How Starbucks Made My Friday and Taught Me About Economic Progress


Wow. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen: it’s a little green plug/stir stick that fits neatly into the lid of the Venti dark roast I’m enjoying. I think I vaguely recall having seen one before, but I don’t know for certain. This I do know: a seemingly mundane little innovation that few people probably even notice has made my life appreciably better by keeping my coffee hot and by keeping it from spilling. According to the baristas who served me today, a Starbucks employee invented it.

I’m going to keep the one I just got and add it to my assortment of doodads that I take on the road so I can use it when I get coffee elsewhere. I travel a lot, and there’s a chance you’ve probably seen my bumbling figure in an airport this week. Too many times, I’ve been holding a cup of coffee and gotten bumped or otherwise jostled in such a way as to land a splash of burning hot coffee on my hand. Suffice it to say this isn’t something that improves my mood.

I got to experience this just a minute ago. I opened a door that swung back and bumped my right elbow. I was holding a full cup of coffee in my right hand and noticed that I braced myself for the coming pain that would accompany a splash of piping-hot coffee on the flesh between my thumb and index finger.

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Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University.