Seoul lawmaker roasts Starbucks Korea for promotional giveaway

July 28 (UPI) — Mini-suitcases with the Starbucks logo and foldable camping chairs are at the center of an inquiry at South Korea’s National Assembly after the global coffee chain began promoting the items in May to attract more customers.

South Korean lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party said Tuesday that Starbucks Korea’s marketing strategy of giving away hard-shell suitcases and portable chairs could have taken advantage of consumers. The case warrants an investigation, they say, according to News 1 and Yonhap.

Lawmaker Min Hyung-bae said the coffee chain, which has more than 1,200 stores in Korea, may be in violation of South Korea’s fair trade act.

Starbucks began marketing the promotional giveaways in May under its “e-frequency” rewards program. Customers who purchased 17 beverages, including three seasonal Starbucks drinks, were eligible for a free mini-suitcase, available in green or pink, and a “summer chair” that came in three different designs.

The promotion was a success but also caused long lines and shortages. People who met the giveaway requirements were turned away as some customers hoarded the giveaway items after purchasing hundreds of cups of coffee to collect as many as 17 suitcases, according to reports.

Last month, the Starbucks suitcases began to appear on online marketplaces and were priced at about $100. Customers needed to spend about $75 on coffee to be eligible for one of the items, according to Yonhap.

On Tuesday, Min did not refer to the hoarding among customers, focusing instead on Starbucks Korea’s marketing strategy.

“Many customers did not receive benefits due to shortages, even though they met the conditions for receiving the free gifts,” Min said. “That’s a problem.”

Joh Sung-wook, chairwoman of Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, said Tuesday it is difficult to say whether the company shortchanged customers.

The case will be reviewed, Joh said, according to News 1.

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