The magic price point

Nearly every day I go to Starbucks for a Venti Iced Coffee, shaken. When you shake a coffee, it creates this wonderful foam that I absolutely love. A few years ago, the coffee shop chain stopped shaking their coffee. This really bugged me. Eric, the manager of the Starbucks I frequent, told me that shaking was no longer a part of their protocol. He also said that he’d instructed his staff to continue shaking mine. I love Eric!

I wrote a letter to Starbucks and told them that their new policy sucked. I explained that my iced coffee was a part of my daily routine, and it was frustrating that they were no longer making drinks tailored to their customers’ preferences.

It turns out that Eric breaking the rules was sort of a big deal. When the Starbucks store managers gathered at their regional managers’ meeting, he revealed what he had done, and he encouraged other stores to retain their shakers. Here’s how I found out about this: I was on the other side of town at a Starbucks I rarely go to, and I requested a shaken iced coffee. The barista looked at me in a curious way and blurted, “Hey, you’re the shaker girl!” I asked him what he meant, and he told me Eric mentioned me, my loyalty to Starbucks, and my fondness for shaken coffee, and now they refer to me as “the shaker girl.” Me and Eric created quite a stir. 😉

When people at work see me with my coffee, they always tell me it would be cheaper and more convenient if I made coffee at home, like normal people do. They tell me I’d save so much money; they can’t believe I actually pay $2.80 for a coffee almost every day. To my colleagues, my daily habit seems terribly extravagant.

I tell them not to worry (I really want to tell them to mind their own business) and that I factor coffee into my monthly budget. I also tell them that there is nothing more depressing than the sight of a one-cup coffee pot. These little coffee machines break my heart and make me feel lonely. Whereas going to Starbucks is a fun way to start the day. Me and the baristas gossip about Brangelina and the mistresses of Tiger Woods. It’s a small, daily thing that I enjoy. On days I don’t go, I miss it.

But here’s an interesting thing. Last week, I had an early meeting and I didn’t have time to stop at Starbucks on my way to the office. But on my drive home that afternoon, I decided I really wanted one of their banana-chocolate Vivanno protein smoothies.

So I pulled into Starbucks. The baristas were thrown off when I requested a different drink. Generally, they spot my VW as I’m parking and they have my iced coffee waiting for me when I enter the store (they are so wonderful!). Amy made my smoothie and I used my Starbucks card to pay. She gave me the receipt so I could check my card’s balance. When I looked at the receipt, I noticed that the smoothie cost $4.30. Even though I was enjoying the drink, the expensive price tag made me regret buying it. I couldn’t believe I forked over more than four dollars for a small smoothie. I was upset.

In that moment, I realized that there’s a magic price point, and any amount I have to pay that is beyond the price point is unacceptable. I did a quick calculation and discovered that if I were to buy a smoothie every day in place of my “affordable” iced coffee, I’d be paying an extra $565 dollars a year at Starbucks. This, to me, was insane. I mean, with that money, I could buy an iPad, or a couple night’s hotel in NYC, or a flight to London, or ….

In drafting this post, I asked some friends about their magic price points, and they relayed a couple great stories. One of my friends said that when she visited Northern California and went to a restaurant for seafood, she could barely eat her crab legs after realizing that they cost as much as her breakfast, lunch, and dinner the previous day. And when she got a stomach bug, she was certain it was from the super-expensive crabs legs. 😉

If you have an interesting price point comment, I’d love to hear it!

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