Let’s pretend you order a drink at Starbucks and it’s not what you expected. Sometimes your experience leaves you hoping for something better. You argued at the register over a refill of iced passion tea after drinking an iced latte inside the store. What do you do?

This is your lesson on how to complain. I operate a Starbucks Facebook page, and two Facebook groups. (Closed StarbucksMelody facebook group and Open StarbucksMelody facebook group). The last thing you should do is voice your complaint in an unofficial group. It’s not that uncommon for customers to take to some form of social media to voice their complaint. I tend to think that social media should be your last resort. That’s why I’m writing this.

Under any circumstances, you can call Starbucks Customer Service: 1-800-782-7282, but let’s a look at a few things you can do:

So what do you do?

FIRST: Talk to the barista.

First and foremost, you should speak up. Let’s imagine that you ordered a hot chocolate. Over the years, you’ve ordered many hot chocolates at Starbucks and usually it has a nice chocolate drizzle atop the whipped cream, but this time there is no chocolate drizzle. You notice that your iced tea doesn’t look shaken. You notice that something is amiss with your drink. Without a doubt, you should say something. It could be simple such as, “Oh hey I thought that there’s chocolate drizzle on the hot chocolate.” or “Would you mind shaking my tea – it tastes great shaken!” The “Barista Promise” is that you’ll love your drink or Starbucks will make it right.

I recommend that you look at your drink before you walk away from the espresso bar pick up area. If you notice right away that your drink isn’t right, it’s easiest to handle that right then and there at the espresso bar. The barista should remake your drink so that it’s perfect.

Pro tip: Look carefully at the cup that you’re grabbing! If you’re Mike, don’t grab Sarah’s cup! If you ordered a hot drink, don’t grab a cold cup. One time I was at a downtown Starbucks, waiting on a breakfast wrap, and a stranger grabbed a pastry bag with “Melody” written on it, reached his hand into it, realized it wasn’t his food, and put it back on the espresso bar pick up shelf!

SECOND: Talk to a manager.

Second, let’s imagine that your problem doesn’t get resolved. Your barista refuses to remake your drink. Of course, in theory this shouldn’t happen, but with more than 100,000 people wearing green aprons, I suppose anything is possible. The harsh reality is that there is no way that Starbucks has 100,000 super star baristas. There will be a tiny percentage who don’t like customer service and/or don’t like retail or for some reason, just don’t want to help you. As I mentioned, this shouldn’t happen, but it could.

Or, you have a concern that can’t be corrected by a drink remake: You had a bad experience and/or were given bad information, or something else that’s not drink related. You may want to speak with a manager. Most Starbucks stores have shift supervisors, an assistant store manager, and a store manager. (There are stores that have shift supervisors and store managers but no assistant store manager).

Some stores will have the business card of the store manager either on the condiment bar or sometimes near the espresso bar drink pick up area. You may have to ask for the store managers name.

2 - 1 - IMAG6890 store manager card 130th and Aurora 2May15(Do NOT flood this store manager with emails that don’t relate to that specific Seattle store!).

So step two is simply this: talk to a manager.

THIRD: Pay attention to your receipt at this point. Special information for licensed stores:

You’ve spoken to the store manager and you have some ongoing concern about the store that is still not resolved. You’ve noticed that most of the baristas are surly and don’t seem to care about customers. Of course, this is going to be very rare, but let’s assume you want to reach someone higher than the store manager.

At this point, there’s a fork in the road with regard to what you should do next depending on whether you’re in a licensed store or a company-operated store.

Look at your receipt and make a mental note if you’re in a licensed Starbucks or a company-operated Starbucks:

If you are in a licensed store:

A licensed store is usually one inside another business. It’s not always obvious (and there are isolated exceptions), but the general rule of thumb is that a free-standing store is company-operated.

Are you at an airport? Contact HMS Host – they operate all the US airport Starbucks locations.

Are you inside a Starbucks inside Target? Contact Target.

Are you at a QFC Starbucks? Contact QFC.

You get the picture. Your first resource for licensed stores is the licensed store operator. There are a few times that it’s hard to tell who operates the Starbucks. I believe in the greater Seattle area, there’s one Barnes & Noble Starbucks that is actually operated by Starbucks. And there’s this Starbucks in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood that looks incredibly convincingly like company-operated store, yet it’s not.

If you can’t figure out where to complain, call Starbucks Customer Service. The phone number is 1-800-782-7282. Every licensed Starbucks (in the United States) has a district manager who does work directly for Starbucks. Hopefully your feedback will get passed on to the district manager. You might gently ask that your feedback get back to the district manager.

FOURTH: Information for company-operated Starbucks: Getting to a district manager. A district manager is above the store manager and usually manages store performance for about ten to twelve stores within the same area.

You might look for the “Share Your Thoughts” pamphlets, usually at the condiment bar. There are two versions of “Share Your Thoughts.” Here’s the older version:

2 - 1 - IMAG6888 Share Your Thoughts - old vers - 2May15On the older version, the backside of “Share Your Thoughts” should have the store number and the phone number for Customer Service:

2 - 1 - IMAG6889 Share Your Thoughts - back - old vers - 2May15Here’s what the newer version of what “Share Your Thoughts” looks like:

2 - 1 - IMAG6891 Share Your Thoughts Frontside - new vers - 2May15 - 130th and AuroraThe newer version of “Share Your Thoughts” should have the store’s district manager information pre-printed on the back:

2 - 1 - IMAG6892 share your thoughts - new vers - back - 2May15 130th and AuroraI would note that most stores don’t stock the “Share Your Thoughts” pamphlets. I’m actually a little disappointed by that. I had to check many stores to find the one for this photo.

Feedback is very valuable and research shows that for every person who is vocal, many people walked away silently unhappy. There’s a myth that “people like to complain” but real research flies in the face of that. How many times have you walked from a store because you didn’t want to be ‘that customer’ or you ordered a meal at a restaurant and thought, ‘I really wanted my burger a little more rare,’ yet you just ate it.

Complaints are a gift. Don’t dismiss it – you might not like hearing it, but you may need to. This is true of every business.

In light of the above, I think that Starbucks stores should make it a priority to get those “Share Your Thoughts” pamphlets inside stores. When I ask partners about ordering the “Share Your Thoughts,” I’ve been told things like, “Well, they’re hard to order.” Starbucks, please remedy this.

So here’s where we are in this hierarchy of “How to complain”: You spoke to the barista and it didn’t help. You spoke to the store manager and it didn’t help. Your store had no “Share Your Thoughts” pamphlets.

You’ve got some choices now:

1. Ask the store manager for the district managers phone number and/or email address: I will say that having done this many times, some partners freak out when you ask for a DM email address. This really shouldn’t be the case. If you’re on your game, you should never be afraid of your customer talking a DM. Even more importantly, if you want to give positive feedback to a DM, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Sometimes, partners will give you the email address. I can tell you, having done this many times, you’ll get a 1000 varied responses when you ask for a DM email address. There’s no standard answer. Even when I’ve done it to try and get positive feedback to a DM, or discuss a potential article about their store, some baristas will just tell you anything but the DM email address. I don’t know what to say. From a lot of experience, and a bazillion different things said to me, I can say there’s no standard answer to the question, “Hey what’s your district manager’s email address?”

I’ve probably asked for DM email addresses more than the average customer. Some of that has been related to this blog, as I might be looking for answers related to when a store was opened, store design, when the store became an Evenings store, or other information related to research for a potential blog article.

2. You can always contact Customer Service: This where we cycle back to over and over again. It’s one of your main resources at every stage of this process, though I suggest talking to your local store before going to Customer Service.


Your first step is just have a conversation with your barista. Be as specific as possible. It’s going to be hard to work with, “My drink doesn’t taste right.”

And at every step of the way, you can always call Customer Service. Pay special attention to whether you are in a licensed Starbucks or a company-operated Starbucks.

Please remember that you can use Customer Service to get positive feedback to a store!!

Please use the above steps before going to Facebook, posting a photo of your drink, and saying that it wasn’t made right!

That’s your lesson in how to complain (or actually, it’s the same process for how to get praise back to a store.)