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Mud-Slinging On A Grande Scale Steamed Customer Takes Out Wall Street Journal Ads To Roast Starbucks

Jeremy Dorosin says Starbucks owes him an espresso machine and the world an apology.

Unhappy about the coffeehouse chain’s handling of his complaints about two defective espresso makers, the San Francisco Bay area dive-shop owner has spent $10,000 on Wall Street Journal ads demanding that Starbucks apologize to customers everywhere.

Unless the company comes through, Dorosin said, his slow roast of the booming Seattle-based company will culminate in a two-page Journal ad spread packed with other Starbucks customers’ complaints of snooty servers and weak coffee.

“Unfortunately … most people don’t have the financial means to do it,” Dorosin said Wednesday, adding that all he wants is “human decency.”

Starbucks denies some of the basic allegations in the dispute over the two espresso machines, but said it has offered cash refunds, replacement machines, gifts and personal apologies to Dorosin.

“We did everything we could to rectify the situation that was reasonable,” said spokeswoman Cheri Libby, who called Dorosin’s demands “a little bit unreasonable.”

The trouble began brewing at a Berkeley Starbucks in April, when Dorosin splurged on a $299 espresso maker for himself and a $169 machine as a wedding gift for a friend.

The clerk failed to follow the usual practice of offering -pound bags of coffee with large purchases and when Dorosin made an issue of it, refused even to compromise with a free cappucino, Dorosin said.

Dorosin said he was even more steamed when he got a call from the friend saying the wedding gift was rusty and missing parts, and when his own model stopped pumping water.

He contacted the coffeehouse manager, and then corporate headquarters.

The company said the bride’s machine was new, but may have rusted after test brews at the factory. It denies any parts were missing.

“I said, ‘Look … all I want is a replacement of the machines and a letter of apology to the bride that you sold her a used machine with rusting parts,”’ Dorosin said. “Just give her the nicest machine that you have and we’ll call it even.’

The nicest machine sells for $2,495, according to Starbucks, which rejected that proposal.

“In a nutshell it comes down to he wanted the $2,500 machine for a $200 machine,” Libby said. “We weren’t able to do that.”

And, she said, “We can’t apologize to him for selling used goods because we did not sell used goods.”

Starbucks did offer to replace both machines with $269 models.

Dorosin says the company meant for him to swallow the $30 price difference between the replacement and his higher-priced machine, though the company said it offered to make up the difference in cash.

The ads began a few weeks later. Dorosin’s ads started at 4 inches by 4 inches, but grew slightly during the four-ad series, published in California and the Journal’s western U.S. editions.

One claimed 2,000 calls in response to the earlier ads. It promised a future ad would publish some letters from other unhappy Starbucks customers.

Libby said Dorosin’s war of words has prompted little fire from likeminded former customers.

But Dorosin now is demanding that Starbucks take out a two-page spread in the Journal to apologize. Such an ad would cost $247,182 if run nationally, the newspaper said.

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