March 12, 2011

Three Dollar Threshold

While most of the nation frets and kvetches over rising gas prices, there are those of us who worry more about our fuel of choice - coffee. Arabica beans are, as of right now, more expensive than at any time in 34 years. Estimates are that consumers might end up paying 10-12% more for their daily fix, often times bumping even a small coffee over the two-dollar threshold.

Some places have responded already (I've seen a few in Lawrence), and they are hearing the complaints. "For that size?" people say, incredulous. The barista shrugs, manages a sheepish grin, and says "Yeah."

The customer does not know that Arabica beans are now more than three dollars a pound; if they did, they probably do not care.

But - and pardon the moralizing here - they should care. And if they care about their local cafe, they should continue to support it. There are all sorts of cliche lines about voting with your dollar, but it's a simple truth: Local coffee shops function perpetually close to the red. In order to survive, such places need to charge a little more. Thus, if you want such places to survive, you have to pay a little more.

This is economics on a level even I can understand. It's great to talk about supporting local, buying grass-fed beef and farm-fresh eggs, etc. Quality counts, and quality costs. So if you value local, if you value quality, you pay for it. Because, as painful as it is to shill out that extra dime for a coffee, it's much worse to lose your favorite cafe.

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