Thursday, June 8, 2017


(This blog was originally posted on May 3, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Someone is finally doing it. Someone is finally suing Starbucks® because the company “shorts” advertised quantity of coffee in iced beverages compared to the ratio of ice. O-kay, then.

The company argues that ice is supposed to be in an iced beverage. Isn’t that implied—even explicitly stated—in the names of the beverages like iced coffee, iced tea, iced-green-tea latte, etc.? Even the Frappuccino beverages made with a lot of ice. Considering how many units of iced beverages Starbucks® sells each day, I doubt that the plaintiff in this case is the first person who noticed the imbalanced of the coffee-to-ice ratio. Most people who order an iced beverage simply pay and happily walk out of the store or take a seat along the coffee bar and enjoy their drink, end of story. I wonder what inspired this person to actually sue the company over this imbalance instead of simply ask the barista to prepare the beverage with less or even no ice, or simply stop buying coffee there in the first place?

Last year, one of my nephews introduced me to the word “micro-aggression.” I remember laughing at the concept of micro-aggressions. I didn’t laugh because I believe some complaints and perceived injustices are truly funny or deserve to be dismissed out of hand, but because the word itself is demeaning and yet so accurate. In the context of the many injustices (real or perceived) that are occurring in the world, not receiving the advertised amount of coffee in your iced beverage doesn’t seem like a big deal, or even that it should be. Taking the company to court for a $5 million payday over this imbalance is a bit extreme. And yet, it’s happening. My question is: how did this and similar situations get so far?

A couple years ago I posted a blog titled Passive-Aggressive Behavior in which I explained the origins of this behavior, which typically begins during early-childhood. A youngster naturally starts to become more independent from his caregivers between the ages of two and five. However, if the adult does not provide options and opportunities for the child to demonstrate the desired behavior, the youngster may adopt passive-aggressive responses to these requests in order to display some kind of autonomy. Rather than ask directly for something, the individual hints and insinuates that something is wrong/must change until other people in the environment change behavior to accommodate him. Over time, this strategy becomes a subconscious known—a go-to behavior to get what the person wants. I can’t help but wonder if passive-aggression is at the root of so many examples of micro-aggression we are seeing lately.

There is a huge difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness/passive-aggressiveness. In the first case, an assertive Starbucks® customer would immediately, politely, tell the barista that there is too much ice in the beverage and ask for it to be remade. (There is a sign on the counter of every Starbucks® that states the store’s policy about re-making a drink to a customer’s satisfaction.) If the new drink still wasn’t made to the person’s satisfaction, the person could ask for a refund and stop going there for coffee. Maybe even a letter to the CEO would be in order. Conversely, an aggressive customer might rudely complain about the drink, demand the refund/reject apologies from the company, etc., and even stomp loudly off the premises and tell everyone about the lousy experience. The passive-aggressive customer may take the beverage as it was originally prepared and then complain (loudly or discretely) about everything that is wrong with the drink. The final step on this path would be to take the complaint to court.

I do not know all of the details about this customer’s lawsuit. Perhaps the individual has made many attempts to change how the company prepares its iced beverages and even had a one-on-one meeting with the CEO to vent frustration about this perceived rip-off. But is this issue so important to press legal charges, knowing that the cost of hiring a legal team to defend/prosecute this injustice may become financially prohibitive? Sure, the ultimate pay-day could be worth this effort—if and when it eventually comes. The question I have about this issue is whether having a disproportionate ratio of ice-to-coffee symbolic of another more personally meaningful perceived imbalance in this person’s life.

Maybe it isn’t about the coffee, at all.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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