My Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) Problem

Should you give in and order how Starbucks Corporation (SBUX) wants you to?

by Josh Selway

Published on Feb 9, 2015 at 11:13 AM
Updated on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:10 PM

Like many people across the globe, I have a Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) obsession. Each morning, I have to have a sit-down with myself and say, "Just make your own pot of coffee today. You've got Starbucks the past five days." It's difficult, though, to drive past the world's largest coffee producer and not be pulled in by the tremendous aroma of the finest coffee beans being roasted to the perfect level of deliciousness. More often than not, I end up going in. I'm weak.

Lately, though, I've had some issues at SBUX. It's nothing the company is doing wrong -- it's probably just me. If you're unaware, Starbucks' menu has some words that may catch some first-time patrons off guard: sizes are listed as Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta. The latter three are Italian words that respectively stand for "large," "twenty," and "thirty." Starbucks probably chose to use these words to add to the effect of dining there. On the charts, SBUX has been a proverbial "Trenta" -- in November 2008, SBUX traded at $7.06; today, it was last seen at $88.98, and hit a record high of $89.77 just last week.

Weekly Chart of SBUX Since November 2008

As deep as my love for Starbucks runs, I'm still unsure how I feel, personally, about cup-size semantics. Every time I'm in line at SBUX, I face this dilemma: do I use their lingo, or do I stick to the more conventional words and just say "large" or "small"? This is a big deal. Arguments can be made on both sides of this debate. On the one hand, if you don't use the Starbucks terminology, you run the risk of being embarrassed in front of your peers -- and the old "you'll never see them again" thought doesn't apply here. Starbucks-goers become familiar with each other. For instance, I can tell you that "Chad," who usually wears ear muffs, always orders a regular old cappuccino. Excuse me, a Grande cappuccino.

If I were to order a "large" drink, I run the risk of these people thinking I'm a fool, an uninitiated rookie who doesn't deserve to be there. Or, even worse, after they see me there a few times, and realize that I continue to order "large" drinks, they'll figure I'm just completely oblivious to all my surroundings, and there's no hope for me as a human being.

However, something else could come of my "large" orders. Perhaps my fellow Starbucks-goers notice my constant use of "large," and they become inspired by my courage, my fearlessness to go against conventions and to stand up for what I believe in. That would truly be something. I could inspire whole communities to be greater than they ever thought. I could change the world.

This is a fine line to walk, though. There's no way of telling what could happen by choosing the Starbucks route, or by going down the road less travelled and just ordering a "large" or "small." I have to admit: most of the time, I usually just ask for a Grande and get on with my life. I don't want to stir controversy, at least not before 8:00 a.m.

But there's also a part of me that thinks whenever I order a Grande, I'm not living life to the fullest, that I'm not pushing the issue or daring to be great. Facing this dilemma day-in and day-out is becoming exhausting, but I will continue to battle. Maybe one day my "large" orders will change the world. Or maybe we'll all just be one Grande family.


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