Starbucks China accused of double standards in gift card controversy

Global coffee chain Starbucks has found itself embroiled in a controversy concerning its gift cards, with differing standards for fees and expiration dates between China and other countries.

The controversy first began when several gift cardholders in China expressed dissatisfaction with an unexpected fee of  3,000 RMB (418.54 USD) for extending the card’s validity beyond the initial three-year period. According to these individuals, the company did not clearly disclose the fee at the time of purchase.

According to Starbucks China’s official website, gift cards are defined as prepaid cards that can be used by cardholders at designated stores across the Chinese mainland. The cards are valid for three years from the activation date and should be utilized within that timeframe. Upon expiration, the card is automatically extended for 30 days, but an “extension management fee” is deducted, amounting to 1% of the remaining card balance.

In contrast, various media outlets later reported that Starbucks gift cards in other countries, including the United States, Canada, and Japan, do not have an expiration date or any additional fees whatsoever. On its US website, the company explicitly states, “We do not charge any activation, service, dormancy, or inactivity fees in connection with your Starbucks Card.”

News of these contrasting policies rapidly spread like wildfire on China’s social media platform Weibo, triggering heated discussions among netizens. At present, the hashtag “Starbucks accused of double standards at home and abroad” has garnered a staggering 3.72 million views as Chinese consumers demand equal treatment from the international coffee giant.

Additionally, some netizens have highlighted the arduous process of returning gift cards after purchase, citing the need for the original purchaser to personally handle the return at the original point of sale.

Overall, as the controversy intensifies, Starbucks faces mounting pressure to address the widespread discontent of Chinese consumers and rectify the inconsistencies in its gift card policies. The company’s response to this outcry will be closely monitored as netizens continue to voice their concerns over the perceived double standards in play.


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