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Heads Up, Drink Scammers: Starbucks Is Onto You

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 6/21/2018 Caitlin Petreycik
a sign hanging off the side of a building © Jaap Arriens—NurPhoto via Getty Images

Grifters are truly having a moment, from fake German heiress Anna Delvey to the precocious teen posing as a seasoned luxury travel guide, and the yacht-stealing British painter dubbed the "Portofino Pirate." So, it makes sense that an old Starbucks hack involving water, ice, matcha powder, and steely, unwavering confidence, would resurface during this, the Summer of Scam.

Over on the Starbucks subreddit, baristas have noticed an uptick in customers ordering ice water with two scoops of matcha (grand total: $0.80) rather than shelling out $2.75 for a green iced tea. Corporate actually caught onto this practice when it went semi-viral on Instagram a couple years ago, and instructed stores to ring up the bootleg drink as a "custom iced tea," and charge people accordingly. But not every Starbucks outpost seems to have gotten the memo, as customers are trying (and occasionally getting away with) this trick again.

Will new beverages like the Cold Roam Tea Lemonades—which happen to launch tomorrow and, according to a press release, "evoke the bright morning sun" and "the season's dramatic sunsets" respectively—lure tea drinkers away from the matcha hack? Considering the pineapple-flavored Summer Sunrise and the passion fruit-flavored Summer Sunset cost a cool $3.75-$5.75 (versus the 80 cent hack), that would depend on your priorities.

If you want to test your scamming skills on the matcha hack, proceed with caution. Baristas love Shutting. This. Hack. Down. "I’m like 'No honey, that's a custom tea sorry about your luck,'" one Starbucks employee posted on Reddit. "LMAO I don’t actually say that, but she tries to trick the person on the register if it’s someone she hasn’t seen before. Take your garbage drink elsewhere, Karen."

Some baristas, like this poster, prefer a more subtle (and devious) approach: "My favorite response to 'the other store does it...' is 'Oh, thanks for making me aware. Which location is that? We can give them a call to ensure our prices are consistent!'" Savage.

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