Starbucks is beset on all sides by those looking to undo them. When they aren’t battling a scrappy young upstart with a projected $500 million IPO and a can-do spirit for the top spot in the world’s largest growing coffee market, they’re artfully dodging questions about what sort of stretching regimen former CEO Howard Schultz employs that allows him to simultaneously put his foot in his mouth and his head up his ass.
But this time, the call is coming from inside the house. Ok maybe not inside the house exactly. More like the next-door neighbor’s house, the one’s you decided to convert your two driveways into a basketball court with. According to Reuters, Starbucks is being sued by French press maker Bodum for “product disparagement.”
It all started with a recall. Per Reuters, on May 1st, the Big Green Mermaid issued a recall for all 263,200 co-branded Bodum/Starbucks French presses “made from recycled materials” being sold in their US and Canada locations, the shared basketball court to continue the already tenuous metaphor. Starbucks states the recall is due nine instances of the plunger handle breaking, leading to “lacerations and punctures.”
Bodum, on the other hand, sees it a little differently. In the court filings, the French press maker states that “Starbucks had no basis to ‘unilaterally’ conduct the May 1 recall because the Bodum + Starbucks presses were not defective and met required specifications.” The company also alleges that “Starbucks recalled the presses even though laboratory tests found no evidence of product or design defects, because it had become ‘particularly sensitive to recall issues’ after paying large fines in an earlier recall.”
This, Bodum states, is giving the public a general impression that all Bodum French presses are defective, which has led to a media backlash and “significant brand damage.” The lawsuit is seeking Starbucks to pay for all costs associated with the recall as well as damages to the Bodum reputation.
The exact amount being request in Bodum Holding AG et al v Starbucks Corp is not yet available, but we do know the retail value of those quarter-million+ French presses eclipses the $5 million mark. Throw in a few extra Ms for reputation damage and that’s probably a good place to begin guessing.