I first became aware of it a few days ago. I came to work and overheard my team leader and my supervisor talking very animatedly about some “cat paw”. They both were bemoaning the fact that they wanted to buy it but couldn’t because there were too many people interested in it, and it had been already sold out. They were saying how many people were standing in line to buy it and it was impossible to get it. Curious, I asked my supervisor about it when I bumped into her later.
She told me that it was a cup sold by Starbucks, shaped like a cat paw. She would like to have it, but since there was only a limited number of cups being issued, she didn’t manage to get it. According to what she said, if someone bought it, they could sell in on Taobao (an online shopping platform) for a triple price.
I didn’t think much of it, but then I saw people, my team leader among them, posting more about it on Wechat and I also started noticing some articles and my curiosity grew. So this is how the cup looks like:
As you can see, the price below it is over 1000 yuan – it’s more than sixfold the original price (199 yuan)!
The articles I saw featured more pictures of cups being sold for increased price and also described how people were even snatching the cups from each other in shops, as well as putting tents in front of Starbucks in order to be the first one to buy it in the morning (although who knows if those stories were true).
Originally, Starbucks wanted to sell 1000 cups each day, from February, 28th to March, 3rd. Then they changed their plan and decided to sell all of the remaining cups on the 3rd of March. So you can see that this is a very limited amount.
Today, I saw one of my students selling those cups on Wechat. She only offered them for 95 yuan per one, which is obviously much cheaper than the original price. I asked her about it and it turns out her sister buys them directly from a factory, either from the same factory that made them (according to the information in the post, the mold is the same), or just ordered someone to make the same mold (which doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to do since the cup looks quite simple).
On Taobao I also found people selling cups that were bought in Japan, but they were identical to the one from Starbucks. Also, today the prices are much lower than two days ago so I guess many people started making duplicates of the original cup. It’s no wonder since Chinese people are very good at sniffing out a good business opportunity.
So, what is so special about the cat-paw cup? It’s a part of Starbucks new cherry-flower style collection; cups, notebooks and other knick-knacks decorated with cherry flowers were part of a limited edition. But the cat-paw cup itself doesn’t really look to that special or be super-high quality. Of course, it looks interesting, especially if you pour milk or some colorful liquid into it, but it doesn’t account for such a blown-out-of-proportion craze. So what is it?
Supposedly, the reason behind its popularity was that it was shown by many people on a Chinese platform with short videos – Douyin (English name is Tik Tok). Douyin is currently extremely popular in China and it’s common for young people to spend many hours a day mindlessly scrolling through it. Many people use it to sell things, such as products they buy abroad and try to sell with profit or to promote their own businesses. It’s also used by big brands themselves – they find people who have many followers on Douyin and have them present their merchandise. These online celebrities are called “网络红人”wăngluò hóngrén, or in short “网红”(“wăngluò” means “internet”, “hóngrén” – “red person”; red person is a word with long history, as early as in ancient China it already meant a woman who was favored in the harem or someone who was trusted and relied upon by a person in power, such as the king or later the emperor; red is a very auspicious color in Chinese culture and symbolizes luck, protection from evil spirits, power).
Many people who watch videos on Douyin want to do the same thing as the people they follow. For instance, supposedly some Internet celebrity recently reviewed a restaurant in Xi’an (the city that holds the Terracotta Army) and for the time being, Xi’an has become an even more popular tourist destination than before. So the reason why many people desired the cup was that they saw it on Douyin.
Also, it’s worth stressing that the number of cups was extremely limited – only a few thousand cups in total! People say that it was a genius move from Starbucks. Many people had seen the cup and were talking about it, but only a few of them could get it; in China, people like to spend money on cute/good looking things to begin with, but the combination of promoting on social media and limited supply sent them into a frenzy.
I’m curious to see if anything like that will happen again, with Starbucks or some other products; I’m not sure if the same trick could work many times. Also, I’m wondering if people will be satisfied with the copies or if the authenticity of the cup will be more important to them.