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The Starbuck Stops Here

A Florida man put an end to another “pay it forward” streak at a local Starbucks because he said he thinks people were participating out of “guilt,” not “generosity.”

Peter Schorsch, a blogger, drove to the Starbucks drive-thru in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Thursday after hearing about the pay it forward phenomenon there that ended with customer No. 458, a woman, the day before. After he ordered two Venti Mocha Frappuccinos, the barista told him his first drink had been paid for by the previous customer and asked if he would like to pay for the next customer.

“I told him no,” Schorsch, of St. Petersburg, told ABC News. “When the barista asks you to pay it forward, it is no longer spontaneous.”

Though Schorsch didn’t pay for the next customer at the drive-thru, he said he tipped the barista $100.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

I think Mr. Schorsch make several good points for why he declined to pay for the next customer’s drink.   I had not realized when this phenomena first appeared in the news that the baristas were asking customers if they wanted to pay for the next client’s drink.  I had this assumption that customers were being told their drink had been paid for and on their own initiative were choosing to “pay it forward” to the next person in line. This does remove the element of spontaneous generosity if people must be prompted to give.  If I were a recipient of a free drink courtesy of the person in front of me and I was aware that this came about due to the person being asked to donate, it would certainly take the “magic” out of the experience.

So, Mr. Schorsch puts a stop to the hours-long donation chain and instead redirects his spontaneous generosity to the barista in the form of a $100 tip who, I am sure, was not expecting it.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • OriginalDIL October 30, 2014, 5:59 am

    I agree. Knowing that the person was encouraged to pay for the drink ruins the point of the whole thing. And if the person ahead of me pays for my drink, then I am encouraged to pay for the next person and so on, it’s pointless isn’t it? We could all just pay for our own drinks and be just as far ahead.

    • manybellsdown October 30, 2014, 11:17 am

      Exactly. Only the person who breaks the chain actually benefits! I think it’s great when someone wants to pay for the person behind them, but asking customers to “keep the streak” going not only takes out the spontaneous generosity, but doesn’t even make logical sense.

      And really, this is public shaming of someone who didn’t want to “contribute”. I don’t want my name broadcast if 500 people in a row buy Girl Scout cookies or donate to ALS and then I refuse and “break” the chain.

    • mark October 30, 2014, 4:05 pm

      I agree, such a simple concept. You pay for your drink and I pay for mine.

  • Saucygirl October 30, 2014, 6:41 am

    Personally, I’ve never understood the Starbucks pay it forward. You go to Starbucks expecting to pay for a drink, and whether you are paying for yours or the person behind you, you are still paying for a drink. How did you help anyone? How did anyone truly benefit? I agree with the blogger. if you want to do something truly generous, something where you are truly paying it forward, then step out of the Starbucks line and use the $5 you would have spent on an overpriced coffee to better someone’s life in a way that has true meaning and worth.

    • Huh October 30, 2014, 8:03 am

      “whether you are paying for yours or the person behind you, you are still paying for a drink. How did you help anyone?”

      I always thought those pay-it-forward coffee things were odd for some reason, and I think you’ve hit on why, Saucygirl. If you go into a restaurant and leave the waitress a $100 tip, or buy the person in line behind you a coffee, and get nothing out of it and don’t expect to get anything out of it, that’s being generous. If you’re the recipient, and their act of kindness inspires you to buy a whole bunch of food for a food pantry, or go into a restaurant and pay for someone’s check, and again, don’t expect anything out of it, that’s paying it forward.

      There’s a stretch of highway in my town that you have to pay a toll on. I’ve had people pay for my toll before. I didn’t pay for the toll behind me, though. Maybe I was the line-ruiner in the situation! But I always think of something nice to do like that for someone else during the week.

    • Kate October 30, 2014, 8:15 am

      Absolutely. I agree totally. Like he said, this is the very definition of a first world problem. If you genuinely want to do something good for someone, the first thing should not be buying someone else a $5 coffee, which they can clearly afford, since they’re in line in the first place.

    • Rap541 October 30, 2014, 8:47 am

      Oh thank you. I have never gotten the point of this. At the end of the day, you’re still going into the coffee shop and buying a coffee

      • Miss Raven October 30, 2014, 1:10 pm

        This whole fiasco is the perfect definition of “first-world problem”. Check your privilege. The fact that this is even a news story (TWICE!) is completely and utterly absurd. Every day I work with Americans across the country who are about to be evicted, who were injured at work and now can’t pay their heating bill, who can’t afford to feed their children on two minimum-wage incomes. People are homeless, and scared, and slipping through the cracks, and repressed by the system.

        If you want to do a spontaneous act of kindness and make yourself feel good, take that $5 and use it to make a real difference. Tip your server a little extra in case her tips have been too poor to live on lately. Buy a slice of pizza for the guy asking for change outside your office. Give it to a shelter for battered women, or an after school program for at-risk youth, or a food pantry, or a local charity like St. Vincent de Paul that offers rent assistance for eviction prevention.

        There are millions of people in this country who desperately need that $5. Anyone in line for a luxury cup of coffee does not.

        • Mary October 30, 2014, 3:05 pm

          Excellent point! The people who truly need that $5 are not in line at Starbucks!

          • Mer October 31, 2014, 2:24 am

            I don’t think this is about the need of $5 in the Starbucks line. While you (all) of course have good points, I don’t think the idea of the “pay forward” is to offer charity, but do a nice deed that will lighten up someones day. And basically, to add little niceness in the world, to change how we treat each other and how wee see each other. Even if you can afford $5 coffee, you still might have a rotten day at work, or you might be ill or in the middle of divorce. And random niceness may affect your day and your wellbeing very much, even if the “big things” in your life are okay. And of course, it might inspire you to do something nice to somebody else.

            So I find it really depressing when there is a person who tries to do something nice, and the response is “well you shouldn’t do nice things to that cause, there are X, Y and Z who are suffering even more”. And gods help, if you are doing something for X, Y and Z, there is next person huffing and puffing that A, B and C would be far more deserving, why don’t you do something that has real impact. Actually, I really dislike this phenomenon. And that is said using Ehell-approved language. If you think that, X, Y, Z, A, B or C deserve and need help, help them yourself. But don’t mock others for choosing to do something different, something that maybe is not your cup of tea. Not every nice action needs to be world changing and aimed for the most deserving. And complaining how other people try to be nice is a sure way to discourage them of doing anything nice anymore.

            Sure, I agree that the idea of paying it forward is ruined if it’s just a prompted line of people paying for the next. And sure, some people may use it just to whitewash their conscience. So what?

          • CW October 31, 2014, 11:45 am

            I agree with Mer. If I choose to leave $2 taped to a vending machine to pay for someone’s candy bar and make them smile a bit, then that’s my decision and random act of kindness. It’s MY spending money. I get to choose where I leave it. If that means I give an extra tip to a waitress or buy someone’s coffee or give to a charity, it’s my decision that day. Do whatever you want with your extra cash. I’m so tired of hearing “check your privilege”. My nice things and paycheck were not handed to me on a silver platter. Don’t begin to tell me what I can or should do with my own funds.

        • NostalgicGal October 31, 2014, 1:58 am

          Agreed. When we had the Make A Wish and Elder Star needy trees at the banks (one was for needy children for Christmas presents, the other for elderly needfuls) our utility companies WOULD issue a ‘gift certificate’ for Elder Star donations (water/sewer, gas company, electric company, and phone company)…they normally didn’t but for that cause they would. We have the low-income subsidy apartments in town for our county, and I know a lot of single widows that are trying to survive on the minimum of SSI, they always appreciated these ‘gift certificates’ (that didn’t count against their ‘income’). A $5 cup of coffee is a luxury to you, and against $255 a month, a real fortune to someone else….

          • Saucygirl October 31, 2014, 9:37 am

            Mer, I totally agree that the point of paying it forward is to do a nice deed that lightens up someone else’s day. That’s why I don’t understand the Starbucks pay it forward. If you go to starbucks expecting to pay for a coffee, and someone has paid for yours, and you accept it and think “awesome!” and then you go elsewhere and do something nice for someone else, then that is awesome too, and embracing the pay it forward concept. But when you get your “free” coffee and then turn around and buy the next persons coffee, and it continues, then you and everyone else is still spending the $5 or so they expected to spend when they entered the line. Or, conversely, they are made to feel bad for not paying. How is any of that truly paying it forward?

            I also agree with you that doing something nice doesn’t mean on,y doing something for the neediness person. Everyone deserves a treat.

  • KMC October 30, 2014, 7:05 am

    I like the “pay it forward” idea, but I admit I find it disappointing that to so many people it becomes nothing more than paying for a cup of coffee for someone. That’s a really nice gesture, sure. But it’s just become the pay it forward thing to do. And I agree it does become a meaningless chain of “He bought mine, so I’ll buy yours.” I think maybe it’s a bit presumptuous to say that everyone was participating out of guilt or peer pressure, but I’m sure that many were. Especially if the barista was asking them if they wanted to pay for the next person.

    Basically, I wish that more people would do something more meaningful or impactful than buying a cup of coffee when they decide to “pay it forward.”

  • SusanB October 30, 2014, 7:48 am

    I would decline to participate as well. This is just a made up faux exercise in fake generosity, there is literally no point to it and it benefits no one.

  • Timothy October 30, 2014, 7:48 am

    The pay it forward concept allows the “donar” to feel good about themselves without actually accomplishing anything.

  • Markko October 30, 2014, 7:48 am

    Thank you; I was wondering what would eventually take the place of those old-fashioned chain letters. At least the baristas don’t threaten you by saying your doom is sealed if you don’t “pay it forward”! Generosity and gratefulness cannot be prompted. Forcing a person to “pay it forward” by putting them on the spot does not make them generous anymore than it makes someone grateful to be told the person paid for their drink, and they “should” pay it forward. Bah! Humbug! I wonder if most people even understand the concept of generosity, and DON”T get me started about the grace of being grateful! Totally gone; try asking a person to simply define the word “grateful” and see what a confused, blank look you get. Things like this Starbucks “promotion” are dulling our perception of generosity now. Generosity comes from the heart spontaneously, not as the response to a prompt from a vendor of goods.

  • Anonymous October 30, 2014, 7:55 am

    I kind of agree with the previous two posters. First of all, you don’t know if the person after you is going to want a regular cup of coffee or tea, or an expensive Frappuccino. Second of all, the five dollars you could “pay forward” for a stranger’s coffee, could go further elsewhere–you could buy several non-perishable food items for the food bank at No Frills or similar, you could buy a hat and mittens from the dollar store for a child (or an adult) who’d otherwise go without, you could buy a Webkinz, or some paper and crayons or something, to donate to Christmas Cheer or Angel Tree or whatever–the list goes on and on.

    • AMC October 30, 2014, 10:51 am

      When doing a PIF in the drive-thru, because of the distance from the order to pick-up areas, by the time you get to the window the person behind you has already placed their order, and the barista knows their total.

  • Michelle October 30, 2014, 8:03 am

    I agree with Admin and Mr. Schorsch- if you are prompted, it’s not generosity, it’s guilt (or maybe peer pressure is a a better word?).

    Mr. Schorsch giving the barista a $100 tip is “paying it forward”!

  • PhDeath October 30, 2014, 8:08 am

    I agree completely with Admin that the beauty of PIF moments are the “magic” of them – very well put. Mr. Schorsch created some unexpected magic for the barista, who may be inspired to pass it along in her/his own way. That, to me, is the spirit of PIF – not an obligatory chain of “peer pressure” kindness.

  • Amy October 30, 2014, 8:18 am

    I think when this first happened it was just people trying to do something nice. Now it is a “thing” thanks to social and other media that have turned it into an obligation instead of anything random or meant with genuine kindness towards our fellow man. While I couldn’t afford to be as generous as the blogger in this story I do think I would hand the money for my drink to the take out staff as a tip rather than continuing the trend. Or go the the local grocery store and buy food for the local food bank. Plus I have heard of a few occasions where gimme pigs have taken advantage of the pay it forwards. People signing blank checks and the staff letting the next person know and them ordering the whole shop. There is nothing “nice” that the right sort of person doesn’t twist to their own ends.

  • Nathan Neulinger October 30, 2014, 8:37 am

    The whole idea of doing this at a drivethrough seems kind of pointless. The whole idea behind the original “pay it forward” was to use exponential growth with 2 or 3 to 1 ratio, not 1:1 — to inspire large numbers of people to help others. (I’ll help you, but in return, you need to help at least 2 other people. Repeat.)

    If you have one of these “pay it forward” events and it goes on for hundreds of cars – what has been accomplished? Not much more than ONE person (the one that breaks the chain) getting benefit, and maybe a few others getting a smile out of it.

    Done properly, after 20 rounds (even at 2:1), potentially over a thousand people would have benefitted.

    • Calli Arcale October 30, 2014, 11:44 am

      Agreed. You’re not paying it forward if you receive a PIF and then basically just pass it along to the person behind you. You’re . . . well, passing the gift along, which isn’t bad, but also doesn’t create a net benefit in doing so. And to me, it feels a bit like declining a gift, which is rude. Now, if you decide to pay for the next *two* people, that would be different, but possibly a bit too complicated for the drive-through context.

  • Suomynona October 30, 2014, 9:10 am

    I wouldn’t necessarily think of what the barista said as prompting someone to give. It’s a valid question. The way I interpret it is letting you as a customer know why your order is less than you might have expected (the last person paid for your drinks) and asking if you would like to continue the chain so they know how much money to collect from you. You’re free to answer any way you choose, whether to pay for the next person’s drink or not, but the barista has to know how much money to get. In a fast-paced place like that I can see asking if you’d like to continue the chain so they can recalculate the total owed quickly.

    I do agree with Mr. Schorsch and what he did, stopping the chain and giving the barista a large tip. That was his choice. I don’t necessarily agree with the “Pay It Forward” at Starbucks, but let’s please not drag the baristas into this and say that they’re the ones ruining the experience.

    • iwadasn November 1, 2014, 4:06 pm

      All the barista needs to do is tell you that the person ahead of you paid for your drink. Prompting you to do the same is uncalled for and does take away from the “generosity” of paying it forward.

  • Lera99 October 30, 2014, 9:24 am

    I will say that someone once paid for my drink at Starbucks and it made a huge impact on me.

    I had a $5 gift card and had scrounged together $1 in change for a tip.
    I was super broke that week so the $5 gift card was going to buy the drink which was going to be my lunch and dinner. And I was trying to figure out what on earth to do the next day for food.

    And when I got to the window, the Barista told me my drink had been paid for by the person in front of me. I was so relieved that I almost cried. I gave her $.50 for a tip.

    And then the next day I was able to come back and use the gift card and the other $.50 for tip.

    It was a really rough time and that kind person who paid for me made a world of difference.

    On the other hand, if it had been a chain – I totally broke it.

    • Calli Arcale October 30, 2014, 11:45 am

      No, I think you were the perfect recipient of a Pay it Forward that day. That’s how it’s supposed to be. 😉 I think the people who pass along the chain are doing so because they feel they don’t need the charity, so maybe someone behind them can use it instead.

    • Anonymous October 30, 2014, 11:59 am

      Lera, that depends on how you look at it. Suppose the “pay it forward” chain doesn’t have to be confined to Starbucks. I mean, there are plenty of things you can do for someone that don’t involve buying coffee, or buying anything, or spending any money at all. You could shovel an elderly neighbour’s front walk in the winter, or rake their leaves in the fall, or walk someone’s dog, or offer to babysit their kids, or volunteer with an organization like the YMCA (which I’ve done off and on since I was twelve), or anything else you can think of.

  • Dawn October 30, 2014, 9:28 am

    I can’t remember the exact wording, but in Europe some people will order 2 coffees with one of them “whatever I can’t remember.” It means they get the one coffee they want, and there is another in reserve for homeless, down-on-their-luck people. They can come in and ask for one of these reserved coffees and enjoy it in a warm atmosphere. Patrons can also add muffins or sandwiches to these reserve orders. I would participate in that.

    When we were dating my future husband asked me once why I always gave a bit to the homeless. I just said it wasn’t too hard for me to see my little brother in those circumstances one day, and I would hope someone would be moved to help him. That’s my opinion of paying it forward. Not buying a cup of coffee for someone in line behind me in an Escalade.

    • BellyJean October 30, 2014, 10:29 am

      I love the idea of reserve coffees! I wish something like that would catch on/become the norm here. I’d happily up my Tim Horton’s (Canadian coffee chain) order to ensure that people can enjoy a warm coffee/hot chocolate/or other beverage and/or nibble.

    • Raven October 30, 2014, 10:45 am

      I think the word you’re looking for is “pending,” if my memory serves me correctly. (A rather big “if,” some days.)

      I love the idea of the pending coffees, much more than the PIF version at Starbucks. Doing something to help others, because you can, because they need you to, is a beautiful thing. Doing something because you feel you have to cheapens it a great deal.

      I wish we had the “pending” coffee thing here (Toronto). Maybe I’ll have to start the trend…

      • Marozia October 30, 2014, 6:53 pm

        We have the ‘pending’ coffees here in Perth for the homeless.
        We have a Christian bookshop and cafe and I’ve bought many ‘pending’ coffees there for people.
        A lot of the cafes where I work don’t do ‘pend’ as there’s been too many addicts and fake ‘down-and-outers’ who use that just to get a freebie.
        But the PIF seems pointless to me in the drive-thru!!

    • Margaret October 30, 2014, 11:02 am

      Tim Horton’s in Canada does that (not necessarily all stores, but you can ask). They call it a suspended coffee or sandwich or whatever you buy.

    • NikkiB October 30, 2014, 11:19 am

      That, exactly! I would always rather buy an extra coffee and a sandwich and give it to one of the many homeless people I sadly pass on my journey home, than pay for someone else’s coffee – they wouldn’t be in the shop if they couldn’t buy their own.

    • Sarah October 30, 2014, 1:25 pm

      Exactly Dawn! It is called “suspended”, it is what “paying it forward” means to me – to allow someone to have a coffee who could not otherwise afford it. I think it started in Italy where coffee is part of their lives and the local cafe more than just somewhere to quickly have a cup! The idea was that the truly poor would be able to go to a cafe and ask was there one “on the slate” so to speak – they would get a much needed boost of caffeine and warmth – both physical and mental as in the company in a cafe! Here is an article from 2013 – the Independent (English newspaper) -www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/suspended-coffee-what-a-wonderful-idea-8553747.html

    • Laura October 30, 2014, 2:25 pm

      I’ve heard of this too and it’s been driving me crazy trying to remember what the term was. It just came to me: it’s called a “suspended” coffee. What a relief.

    • AnnaMontana October 31, 2014, 3:02 am

      I live in the rural countryside, uk. There are no homeless or otherwise desperate people in our community however, there are a fair few people in the nearest town.
      I don’t drink coffee, just tea (due to being terrified of breastfeeding too much caffeine into my baby).
      I will often use the system of what is locally known as the ‘Needy cuppa’ in a few cafes in town. Usually someone in the morning has paid for a tea/coffee to sit in reserve for one of homeless or desperate people who may be outside. If you ask to give a ‘needy cuppa’ the barista will tell you the tea/coffee is already bought and paid for, but theres no muffin/sandwich/cake or whatever.
      Generally if you want to give a needy cuppa, you add another item to the original order, until there is a full meal (sandwich, crisps, cake/muffin, tea or coffee and a piece of fruit) and then it starts again.
      I have been in the cafe in town where there were two full ‘meals’ paid and ready to go and have seen some truly desperate people beg for a needy cuppa. At one point the barista even went outside to pull in a homeless gentleman to come and get a complete meal. I’ve never seen a more thankful person in my life.
      That is the true meaning of pay it forward to me!

  • Devin October 30, 2014, 9:34 am

    Or just drop that $5 in the baristas tip jar. Pretty sure that stay at home mom in the 50K SUV, or the man in suit that costs more than I make in two weeks will barely register a $5 ‘gift’, but the college kid/aspiring musician/person working multiple jobs could really appreciate an extra $5. Plus you might start seeing an little extra attention when you return. (This is just the demographics I see of the coffee shop I occasionally hit up on my way to work).

    I notice this only ever happens in the drive thru lines. If you were to hear the person in front of you being asked to pay-it-forward, it would quickly lose its magic, and definitely wouldn’t last 400+ people.

  • Tracy P October 30, 2014, 10:02 am

    I agree that the PIF movement has become more about being able to brag about it and not really helping.

    The only problem I have is that it sounds like this guy went out of his way to break the chain. And that is a bit rude. He purposely went to a place that had had a PIF chain to make sure they didn’t get very far the next day. And then he made sure the media knew all about it. Sounds like he just wanted the attention.

  • B October 30, 2014, 10:07 am

    “Would you like to pay for the next customer?”

    No, I wouldn’t, and I can see why some people would find this pressuring – they’d feel mean/uncaring etc, regardless of how much they do to help others elsewhere. To me this is weird, and not an appropriate question for businesses to make their staff ask in the first place.

    This is definitely not my idea of paying it forward.

  • Jinian October 30, 2014, 10:38 am

    I agree with everyone who said that $5 could be much more useful to the many people who can’t afford to stand in line for expensive coffee. (I’m so glad it helped you, Lera99! It’s just that a lot of other people don’t have gift cards.)

    What I wonder, though, is: if it’s inappropriate for the barista to ask whether customers want to continue the chain, why are they being rewarded with a colossal tip? Seems to me that puts it into the realm of publicity stunts.

  • AMC October 30, 2014, 10:46 am

    I once had my drink paid for by the customer in front of me. It was nice and unexpected surprised that brightened my day. The barista did not ask or suggest that I pay for the next customer. I paid it forward on my own a few weeks later when I had some extra cash. It made me feel good that a complete stranger would do something nice for me, and it made me feel even better to pass that random act of kindness on to someone else.

    In this case, I kind of feel like Starbucks, or at least the store in the above article, was exploiting the generosity of it’s customers to attract more business. When people start flocking to their stores to buy drinks for others, Starbucks makes a profit.

  • o_gal October 30, 2014, 11:36 am

    I’m going to go against the current grain of the comments. In this case, the fact that it is coffee at Starbucks is a red herring. It doesn’t matter what it was. This guy heard about the pay-it-forward chain and *deliberately* chose to interrupt it. It wasn’t that he found himself at Starbucks and decided on the spot that he didn’t feel like participating. He may have even gone out of his way to bust it. It wasn’t something that personally was affecting him, and it seems like he did it to make some sort of point to other people. To me, that seems rude.

    • B October 31, 2014, 4:40 am

      Yes, I think he did do it to make a point, but the idea that is rude is one I cannot agree with.

      He did it to make the point that this Starbucks PIF is not really PIF. It’s a corporate gimmick that isn’t benefitting anyone, piggy-backing off the PIF concept. More importantly, *he put his money where his mouth is*. He could have bought that coffee for $5, but he gave the barista a $100 tip. He stepped up to his principles.

      Maybe thanks to him, some people will think, “Actually, rather than buy someone else’s expensive coffee in a chain, I will give that $5 to a charity that needs it.” And I think that if he does achieve that, he has achieved something worthwhile.

      The point he made is important. He has made people think about this, and about the concept of paying it forward, and he genuinely did pay it forward himself. You may not like what he did, but calling it rude is a bit daft.

    • Lacey October 31, 2014, 11:33 am

      I don’t see how it was rude. Are you saying that the only polite thing to do would be to begrudgingly and under pressure pay for someone else’s coffee?

  • Ashley October 30, 2014, 11:37 am

    I have never understood how this situation is supposed to be “paying it forward” when the only person who actually benefits from it is whoever decides to break the chain and actually gets a free cup of coffee. Everyone else is just swapping bills. I suppose Starbucks benefits because if people hear that there’s one of these chains going on, it might somehow make them more inclined to visit, even though they too would just be swapping bills.

    I also agree that attempting to get people to keep it up by prompting them to pay for whoever is behind them is wrong.

    This is actually the second story I’ve seen where they talk about ending the chain, and both stories go as far as identifying who broke it, no matter what their reasons for doing so were. Why identify them? The woman in the first story I read was given grief for ending it, and enough was told about her that if people wanted to go find her, they could. This story gives the guys full name, and while he gave the barista a tip, I’m sure there are still people out there giving him grief for ending the chain as well.

    The whole thing is dumb. If you REALLY want to pay it forward, accept your free cup of coffee, leave Starbucks, then go drop the $5 you would have spent somewhere else it can help people.

  • just4kicks October 30, 2014, 11:41 am

    We go to the Jersey shore every summer for a few days, a week if we can afford it. There is a small toll bridge you have to pay 50 cents to get across in order to go over to Cape May. When my husband and I were dating, sometimes we go for the weekend. If I was driving, I would always give the operator a dollar and tell him to pay for the car behind us. Almost 20 years and four kids later, we still do it every time we go across the bridge. Sometimes we get a wave from the car at the next light, most often no one acknowledges it. It’s just a little tradition we do, a little change for the “good karma” bank. A few years ago, we paid for the car behind us as usual and went on our way. At the light, a young girl pulled up next to us, beeped and put her window down. She yelled over “did you pay the toll for me?” I said “yes, we did.” She said, “I’m a college student and working two jobs to pay for school….that was the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in a long time! Have a great night and a wonderful vacation….thank you so much!” And with a little wave to our kids in the back seat, went on her way with a big smile. One of my kids said “wow….fifty cents made her THAT happy?!?” Even fifty cents can make someone’s day!

    • RC October 30, 2014, 3:40 pm

      I LOVE this idea, such a small token but would really brighten my day too! What a lovely tradition.

      • just4kicks October 31, 2014, 10:28 am

        @RC: thank you for the nice comment!
        The kids all promise when they are old enough, they will keep the tradition alive when they and their future family go to the shore.

  • Abby October 30, 2014, 11:42 am

    I agree that the Starbucks concept is well intentioned but ultimately pointless.

    I do think buying a stranger’s cup of coffee can have a positive impact- yes, it’s only a couple of dollars, and yes, the person behind you is not likely to be broke since they’re willing to pay for the coffee in the first place- but just the thought that someone did something kind for you can change your whole outlook on the day. That notion kind of flies out the window when someone is just doing it so not to be the one who “breaks the chain”. And having a publicized chain in the first place kind of misses the point of paying it forward.

  • Bo October 30, 2014, 11:49 am

    I was a line-breaker in a pay it forward chain once. I ordered one coffee at a drive-thru and was told when I got to the window to pay that the person in front of me had paid for it. The cashier then asked if I wanted to pay for the person behind me. I almost said yes, just out of guilt, but I balked at the total (they had ordered much more than me). The cashier told me I only *had* to pay for one drink. It was her tone, telling me I was expected to do it, that turned me off and I declined to pay. She quite rudely told me I had broken the chain, but I couldn’t understand how doing something I was told I had to do was an act of generosity. Most people I’ve told this to don’t agree with me, so I’m quite pleased to see that I am not the only one who will not participate in these pay it forward chains.

    • ketchup October 30, 2014, 3:28 pm

      I agree with you!

    • Snarkastic October 30, 2014, 7:38 pm

      I’m pretty sure that’s extortion. Haha.

  • L.J. October 30, 2014, 11:57 am

    I would want to be asked if I’d like to pay for the next person. It would be such a surprise to receive a free coffee that I might not think, in the moment, to offer to pay for the next person. So I’d rather the barista ask rather than me walking away with my free drink and only thinking an hour later, “Oops, I should have continud the chain.”

  • Chocolatemoose October 30, 2014, 12:36 pm

    Some days I only have the exact amount of money I need to get a coffee for me. My stop at the bank is after my coffee stop. I’d be breaking the chain.

  • Ange63 October 30, 2014, 12:41 pm

    I was thinking of this too. It’s not really a general European custom, but I know it in Italy. A ‘caffè sospeso’, a suspened coffee. Makes mor sense than just getting a coffee from the person infront of you while at the same time paying one for the person behind you.

  • Mary October 30, 2014, 1:02 pm

    I would have broken the chain. Starbucks is a treat for me. But I only order a tall hot chocolate, no whip. This would be approximately $2.89. That is what I like, what I can afford and I can’t drink any more than the smallest size.
    I would not be offering to pay for the Venti white chocolate mocha with two shots of raspberry for the person behind me which will come to around $6.

    I do agree that once it becomes a chain only the last person benefits.

  • A different Tracy October 30, 2014, 1:14 pm

    I agree. Spontaneous PIF, with no expectation of anything in return, is great. This wasn’t any of that. Everyone paid for coffee, it just wasn’t their coffee.

  • Justine October 30, 2014, 1:29 pm

    I think it is wrong for the barista to even ask that! I sure hope this is not a new trend! Don’t put people on the spot.

  • KC October 30, 2014, 2:03 pm

    Check out Suspended Coffees on their website @ http://www.suspendedcoffees.com/ (or on facebook)

    The way this works is… ” instead of buying just one cup of coffee, you buy two or more. You buy one for yourself and one for someone in need. The barista gives you your coffee, then logs the second coffee as “suspended”. The coffee can then be redeemed in a number of ways”

    “A suspended coffee can be for anyone. It can be for the homeless man you pass every day on the street, a stressed student in the middle of exams, or a mom who needs a five minute break. It is not up to us to judge who is in need. If someone asks, then they are in need.”

  • Tex Carol October 30, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Truly, the only person who pays it forward in this scenario is the first person in line!

  • kingsrings October 30, 2014, 3:10 pm

    I agree with admin and everyone. This is more of that ‘forced giving’ phenomenon lately where people are pressured or ridiculed to give. First off t was the ice bucket challenge, now it’s this and others. And add me to those who can’t afford to pay for someone’s giant-size coffee drink with umpteen shots. Or what if it’s a large group order that you get stuck with? I can only handle the smallest Starbucks drink with minimal add-ons.

  • anon this time October 30, 2014, 3:30 pm

    A few months ago I was down to my last $20. I was suffering from a low time with depression. I drove through Starbucks. I wanted to feel better about everything so I paid for the car behind me (they had her order already) and then I told the woman at the window to keep the change, all of it. I was just trying to surprise the woman in the car behind me and brighten the day for the workers with a nice tip, I wasn’t trying to start something. That’s why I did it, anyway. I don’t know about other people.

  • Melly October 30, 2014, 3:31 pm

    I think the “Pay it Foward chain” is a bit much
    That being said, I was in the drive thru at Tim Hortons one day, and noticed the truck in front of me had a rope hanging over its tailgate, dragging on the ground. I got out of my car and waved at the driver so she could fix it.
    She paid for my order, which was only some timbits for my cranky toddlers and a large latte for my sanity. It was such a nice surprise.
    The cashier did not ask if I wanted to pay for anyone else.

  • Erin October 30, 2014, 3:40 pm

    After reading the article with more of his comments, I really see his point (because at first I thought “What a jerk”).

  • NostalgicGal October 30, 2014, 3:49 pm

    Exactly. I’ve paid stamps for someone in line at the post office; or I step to the window and they are writing a slip for amount owed for something someone dropped in the slot, and paid that, etc; I have paid for another’s drink, ice cream cone, or even lunch. BUT. It was because I felt like it. Not because someone asked me to. When you ask me, it’s no longer my choice. I appreciate it if and when someone does for me, I would thank them if I can. But, no. I don’t feel obligated to ‘keep the chain going’. Kudos to the barista being the recipient of good will too.

  • Colleen October 30, 2014, 4:08 pm

    I was actually coerced into a pay it forward one morning. The barista ran my card for my order and then ran my card for the guy behind me. And when he explained that he’d made a mistake it was very heavy with “so obviously you’re good with that” rather than “oh my! Let me run a refund for you” So I feel like I’m done playing that game.

    • Kate October 31, 2014, 11:20 am

      Wha? He didn’t offer you a refund? That’s not ok.

    • NostalgicGal November 1, 2014, 12:33 am

      I’m afraid I would have asked for the refund. Politely but asked for it.

  • Library Diva October 30, 2014, 4:24 pm

    I defended the ice bucket challenge as something pretty harmless, as long as it wasn’t followed by a concerted effort to make people pay up or dump water. But THIS is coercing people. It ruins the fun of “pay it forward” and it’s hard not to look upon it as a cynical attempt to drum up business at Starbucks stores.

    I do sort of agree with the commenter who wondered about this man’s motivation in going out of his way to end the streak, though. He’s identified as a blogger in the article, and despite his claim that this wasn’t done to get more attention to his blog, it’s undoubtedly worked out that way, hasn’t it? So maybe both sides are being manipulative here.

  • burgerking October 30, 2014, 5:37 pm

    Why would you tip a barista $100 who was asking you to pay it forward?if you did not like being asked that, and answered in the negative, why would you then tip somebody who was asking you? isn’t a $100 tip just an incentive for her or him to keep asking?

    • B October 31, 2014, 4:43 am

      Because that really IS paying it forward.

    • deary October 31, 2014, 7:35 am

      I would have tipped the barista $10 and say, if YOU want to pay it forward, you can take it from your tip. Bet they wouldn’t do it. Easy to be generous when it is not your money.

  • KenderJ October 30, 2014, 5:41 pm

    Haven’t read the comments because I’m on break, but I wanted to comment. I thought the whole pay it forward concept started by that kid in Vegas was to do something for someone that they can’t do for themselves. So the whole Starbucks thing isn’t paying it forward since we can be fairly sure the person in line behind you is able to pay for their own coffee.

    • Kry November 2, 2014, 11:47 pm

      That was my understanding as well.

  • kingsrings October 30, 2014, 5:54 pm

    I’d love to be a “meter fairy” and go around inserting loose change into parking meters. That’s not putting anybody in an awkward position such as the Starbucks thing. But that can get you fined or arrested. And change meters are being phased out in most areas these days, too.

    • NostalgicGal October 31, 2014, 2:09 am

      Back in the late 80’s there was a parking ‘war’ going on in the city I lived in. Parking was 5c for 5 min or 30 min for 25c. And a ticket was $2-5 depending on where and what time of day. Some people would go around with a roll of nickels and plug meters just so the metermaid couldn’t write tickets; so they made it a pretty hefty fine to plug a meter if it wasn’t your car. AND by the same token, they could NOT ticket your car until the meter zeroed… I had taken my car downtown and parked where I worked in the 30 min row (30 min period then you have to move car) went in and did business and found the meter lady leaning on her little electric carscoot as she’d managed to do the row except me. I grab my door handle and note ‘oh two minutes left’ and get in and strap and fire, and watch her in disgust rip up the ticket she was holding. Considering she’d had time to write the ticket; she’d been waiting out several on my car. Oh well, she didn’t get a home run on the row that pass….

  • Karen L October 30, 2014, 7:12 pm

    Here is an excerpt from the article on the woman the previous day that broke the chain:

    For the next 10 hours, more than 450 customers at the drive-thru graciously accepted the kindness of strangers and then paid for the next customer’s order.
    “Our barista would tell the customers: ‘Your drink has already been paid for by the previous customer. Would you like to return their favor and pay it forward?'” Guzman said.

    But that all came to a halt at 6 p.m., when a woman pulled up in her white Jeep Commander and ordered an ice-coffee.

    “She didn’t want to pay for the next customer,” Guzman said. “I don’t think she understood the concept of ‘pay it forward.’


    I love the part about “not understanding the concept”. No, Guzman, it’s YOU who don’t understand the concept.

    • TaterTot November 1, 2014, 12:43 pm

      And why did the article even need to mention the type of vehicle she was driving?

  • Daisy October 30, 2014, 11:50 pm

    I don’t think paying for an expensive cup of coffee for someone who can easily pay for it himself, just so he can pay for the next person in line, is much of a virtue. Generosity happens when you give something with no benefit to yourself. My 92 year old father wears his WWII veteran’s hat when he goes out, and on several occasions has tried to pay his restaurant check, only to be told that some anonymous person has already paid it for him. Dad then takes his unexpected extra cash and buys fresh fruit for a local food bank. That’s the best way to pay it forward.

  • Kimstu October 31, 2014, 1:01 am

    As a matter of fact, I would want a barista to ask my permission BEFORE applying somebody else’s PIF to my order. “Excuse me ma’am, a previous customer did a PIF, would you like us to put your order on that or save it for somebody else?”

    In other words, treat every PIF like a sort of “suspended coffee”: it’s there in the bank if somebody wants to avail themselves of it, but nobody is forced into accepting one. While I think it’s nice of people to be generous about offering to pay for others, I don’t actually want my personal expenditures and treats pre-paid for me without my consent.

    To be honest, I will be more impressed with your generosity if you take the trouble to buy a suspended coffee or donate groceries to the food bank or otherwise put some effort into finding a way to be generous to people who could really use the help, rather than buying me a beverage just because I happen to be next to you in line.

  • Angel October 31, 2014, 9:51 am

    I applaud the person for breaking the chain. I would much rather donate my money to people who really need it, like women who cannot afford mammograms or food to a soup kitchen. Buying an overpriced coffee for someone standing in line behind you who can probably easily afford it (or else they probably would not be in line for overpriced coffee) is not my idea of paying it forward. It is ludicrous. Good for him. And it’s good that he tipped the barista generously. They do not make a lot of money and rely on tips.

  • Meghan October 31, 2014, 11:09 am

    I actually had someone pay for my order at a McDonalds drive-through last week. It was totally unexpected, and really made my morning. It was right before my paycheck came in, and I’d just paid off a bunch of bills, including some unexpected ones, so I had no extra cash to spare for the next day or so. So to have it paid for was really huge. I was so caught off guard, and they didn’t ask if I wanted to pay for the person behind me. Which would have been awkward, because if their order was more than $4 I wouldn’t have been able to afford it that day. I just decided to pay it forward when I had the chance to do so at a later time.

  • MichelleP October 31, 2014, 11:24 am

    Completely agree with the comments. I disapprove of anyone using guilt trips to have anyone do something nice. I do a little something nice every day, just because I want to help others, not because it makes me look good or someone wants me to.

  • Alli October 31, 2014, 11:40 am

    I think this is sad and pathetic. Not the PIF, but people’s reactions to it. Someone decided to do a random act of kindness and buy coffee for the person behind them. The end result, regardless of how it got there, is that the last person in the chain received their coffee for free. AND THEY ARE BITTER ABOUT IT.

    Who cares how many people were involved in the process, or why the first person decided to buy the coffee, or what better use COULD have been done with the money? Someone decided to do something nice- and the world looks at it with disdain.

    I’m sorry, but we could use a few more random acts of kindness in the world. No matter who the recipient is.

    • kingsrings October 31, 2014, 4:33 pm

      Did you even read the whole post and all the comments? You seem to be speaking from a purely emotional and judgemental standpoint and not at all addressing what has been discussed.

    • NostalgicGal November 1, 2014, 12:38 am

      The issue is being asked or prompted to do so. If I feel like buying the next person’s coffee or lunch; that’s my decision then and there. Ask me and it’s no longer my choice. I might be running broke instead of having an extra few bucks.. if it’s spontaneous go for it. If I have to be asked or as someone said, the barista ran their card for it first THEN asked and made it sort of peer pressure to boot to go ahead with it’s okay… that’s not the idea.

  • JenAnn October 31, 2014, 11:59 am

    I had my coffee paid for by the driver in front of me at the Starbucks drive-thru a few months ago, but they didn’t ask me if I wanted to pay for the next car. It was a nice experience for me – just a small boost in my morning – and something the person in front of me probably did on a whim and it was an easy thing to execute in the moment. I’m surprised (and a little….deflated, I guess?) that there is so much negativity and judgment against people doing this. And the judgment apparently isn’t just for the pay-it-forward chain where you are outright asked to continue it on, but even for the one-off situations like the one I experienced. What’s wrong with brightening the day of any person (even one who obviously can afford their own Starbucks beverage) with a simple gesture, just because you felt like doing something nice in the moment? The upside is it put me into a giving mood, reminding me of times I did things for others in the past – example, giving gift cards and cash to a struggling single mom around Christmas time – and caused me to think about what my next giving opportunity might be. I will probably buy for the car behind me at Starbucks someday when/if the mood strikes me, but in the meantime that little gesture kickstarted my thinking about how I can help someone in need again. To me, any kind gesture has positive ripple effects, regardless of the degree to which the recipient is actually in need.