It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was poking a bit of fun at Starbucks' new "Roasters Reserves", the latest iteration of the Starbucks experience. Starbucks already has one of these coffee palaces up in Seattle and fully intend to expand them. As reported then, Starbucks intended to charge ten dollars for a cup of coffee, which keeps out the "riff raff" and affords the wealthy millennial an oasis from the drudgery of the real world inside the urban freeway loops of the American landscape.
Turns out that Starbucks has re-thought the price point. They now believe it will take twelve dollars per cup to assure Millennial nirvana and keep the peasants at bay.
I've been thinking about this ever since Starbucks came out with this stuff. I've come to the conclusion that, whether it's Starbucks $6 dollar latte, or their $12 buck cup of ambrosia at their new and exclusive roasteries, it's really not about coffee at all.
I believe the Starbucks success story was born from an innate need by some...to be somehow "better than the other guy".....to be able to buy something that the other guy can't. In simpler times it was 18k gold jewelry, or diamonds. Then along came someone like Howard Schultz to invent something "snobby but affordable"...something the American peasantry could purchase....even at the expense of the monthly electric bill.....just to show he was in some way superior to the guy next door.
And let's lay off Starbucks just a little. You see that same consumer behavior with folks ordering from a Neiman Marcus catalog. Is the gadget in Neiman Marcus really worth 500 times more than the gadget that's available in Walmart or Target? Or might I remind you of my hunt for an egg slicer a few years ago (sadly only a few of you will remember that one), when I found a .99 cent egg slicer at a 99 cents only store....the very same egg slicer going for $7.99 at my local grocery? Or let's take a more modest step up...is the Chinese made sweater sold in Macy's any better than the Chinese made sweater sold in Walmart? Probably not...........but paying twice the price in Macy's satisfies the peasantry's "snob yearnings".
So, don't feel sorry for Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. His $12 dollar cup of coffee will no doubt find a market. Instead, feel sorry for folks who could make that same cup of joe at home for .49 cents....but simply must be seen forking out a ten spot and two George Washingtons for a cup of Starbucks ambrosia.