Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
You may or may not have noticed your morning coffee is costing a little more these days.
Starbucks has been steadily and stealthily raising its prices all year, because that's what businesses do. If they can get away with it, that is.
Then CEO Howard Schultz stepped down. The official reason is that he's going to oversee the company's new Reserve stores.
I know that just hearing the word "reserve," you're thinking wine.
There's nothing wrong with thinking wine. However, do you ever think of a fine, dark roast in the same way you think of a fine, dark Petit Verdot?
Starbucks wants Millennials to think in precisely this way. Its first Reserve bars are already open in larger cities where there are enough young men capable of growing a bushy beard.
These Reserve bars charge $10 for cups of coffee that emerge from glass siphons. Seriously.
Ten dollar will also buy you a flight of so-called Reserve brews. Starbucks claims these are "Our rarest coffees, small-batch roasted in Seattle."
There's nothing like a small-batch roasting in Seattle to make you feel that authentic, what, Colombian flavor.
You can't help feeling a certain desperation to make coffee feel like wine and then edge it toward the same price.
Consider these words from Starbucks: "Each of our Starbucks Reserve coffees has its own story to tell, and we meticulously develop a signature roast for every one of them. We approach every coffee, every harvest, with an entirely fresh perspective. No two coffees are the same."
Oh, aren't they?
Try going to three Starbucks in one morning and discovering, miraculously, that the coffee has remarkable similarities from one Starbucks to another. That used to be the whole point.
Until, that is, there was a Starbucks on seemingly every corner and the exclusivity was gone.
Of course, winemakers enjoy filling their customers with nonsense, almost as much as they love to fill customers with alcohol in order to sell them wine club memberships.
So why can't Starbucks try to get away with it too? It doesn't even need to get people drunk. It just needs to make them feel they're buying something special.
Surely you can't wait for a hirsute, committed barista to tell you this particular brew has notes of barley, cinnamon, and drug war?
Surely you'll be persuaded by the idea that the dark liquid in your cup is redolent of pine nuts, horseradish, and gravy.
Indeed, hark at this from Starbucks' own website: "Coffee, like wine grapes, gets much of its flavor from the specific growing conditions of each producing region. The unique variables of each growing area -- soil, temperature, elevation, the amount of rainfall, and sunshine -- affect the flavor of coffee in the cup."
This sentiment could have come straight out of a wine tasting manual.
The trouble is that it feels like sediment. There's something entertaining about a brand as ubiquitous as Starbucks trying to sell exclusivity.
It's as if McDonald's suddenly tried to sell you a $10 burger.
Chocolate, though, is an example of Millennials being prepared to pay far more for a brand that claims to be artisan, handmade, and several other terms of dubious truth.
But this isn't Brooklyn's warehouse, 65 percent cacao nonsense. This isn't Napa's exclusive Funny Old Twisted Vines From 1847 varietal. This is Seattle's barista crew now claiming to have created a special brew.
Can Starbucks rise to the occasion? I wonder.
Even now, the company is promising there will be 1,000 stores with a Reserve bar coffee experience by the end of 2017.
Won't it feel like box wine by then?