I’ve written in the past about Starbucks and how it claims to offer 87,000 different drink combinations. I haven’t ever questioned that number though, and in retrospect I really should have. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy did question it:
Over the following weeks, I placed several phone calls and sent several emails, but didn’t get an explanation for the calculation. Nor could the company tell me who did the math. “It’s something a statistician put together, based on our menu board,” Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe told me. “If you take all of our core beverages, multiply them by the modifiers and the customization options, you get more than 87,000 combinations.” She said a spreadsheet contained the relevant calculation, but added, “it’s not something we’ve ever circulated.”
Turns out he never did get a straight answer. The math isn’t simple. You’d have to know all of the various syrups, sizes, milk options, cream options, etc. You’d have to know all of the drinks and bean types, and you’d have to keep up with menu changes. I’m not surprised that no one seems to know the true answer. It would be nice if Starbucks could justify their marketing somehow, though.
I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t matter much. Even if it’s closer to 8700 than 87,000 the simple fact remains, there’s no shortage of choice at Starbucks.
Read: The Numbers Guy