Decaffers of the world unite against Starbucks!

Starbucks now has a quiet policy of not brewing decaf coffee after noon.

I thought something was odd as Sbux after Sbux had run out of decaf and I go off muttering, ‘How can they run out of coffee? They’re Starbucks.’ Then an honest counterman in Toronto told me about the new policy. I didn’t believe him at first. But after two failed attempts to get decaf this weekend, I asked another employee and was told, yes, it’s a new policy. They will offer to give you a decaf americano (diluted espresso) at the same price. They will even brew decaf if they have to. But you have to wait for that. And don’t believe it when they say “two, two-and-a-half minutes.” I’ve waited five minutes and more. This is passive-aggressive retailing, putting barriers between the customer and what she wants to get your way.

I went to MyStarbucksIdea and found fellow decaffers urging a change in the policy here and here. As my fellow customers point out there, a lot of us cannot drink caf (for me, it’s a medical necessity to avoid it; my wife wonders why I bother). And, by the way, does it make sense to get rid of decaf later in the day, when more people drink it.

Obviously, Starbucks is trying to eke out operating pennies by throwing away less stale decaf coffee and forcing drip customers to one choice. It’s more efficient and Starbucks needs the pennies as its quarterly profit just dropped 77 percent.

But when companies start inconveniencing customers as a business strategy and being sneaky about it, it ends nowhere good. They might as well just give us coupons to Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s.

My fellow decaffers, please go to and add your voice to the uncaffeinated chorus. We want our decaf.

  • Anonymous Poster

    Why not just go to Dunkin in the first place if you want decaf. Is Starbucks’ that much better?

  • Fred

    A. Starbucks has horrible coffee
    B. Decaf coffee is… not what Google would do.
    C. Find a new drink! :)

  • Hmm, doesn’t it make sense that you’d brew MORE decaf after Noon? Isn’t that when the coffee hounds turn to it when needing the taste but not the sleep deprivation?

    • Sandy

      Exactly – wouldn’t you make decaf at night so your customers could sleep and come back for caf in the morning? I don’t even drink coffee and I think this is a dumb policy.

      • Joe

        It’s not a dumb policy…they know their business and you don’t!

  • Tim McDougall

    @Kirk I can’t speak for the rest of the population, but I usually want my coffee around 3 pm, right when that afternoon sleepiness starts setting in. I’m definitely drinking caffeinated coffee.

    I would have thought the low point for decaf would be early in the morning, but I don’t sell coffee for a living, and I’m sure Starbucks has crunched the numbers.

    If too many people don’t like it, it is going to hurt Starbucks. They get the picture if people stop showing up. WWGD :)

  • Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.

  • Russell C

    Wow, I have been running into a different situation at my local Starbucks. I can’t stand the Pike blend, so I always ask for the bold blend. For the second time in the past two days, I was told that they ran out of bold, and only have Pike!

  • Starbucks’ policy wasn’t really “quiet.” I remember news coverage of their announcement that they would stop afternoon decaf due to reduced demand (yes, that’s counter-intuitive). The announcement came on January 27. See the Bloomberg story or search Google for “starbucks decaf afternoon”

    bob wyman

    • Yes, a colleague just told me she saw the story. I should have phrased it differently: At least a dozen times, I went to Starbucks to be told, oh, gosh, we’re out of decaf, would you like that Americano? They should have told me in the store what’s going on. They don’t need the press to do that. They have baristas.

  • bigyaz

    From an ecological perspective I like what Starbucks is doing. You’d prefer that they brew a whole bunch of decaf, have it sit there until it’s too old to serve, throw it out and then brew up another batch so it will be there when you happen to walk in?

    Take the Americano. It’s a better drink and it’s made fresh. Or you can whine, “But I prefer the old drip coffee that’s been sitting around for an hour.”

  • try roma. caffix. teaccino. much tastier than decaf.

  • Jeff,
    Thanks for taking the time to write about Starbucks and our decaf policy. We have been discussing this issue with our customers for a while now. For context, here was the first blog post we wrote about the topic:

    A couple of things to point out:

    We spent a lot of time monitoring the demand for decaf, and noticed a significant drop off in the afternoon. We only hold coffee for 30 minutes, so found we were pouring most of the brewed decaf down the drain. That’s a lot of coffee to waste, which does have a cost associated with it in addition to just being wasteful of product and resources.

    Many people, including decaf customers like coffee best immediately after brewing. The “just ask” policy works better for some because it guarantees the best coffee-albeit with a small (3-5 minute) wait.

    We have given license to each store manager to brew both additional bold coffees and decaf coffees as he or she sees fit for that store’s customers. Thus, if a store has a large number of decaf orders after noon, or customers come in at certain times of the day regularly, there can be a very personalized solution for that store or those customers.

    For specific location feedback on the freshly brewed coffee experience, we encourage customers to call our customer contact center so that we can work with the store directly to rectify the situation.

    We continue to look for ways to bring an elevated brewed coffee experience to our customers. We are currently testing other single-serving brew methods to help with both customer service and waste. We hope to have more to share later this summer on My Starbucks Idea.

    That being said, we thoroughly encourage continued reaction, voting and discussion about the topic. Please do continue to come to MSI and post your thoughts and votes. This idea:
    is a good central link to give us this feedback. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and work with our customers for the best possible solution.

  • charlie

    Well, I see the PR is still served fresh on the blogs! That is a helpful response, Cecile, thanks.

    Like many of the commenters, I’m not fond of starbucks’ brewed coffees but their espresso-based drinks are good. I think you’d be better off with a decaf americano or decaf espresso anyway.

  • Mark Rutledge

    Oh Lord, Cecile! Just give ’em Sanka and be done with it.

    • Eugene Golden

      Another less than smart answer that discounts health issues.

  • Decaffinated coffee: What’s the point?

    • bigyaz

      Some people like the flavor of coffee. If all you’re looking for is a buzz you can drink Jolt or any other number of high-caffeine offerings. Or just pop a pill.

    • Starr

      It still has caffeine, just a reduced amount. I’m pregnant and a regular cup of coffee has too much caffeine for me.

  • Just kick the Starbucks habit. I did it years ago and . . .

    1. its coffee is strong and bitter anyway

    2. now I pay about four-cents for a cup (Costco beans) and it’s much better.

    Ah, saving money and getting a better product. Can’t beat that!

    • bigyaz

      And you only drink coffee at home, never while you’re out or on a break at work? When you meet friends for coffee do you do so only in your kitchen?

      I brew at home, too, but I also go to coffee shops.

      • Blake Austin Eske

        Lol Sounds like you live the three cups a day life bigyaz.

  • ChrisinCastleRock

    I too ran into this the other day and empirically to me it made no sense. But face it; Starbuck’s isn’t in the business of making stupid decisions and creating disgruntled customers. I have to believe they have done their homework. They know when they do and don’t sell decaf. They know when they have waste in the system. Give them a break, if everyone was ordering decaf in the afternoon, they would be brewing decaf all afternoon. My guess is that Starbuck’s knows this data down to the store, leading me to believe that some stores have the latitude to brew decaf in the afternoon. American consumers need to become smarter about our demands if we want companies to survive. Take them up on the decaf Americano. If it isn’t strong enough for you, ask them to use less water or add an extra shot. Starbuck’s wants you to be happy, but also needs to be profitable.

    • Eugene Golden

      Health restraints on some people in regards to caffeine blow your logic out of the water totally.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with you. Coming from the hospitality industry and ‘the customer is always right’ Starbucks better start listening to what drives their revenue, no matter how much it’s hurting. I’m a huge coffee drinker but brew my own and take it with me, and more people will start doing this if companies like this don’t start listening. I understand there is a waste when it comes to decaf as I’ve thrown out my fair share of decaf coffee in pots that can’t sit long but there are machines that offer one cup inserts and places like Starbucks will need to go this way. A small investment considering the alternative.

    I advertise for Starbucks as a publisher but will be voiceing my opinion on this to them.

    I have been torn between letting them go for reason of not implementing a greener way for their cups since, like Tim Horton’s, the cups are littered everywhere. I wrote a post on Tully’s coffee in the U.S. who now use recycleable cups since their linings are made from corn product instead of the non recyclable plastic liners found in take out cups.

    This is one more reason I will need to think over Starbucks but will be signing the petition you pointed to and sending them a concerning email as a publisher. I believe in seeking out companies that listen to the consumer needs since I’ve believed in giving the best customer service no matter what industry I work in, and now as a business owner it means even more to me to give that to my readers.

    I hope Starbucks can find a solution and stop deceiving their customers, the reason why they became the famous Starbucks to begin with. Without happy customers, it will end up being ‘Nobucks’.

    Thanks for passing on the info.

    • bigyaz

      Seems to me they have a great solution: They’ll give you an Americano — a more expensive, freshly made drink — for the price of a brewed decaf that may have been sitting around for half an hour.

      Not sure how much further you want them to go on that one.

      • Chihex

        They don’t taste the same. I have tried it. The Americano just tastes like watered down coffee. I don’t mind just waiting for them to brew a cup of decaf for me though:)

  • chuck luke

    I’m in. I don’t even know what customer satisfaction means tip those that advertise it.

    It’s all about the profit margins, the bottom line they have to answer for.
    I came here to read about the cost of decaffeinated coffee but somehow my thoughts been redirected to the disturbing facts on what and how decaffeinated coffee can be substituted.

    I wholeheartedly agree that this passive aggressive approach to inconveniencing customers is spreading like a virus . There doesn’t seem to be a corporation anywhere in North America that can pride itself in truthfully saying the customer needs and satisfaction come first.