Businesses get creative during economic hardships

Every headline in the paper and story on the evening news seems to be about another bank or company going under. While the economy is in the tank, some businesses are getting creative and reminding everyone how inventive and unique people can be.

For instance, Starbucks, the once-snooty coffee shop with its tall, grande and venti drinks, has embraced the more frugal side of America. The company seems to be trying to keep up with its new competitor of fancy coffees, McDonalds.

Starbucks is offering $3.95 breakfasts of coffee and an egg sandwich, cup of oatmeal or slice of coffee cake — which is a deal, considering its cost is less than what the chain charges for a single venti frappuccino. The “breakfast pairing” saves customers $1.20, according to The New York Times.

“The $3.95 price point is a backhanded way to go at the four-buck perception — it’s less than four bucks, and it’s not just a drink, but food to go with it,” said Terry Davenport, Starbucks’ chief marketing officer, to the Times.

Starbucks is also entering the instant coffee market with its VIA Ready Brew. Three single-serve packets cost $2.95, with 12 costing $9.95.

“It’s an opportunity to give consumers a chance to experience the brand at a lower price,” said Tom Forte, senior research analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, to MarketWatch. “It’s appropriate in this economy. They are being aggressive from a product point of view.”

Another organization trying to entice new customers is PETA. President Ingrid Newkirk has come up with George Clooney-flavored tofu (“CloFu”).

According to the Washington Post, PETA was offered Clooney’s used gym towel from a supporter and wishes to use the sweat on it to flavor tofu.

In a letter to the actor, Newkirk wrote: “Of course, your fans would swoon at the idea of eating CloFu, but what interests us most is that we would attract many people who don’t try tofu because they worry that it would be bland or that they wouldn’t know how to
cook it.”

Clooney gave a simple response: “As a mammal, I’m offended.”

While it is unknown whether CloFu will really be marketed, the move is an interesting endeavor considering the number of middle-age women who fawn over Clooney. All PETA has to do is get an old sock from one of the Jonas Brothers and they’ll have a stranglehold on the tween girl market as well.

One shop attempting to take a new tack to appeal to grown-ups is the Vermont Country Store. Located in Weston, Vt., the shop has sold maple products, home remedies and kitchenware for 64 years — and is now providing “intimate solutions” for older couples, with products including vibrators and how-to DVDs.

Cabot Orton, whose father is the proprietor of the family-run business, said to the Associated Press that though about 600 customers have complained about the racy additions, the bottom line is the items are big sellers.

Another company attempting to boost sales is sperm bank Xytex International, which is offering clients $200 off sperm from “select” donors.

While future offspring shouldn’t be where people decide to cut corners, the company promises that just because the prices have been slashed doesn’t mean the product is at the end of its shelf life.

Danielle Moores, Xytex spokeswoman, said to the Agence-France Presse that select donors are men from whom the company has “many, many vials because they’re very successful donors or able to stop in several times a week or — for whatever reason, we have a huge inventory.”

It may seem impossible to make a fortune in today’s economy, but there are still some businesses that know how to play the game.

Candace Kaw is a senior majoring in mass communications and history.