Starbucks baristas have expressed puzzlement at receiving orders for iceless Frappuccinos and waterless Americanos via the coffee-chain’s app.
Current and former baristas told Insider that unusual mobile orders — the beverage equivalent to ordering a cheeseburger with no burger — could cause headaches and lead to customers getting angry.
The baristas said weird mobile orders posed problems because they couldn’t ask customers questions about what they actually wanted before they arrived at the store to collect their drinks. In some cases they had to offer customers refunds or alternative drinks, said the baristas, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their employment.
A Starbucks barista in Minneapolis said some mobile orders couldn’t be made until the customer got to the store “because we have no idea what they’re asking for.”
The latest version of Starbucks’ US iPhone app, which is updated frequently, didn’t as of Friday include some of the customization options that baristas described.
A Starbucks spokesperson said: “Customizing beverages at Starbucks and our baristas’ expertise in helping customers find and craft the right beverage has and always will be at the heart of the Starbucks experience.”
They added: “There are many ways for customers to modify their favorite beverage and most customizations are reasonable requests from customers; 75% of customized beverages at Starbucks have fewer than three unique modifications.”
Starbucks staff said customers had ordered iceless Frappuccinos on the Starbucks app.
“That always makes me chuckle,” a shift supervisor in Tennessee said, noting that ice is an “integral” part of the drink. “The Starbucks app shouldn’t let you do that.”
Baristas said that the “no ice” option was once available on the company’s US app. This wasn’t an option as of Friday. Customers could still order iceless Frappuccinos on the UK app, however, Insider found.
A former barista in British Columbia, Canada, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she may return to work at Starbucks, said her store used to get at least three orders a day for iceless Frappuccinos.
Opinions were divided among baristas as to why customers were opting for Frappuccinos without ice.
“They just didn’t know what they were ordering,” Kelly Preston, a former barista in Georgia, said.
Gary Ladewig, a former shift supervisor in Illinois, said he thought some customers had selected the no-ice option by accident. Madeline Babin, a former barista in Louisiana, said she thought they were accidentally ordered by children.
Ladewig and the former British Columbia barista said some customers told them they bought iceless Frappuccinos to drink at home, where they added ice themselves.
Six former Starbucks employees in the US said they’d received mobile orders for Americanos with no water. A former barista in Canada and a former shift supervisor in the UK also said they’d been asked to make waterless Americanos.
The baristas said the “no water” option was once available on the company’s US app but isn’t any longer. Customers can still order waterless Americanos on the UK app, Insider found, as well as iced teas with no ice and no water.
Preston said she thought customers who ordered waterless Americanos wanted lattes but didn’t want to pay full price, and would add milk themselves from the self-serve station.
“Customers often don’t actually understand what a drink is made out of and so they might select ‘Americano with no water’ and then get angry when you hand them a cup of just espresso,” Nicholas Anderson, a former barista in Atlanta, said. “So it’s always better to err on the side of not making the drink.”
Some baristas said customers had placed mobile orders for hot drinks with cold foam.
“That’s just funny,” the Tennessee shift supervisor said.
Starbucks uses cold foam for cold brew coffee. When cold foam is used on hot drinks it melts quickly, and customers “get in a little fit with me about it,” the Tennessee shift supervisor said.
The Starbucks US app still allows customers to order drinks with cup sizes that don’t reflect the size of their drink.
Babin said a lot of customers ordered drinks in bigger cups, which she thought was so they could add extra milk or whipped cream, but some ordered drinks in smaller cups, which she didn’t understand. In these cases, she would serve the drink in a cup that matched the size of the drink, but would also give the customer a cup in the size they requested, she said.
Some baristas said that customers had asked for so many modifications, they struggled to fit the drinks into one cup. One barista called drinks like these “kitchen soup Frappuccinos.”
The Tennessee shift supervisor said one customer ordered a Frappuccino with around 10 shots of espresso, which just melted the ice.
A shift supervisor in Maryland said some customers added modifications “just because they’re there.”
“People can make drink combinations that not only aren’t intuitive but also just don’t make sense,” they added.
Baristas said that some in-store customers had weird requests, too, like asking for cake pops, brownies, and even egg bites to be blended into drinks.
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