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Originally published Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Starbucks' gift to shareholders just a little drip

Every year at about this time, Starbucks sends its shareholders a little gift along with its annual report and proxy. The last five years...

Seattle Times business reporter

Every year at about this time, Starbucks sends its shareholders a little gift along with its annual report and proxy.

The last five years, Starbucks sent a gift card for $3.50, enough money to buy a latte. Previously, it was a coupon for a free drink of their choice.

This year, shareholders are tearing open the envelope to find a coupon for two drinks a little farther down the beverage chain — drip coffees.

Starbucks says it wants to encourage people to bring a friend or family member along, then write about their experience at

The new coupon also happens to cost less. Last year, Starbucks spent roughly $1.4 million for gift cards to about 400,000 shareholders.

By giving away cheaper drip coffees — which cost $1.45 in Seattle — the company saves at least $200,000. If customers push for the iced version, which costs $1.80, the savings shrink.

Some shareholders are disappointed by the offering.

Kate Navarro, a Seattle resident and longtime shareholder, doesn't drink drip coffee.

"I'm not going to sell my stock because they're only sending me a coupon for brewed coffee instead of a latte, but it's kind of disappointing," she said.

Doreen Huether, another stockholder from Seattle, was happy to get the coupon although she "thought it was a little strange I couldn't get a latte." She gave it to her daughter, whose husband drinks drip.

Then there was the enterprising former Starbucks employee who assured his wife she could use the coupon toward the price of her latte.

When she tried that at her local Starbucks, "they wouldn't do it," he said.

Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman said the company is encouraging baristas to use their best judgment in such cases "to ensure that our customers have the exceptional experience they expect from their Starbucks."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or

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