Starbucks Secret Savings: Tip-of-the-Day #185


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 drink in question is the elusive "short cappuccino" — at 8 ounces, it's a third smaller than the smallest size on the official menu (the "tall") and dwarfed by what Starbucks calls the "customer-preferred Venti.” The short capp has the same amount of espresso as the 12-ounce tall, meaning a bolder coffee taste, and a better one at that.

This secret cappuccino is cheaper, too — generally a full .30 cents cheaper. But why does this cheaper, better drink go 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 this drink in a whisper.

This in fact 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.

The cost of overhead (staff, beans, cups) is similar for any size of drink, so, larger drinks just mean a greater margin for Mr. Starbuck. And the thinking here is simple: 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!

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