • William_Leeper

    Let’s keep it civil and no one’s comments will get deleted. @Raven_Altosk was just asking a question.

  • PsyGuy

    The Sheriff wouldn’t do it a deputy would. Your scenario would require that you camp out in Starbucks all day until the time the deputy walked in, to see it and they wouldn’t seize it, those things are heavy. The manager would just pay whatever the demand was. The same outcome occurred with the 767 in San Jose, the bond agent didn’t fly the plane or taxi the plane away, it just stood at the gate/on the runway until the airline came up with the cash.

  • PsyGuy

    …in a court of law… which applies to actions of the state. This is an action by a private company, which would be brought in a civil court or before arbitration, and there is no presumption of innocence in such a case.

    I agree it’s not a very workable solution, or procedure.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you ask the sheriff will tell you when they are going to go so camping out if not necessary. Note I stated sheriff, not Sheriff. Those are different.

    With regards to plane seizure, my buddy used to do that. If it were a small plane, they would take the propeller. For large planes, if memory serves, and it may not, they boot the wheels.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Explain?

  • bodega3

    Don’t those cost extra to activate?

  • bodega3

    All people care about is getting a deal and money. People don’t go to that website for anything but looing for a deal and those who sell there all they want is money.

  • Bill___A

    Well I do find it suspicious.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    They cost between $5-10$ to purchase.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And how is that different than any other transaction.

    Btw. Wanting a deal is not being greedy. It’s only greedy if there is something inappropriate about the desire for a deal.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m not going to be mean, the answer is easy. The card used to purchase your starbucks cards wasn’t reported stolen until after your payment cleared. How does this work, how can a scammer be so precise with the timing? Simple, your cards weren’t really cards until right before they were emailed to you. When you were bidding or buying these cards you were bidding/buying the “idea” of the value to those cards. When your payment cleared it was only then the scammer actually needed to produce the eCertificate number and pin codes, in simple terms they were purchased (fraudulently) only moments before they were emailed to you. It then took a couple days for the fraud to be detected and the transactions reported as fraudulent.

    You can’t verify the cards validity, which is why you shouldn’t buy cards from untrusted sources.

  • PsyGuy

    Except Raise doesn’t have the money, they just brokered the transaction as far as communicating between the parties. Raise is an intermediary. Disputes always start and stop with the merchant and the consumer. The one buying the coffee is the consumer the one selling the coffee is a merchant. Everyone else in between is just an intermediary. It’s the same thing with a credit card, Visa makes bucket loads of money on transaction fees and merchant processing fees, but they don’t pay those losses or costs when its fraud, they just debit (pull back) the money from the merchant, and they still charge the merchant for the swipe for the purchase AND the costs associated for the refund/dispute. This is why merchants would far prefer you to pay for the transaction with a card as “debit card” the processing cost is lower and PIN transactions are more secure.

  • PsyGuy

    Well they did find a solution, it involved closing the account and forfeiting the balance. Starbucks doesn’t care what public perception of them really is, their name has been verbed and “going for Starbucks” has become synonymous with “going for coffee”. No matter how stupid they look or act they won’t lose enough customers to effect their bottom line.

  • PsyGuy

    Sure but would you buy that $50 gas gard for $40 in a parking lot from the trunk of someone’s car? That’s the digital equivalent of something like Raise, or eBay, or Craigslist.

  • PsyGuy

    I appreciate that you know the distinction between Sheriff, and sheriff. Booting a plane is not the same as taking a plane. Again, the Starbucks manager isn’t going to loose their espresso machine for a day over the judgment amount, they will just pay and go one with business. They likely make in less than an hour what the judgement in this case would be for.

  • PsyGuy

    Card based transactions are safer and it’s easier to keep track of my rewards, in addition you need at least a green card to qualify for free coffee and tea refills.

    As far as debit and credit cards, my bank requires that I make a certain number of credit based transactions in order to waive my monthly account fee, so yes I will swipe a card for anything.

  • PsyGuy

    I would have merged them immediately, if you lose or misplace those cards they are not refundable, since they are unregistered. Merging them immediately preserves the value.

  • PsyGuy

    Lost, unused, and then there’s the “change effect”, where your card has less value on it then the intended purchase meaning you have to spend more money to use the remaining value.

  • PsyGuy

    I use mine in Japan.

  • PsyGuy

    I always keep at least $100 on my Starbucks card, but I have a reason. I live most of the year in Japan, and I reload my Card at one and only one Starbucks store, because when I do they give me a free drink if it’s 10,000Y or more I reload at a time. So I refill in $100 increments. $100 gets me about 12 stars at Tokyo prices, so it’s basically like getting double the free drinks.

  • PsyGuy

    I actually like gift cards, though I don’t give them as gifts. COSTCO (and we have one in Tokyo, it’s totemo kawaii), usually provides a discount on large gift card purchases, that are perfectly legal. I use iTunes giftcards to control spending and often use them with merchants I frequent often (such as Hub or Starbucks). Mainly when those merchants provide some sort of membership benefit. I would not buy a Daiso gift card (the main supplier of 100Y stores in Japan) because use of the card provides no benefit.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It was clear from your comment that you were unclear between the distinction. With regards to the levy, the problem for the Starbucks would be if no one is on the premises who is authorized to pay the judgment. The average barista is not going to take money out of the till without authorization. If they can’t get a hold of the manager or owner, the machine is gone.

    I’m about to levy a Benz from a truly wicked woman shortly.

  • PsyGuy

    Very not true, you get one star for each transaction (regardless of the number of items on the transaction). I often volunteer to do the Starbucks run when working and give each order as a separate transaction. I can usually score a free drink in two runs.

  • PsyGuy

    No, because then she wouldn’t have all the cards and the stars that come with them for those transactions. Even if she had kept them separate and registered them separately to her account, she’d still have one account and Starbucks would know who she was.

  • PsyGuy

    Same boat, I’m not a big fan of their coffee (okay I hate it), but I love their tea, some of their non coffee drinks and some of their bakery/deli items. The big thing about TSarbucks for me really is the free internet. In Tokyo there is almost no free WiFi basically it’s a couple of convenience store chains (but no where to sit) McDonalds, or Starbucks.

  • PsyGuy

    No, but the average barista does have the contact number for a manager who could authorize it. The sheriff doesn’t even really need the baristas permission really, as I wrote earlier they can do a till pull, assuming they have the appropriate court order.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    They can do a till tap. However, the judgment creditor has to specifically authorize that as it cost more than seizing a specific item. The judgment creditor can specify which remedy he desires and pays accordingly. In the notice of levy, he can specify just the espresso machine, thus no till tap will be possible

    Yes, the barista has the manager’s number. That’s why I specified If they can’t get a hold of the manager or owner, the machine is gone.

  • Raven_Altosk

    What isn’t true? That the RUDE guy was holding up a massive line to have them ring up each coffee as a separate transaction?

    Look, if Starbucks is going to reward that behavior, they are going to make a lot of other customers mad.

    We’re not talking 2 coffees. We’re talking 10, on a work day, at rush. The line was out the door while this clown was racking up his “STARS”

  • Benjamin Barnett

    Were you able to do all that before her ice cream melted?

  • RonBonner

    Excuse me William but I fail to see how my comment was not civil. The person I responded to has been posting some pretty vile remarks about others on some other forums and I honestly believe those comments may have been the cause of this persons posting issues.

  • PsyGuy

    His stars (and my stars) are more important to him and me than your coffee rush. I knew one guy who tried to have the barista ring up each separate add-on as a separate transaction (making a double shot, soy, hazelnut latte a 4 transaction drink). What that store manager should of done, was open up another line, and alternate the express line orders with his orders.

  • Raven_Altosk

    What Starbucks should do is count the number of DRINKS not transactions. It’s the same amount and more efficient.

  • bodega3

    Actually, the owner of the ice cream store where she tried to use the card is also a friend of ours, and they comped her the cone. Love small towns and knowing everyone!

  • bodega3

    Yep.

  • bodega3

    Good to know.

  • bodega3

    Yes, I bought a sheet of cards from Costco and gave them as a gift and got them below value.

  • PsyGuy

    No they shouldn’t it would cost them more. Companies generally don’t enact policies and reward policies at that, which will cost them more money or eat into revenue.

  • Emanuel Levy

    I agree it should be one star per item not per purchase. Also as I said I am someone who will structure my purchase for the most amount of stars but NOT when people are behind me and I WOULD never have a separate add-on done as a seperate transaction for a star.

  • BMG4ME

    So when I bought a Starbucks Card at LivingSocial or Groupon, I shouldn’t have? Plenty of vendors I know well are happy to sell discounted gifts cards on these sites, so why should I think Starbucks would be any different. Having said that, I’ve never really heard of Raise.com so I don’t know how it compares with Groupon or LivingSocial.

  • jsibelius

    I would guess she settled with Starbucks on the condition that she not discuss it with the media. FWIW, it doesn’t matter what the terms and conditions of a contract say if the terms are contrary to the law. Don’t most states have something on the books regarding gift cards/certificates? They definitely have laws regarding debit accounts. If you give a company cash, they can’t just keep it without giving you something in return. In the case of fraud, they can’t just keep everything, regardless of the amount of the fraud. That’s where small claims comes in handy.

  • Mike Z

    I’m sorry but retailers routinely offer cars for a certain amount for less than face value. one can even go into a COSTCO several times per year and get gift cards for 20% off face value. (example, $50 in build a bear gift cards for $40)
    I simply do not know how the company can keep her money legally. Yeah, they may be able to suspend the card or freeze it, but wouldn’t they then have to refund her the balance remaining on the card?

  • Mike Z

    Your premise in invalid. retailers of all sorts sell cards through grocers, and retailers like Walmart and in return the grocers give the people rewards toward merchandise or gasiline discounts. The merchant is getting a percentage in commission from the gift card company to sell their cards. So in reality, starbucks may be giving someone $25 in merchandise for $21.
    As an example, a local grocery chain routinely offers $.20 off per gallon for every $50 in gift cards purchased. I’ve bought hundreds in gift cards before if I planned to make a large purchase. But, every $.20 off in gas helps me at a fill up to the tune of almost $5. So what if I was to keep buying cards then selling them for $3 less? i am still saving $2 per fill up from every card and I am also saving the next person $3 per card.

  • RightNow9435

    I think Small Claims would be much easier and cheaper for the OP….and less convenient for Starbucks. Of course, no matter what happens Starbucks has lost one loyal customer and likely many of her friends/co-workers