Starbucks prices up, and down, too

Starbucks will demonstrate in some markets this week that it both deserves its "Four Bucks" moniker; and that it's all about the budget-conscious consumer, in an unusual move with its prices. The chain will increase prices -- as much as 25 cents -- on its larger and more complex drinks, while at the same time reducing prices on its smaller and more ordinary drinks, such as coffee and regular lattes.

Here in Portland, Ore., prices for a small, or "tall," coffee were $1.50 today, compared to $1.40 in 2006. At the same time, the large, or "venti" coffee is $2 today, compared to $1.70 in 2006. Over on the latte menu, the prices have changed more sharply; where a tall latte was $2.40 in 2006, it's now $2.85. The further up the menu customers go in both size and complexity, the more prices have changed over the years.


And the less customers have complained. Very few customers -- except perhaps the very most loyal and penny-counting -- have any idea what they're paying for beverages. After all, many habitually put the change for their purchases in the tip jar, so the only time it becomes noticeable is when the cost gets to the next whole dollar.

A nickel or a dime won't make a difference to anyone, I predict, other than the baristas -- whose tips could be, "nickel and dimed," as the new prices leave less change from each transaction. For a customer, saving five cents won't have much impact, even if you add it up for a year's worth (the way most finance articles demonstrate the "real" impact of something... sorry, $18.75 compounded annually would NOT change your retirement date -- by more than a few hours). However, a nickel extra for every customer's drink all day could really mean something to the company's bottom line.

This one? It's for you, Starbucks partners. You're welcome.
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Coffee in the News
The price of coffee has been up and down lately. For more about coffee in the news, click through this gallery.
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