If you tried to venture to your local Target for some groceries or perhaps a discounted appliance this past Wednesday, January 3, you might have noticed a massive line snaking around its brick edifice. Based on historical reasons why a huge congregation of people would wait outside a retailer in the wee hours of the morning, you might have thought it was for a new Pokémon card set, or maybe a rare Nintendo bundle. But no, instead, the line of people standing (and fighting) in line are trying to buy a portable cup. Yes, a drinking cup.
The Stanley cup craze, explained
The Stanley cup, to be precise. No, not the trophy given annually to the best team in the NHL, but a 40-ounce stainless steel tumbler that can keep your cold drinks cold for eleven hours and hot drinks hot for seven. In November of last year, the tumbler went viral after it survived a car fire, ice intact. It’s become such a phenomenon that collaborations with Target and Starbucks have resulted in massive lines at physical stores (they often offer new colorways exclusively in-store for a period of time before putting them up for sale online) and the dreaded plague of resellers, who have come swarming to snatch up stock and post them online. The 40-ounce cups retail for $45, while the 30-ounce ones go for $35, but resell prices are often more than five times as much. The Stanley cup resell culture is so intense, sneaker resale platform StockX just started posting the cups under its “accessories” category. At the time of writing, the pink Starbucks X Stanley cup which released on January 3 is going for hundreds of dollars.
Read More: Pokémon Has A Reseller Problem, And It’s Only Getting Worse
These cups have now become the drinking vessel version of a rare Pokémon TCG set, with efforts to secure the most recent release descending into the kind of mayhem we’ve traditionally seen associated with the collectible cards. The Starbucks X Stanley cup was available only at Target retailers that have Starbucks coffee shops inside of them, and videos posted to social media show wannabe buyers waiting outside as early as 4:40 a.m., throngs of people in winter clothing waiting to be let into stores, and one person claiming their TikTok live was taken down because a fight broke out while she was recording, with someone allegedly cutting the line, attacking a Target employee, and trying to run off with a box of the sought-after cups.
I reached out to my sister, a known Stanley cup-head, to learn a bit more about the elusive vessels. She told me that the recent Galentine’s Day collab between Target and Stanley was similarly only available in-store and drew similarly massive throngs of people. Her recent Stanley purchase (she has more than one) was a typical, non-collab cup that was in a new, sought-after pastel tie-dye colorway—it was only available in Target stores from December 14 until December 24 before Target put it up for sale on its website. “I waited until 12:01 a.m. on Christmas Eve and immediately bought it,” she told me sheepishly. “The only reason I did was because it was Lover-coded,” she said, referring to Taylor Swift’s 2019 album. When I raised my eyebrows in response, she replied, “All I know is I’m drinking 120 ounces of water a day, bitch.”