Let's Put a Stop to Starbucks Drinkzilla Arms Race Insanity

In the Wake of a $54.75 Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino, a Call for Calm and Restraint

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A guy named Andrew from Dallas is in the news for concocting and ordering a $54.75 drink at Starbucks. As Consumerist reports,

"Andrew set what is, as far as we can determine, a world record for the most expensive drink possible at Starbucks. Tamping down the previous known record at $47.30 is the Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino at $54.75. Andrew didn't actually hand over that much money for his 128-ounce espresso milkshake. He's a Gold member of Starbucks' loyalty program, which entitles him to one free drink after every twelve that he buys."

His local Starbucks barista let him bring in his own cup (that's the 128-ounce part) and then brewed up 60 shots of espresso (that's the "Sexagintuple" part) to mix with his other chosen ingredients to create a custom-made concoction. On his Twitter feed, Andrew doesn't furnish his last name, but he did post a photo of his beverage along with a shot of a receipt for $54.75 -- less a "reward" credit for the same amount -- from Starbucks Store #6329 at 3699 McKinney Avenue in Dallas.

Kinda fun-ish, right? The media gets to indulge its Starbucks obsession -- reporters from "Good Morning America" and Britain's Daily Mail messaged Andrew on Twitter this morning, so brace yourself for even more coverage tomorrow -- and media consumers can have a moment of mild shock and amusement.

But in the wake of this latest stunt, Starbucks may be leaning toward actively discouraging the drinkzilla arms race. Last night, Seattle Weekly, which shares a hometown with Starbucks HQ, followed up on the Consumerist report by publishing some reactions from a Starbucks spokeswoman. She told the paper that "This type of beverage order is totally excessive and not something we encourage people to do. After they make that beverage, it's pretty inedible. Nor is it safe." Though Andrew told Consumerist his drink was "delicious," he wisely didn't try to consume more than a third of it, given the heart-stopping amount of caffeine it contained.

The Starbucks spokeswoman also told Seattle Weekly that she thought the unnamed barista who played along with Andrew's free drink "had a little too much fun with it" -- a statement that, combined with the mention of the safety issue, suggests Starbucks knows it's going to have to clamp down somehow.

These sorts of consumer-generated media stunts have been good and bad for Starbucks -- good because they generate buzz and call attention to Starbucks' rewards program and hardcore fan base, bad because they remind everyone that the cost of customized Starbucks drinks can add up fast.

But now we've entered idiotic territory. Since, so far, Starbucks doesn't seem to have any hard-and-fast rules to prevent this sort of health-hazard-in-a-cup, I've come up with a few (feel free to adapt and adjust, SBUX):

1. No more bringing in your own goddamn cup for rewards beverages (128 ounces is a gallon, for chrissakes).

2. Caffeine per beverage shall be limited to … oh, I don't know, Starbucks food scientists need to figure that out based on their standard cup sizes, but it should be less than the amount that could kill a horse.

3. No ordering this sort of nonsense if there's anyone in line behind you.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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