Starbucks Tumbler Collectors Are More Competitive Than You Might Expect

Anyone who pays any attention to the music industry knows that ticket resellers have become a nightmare for concertgoers, making tickets nearly impossible to secure and driving up prices on resale sites. But musical events aren't the only industry where reselling has run amuck. Interestingly, the resale market for Starbucks reusable cups has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic, making the world of tumbler collecting much more competitive and expensive.

While this sort of secondary market has existed for things like Disney popcorn buckets for years, it's relatively new for Starbucks. The Seattle-based coffee giant has been selling seasonal cups for years, starting with its iconic red holiday cups and expanding to include new limited-time designs like rainbow cups for Pride month and "Barbie"-core pink tumblers. Starbucks generally releases new tumblers, mugs, and cold cups every few months, coming in a range of eye-catching colors and styles. Not only does this make them appealing collectibles to fans of the brand, but they are all limited edition, meaning once they sell out they are gone for good. 

Since the cups won't hang around forever, collectors often rush to get their hands on the new merch items, which typically cost between $20 and $30. Unfortunately, resellers have also begun storming Starbucks stores as soon as new cups are released, in the hopes of buying them up and reselling them online — at an extreme markup.

Baristas struggle with the competition

Cups that develop a particularly high demand, like exclusive holiday releases or designs which were only sold in select foreign markets, can go for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Eater reports that international cups from China and Europe have sold for close to $2,000 each on eBay, though some U.S. cups can go for over $100 once they become impossible to find in stores. In order to protect employees from aggressive behavior and leave more merchandise for other customers, some stores have implemented limits on how many of each cup customers can purchase at a time (though Starbucks Corporate has not taken a strong stance on the issue).

Starbucks baristas have taken to social media to complain about the influx of resellers, who they say have become more common since the pandemic, when online collecting became more popular. Barista and TikToker @haley.n.b00's story went viral after they made a video reporting that the line would wrap around the Starbucks building on launch days, with resellers wanting to buy 42 cups at once. Fellow barista and TikTok creator @yeu_jpg responded with a video of their own, describing collectors coming into the store and making demands of employees, becoming verbally abusive when they refused to sell them more than two cups at a time. As for collectors who just want to buy one or two new tumblers at a reasonable price when they're released, you might need to arrive extra early on drop days to beat the competition.