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Much has been written about Starbucks‘ fall from grace. The coffee behemoth’s profits have plummeted and its stock has lost nearly half its value in the past year (never mind how much it’s lost since the beginning of this decade, because who the hell holds stock that long anymore?). Stores have been closed, and baristas have been given their walking papers. The moralists among us say it’s a fitting fate for a company that epitomized the greed and the overinflated sense of self of the ’90s.

But the marketing gurus are trying to contain the damage with a new campaign to convince you that any Starbucks coffee product priced under $4 is a bargain. The Wall Street Journal published a piece yesterday about Starbucks’ new promotional blitz:

Last year, Starbucks launched a loyalty card that offers free flavoring and other perks for regular customers. Last summer, Starbucks discounted 16 oz. cold drinks to $2 in the afternoon for customers who brought in a receipt showing they made a purchase at Starbucks that morning.

Research also uncovered what executives describe as a disconnect between the company’s actual prices and consumers’ perception of those prices, said Michelle Gass, executive vice president of marketing and category at Starbucks.

“There have been others that have been propagating the myth of the $4 latte, and that is not true,” she said, adding that the average price of a Starbucks latte is $3.25. “We have got to correct the misperceptions that are out there.”

Oh, well, whew, if a medium latte (I never say “grande,” I’m sorry. I just can’t.) is only $3.25, I guess I can have two a day. Let me figure out my annual latte budget. Two per day, not including tax, comes to $6.50. My weekly budget then comes to $32.50, assuming I make my own coffee on the weekends. So that makes my annual latte budget about $1,690. What a bargain!

I mean, what can you do with $1,690 these days?

Image by Flickr user Leonid Mamchenkov