Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Don't tell me you haven't noticed.

Somehow, this year has been the year when your Starbucks breakfast has been costing you that little bit more. And then a little bit more again.

You don't realize at first. After all, you drop the change in the tip jar for your barista anyway, don't you? You might even add another dollar or two if you're a regular.

One thing's clear, however. Starbucks' prices are going up.

The latest rise, which happened just a few days ago, saw certain cold drinks and baked goods suddenly cost between 10 and 30 cents more.

There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason for the increase. Perhaps even the PR people couldn't think of a fine ruse to excuse the price of ice going up.

This is the second price hike at Starbucks in just the last few months. In July, the cost of some of your basic espresso and latte drinks suddenly crept up.

It's almost as if Starbucks has looked at the nickel-and-diming of the airlines and thought: "Wonder if we can get away with that."

This time around, 10 percent of Starbucks drinks now cost more.

"Oh, what's another 10 or 30 cents?" some coffee-addled executive will mutter. Well, Starbucks is often a regular purchase. So 30 cents a day is $1.50 a week, which is an extra $6 a month or $72 a year per customer.

There are approximately 12,500 Starbucks in the US. Your average Starbucks store serves 500 customers a day. So that might be an extra $36,000 of revenue per store for giving customers the very same thing.

Let's return to whether customers are noticing. Some are.

Waft over to Twitter and you'll see things like this from Danny Devir: "@Starbucks just noticed the price hike on coffee. Don't understand how a black unsweetened iced coffee is over $3. #nottipping #toomuch."

Wait, not tipping? Could these price hikes actually affect the vital tips that baristas get every day?

How about this from Amanda Bender: "Hey! I got my iced coffee from Starbucks. I've been paying $3.76 for my Trenta, but last week I noticed my order is now $4.08."

I don't even want to think about what a Trenta might be. I do want to think about how high these prices can go.

Starbucks, though, thinks this is a storm in chai cup.

A spokeswoman calmly told CNBC: "We expect the average customer ticket to increase by about 0.5 percent as a result of these beverage adjustments."

I confess that I'm a victim of this price creep. Once my Starbucks breakfast might have cost $6 or $7. Now it's drifted up to $9 or $10. I don't really know how that's happened, but when I get around to working it out, I'm sure I'll try and think of cheaper -- or, even, better -- options.

It's not as if the pastries are anything more than slightly rubbery facsimiles of, you know, real pastries. It's not as if the coffee is so revolutionary and uplifting that nothing else comes close.

Most of the reason I go to Starbucks is the baristas, not the product. It's the community, not the coffee.

Kurshina saves a newspaper for me. Marie practices her Spanish on me and speaks of metaphysical truths.

Price hikes are such dangerous things. Starbucks' same-store sales aren't showing exponential growth. It's inevitable, too, that when a brand has been around for a while and feels ubiquitous, customers get bored.

Starbucks might have tried to excite them with green solidarity cups before the red holiday ones came out, but there may be signs of strain here.

With price hikes, customer attrition can happen just as Hemingway described bankruptcy: Gradually, then suddenly.

After all, it's just coffee.

Published on: Nov 22, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.