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Thread: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

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    SVZ
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    Default Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    Here's a little secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.

    The drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino"—at 8 ounces, a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu, the "tall," and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the "customer-preferred" size, the "Venti," which weighs in at 20 ounces and more than 200 calories before you add the sugar.

    The short cappuccino has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and also a better one. The World Barista Championship rules, for example, define a traditional cappuccino as a "five- to six-ounce beverage." This is also the size of cappuccino served by many continental cafés. Within reason, the shorter the cappuccino, the better.


    The problem with large cappuccinos is that it's impossible to make the fine-bubbled milk froth ("microfoam," in the lingo) in large quantities, no matter how skilled the barista. A 20-ounce cappuccino is an oxymoron. Having sampled the short cappuccino in a number of Starbucks across the world, I can confirm that it is a better drink than the buckets of warm milk—topped with a veneer of froth—that the coffee chain advertises on its menus.

    This secret cappuccino is cheaper, too—at my local Starbucks, $2.35 instead of $2.65. But why does this cheaper, better drink—along with its sisters, the short latte and the short coffee—languish unadvertised? The official line from Starbucks is that there is no room on the menu board, although this doesn't explain why the short cappuccino is also unmentioned on the comprehensive Starbucks Web site, nor why the baristas will serve you in a whisper rather than the usual practice of singing your order to the heavens.

    Economics has the answer: This is the Starbucks way of sidestepping a painful dilemma over how high to set prices. Price too low and the margins disappear; too high and the customers do. Any business that is able to charge one price to price-sensitive customers and a higher price to the rest will avoid some of that awkward trade-off.

    It's not hard to identify the price-blind customers in Starbucks. They're the ones buying enough latte to bathe Cleopatra. The major costs of staff time, space in the queue, and packaging are similar for any size of drink. So, larger drinks carry a substantially higher markup, according to Brian McManus, an assistant professor at the Olin School of Business who has studied the coffee market.

    The difficulty is that if some of your products are cheap, you may lose money from customers who would willingly have paid more. So, businesses try to discourage their more lavish customers from trading down by making their cheap products look or sound unattractive, or, in the case of Starbucks, making the cheap product invisible. The British supermarket Tesco has a "value" line of products with infamously ugly packaging, not because good designers are unavailable but because the supermarket wants to scare away customers who would willingly spend more. "The bottom end of any market tends to get distorted," says McManus. "The more market power firms have, the less attractive they make the cheaper products."

    That observation is important. A firm in a perfectly competitive market would suffer if it sabotaged its cheapest products because rivals would jump at the opportunity to steal alienated customers. Starbucks, with its coffee supremacy, can afford this kind of price discrimination, thanks to loyal, or just plain lazy, customers.

    The practice is hundreds of years old. The French economist Emile Dupuit wrote about the early days of the railways, when third-class carriages were built without roofs, even though roofs were cheap: "What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich."

    The modern equivalent is the airport departure lounge. Airports could create nicer spaces, but that would frustrate the ability of airlines to charge substantial premiums for club-class departure lounges.

    Starbucks' gambit is much simpler and more audacious: Offer the cheaper product but make sure that it is available only to those customers who face the uncertainty and embarrassment of having to request it specifically. Fortunately, the tactic is easily circumvented: If you'd like a better coffee for less, just ask.


    Relayed in Slate
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    In 2004, Daniel Gross addressed how Starbucks gets away with its high prices—addicts crave its higher caffeine kick per cup. Last month, Michael Idov detailed his brief and bitter stint as the owner of an independent coffee shop. In 1999, James Surowiecki described the (now bygone) stock woes of Starbucks. In 2005, Jack Shafer proposed that Starbucks concoct a signature beverage for Ken Auletta, to accompany the coffee cup emblazoned with his quote, because, "[w]ho could resist a bracing milk-based beverage called the Ken Aulatte."

    Tim Harford is a columnist for the Financial Times. His latest book is The Undercover Economist.

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    SVZ
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    same, i'm going to ask for this before work

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I used to work for Starbucks. At my locations (I worked at 2) this wasn't a very well kept secret, and it certainly didn't insure that your drink would be called any softer.

    Another "secret"-if you are in the mood for a hot chocolate, apple juice, cider, milk, or "steamer" (hot milk w/any flavor syrup-vanilla is REALLY good), but don't want a lot you can order a kids size. It is served in the same cup as short drinks and only costs $1. Sometimes the barista will get snooty though and try to charge you more, you normally won't have a problem though.

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I prefer our local coffee chain called Blenz (do you guys also have them in Toronto svz?)

    They have matcha latte (also matcha chillo that's like a milkshake) which is just soo yummy. Starbucks only had green tea frappaccino in summer.
    I also like soy latte.


    I get the feeling that Starbucks is really overrated? Is their coffee that good? (I don't know cuz I don't drink coffee much).
    I live downtown Vancouver and there are in some areas 2 Starbucks joints on a single block across from each other, there are just so damn many of them it's crazy.

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I still like them, but I also haven't paid for a drink at a Starbucks in about 3 years. There are still people at both locations I worked at that remember me and will just give it to me

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    Elite Member SammysMom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    They are building a Starbucks in our little town. Im sure it will do good since its right on the way for people going into Houston. We are also getting an Applebee's and a MEGA Chinese buffet resturant. We already have 5 chinese resturants compared to two pizza places. This was a town 5 yrs ago that was in the "boonies" and now people are moving here at alarming rate.
    Panera is an awsome place to get a Ice Coffee Frappaccino. The flavor I love is Spiced IC as they call it. Has honey, nutmeg, clove, vanilla. All those flavors work really good together. I thought it would be over whelming but its not. YUM-O

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by moomies
    I get the feeling that Starbucks is really overrated? Is their coffee that good? (I don't know cuz I don't drink coffee much).
    I live downtown Vancouver and there are in some areas 2 Starbucks joints on a single block across from each other, there are just so damn many of them it's crazy.
    Yes it is.
    It tastes like a**.
    He who knows does not speak.
    He who speaks does not know.
    Lao-tzu

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    Elite Member SammysMom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    Suede long time no see you. Missed you how was your holidays?

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    Elite Member suede's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu



    Quote Originally Posted by SammysMom
    Suede long time no see you. Missed you how was your holidays?

    Hi Mssssss Sammy!

    Pretty good I guess - ate too much slept too little. Thanks for asking.
    Santa was very generous this year - I must have been a good girl this year.


    I actually worked NYE but it was fun after all and I when home with cash instead of the potential hangover. YAY!

    What about you?

    PM me if you want.
    He who knows does not speak.
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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    source?

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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    Slate, Jan. 2006 article.

    I ordered a short on Sunday and was so happy with the money I saved that I used it to buy a rainbow cookie.

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    SVZ
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by AliceInWonderland
    source?
    Relayed in Slate

    Tim Harford is a columnist for the Financial Times

    in the last paragraph

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    Elite Member Algernon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I've never stepped foot in a Starbucks. I was given a 5.00 giftcard for Christmas so I suppose I will get a drink one of these days. But it's never called my name, that's for sure.

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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I prefer to go to this local coffe place called the "Bacata Coffee Shop" for my coffe. They have specialties that cost less than $4 as well as Soy Lattes for $1.55 (and that's the tall size). Either that or make my own damn coffee. Never stepped foot in a Starbucks either.

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    Elite Member muchlove's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starbucks Secrets - How to get the most out of your money, the Secret Menu

    I will go to Starbucks if that's what's nearby... and that's always what's nearby. I don't see anything wrong with their coffee... I've never tried the regular coffee, but their coffee drinks seem good to me. But I'm not a "coffee person" so what do I know... I just drink it and go on my way.

    Definitely overpriced, though.

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