© Zhang Peng / Getty Images

There is such a thing as free coffee, just not gallons of it.

Mike Pomranz
April 26, 2017

Important caveat: Starbucks is not offering a promotion in the US where customers get a free drink if they bring their own cup, regardless of the size. But if Starbucks did have such an offer, would you be angry if one of your fellow ‘Bucks lovers showed up with, like, a watercooler jug to fill up with coffee?

In a bizarre story covered by Shanghai Daily, many on Chinese social media became outraged after photos were spread supposedly showing customers in line at Starbucks trying to take advantage of the previously-mentioned free drink promotion with massive containers like washbowls and water jugs. The images circulated with the description that “Starbucks launched a promotion for Earth Day on April 22. It's said that people could bring in their own cup to get free coffee at stores nationwide. And then ...”

However, the whole thing turned out to everyone’s favorite type of current events story: “fake news.” Though Starbucks was indeed giving everyone a free coffee for Earth Day, the promotion clearly stated that the offer was for 12-ounce coffees. The photos were real, but they had been appropriated from a different story demonstrating how Starbucks would fill any container – as long as you actually paid for the amount of coffee was put in it. (Apparently someone paid about $50 to have a basin filled with coffee in that experiment. Fun!)

But though the story was fake clickbait, the lesson we’ve learned seems real: Starbucks China apparently doesn’t see eye-to-eye on this issue with American companies. Because, you see, 7-Eleven does hold a very similar promotion to the one Starbucks didn’t actually offer. The convenience store chain has a Bring Your Own Cup Day where customers are allowed to get a Slurpee of any size and have it filled for $1.50. And in the US, people are celebrated for their ingenuity of bringing everything from Brita jugs to KFC buckets to cheese ball plastic barrels to bongs.

So should the Chinese learn to embrace their inner deal-loving glutton or should Americans learn to be more respectful of a brand willing to offer them a good deal? Maybe this is the discussion we should have to try and bring our two nations closer together.