Consumers brace for Starbucks price hike
Updated: 2012-02-01 16:12
BEIJING - The rising price of Starbucks coffee in China has become a hot topic on the Internet, with the Seattle-based coffee chain increasing prices in its 500 Chinese mainland stores on Tuesday.
The price of the chain's coffee drinks, as well as one of its chocolate beverages, has been increased by 1 to 3 yuan (16 to 48 US cents) to offset rising operational costs, Starbucks China said in a post on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website, on Tuesday.
The company's post has been forwarded more than 13,500 times and generated more than 2,200 comments so far, with netizens largely opposing the increase.
"At a time when inflation is catching everybody's attention, the tactic of using a price hike as an opportunity to advertise (their products) is awfully brilliant," wrote one blogger using the screenname "XingzhewujiangMG."
Although online complaints have been plentiful, sales at Starbucks outlets in downtown Beijing have largely been unaffected. An employee at a Starbucks coffee shop in one large mall said he observed no change in the number of customers since the price hike went into effect.
"The prices have indeed increased," said Tang Hui, a customer at the mall's Starbucks coffee shop.
"Those who come will still come, won't they?" said another customer who wished to remain anonymous. She added that she commutes to downdown Beijing from the suburbs once a week to satisfy her craving for Starbucks.
The price hike, which Starbucks claimed to be the first in its mainland stores in five years, came on the heels of a similar move in the United States.
Earlier this month, Starbucks raised its prices by an average of about 1 percent in the northeastern U.S. following a similar action in California and south Florida last November.
Another blogger using the screenname "hualiwawa" said the 1-to-3-yuan margin was acceptable. "It is time to raise the price, since it's been five years (since the last increase). I'll continue to drink it as usual," she said.
Other loyal fans have attempted to come up with schemes to offset the price hike. Some Starbucks aficionados have advised their peers to share large cups of coffee and purchase instant coffee products from the company to save money.
Starbucks said in its Sina Weibo post that customers may enjoy a 2-yuan discount if they bring their own coffee mugs to the chain's stores, a move that was hailed by the company's fans as an environmentally conscious way to offset the hike.
"Consumers have their own judgment regarding the value of Starbucks coffee," said Gu Jing, a publicity officer with Starbucks China, when asked to comment on the price hike's possible impact on customer loyalty.
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