Starbucks Registers Go Down in North America, Halting Orders

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Starbucks Corp.
Starbucks Corp., the world's biggest coffee-shop operator, suffered a payment system outage in North America on Friday. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Starbucks Corp.’s point-of-sale register system crashed on Friday evening, preventing the chain from accepting payment and -- in some cases -- leading to customers getting their coffees for free.

The system went down in the U.S. and Canada during a daily update, affecting company-owned stores, the Seattle-based coffee chain said in a statement on its website. Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh and Teavana stores were also struck by the outage. While the company initially said that stores would remain open while the problem was addressed, it later indicated they would close early.

“We are actively working to resolve the outage,” Starbucks said. “We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience or confusion and will update this statement once systems are back online.”

The disruption brings a black eye to a chain that’s long been praised for its payment technology. The company has a popular mobile app that lets customers pay with their phones, and it’s testing a system for pre-ordering coffee. But the crash on Friday extended to all kinds of payments, including cash and credit cards.

At a Starbucks in midtown Manhattan, employees said the system went down around 7 p.m. local time. Employees gave free hot and iced coffee to patrons. At 8:30 p.m., an employee announced that the store would close at 9 p.m., rather than 10 p.m., because of the systemwide problem.

Mobile App

Starbucks has invested heavily in technology to make payment easier. Its mobile-phone app accounted for 19 percent of total U.S. payments last quarter, up from 16 percent in the previous period, the company said this week. Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee-shop chain, posted quarterly sales on Thursday that beat analysts’ estimates.

While some customers groused about the disruption on social media, others boasted about getting free drinks. Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for the company, didn’t comment on the move by some stores to offer free coffee, only saying that they had remained open during the outage -- at least temporarily. By almost 10 p.m. New York time, she said that stores that weren’t already closed would be shutting down early.

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