After 2 Drinks at Starbucks Drive-Thru, He Was Out $4.5K

Jesse O'Dell was charged for a gratuity he didn't authorize, and getting the money back was a pain
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2023 10:00 AM CST
After 2 Drinks at Starbucks Drive-Thru, He Was Out $4.5K
The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront on Oct. 14 in Boston.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

An Oklahoma man's visit to his local Starbucks drive-through put him out not only the cost of the two venti drinks he purchased—he was also charged nearly $4,500 for a gratuity he didn't authorize. KOKI and NBC News report that Jesse O'Dell's Jan. 7 purchase at the Tulsa coffee chain was actually about $12. Instead, however, he was charged for a $4,444 tip as well, bringing the total tab to $4,456.27. O'Dell didn't notice something was amiss right away, but his wife, Deedee O'Dell, did when she was at the mall with their four kids a couple of days later: The credit card her husband had used at Starbucks was declined when she tried to use it.

The couple eventually discovered the erroneous gratuity, but then "the real hell started," Jesse O'Dell tells FOX23. After speaking with multiple managers, the O'Dells were promised that they'd be sent checks to cover the cost. Those checks, totaling $4,444, did eventually come at the end of last month, but they promptly bounced, leading to dozens of more calls, and much frustration. The family even canceled a trip to Thailand, where Deedee O'Dell is originally from. "I didn't want to be traveling across the planet while we had thousands of dollars hung up somewhere," Jesse O'Dell tells NBC. That's when he decided to file a police report, as he at this point suspected that maybe someone had purposely added the tip onto his check.

A spokesperson with the Tulsa Police Department says a fraud probe into the excessive tip began on Jan. 26 and that no one has been charged. "Detectives with our Financial Crimes Unit investigated the case and found the gratuity was added either by accident or by machine error," the rep said in a statement. "Detectives did not find any intent of fraud from the employees working at the time." The spokesperson also said its probe is over, as reissued checks had been cashed on Feb. 6. O'Dell acknowledges they were, though he doesn't plan on visiting the coffee chain again anytime soon. "I make better coffee than Starbucks," he tells NBC. "I have a French press." (More Starbucks stories.)

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