Starbucks workers say cup lids are a big problem

  • Insider spoke to five Starbucks workers across the US who reported the defective lids.
  • Workers said the lids did not fit the cups and were regularly spilled on customers.
  • Starbucks has not commented on the lids, but the company has dealt with supply chain issues in the past.

Something is wrong with the lids Starbucks uses on its drinks, some workers say.

Insider spoke to five employees in five states. They describe supplied lids that fit inconsistently, often leading to drink spillage, slower drink preparation and a poorer customer experience.

No type of lid seems to be safe from this scourge, and workers say they have problems with both cold and hot beverage lids. Even the domed Frappuccino lid that allows the barista to add some whipped cream on top is not spared.

“There were times when I tried to put the lid on a Frappuccino and the whole cup just fell over and spilled the drink all over my hands and the counter while the customer who ordered the drink looked on,” a manager in Virginia told Insider.

Each worker’s employment was verified by Insider. They remain anonymous because they are not allowed to speak to the press.

Starbucks declined to comment on its lids or suppliers.

A manager at one location in Virginia said he usually instructs a drive-thru worker to double-check the drinks before handing them through the window. But some faulty lids get through, “especially when we’re busy and understaffed,” he said, resulting in hot and cold drinks being spilled on customers and their cars.

The California barista said he became an unofficial lid tester on some shifts, checking the stability of each lid before handing it to customers. The situation was so dire in December that he estimates he threw away about 50% of the lids because they were unusable, he told Insider.

A barista in North Carolina says the problems at his store mostly center on the dome lids used for Frappuccinos, which are “an accident waiting to happen.” He says he often uses two cups to strengthen stability, but that doesn’t always solve the problem. Another worker in Colorado told Insider she’s making drinks more slowly because of the time it takes to test each cap — a lesson she learned after a drink was spilled on a car buyer’s lap.

All five workers agreed that they thought the lids were part of a bigger problem.

“The quality control of every item, not just lids, has dropped significantly” in the past year, including straws, cups and food warmers, said the North Carolina barista.

“Cup and lid problems were much less common before the pandemic,” a Pennsylvania worker who has been at Starbucks since 2018 told Insider. There has been a bad streak “every now and then,” she said, but since mid-2021 at least there have been problems once a week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to other supply chain issues at Starbucks. In 2021, the coffee shop chain put 25 ingredients on “temporary hold” due to supply chain issues, according to an internal memo that Insider reviewed at the time. Starbucks also dealt with shortages of cups and oat milk.

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