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Starbucks faces $114m lawsuit over pulled free-coffee e-mail offer

Starbucks is facing a $114m (£63m) lawsuit after a customer objected to the company withdrawing a free coffee offer sent by e-mail.

A woman in New York went to law after she was refused a free drink at Starbucks.

The amount claimed in the lawsuit is based on the estimated number of people who could have been turned away by Starbucks after it pulled the offer.

The café chain says it ended the offer after the e-mail had been redistributed beyond its original intent - which could be seen as naïve.

Starbucks originally e-mailed the offer to employees in the south-east of the USA, and included instructions to forward it to family and friends.

However, the offer has been forwarded across the country and has even been posted on websites.

The woman’s lawyer is seeking to get class-action status for his client’s lawsuit and is inviting thousands of others who were turned away by Starbucks to join the action.

Simon Ratcliffe, who heads up the managed services practice of the Business Systems Group, said of the case, “There are some key lessons to be learnt. E-mail is still largely a black hole when it comes to best practice. Printed documents, marketing literature and reports will go through a series of checks, but e-mail will often leave an organisation after the most cursory scrutiny with a perfunctory disclaimer.

“This is symptomatic of a lack of strategic thinking when it comes to e-mail and messaging – how you terminate an offer is just as important as how you launch it, but of course e-mails and websites rarely die. You need to adapt the offer.” 
 
Ratcliffe said firms wanting to use e-mail in marketing should employ tools to limit the forwarding of messages, or digital rights management technology could be used to control their use.


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