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29 May 2012

Want Nespresso, BYO Coffee Pods

We got new coffee machines in the office last week. I quickly skimmed through the announcement, only picking up that we had new coffee machines and that we had to bring our own pods. I found it a bit ridiculous. Why were they investing on a new machine and scrimping on the beans? It seemed like the term 'cutting corners' was getting a new meaning altogether. Having never really used the old machine (I hate powdered milk), I decided it was not my place to comment. Someone out there must have thought we deserved something better and got half of what (s)he deserved.

The new machine arrived on the floor below ours and there was a bit of a hula-hoop that I did not quite get. I went back to read the email. If everyone was excited about a machine when they had to bring their own beans, there has got to be something I missed. It was a Nespresso machine! Whoever convinced the powers-that-be surely deserves a medal. 

So, we all went to check it out. There was a little poster that explained how to make your first coffee. Cute. There was a big glass bowl next to the machine for the used pods. The machine is a pretty little thing that makes one coffee per pod (or capsule, as the website calls it). The milk holding containers barely make a coffee or two. You can make all the usual (and more) varieties of coffee with the press of a button. If you are one of those who never tires from too many options, there are 16 flavours or Grands Crus to choose from. At 60c a capsule, i.e. a cuppa, it is cheaper than the $3.50 - $5 coffees most people were getting from the cafes every morning. 

Well, that explained the excitement of the new coffee machine. I watched the grand opening of their store at the mall a few weeks ago and boy, was it flash! It is the new big thing in the coffee world. 

Suddenly something strange is happening all around me. In the last 1 week, I have had at least 3 emails from individuals selling coffee capsules! Everyone was selling Nespresso capsules at a dollar a piece, making a 40% profit. I am speechless. I could not help but wonder if there were more people selling that coffee than drinking it. Why would I pay a dollar for one capsule when I could get a box of 10 for 6? Maybe, they were trying to sell single capsules to coffee newbies or those that wanted to just 'give it a shot'? It is quite the win-win situation, isn't it? When a colleague mentioned that in the team meeting on the first day, I marveled at his ability to turn any situation into a profitable business. Obviously, he is not alone. While he did not actually implement the idea, the others have definitely turned it into a business.

The competition has been worth following. The first email that went out merely mentioned coffee pods being sold for $1, with 4 different Grand Crus being available. Then somebody sent out an email saying they were selling all 16 Grand Crus for the same price. Before long, another email followed, offering coffee-flavoured choccies at 60c each. Whose turn is it next? I wondered for a second if I sold coffee pods for 90c, I would make a profit. Maybe not. People would rather pay a dollar than dig out small change. Who thinks about the extra 40c they have to pay when it is only a dollar? That seems to be the logic used here. 

I do not know if the coffee-pod/capsule businesses are thriving. I have no clue who is leading the competition. What I do realize that all those researches on employee incentives that insist that more money does not mean happiness are bang on the money (no pun intended). Most people would rather overpay  for good coffee than drink the free watery liquid that passes off for coffee. And everyone hates loose change.

I've been putting off trying one myself. Over the next few days, I must give each of the flavours a try. After all, it's a short walk from my desk and I am saving $2 for every dollar I spend on the expensive capsules. With that, I find myself sucked into the abysmal trap of wanting all the fancy things that the Joneses are drinking. Oh well, it is only coffee. I am only going to try it once. Ok, sixteen times. At least. 

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