Starbucks, You Confuse Me

Starbucks is “committed to reducing waste” you guys. So much so that you can buy a reusable plastic cup from them for $1.

I commend this action, but….

I’m confused why they are always insisting on plugging my drinks with these stupid drink plugs when I’m just going to take 2 steps, remove it, and, you know, DRINK MY COFFEE.

For some reason, all the Starbucks locations near my house (in the Dallas suburbs) will automatically put one of these in every hot drink, both in the drive-through and in the store (though one location near me seems to only put them in automatically in the drive through).

I know this may sound like something so small and trivial to get worked up over, but it makes me rage. I try to remember to bring my own mug, but I mostly forget. I try to remember to at least bring my own coffee sleeve, but sometimes I forget. The LEAST I can do is not get an extra piece of plastic plugged into my lid every time I order a drink.

I can understand the purpose of these things if, say, you’re picking up coffee for the office and you need to drive 10 cups of hot liquid back in your car. I have friends who say they like to have them in their drink when they’re driving to keep them warm between sips and to keep them from splattering if they hit a bump in the road. I’m not saying they shouldn’t exist, just WHY do you have to give it to me if I don’t ask for it?

Personally, I rarely ever get a drink from Starbucks that is not then consumed immediately after. I don’t know many people who do. It’s not a company policy, something to “protect from lawsuits” as some have suggested to me because they certainly don’t go dishing out little plastic sticks all willy nilly in places like Seattle (or so I’m told). I’m told in some of the more hip-to-saving-the-planet parts of the country you have to beg and plead your case for one of these.

But, ’round these parts I can’t order a latte at Target without them plugging it up… for the very dangerous walk with hot coffee through the store, I guess?

Oh sure, it’s just a little stick. I can ask them not to put it in. Except I sometimes forget, or when I remember it goes like this:

::over the noise of the steaming milk::
“Oh! Excuse me! … Yea- no… no, no stick please… The stick? Yeah… no… no please don-… ugh. Forget it.”
::confused face from barista as they stick the plug in my drink and ask me what I was saying::

I have to watch them like a hawk and catch them at just the right time to make my special request, which means I’m only part of the 1% of people who will actually do that, and all those “little” sticks getting plugged into thousands of cups every day and then get thrown away in trashcans 3 feet from where they originated.


I wish I could say this was the pregnancy hormones talking, but this has annoyed me to no end since they started doing this regularly around here about 9 months to a year ago.

Do they automatically put them in drinks at your locations?


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  1. Fiddle dee Ashley on

    I always have to ask for them here in Buffalo. I always get one when I’m bringing coffee home to my husband. I drink iced so it’s never an issue when I’m getting a drink for just me.

  2. Nope they have never put them in at my Starbucks (in charleston,SC) they don’t even automatically put a sleeve on. They have them out for you to put on if you want. Strange that they would do that automatically all the time.

  3. They do not. They are available if you want them but I don’t think anyone really uses them. I always thought they were drink stirrers 🙂

  4. Nope – you have to ask if you want one at my local store. And they don’t put a sleeve on automatically either – that’s self-serve too.

    • I WISH they would make the coffee sleeves by request, too. That’s a battle I’ve nearly given up on. Half the time they write my order on the sleeve, so even if after they’ve put it on I tell them I have my own, that one just goes in the trash.

  5. In Houston we get them automatically. Though my Target is the only place I don’t see them. I was told it keeps the drinks hot. I guess they assume you want to keep them hot? I agree 99% of the time I drink my drink immediately and just take it out. Wasteful.

    • Actually, at the location I go to the most (in the H-town ‘burbs) does not give them automatically, but they do ask if I want one. Usually I do because I am driving to work, and hell to the no if I end up with hot coffee in my lap because people around here can’t effing drive.

  6. Heh. My darling dumb friend gave herself second degree burns on her leg from hot tea when she didn’t get a stick in the drive-thru, so I can kind of understand why they do it there (not that she’s going to sue or anything – she knows she was darling and dumb). But, yeah, sticks in-store are dumb unless I ask.

  7. They are available on the counters here, they do not automatically put them in. I like them for plugging the cup when I am walking my kids out to the car so I don’t spill on them 😉

    • See, I guess maybe it’s a district thing?? Like, maybe the DM of the stores around me made it an automatic thing? I’ve heard there are stores in Richardson that will automatically do it, too, though.

      • I work in the Richardson area, but I hardly ever get Starbucks there. You just need a “stop the stopper” sign. 🙂

  8. I’m in the Boston suburbs and they don’t. They have them in a mug at the spot where you pick up the drink, so they’re readily available, but they’ve never put it in for me. Maybe it varies by state, but it’s pretty ridiculous!

  9. haha that’s funny – I’m the opposite. I DO love the little sticks (whatever they’re called!) but mostly because i don’t drink it right away. I’m usually on my way to work and like to save it until i get there because everytime i don’t wait i burn my tongue or spill it on myself! Also i find it useful to keep stirring so nothing sinks to the bottom. but if they just stopped putting them in there, i would always forget to ask for one! so maybe the solution is for them to make sure they offer – so you can politely decline, and i can politely accept!

    • Odd… I asked a barista once (here in CT) when I was asking her not to put one in my drink and she told me that they were required to put them in. Is it a store-by-store or a regional thing?

  10. They don’t do it automatically here in Austin at many places, but we’re a little crunchier down here. The city just implemented a plastic bag ban so you have to take your own bags with you everywhere. It was easy to remember for the grocery store…not so much for random places like Hobby Lobby.

  11. twitter_MelissaG813 on

    They don’t do it automatically around here. But when I worked in the city I always took one for my coffee because I had to walk a few blocks to the office and, since I’m a klutz, I always would spill some on myself. The sticks helped that. 😉

  12. I guess I am more irritated than confused. Starbucks doesn’t really care about being green (ie the little green sticks and cardboard sleeves that you are pointing out), they care about being perceived as a hip green company, doin what all the cool kids do. At least that is my take on it. They know that 80% of us will buy those cups & and then forget them at home (just like, ahem, I did with my roo cup last summer), and rarely take advantage of the $0.10 off!

    As for the green sticks in my area, I really very rarely buy starbucks coffee, because I don’t like their coffee unless it’s masked with ungodly amounts of cream, sugar and the words “caramel brulee” or “peppermint mocha”. Plus my boss provides dunkin donuts coffee at work, and at home I’ve got my keurig so I feel guilty spending the money. However, when I go I’ve found drive thru drinks are autumatically stuck with the green stoppers, but inside you have to ask for them, which I do if I am taking a drink out to my husband or whoever. My mom loves them because she is a teacher and LOVES SB hot chocolate; she orders three larges (ventis?) at the start of the week then re heats and drinks while she has traffic duty in the winter!

  13. I don’t go to Starbucks, we only go to a local shop, but they always ALWAYS ask if you need a sleeve, they never put them on automatically. I personally love a super hot cup of coffee in my hands, so I never get one. Also, they get stuck in my car cup holder, so they render themselves useless pretty quickly if I’m staying in the car anyway. They don’t use plugs, so there’s that, but I appreciate that they take the 3 seconds to ask about the sleeves, b/c many people decline.

  14. You definitely don’t live in Minneapolis. 😉 If I go to a coffee shop during the winter and they don’t have the little flippy lid or a ‘plug,’ then my coffee is cold within five minutes.

  15. Here in good ol’ windy and dusty as hell Lubbock, TX, they put one every stinkin’ time…Drives me insane!

  16. They don’t put them in automatically in Vermont or Montreal. The Target locations are licensees so maybe their operator requires it from employees?

  17. It’s true….here in Seattle they ask if you want one (and usually they don’t even do that). If you do want one, you usually have to hunt one down. Then there are, of course, proper recycling bins instead of trash cans. 🙂 I love Seattle (and Starbucks)!

  18. They do it automatically at the 2 near me here in Connecticut, so I feel your pain. Either that, or I’ve had baristas do it, stop and ask “oh, did you want one?” even after it’s already been in the drink. It drives me insane. I’m tempted to just hang on to them and bring back a whole pile to them at once. The only problem is that if I do, my car and/or purse will start looking like a Starbucks stick junkyard (stickyard?).

  19. I live in Winnipeg, Canada, and the straws are always out at the pickup counter area for you to take if you want, but I have never had one put in for me. Even if I order 4 drinks, and ask for a tray, obviously leaving the store, they still don’t automatically put the plugs in.

  20. They do it here in Nashville, too! What drives me even crazier is that I bought the plastic cup too and the couple of times that I remember to bring it with me to the drive through, I’ve watched them pour my drink from a disposable Starbucks cup into my reusable one as I wait at the window. Like they want to make the drink and not hold up the line do they do it in a disposable cup & then pour it into my cup when I get to the window. What’s really frustrating about that us that I don’t even get a fancy drink–just a regular coffee so all they have go add is sugar/milk which takes about 10 seconds!!!

  21. I completely agree! The majority of these are a waste of money for Starbucks and as much as their corporate offices care about appearing green to consumers I do not think very many of the individual stores and kiosks share those values. I’m not a huge environmentalist but I do think that every little bit helps!

  22. Where I live, sticks are a by-request-only sorta thing. Which is fortunate, because I would be RAWRing right along with you if it were impossible to get a drink without one! It really is silly they haven’t put a stop to it yet – it would take one company-wide memo to save a gajillion extra pounds of plastic (and hellooooo, company money)!

  23. i’m just as surprised to see the stick as I am to hear you have starbucks in targets. I haven’t seen either.

    starbucks in grocery stores, yes, targets, no.

  24. NYC reporting in. The first time I had ever encountered those were in Austin, Texas. Maybe they don’t have those in the north? I like the idea of them, especially if you are getting in the car, but they should ask.

  25. Katie Dawson on

    I live not far from you (Denton) and they do not automatically put these in the drinks here. They do in west Texas (Lubbock), though.

  26. Ashley Renee on

    I live in Louisville, KY and I’ve never had the little sticks placed in my coffee automatically. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

  27. Sweet Poppy Studios on

    no stoppers over here in San Fran. though it would be highly unusual to find a recycle bin in a starbucks around here – one of my own personal qualms!

  28. Ashlee Mansanarez Zeronik on

    Send a comment to Starbucks headquarters and tell them how you feel. They are really good at getting back to you with concerns or questions.

  29. Courtney McHugh Lyons on

    I have never even seen those plugs before! I’m in NC, so maybe not in the south? Do they even work?

  30. Nicole Dombroskie on

    I’ve actually never seen these. I’m in Ontario, Canada. Although I don’t drink a lot of Starbucks coffee as it requires a trip to the “city” lol

  31. Krista Mulcahy on

    They don’t do that here… and speaking as a person who routinely walks or drives after getting a drink – and spills on coat – I don’t think they should automatically, but I’d so use one…. I may have to see if they have any next time I’m in and then I’ll just wash it afterward and reuse! 😉 (and I always forget my own sleeve… grrrr)

  32. Erin Ecklund Clotfelter on

    I have to beg here at the Super Target locations- I always get my coffee on the way out and if I forget I end up with half my Mocha covering me and my cart just trying to get over the bumps on the way out the door. I do my part with cloth diapers, recycling, and elimination paper towels, napkins and other things like paper plates from my home. Long live the stick!

  33. Portland OR- no green sticks. and I have to say, I splurged on the plastic $1 cup and LOVE it. I’ve been reusing it 4 months now and its holding up great.

  34. I’m so glad I’m not the only one!

    I ask them (in southern California by the way) – the conversation is similar to yours, lot’s of confusion, silence, repeating of words before they finally figure it out – and then they STILL put it in. Every. Time.

    When I see it, I’m flabbergasted and then they realize, apologize and throw it away. I’ve tried explaining, that the whole point isn’t that I don’t want to be bothered with throwing them away I don’t want to waste in the first place. The reply more than once has been, “just ask us in advance next time” WAH??? You mean like I did THIS time?!

    I am going to step off my soapbox before I get stuck in caps/punctuation mode!!

  35. we get them here, western ‘burbs of chicago, but i don’t mind them. my daughter usually takes them, she dips & gets some of my coffee. if she’s not around, i use them as an extra stir (if i’m in the car) and to keep the liquid from sloshing out.

  36. Maybe you could petition them to put a recycle bin next to the garbage bin? I assumed that was a Starbucks standard now since I can’t remember Starbucks before we had the bins. But here in Vancouver they don’t even put lids on for you never mind the little spill plugs. And I’m pretty sure they are an over the counter kind of thing here.

  37. I have NEVER seen those at ANY of the locations I’ve been to in the DC Metro area. Or in NYC. In fact, this post is the first time I’m seeing them at a Starbucks. We have another local chain that keeps similar plugs in a bowl by the counter with a sign to only take 1 if you need it, and I thought they were odd.

  38. I’m in the Philadelphia suburbs and have never even seen those in a local Starbucks, let alone gotten one in a drink. So funny how it varies that much by region!

  39. Lexi Whitman on

    I work at starbucks, and hell to the no do we put those drinks in everyone’s cups. Honestly, we’re too busy. Sometiems we’re too busy to even put sleeves on. The only time they automatically get sticks at my location is if they get a carry tray (And even then, I always ask) – otherwise you can take one from the jar near the sleeves.

    Your Starbucks sounds dumb. <3

  40. we dont have the little plugs here. and we have to ask for sleeves.

    if someone burnt themselves on hot coffee here and they tried to complain it would be “duh, hot coffee, sod off”

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