Alarming problem sets off Starbucks lawsuits

Espresso machines and Wi-Fi service aren't the only things Starbucks is revamping. The Seattle-based coffee juggernaut is trying to change who monitors many of its store-alarm systems -- but that's proving more difficult than retraining baristas.

Dueling lawsuits filed this past week detail the rupture of a decadelong relationship during which ADT Security Services installed alarm systems at more than 2,400 of Starbucks' 7,257 company-owned U.S. stores.

Starbucks tried switching some locations to another monitoring company in 2005, only to discover that many had ADT-installed security chips that won't allow anyone else to reprogram the alarms remotely.

With a shifting roster of employees and frequent after-hours deliveries, Starbucks says it needs the flexibility to update the systems remotely. It claims that ADT and a predecessor firm consistently said they were installing alarms that were not proprietary.

Starbucks seeks $900 apiece to replace about 2,100 alarm panels -- that's approximately $1.9 million -- plus triple damages. And it wants the court to force ADT to divulge the passwords Starbucks needs to remotely access the alarms.

ADT's lawsuit argues the alarms can still be programmed by someone at the store, so the systems aren't proprietary under the companies' latest contract, signed in 2004.

If it does have to pay for replacing alarms, ADT says, the court should peg the price at $360, rather than $900. Furthermore, ADT doesn't want to pay compensation for what Starbucks could have saved by switching to another monitoring company.

Burglars shouldn't get any ideas -- ADT says it is still monitoring the alarms.

But its suit says the coffee company hasn't paid it for some time, and owes more than $413,000.

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