Starbucks Customers in China Fight Over Limited Edition ‘Cat Paw Cup’

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
March 4, 2019Chinashare
Starbucks Customers in China Fight Over Limited Edition ‘Cat Paw Cup’
A customer walks out of a Starbucks coffee shop in Beijing on Aug. 2, 2018. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

Starbucks customers in China could be seen on video shoving and grappling over a limited edition mug this week.

Video footage shows a man fighting a woman near the Starbucks counter while an employee looks on. Another man joins in, and the three people get tangled up, knocking over the queue barriers as they wrestle. The video is from a Starbucks in Xi’an, a capital city in central China, Fox News reported.

In another Starbucks store in China, a man was reportedly pushing and possibly throwing a punch at another customer for the mug.

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Other videos released in Chinese state-controlled media show males and females of various ages in different Starbucks locations engaged in violence, reportedly over the cup.

The limited edition “cat paw cup” was released in select stores in China, and sold for the equivalent of $30. They went on sale on Feb. 26 and sold out in less than a day, CNN reported.

The way Starbucks released the cups caught the ire of Chinese state-controlled media, who criticized the company’s sales tactic. But Starbucks said that the tactic was the same as for any of its limited edition products.

Although the reactions of Chinese consumers, along with scalpers who would later resell the cups for high profits, was violent, a similar sales tactic for a special edition holiday cup in America had a relatively peaceful reaction from disappointed consumers.

“went to starbucks and ordered a holiday drink just to get the red reusable cup that came with it… person in front of me got the last cup. story of my life,” wrote Twitter user @rhiannon__mm.

“super sad i went to @Starbucks and waited in like for like 20 mins for the red cup and they were out ☹️☹️,” wrote Twitter user @_hayleeee19.

“@Starbucks After three stops this morning, I managed to secure one of the elusive red holiday cups. Unfortunately the store was out of lids. How can I get lid for my cup?” wrote @concisecactus.

After the in-store melees in China, Starbucks said it would release 1,000 of the cat paw cups each day, from Thursday through Sunday, to its online platform in China. The first 1,000 released sold out in less than a tenth of a second, CNN reported.

Starbucks management then decided to sell all the remaining cups at one time. It released the remaining 3,000 on March 1. The cups sold out in less than a second.

Starbucks sells online in China through a special e-commerce platform with Alibaba.

There are already many pages on eBay taking orders for the cat paw cup. It is not clear how the sellers obtained their stock of the cups, but many of the prices offered are less than or on par with the $30 that Chinese consumers had to pay.

In the United States, Starbucks closed its online shop in 2017. The company made the move in order to keep people coming to its physical stores.

“Every retailer that is going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told investors before the closure, via Fortune. “Your product and services, for the most part, cannot be available online and cannot be available on Amazon.”

The closure of the online store keeps certain products permanently out of the hands of consumers. The online store was the only place that offered products such as certain syrups that consumers could use at home to make their own drinks.

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