Failure to Launch – Starbuck’s PSL Mishap

If you're a huge fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, chances are you were disappointed September 1st. With baristas and consumers confused about the release of the PSL, customers took to Twitter to vent their venti frustration. Some claimed to achieve their first sip of autumn while others went dry. How did Starbucks fumble their biggest moneymaker's release and ruffle their regular's feathers?


Social Presence

One misstep Starbucks may have made was an attempt at being creative with a live video of - a pumpkin spice latte hatching? With the prior hype with live feeds of April the Giraffe or the Hatch Watch! Bald Eagle eggs, Starbucks tried their luck... with a pumpkin. They placed signs in the feed that gave witty "hints" to the launch of the much-desired PSL, hoping the craze that live feeds produce could add to the hype of the PSL. Instead, it left audiences torn between confused and eager. Did it mean the PSL was ready? What was really supposed to be going on? Will they have to wait for their PSL's to hatch every time they order? Not the first missed mark Starbucks was about to make.  5352136126_94c7acd162_b

Too Many Locations

Not that Starbucks can ever really have too many locations (but, seriously? Three Starbucks on 34th within a four block radius?), it's just their promise to release it on the same day at every US location was a huge leap. With some posting signs early that claimed the release date was the 1st, customers all over became confused since the usual trend was the day after Labor Day. Miscommunication is deadly in large companies, so it's important to maintain ease of communication and keep messages clear. It should've been enough to sate PSL lovers when the drink was released on the 5th, but another surprise caught customers off guard.


Price Change

Loyal patrons took to Twitter to express their annoyance at price increases. Price increases ranged from 10 to 30 cents on 10% of menu items, says Business Insider. While the prices don't seem catastrophic, if you habitually buy Starbucks coffee daily, that's an extra 70 cents a week. For those watching their bank accounts (despite Starbucks may not be the best for those who budget), that can add up to roughly $33 a year. While the new prices aren't incredibly noticeable to casual Starbucks drinkers, avid Starbucks lovers are upset. Maybe it's time to try local businesses or start brewing at home.

Employees work inside the Starbucks at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in south Mumbai, India. (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times/MCT)

Cash Cow

Starbucks started the "Pumpkin Spice" trend despite people like comedian, John Oliver, say it "tastes like a candle". Even some former Starbucks barista's say the drink wouldn't last all year round because it "tastes too artificial" and is "too overbearing". Yet the popularity of this seasonal drink is what allows Starbucks to overrun popular streets with their coffee shops on every corner. Devoted PSL fans get angry when baristas run out of the syrup and every coffee drinker posts their #PSL on Instagram. What makes this drink so popular? Does it even matter if the drink is good?

It's the association of the drink with the fall season that keeps it alive and well. There's always been seasonal drink for Winter from egg nog to peppermint, but there's never been a flavor for fall. Pumpkin Spice won over the populace with that perfect #sweaterweather taste. It became more of a fall "rite of passage" than a delicious beverage (though it may be both). With it being so incredibly popular and ground zero for the Pumpkin Spice movement, it makes sense why fans were disappointed when Starbucks failed to deliver.