A $7 Cup of Coffee

By sethmsparks

Who would buy a $7 cup of coffee? Simply put, I would. Or at least, I have been lately. Today even. A Starbucks large mocha frappuccino made with soy milk and two extra shots of espresso. Thinking more about it, I’m not sure it’s something I’m proud of. I see it similar to someone paying $50 for a carton if cigarettes. From the outside looking in, it seems ridiculous.

As I was talking to a friend about relationship issues, I got onto the subject of irrational behavior. I’m not an expert, but I’ve really enjoyed some of the books I’ve read in the last year on the subject. As I was trying to help the person understand the implications of their decisions, and how they were trying to justify them, I started reaching for an example of my own irrational behavior to “ease” the idea on them.

I landed on the drink sitting in front of me. Now, it’s not a $7 drink as I put in the post title, it’s actually a $6.84 drink.

Now here comes my self-psycho-analysis.

How did I identify this as an irrational behavior?

I tried to think of something that I would have a hard time explaining to someone else. Like my wife. Something that deep down in my gut gave me a twinge when I made the decision. More than likely I make many of these decisions every day. And, I probably owe it to myself to be more conscious of when and why I make them.

How did I make the final decision?

To fight the twinge in my gut, I had to justify the behavior to myself. It wasn’t just simply, “it’ll be ok”. No, no… My brain is far to complex for a simple “Just Do It”.  To justify my decision, I had to further understand my needs and how the drink’s benefits would complement those.

Need 1: Caffeine

I drink a lot of coffee, every morning, every day, every week, all year. Thanks to Lifehacker, I understand how caffeine effects my body.  In short, caffeine doesn’t speed you up. It blocks the receptors in your brain from accepting the bits that tell it that you’re sleepy. The more caffeine you have regularly, the more sleepy bits you get in your brain to balance your bodies need for sleep. Hence, it takes more caffeine to block those bits and stay alert.

Hence, a regular dose of caffeine won’t do it for me. I need extra. Better add 2 shots of espresso.

Boom, an extra $1.40. Easy justified.

Need 2: Health

Funny how the brain works. Everything I just described about caffeine could classify it as a mild narcotic, yet my second major concern is health. At any rate, in an effort to keep the calories down on my drink, without sacrificing any of the creamy goodness that mellows the harshness of pure espresso.

The decision? “I guess I’ll have them make it with soy.”

Sure, it is healthier. It does cut down on the calories. But, there are a million other drink options I could choose to fulfill that. Yet I landed on “make it with soy”.

Boom, another $0.50. Easily justified.

Need 3: Abundance

Sitting in my car, waiting on the dirty white van in front of me to pull forward, already decided on needing extra caffeine and the healthier soy option, I started to think about the size of my drink. Here’s my internal debate:

“I could get a small, but then even with the extra shots, I wonder if there will be enough caffeine to get me through the morning? I better get a medium. Wait though. I guess a large is less than a dollar more. And I know with a large I’d be getting enough caffeine. AND with the soy option, it’s not that many more calories.”

Large it is.

Boom, $4.55 for the base drink.

Total cost: $6.45 + 0.39 Tax = $6.84

All of that took place in the 20 seconds I waited in line. One justified decision after another, that irrationally took me down a path of paying nearly $7 for a drink.

Now, back to my point.

In thinking about my decisions, and contrasting them to the issues of my friend, I started to realize that the absurdity of their decisions were no different than the absurdity of my drink decision. The only notable difference, was that the relationship my friend was having the issues with was tied even more deeply into their emotions. Emotions are a powerful thing. Emotions allow you to justify irrational behavior to the furthest degree.

I wasn’t able to offer any good advice to my friend. I can only hope that my explanation and comparison of situations will help them identify their justifications. Hopefully, over time their understanding of those justifications will lead them to better decisions, and a more rational behavior.

Think about your day, or week. What irrational decisions have you made? Did you realize it? How did you justify it to yourself? Do you think you could catch yourself and stop an irrational decision before you make it?