Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Woman demands compensation for soap-laced coffee

'ROTTEN SOUP' The Consumers' Foundation urged the two parties to settle the case, but the customer said Starbucks' apology was insincere

DPA , TAIPEI

A woman yesterday sought NT$3 million (US$90,000) in damages from Taiwan's Starbucks Coffee Company after being served a cup of coffee containing detergent.

The customer, who identified herself only as Wawa, filed a complaint with the Consumers' Foundation and intends to sue the company if it refuses to pay compensation.

Lin Hsiu-wen (林秀文), a Starbucks Coffee Company executive, publicly apologized to Wawa yesterday and sought an out-of-court settlement.

“We offer our apology to the customer and promise it will not happen again,” she told reporters.

“Our company has punished the staff member who left the detergent in the coffee tank and has tightened safety procedures,” she said.

A Starbucks press officer said the company was still “communicating” with the customer, hoping to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

“Our staff members took her to hospital for a checkup, made sure she was feeling OK and paid her medical expenses,” she said.

The Consumers' Foundation urged Starbucks and the customer to reach a settlement, but warned that it if were in the US, Starbucks could face a serious lawsuit because the incident involved consumer health.

The incident happened at 7:30am on Oct. 22 when Wawa went to the Starbucks outlet at Taipei Railway Station to buy a cup of coffee.

After she had taken two sips, she felt nauseous because the coffee smelled “like rotten soup,” she wrote on the Internet.

“The coffee looked like a layer of liquid and a layer of oil which had separated,” she wrote.

The coffee shop management found that an employee had put detergent into a stainless steel coffee tank the previous night to clean it, but forgot to wash the tank.

Wawa said the Starbucks outlet gave her coupons for three cups of coffee and told her that the detergent was for cleaning food containers and was harmless. But Wawa claimed she suffered from anxiety and insomnia, and Starbucks was not sincere in its apology.

Starbucks said it had sent representatives to visit Wawa at her office three times with gift packages to apologize.

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