Flickr/Hao Xing

Starbucks stands accused of a company-wide conspiracy that has been defrauding customers for years, according to a class action lawsuit filed in California. Two coffee drinkers, Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles, claim that the company won't fill their lattes to the rim in an effort to save on milk, while charging for a full drink. And, according to this suit, it goes all the way to the top.

If this pair of beanheads, who say the used to visit the chain several times a week, is to be believed, anytime that a customer orders a latte, regardless of size—even Venti—the cup is underfilled by 25%, "an intentional act of fraud." The suit continues, saying that Starbucks does this to cut costs on milk and "has saved countless millions of dollars in the cost of goods sold and was unjustly enriched by taking payment for more product than it delivers."

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The smoking gun? Etch lines in the steaming pitchers that were introduced several years ago to ensure that each drink got the same amount of milk, one of the most expensive ingredients in each Starbucks drink. According to Law360:

For instance, in making a "grande" 16-ounce latte, baristas are required to use 12 ounces of milk, plus two 1-ounce shots of espresso. Therefore, the maximum possible fluid ounce amount of latte a customer could possibly receive is 14 ounces, the pair alleged.

Perhaps most significantly, the pair contend that the cups Starbucks uses for its 12-, 16- and 20-ounce lattes can hold exactly those amounts if they are filled completely to the top brim. But as a rule, Starbucks employees are instructed to leave a quarter-inch of space from the top of the cup. From a logical standpoint, that means that no cup Starbucks uses could possibly contain the alleged serving size, and every drink is filled less than the amount advertised, the consumers said.

If this is true, then a Venti is really more like a 'Diciotto,' Italian for eighteen.

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The suit acknowledges that occasionally, with foam, the rim of the cup is reached, appearing full—but not so fast, because "In the food science community, as well as in the weights and measures community, foam is not measured on a volumetric basis." Moreover, no latte can ever truly be Tall, Grande, or Venti because a second Starbucks policy says that hot drinks cannot be filled to the cup's brim.

The Starbucks Underfilled Latte Class Action Lawsuit is Siera Strumlauf, et al. v. Starbucks Corp., Case No. 3:16-cv-01306, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

[H/T Grub Street]

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: david.matthews@fusion.net