Check your bank balance! Starbucks double-charges one million customers

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On May 22 and 23, Starbucks (SBUX) overcharged approximately one million of its customers. The Memorial Day mistake, which the coffee chain is calling a "settlement processing error," has allegedly been resolved, but has left many customers concerned about the security of their credit card and debit card transactions.

At more than 7,000 Starbucks stores, customers were double-charged for their purchases. Essentially, when the company settled its bank transactions at the end of the day, it withdrew twice the actual purchase amount.
One disturbing aspect of this incident is the fact that the receipts the store issued were factually correct, which means that even the most vigilant customers would have been unable to detect the mistake at the point of sale. In fact, the only way that customers could have noticed the error would have been if they carefully reviewed their bank statements.

Some customers have claimed that they have not received their refunds, but Starbucks says that it is working quickly to settle all accounts. If you think that you were overcharged and have not been reimbursed, the best thing to do is call Starbucks' customer service.

Of course, any time there is a mix-up like this, conspiracy theories quickly develop. Some have suggested that the error was a quick and easy way for Starbucks to raise a few million dollars before it finished up its quarter. However, given that the company tried to rectify the error by May 29, the company would not actually carry the extra money to the end of the quarter. In all likelihood, this was exactly what it appears to be -- an honest (and costly) mistake, caused by a computer glitch.

In many ways, that explanation is actually far more disturbing. As one analyst noted, credit overcharges are very common; while most are later rectified by retailers, some slip through the cracks. Moreover, given that the vast majority of credit and debit transactions are for relatively small purchases, customers are less likely to notice little errors. Eventually, these small mistakes can add up to big money.

The moral of the story is clear: if you use a credit or debit card, check your balance sheet regularly!

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