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Unhappy Customer Wages Ad War Against Coffee Chain

June 1, 1995

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Jeremy Dorosin is steamed at Starbucks.

Unhappy about the coffeehouse chain’s handling of his complaints that it sold him defective espresso makers, the businessman has spent $10,000 on newspaper ads demanding Starbucks apologize to customers everywhere.

Dorosin says if he does not get satisfaction, his slow roast of the booming Seattle-based company will culminate in a two-page Wall Street Journal ad packed with Starbucks customers’ complaints of snooty servers and weak coffee.

``Unfortunately ... most people don’t have the financial means to do it,″ says Dobrosin, who owns a store that sells scuba diving equipment. He proclaims his goal to be ``human decency.″

Starbucks says it offered refunds, replacements, gifts and personal apologies.

``We did everything we could to rectify the situation that was reasonable,″ spokeswoman Cheri Libby says.

The trouble began brewing at a Berkeley Starbucks in April, when Dorosin splurged on a $299 espresso maker for himself and a $169 maker for a friend who was getting married.

The clerk failed to throw in half-pound bags of coffee, customary with large purchases, and refused even to compromise with a free cappucino, Dorosin says.

Dorosin says he was even more steamed when his friend told him her wedding present had rust and missing parts, and when his own model stopped pumping.

The company said the bride’s machine was new but perhaps rusted after test brews at the factory. Starbucks denied any parts were missing.

Dorosin had a suggestion for Starbucks: ``Just give her the nicest machine you have, and we’ll call it even.″

The nicest machine sells for $2,495, according to Starbucks. The company offered to replace both machines with $269 models.

Dorosin responded with four ads in Western editions of the Journal, starting at 4-by-4 inches and growing in size.

``Had any PROBLEMS at Starbucks coffee? You’re not alone. Let’s talk,″ an early ad read. It gave a toll-free number.

One ad claimed 2,000 calls in response to the earlier ads. It promised a future ad would publish letters from unhappy customers, such as a Seattle man who was treated like a ``smelly dog″ when he asked for non-dairy creamer.

After the second ad, Starbucks mailed Dorosin’s friend a new espresso maker and accessories and Dorosin a full refund.

But Dorosin’s demands by this time had escalated: He wanted Starbucks to take out a two-page, $247,182 spread in the Journal to apologize. Starbucks refused, but still hopes to resolve the conflict, Libby says.

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