A recent article over on CNN Money on how Starbucks is in Hot Water over China prices has me wondering. According to the article, Starbucks is charging more in China for a cup of coffee in China than it is in Chicago or London (with a medium size Latte costing $4.40 vs $3,20 and $4.00). Similarly, it is charging as much as $18 in China for its Starbucks Coffee mug, that sells for between $10 and $14 in the US.
This is despite the fact that it is doing quite well in China, with strong sales contributing to a year-on-year jump in revenues in the Asia Pacific region of 30%.
Is this how you want to be treating a country you rely on for low-cost product production?
In the case of Starbucks, it could be argued that the mugs are not a main source of income, and since the coffee beans are not sourced from China, Starbucks isn’t really relying on China for its supply chain. But consider Apple, which is using refurbished parts to repair products in China and limiting some warranties to one year, as compared to the two and three years it offers in North America.
We all know that Apple relies on Foxconn Technology Group for it’s iPhone and iPad production, and is thus heavily reliant on China in is Supply Chain.
The last thing Apple should want to do is get the attention of China’s government, that recently recorded fines against five international dairy firms after they were accused of fixing the prices of baby formula, and that is currently investigating production costs and price setting practices at 60 pharmaceutical companies as part of a wider anti-corruption crackdown.
But this post isn’t about Starbucks or Apple, but about every company sourcing from China that also does business in China. Considering their dependence on China, shouldn’t they be treating the Chinese market with the fairness that they demanded for years? How many years were we conveying the message that American negotiators shouldn’t stop until they paid China price, as Chinese sellers had a history of charging foreign buyers more than native buyers?
If we want to get China price, shouldn’t we be charging China price, or at least a price that’s fair with respect to what we charge else where? Otherwise, what right do we have to complain about unfair competition or about a government that might respond by slapping fines on us and/or adding new export tariffs to punish us for our relatively un-ethical pricing measures.