Who knows how they’ve turned us against our wallets?

One day, our Japanese-language reporter Yuichiro Wasai happened to be visiting Starbucks when his gaze caught on a coffee cup that was priced at 3,000 yen (US$21.72). “That’s so cheap!” he thought to himself. “It’s rare to find a product with such great cost performance!” Since spotting such an inexpensive Starbucks product was like a stroke of good fortune, he had no choice but to buy it.

It was only after he’d paid, returned home, and placed the new mug on the shelf when he realized something. Well, if we’re being honest, he had a vague realization from the beginning, but the more time passed, the clearer it became. He realized that all of his reason goes out the window when it comes to Starbucks products.

Ordinarily, Yuichiro would never spend so much on a coffee cup. He’d normally look at such a price, scoff, and say, “I’d never buy such an expensive coffee cup for myself.” But the reason why he thought that one Starbucks mug was so cheap was because of a certain other product he saw: the 192-mililiter (6.5-ounce) Stanley Stainless Cup and Saucer.

And that Stanley Stainless Cup and Saucer costs…

11,600 yen!!

When Yuichiro saw that price, something broke inside of him. He thought himself pathetic. He was no broke college student; he’d been a working man for more than 15 years, and yet he still couldn’t buy a single Starbucks mug. The reality pierced through him like the sharpest knife.

Well, to be fair, he did find this product at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, which is considered a luxury Starbucks, and thus its products are much more expensive. Yuichiro knew this from previous experience. He’d been prepared to spend more than usual, but the price of the Stanley Stainless Cup and Saucer had surpassed all expectations.

Even more shocking was the sign beside it, which announced that customers can only buy one each.

Yuichiro assumed this was to prevent resellers from buying up all the stock and driving up prices. But that just made him think that there are people who would be willing to pay even more than the already expensive standard price for these mugs. And poor Yuichiro couldn’t even buy it for the standard price.

The implied class difference made him cry inside.

He had to wonder why it was so expensive. It was just a mug and saucer. Was it the brand? He decided to, very politely, ask a sales clerk about it.

“Yes, it’s because it’s Stanley,” they replied.

“Oh, of course,” Yuichiro said with forced casualness and a too-big smile. “It is a Stanley product, after all.”

In truth, Yuichiro knew absolutely nothing about Stanley products, and felt ashamed to be pretending to be one of the cool kids who do.

In any case, it was in the aftermath of that experience that Yuichiro spotted the 3,000 yen mug and decided he needed to have it. It was, by the way, the 19 Starbucks Mug Bronze, with a 473-milliliter (16-fluid ounce) capacity, which was also from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

Compared to the Stanley mug, it was about double the capacity and was pretty heavy. But most importantly of all, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery logo was super cool.

Yuichiro recognizes, now that his head is cool, that it’s still a relatively expensive coffee cup. But if you consider how much it relieved his frustration, maybe that price is not so bad. Besides, he later found out that these mugs are being resold online for 5,000 yen, so maybe buying it for the regular price of 3,000 yen was a win after all?

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[ Read in Japanese ]