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conspicuous consumption

[STORE] Update: "Relative Wealth" L/S


[STORE] Update: "Relative Wealth" L/S

New for Spring/Summer 16: the "Relative Wealth" L/S tee. Featuring nautical-inspired graphics, this piece is sure to let strangers know your lifestyle choices based on the brands you consume. Wear your aspirations on your sleeve today!



Project Mug: Why $200 of Free Starbucks Was Not Worth the Cost


Project Mug: Why $200 of Free Starbucks Was Not Worth the Cost

On Christmas Day 2015, I unwrapped a matte black traveler’s mug that cost more than my shoes. “Thanks,” I eked out, equal parts elated and embarrassed. I’m not opposed to private consumption; in fact, I love the finer things in life. I just wasn’t sure plopping down $40 for an object as loss-prone as invisible Chapstick was, well, smart.

Then I read the fine print: the exorbitant $40 purchase price came with quite the perk. That steep one-time purchase granted the mug’s holder “one (1) free grande (16 fl oz) brewed hot coffee or tea, January 1-31, 2016.” Embarrassment turned to excitement. There’s a Starbucks below my apartment, and another right outside class! I could drink one (1) free coffee every day in January if I didn’t lose the mug first!

Gears started turning: there are a lot of Starbucks around town. In fact, I could think of 6 within a one-mile radius (South U; Ross; Law Commons; Union; State St; Main St) of The Diag. And since the sleek matte black finish left no room for a serial number, there was no way to check I was redeeming one (1) per day.

At $2.23 ($2.10 + 6% MI sales tax) per Grande brewed coffee, I could theoretically recoup the cost of the mug in 3 days. That leaves 28 purposeless days of free bean water. But why stop at zero? I drink way more than a cup a day. Plus, I’m a huge dork who just scored moderately above average in a business ops class about recording costs on spreadsheets.

The turning gears clicked: I have these mug perks for a whole month. Given my one-time purchase of $40.00, I wonder exactly how much value I could extract out of my matte black fashion statement. Was the mug a good deal? How much did I theoretically save? Even more, at the end of this month of hypercaffienation –  what was my average dollar value per coffee?

Now, on February 1, I humbly present: the results of Project Mug.

Final Tally: 106 free Grande coffees.

Value added over purchase price: $196.38

Average price per coffee, including mug cost: $0.54 (75% off retail)

Coffee consumed, total: 1696 fl oz

Cups of coffee (8 fl oz) per day, average: 6.8387

Or, in other words, I drank as much coffee daily as:

           5.03957 Swedes (2014)

           7.28297 reasonable Americans (2014) (source)


Conclusion: Whoa. Something something "so preoccupied seeing whether or not they could to think if they should". Speaking of higher-order moral appeals:  if I have to taste Pike Place Blend ever again it will be too soon. It’s not bad; it’s just so frighteningly consistent between locations that sensory habituation may have ruined me. I even bought my own Torani flavored syrups halfway through the month just to add variety. Were I not forcing myself to drink it, I would not have chosen it. Speaking of things I wouldn’t choose…

I am never drinking this much coffee again. To any doubters: caffeine is a hell of a drug. Seriously – on the days I hit 5 cups, there were noticeable physiological symptoms. I’m talking sweating, confusion, dehydration, and difficulty forming thoughts. After becoming 5.04 Swedes, I’m taking a month off of coffee. If caffeine withdrawal doesn’t kill me first. Even $200 worth of free Starbucks was not worth the cost.


AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.