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The Horror: Starbucks Has a Pumpkin Spice Latte Problem

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"You guys do know it's just a drink, right?"

Image source: Starbucks

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is something of a cult beverage among Starbucks devotees, coming around just once a year for a limited time to spread autumnal cheer among coffee drinkers.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, something terrible is afoot: Starbucks stores are -- gasp -- running low on the flavored sauce used to concoct the precious potion, all due to sheer demand:

Baristas are hitting the street, searching for stashes of the flavored sauce at other stores. Customers denied their fix—which costs about $4 for a small cup, or "tall" in Starbucks speak—are tweeting about their dismay.

"My world almost ended this morning when the local Starbucks told me they were out of Pumpkin Spice Latte," tweeted Jason Sizemore, 38 years old, of Lexington, Ky.

Cynthia Smalls, a barista at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks, said steamed customers have grown emotional on days her location runs out of pumpkin sauce. "They go crazy. The day we first found out we had a shortage, forget it," she said.

Her own surprised reaction: "You guys do know it's just a drink, right?" she said.

Starbucks officials told the Wall Street Journal there's no actual widespread supply shortage, instead blaming "infrequent deliveries" to stores. In their urgency, some customers have turned to Starbucks' instant version of the drink, but even that can be hard to come by:

Edmond Lorts, a 29-year-old freelance photographer in Austin, Texas, capitalized on demand for the instant treat. He started an eBay auction for a $6.95 box at $15. Within a day, someone picked it up at the buy-it-now price of $17. "I was blown away," he said. "People go nuts for this for some reason."

Ben Neal, 26, a librarian who lives in Bristol, Va., sensed the impending shortage of the instant version, and when his local store received a shipment of 10 boxes, he purchased three. He is rationing the packets, savoring only one or two a week, he said.

For those who've never tried it, the drink is described as tasting like a "sweet, liquid pumpkin pie—heavy on the nutmeg and cinnamon, with a hint of clove" -- though there isn't actually any pumpkin in it. Or, as Neal put it, "It just tastes like fall."

Stay strong, coffee lovers. Hang in there.

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