The Starbucks Coupon That Went Too Far
In August, 2006, Starbucks emailed printable coupons to employees urging them to pass the coupons to friends and family. The coupons offered free iced coffee drinks.
In other words, they created an eRumor, a forwarded email.
We’re guessing that someone at Starbucks didn’t know or remember how many millions of people have received forwarded emails offering free food or other items from retailers and most of the emails were hoaxes. One of the most popular in 2002 was a phony email that offered free coffee from Starbucks and that caused Starbucks a lot of headache.
The “grande” email got out of hand. What Starbucks said was supposed to be a small promotion quickly became a huge promotion and after 38-days Starbucks announced that they would no longer honor the coupons.
Then 23-year old Kelly Coakley entered the picture. He is a paralegal from New York and filed a lawsuit against Starbucks, claiming that he had been “betrayed” by the company. He asked for $114 million, which he says represents a cup of coffee per day for the number of people he figures were turned away from Starbucks stores.
It was a risky promotion in the first place. There is no way of controlling how far a forwarded email is supposed to go and the chances are very real that you might end up having to honor millions of them.