The Ridiculous ‘Exclusive’ Gift Consumers Are Clamoring to Buy

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Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Today only, you have the chance to pay $50 for the privilege of spending another $400 at Starbucks. But only if you act fast!

A year ago, the deal site Gilt launched a curious sale, offering a special stainless steel gift card to Starbucks for $450. With most gift cards, the amount paid is equal to the amount the holder can spend with the card. But this card was special: It was loaded with just $400.

The justification for the price differential was that each card cost more than $50 to make. More importantly, these cards were presented as “exclusive.” Only 5,000 went on sale. They reportedly sold out in something like six minutes.

Today at noon EST, Gilt and Starbucks are going for a repeat performance, only this time a mere 1,000 cards are available. Again, each card will cost $450 and be loaded with a $400 Starbucks credit. In other words, the java nut is essentially forsaking the value of 10 overpriced $5 lattes by purchasing such a card.

It’s supposedly a very nice card, though. “The card, each hand-assembled, features a gorgeous artisan rose base metal with rose colored coating, laser-etched with traditional Starbucks lettering, ” a press release explained of the new Limited Edition Metal Starbucks Card.

What they really seem to be selling is exclusivity—they’ve made something desirable simply because there aren’t that many of them. “If something is hard to get, it takes on irrational value,” Steven Addis, a brand consultant, told USA Today. “Maybe the most potent of sales tools is scarcity.”

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They’re also selling the idea that the holder of this card gets to show off and feel special. “When you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, the next person in line won’t have it,” a Gilt executive said last year.

That’s true. But all of the people in line would seem to be able to get coffee, which would seem to be the purpose of going to Starbucks.

However, there may be a valid reason for buying such a product beyond the desire to bolster one’s self esteem by possessing and strategically flaunting your exclusive limited edition card. And that reason is that there seem to be people out there willing to pay well over $450 in order to bolster their self esteem by having their very own overpriced card—which, again, serves no other purpose than to allow them to buy overpriced coffee in a slightly different way than others.

Within days of the $450 cards being sold out a year ago, some were being resold on eBay for over $1,000.