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Latte it Forward?
December 17, 2007 7:34 AM   Subscribe

The other day, I overheard someone marveling at this story: Impatient jack-ass in Starbucks drive-thru (no, not always synonymous) honks and shouts repeatedly at driver in front of him, a tai-chi master who decides to "change the consciousness" of the jerk by paying for his coffee. The jerk is so moved, that he pays for the coffee of the person behind him, and this "chain of kindness" winds up lasting all day, with everyone paying for the drink behind him. Nice story, right? How odd that the same thing (minus the Jewish zen-master) ccurred almost simultaneously in another part of the country. In this version, the "cheer chain," as the Starbucks employee calls it, was a near-perfect (except for this guy) example of holiday cheer. I guess pre-caffeinated Starbucks customers must possess a surprisingly high amount of holiday spirit. Or maybe it's just the red cups.
posted by ericbop (205 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Snopes.com
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2007


I'm commenting for the next person in the thread:
Golly, that's swell!
posted by hal9k at 7:45 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Nice story, but I don't quite get how this works. How does the guy in front pay when he's already driven off? Do they charge to the card in their absence? If that's the case, I guess the last guy in the chain is the one that says, "The guy in front is paying? Great, I'll have three slices of cake and an extra-large-coffee-with-sprinkles. Screw the guy behind me." Bah, humbug.
posted by Acey at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2007


Yes, you're right, that is snopes.com. If there's a particular story from snopes.com you would like to share, might you link to it directly? Thank you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2007 [23 favorites]


DU, a search on "cheer chain" and a search on "Starbucks" turned up nothing on Snopes.com. Do you have a direct link?

And I'll admit, I teared up a little, even if my cynical heart of hearts thinks more like Gordon Ramsey.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2007


Not so great if I get a free small decaf and pay for someones double latte espresso.

Interestingly, I did get a free small decaf at Starbucks the other day. The Starbuckian took my money, looked back and saw it was still brewing, and handed back the money.
posted by stbalbach at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2007


How does the guy in front pay when he's already driven off?
I'm skeptical about the story, but at least this part isn't so implausible. If a starbucks drive-through is like any other one, then your total's rung up when you place the order, which is some time before you get to the window to pick it up and pay. I expect it'd be no problem to ask what the next guy's total was and pay for it. Except I would also expect it to be fatally confusing to your stereotypical drive-through employee.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:52 AM on December 17, 2007


Why is this here?
posted by adamvasco at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2007


Acey, in a drive-through, they'll already know what the next person in line has ordered.
posted by zsazsa at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2007


Once the first guy pays for BOTH his and the next guy's coffee, then everybody after that is still paying for coffee. Not his, but still he's out of pocket the same amount.

So it's not so much a chain of "cheer" as a single incident of cheer, followed by a chain of people declining to be assholes. But I guess that's not an aptly alliterative annotation.

Anyway, Happy Holidays.

*punches Salvation Army guy*
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2007 [24 favorites]


Is it just me, or does this sound like it's only really bringing good cheer to the person who's last in the chain, because he/she either decides to break it or has the good fortune to be the last customer of the day?
posted by cerebus19 at 7:56 AM on December 17, 2007


I find it hard to believe that even five people in a row would do this, let alone one hundred. But based on some of the people I've seen working at Starbucks, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the cashier charged 100 people in a row for the wrong order and then concocted this story to cover it up.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:59 AM on December 17, 2007 [17 favorites]


I totally agree with stupidsexyFlanders. This cheer is a complete wash because everyone is still spending the amount they were originally going to spend anyway. There's no material benefit whatsoever. What would really be holiday cheery is if each person tipped their barista generously.

*trips mall Santa*
posted by sneakin at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2007


So what if I wanted an expensive coffee, but the person in front only paid for a cheapie? What if you want any snacks to go with it, or are these not available at a drive through?
All sounds nice in theory, but would be chaotic and confusing in reality; can't imagine that this would be anything other than an urban myth...
posted by Chunder at 8:00 AM on December 17, 2007


This cheer is a complete wash because everyone is still spending the amount they were originally going to spend anyway.
Yeah, but I think it's not quite true like that. Once you get told that yours has been paid for, you choose whether or not you want to do the same. Somehow you're going to feel virtuous about making the "nice guy" decision. The cheer isn't about saving money.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sure this story will soon appear in an email from my evangelical in-laws, with some "spirit of jesus" spin thrown-in.
And I'll believe it as much then as I do now.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Wolfdog, are you trying to tell me that cheer is all about feelings? Pfft.
posted by sneakin at 8:04 AM on December 17, 2007


I get it now. It still sounds a little too good to be true, and a little too confusing for your average pre-coffee drive through customer. If it happened to me I'd think I was being conned. Or that it was just a publicity stunt.
posted by Acey at 8:04 AM on December 17, 2007


The last link in the post links to It's Red Again, which appears to be, you know, an official Starbucks site pumping the "Cheer Chain" concept.

Not that this would be the sort of thing that would lead to PR stunts begging for puff pieces that namecheck a corporation that's not losing any money on the back-chaining philanthropy of these orders or anything.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2007 [15 favorites]


I would've posted earlier, but I was checking Snopes--apparently while DU was posting. There's no story there, although I must say the cynic in me wonders whether this story was a plant by Starbucks' PR department.

Not that the logistics of it are inplausible: because the orders in the drive-thru are logged into the computer when you speak into the mic, it is possible that the person behind you already has placed their order by the time you get to the window.

The most interesting part for me was the comments sections of the various links, spanning the range from "I was there," to "bah humbug."

But by far the best was the righteous indignation emanating from the comments section of the ersatz Gordon Ramsay blog; comedy genius. That the readers there thought Gordon Ramsay was posting about driving through Pennsylvania breaking the chain of coffee love, or making over a McDonald's cheered me more than a free Venti Caramel Macchiatto....
posted by spacely_sprocket at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2007


This would be more interesting if it happened in a whorehouse.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2007 [22 favorites]


In a South Florida drive-through, Jesus paid the bill for the customer behind him on Thursday, and the chain continued throughout the day.

Drivers at a Starbucks Coffee in Pompano Beach paid for drinks for the people behind them all day long.

"Your drink has been paid for by the blood of the lamb," a Starbucks barista told a customer.

"It wasn't an idea to pay anything forward, nor was it even a random act of kindness, it was the will of God (to) take this negative and change it into something positive," he said. "And God is even more awesome than free Starbucks coffee."
posted by Wolfdog at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Bah Humbug everyone!!

It's a nice story and may spread a little cheer.

Do ya'll remember what Cheer is?
posted by pearlybob at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2007


My wife's coffee was paid for by the car in front last week. The cashier said it had been going on for dozens of cars. She didn't break the chain and paid for the car behind her. She went back towards the middle of the week and had to pay for her own order, so at some point it stopped.
posted by tayknight at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, how very coincidental that Starbucks' very first TV advertising buy is a campaign called "Pass the Cheer," where everyone from people on ski lifts to bears wondering the frozen tundra exchange cups of -- wait for it, wait for it -- Starbucks coffee! It's evident on their site, but I'll be damned if I'll be a hoodwinked hipster and link off to it. Metafilter post as viral marketing technique -- they'll stop at nothing!
posted by mrkinla at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2007


This kind of story makes me feel like the Grinch looking down from my windy hilltop. But instead of bothering with the whole thieving plan, I think I'll just tip a boulder down the slope and go take a nap.
posted by hermitosis at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


That's nothing: just yesterday the guy in line in front of me at the grocery store, like, totally paid for my Pepsi Blue.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


If it wasn't clear from my original post, I, too was inspired by the original story, but became skeptical by the apparent similarity to a *$ "cheer chain" campaign. My gut? There was an original "pay it forward" moment, and then the barista, under instructions from HQ, artificially prolonged the chain in order to generate good PR.
posted by ericbop at 8:10 AM on December 17, 2007



This would be more interesting if it happened in a whorehouse.


But then you can really say that about anything, can't you?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:10 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, I do, and it doesn't come from fucking Starbucks.
posted by The White Hat at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2007


I don't think "cheer" is about financial gain. Whether it's a wash in pecuniary terms is irrelevant to the question of whether each successive person was cheered by the idea that the person in front of them paid for his drink without even knowing him.
posted by jock@law at 8:11 AM on December 17, 2007


I don't think this is nice, even in theory. The first person gets to feel real nice about themselves, because they bought coffee for someone else. Good for them. But because of that, everyone else for the rest of the whole damn day is going to get guilted into buying not their coffee--which they probably buy every day and know exactly what it's gonna cost--but the next guy's coffee.

You're still buying coffee. On average, everyone still pays the same. But now, where once there was only money and caffeine, there's now money, caffeine, and guilt. Merry Christmas.
posted by goingonit at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


I think cortex has it, this thing has publicity campaign written all over it. It's too neat: a tai-chi master started it, huh? Oh please, like no ordinary person could possibly be moved to a random act of generosity. And somehow the act of purchasing cup of joe has an impact on a whole day's worth of customers? Yeah, right.

I do like the unintended alternative perspective on this: all these people could only be moved by this if the act was truly generous, that is, if the coffee cost a significant sum. Implicit in all this is the idea that Starbucks coffee is expensive.
posted by JHarris at 8:14 AM on December 17, 2007


(And yes, I like italics tags.)
posted by JHarris at 8:14 AM on December 17, 2007


MetaFilter: A tai-chi master started it.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


What stupidsexyFlanders says is completely correct. Starbuck's takes one gift of "charity" (is it charity if the person doesn't need it?), which probably occurs about as much as drivers pay tolls for the person behind them because the other driver looks cute, and then simply gets everyone else to try to pay about what they owe. Gee!

I.E., the Starbuck's vendor could just keep charging customers what they owe, even though it's already been paid, and pocket the extra balance (or use it to keep the "cheer chain" going). The article even says that they used extra donations from some drivers to cover the costs.

I wouldn't be surprised if Starbuck's intentionally primes the pot with petty cash (I think $1,000 could keep a cheer chain going quite a while). In the end, it's money well spent, if they can get some local rag to call it a news story.

And yes, fishy post. Sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2007


Impatient jack-ass in Starbucks drive-thru (no, not always synonymous) honks and shouts repeatedly at driver in front of him

You know, that person gets all the blame (the honker), but at least half the time, they are just the person who chooses to deliver the message that the person in front of them (the dawdler) is being a selfish asshole who apparently thinks that everyone in back of them in line should value their time as little as the dawdler does.
posted by horsemuth at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm with mrkinla - fuck Starbucks
posted by taliaferro at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2007


DO NOT BREAK THIS CHEER CHAIN OR YOU WILL HAVE VERY BAD LUCK!!! PASS THIS LETTER ON TO 10 FRIENDS AND YOU WILL RECEIVE THE BELSSING OF THE VIRGIN UPON YOU!!
posted by GuyZero at 8:18 AM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


I hate this story.

The majority of the people who hear will think it's some heart-warming story. A minority will think it's a heart-warming story masquerading as an advertisement for Starbucks.
I think its just an example of some bullshit whipped up by some asshole trying to keep his Starbucks stock from totally going down the shitter.
I hate Christmas I hate consumerism I hate the co-opting of human kindness for the desperate selling of often overpriced crap. I reject your attempts to charm with quasi-folksy stories of human goodness. I refuse to patronize your franchise.

That is all.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:21 AM on December 17, 2007 [20 favorites]


Why is this here?

Obviously, you're not a golfer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


pearlybob: Bah Humbug everyone!! It's a nice story and may spread a little cheer. Do ya'll remember what Cheer is?

If we're just looking for cheerful stories about giving without any truth to them, I've got one. Yesterday I saw a guy giving away cute puppies in santa hats to everyone that walked by. He must've given away thousands of them. And the best thing was that these puppies never grow out of being cute puppies, they don't poop or pee, and the guy is having food, treats, and toys delivered to each recipeint's home every week so you don't have to buy anything. He's even springing for vet visits. And he also happened have oversized cookies for everyone too. He said he did it becasue he loves Christmas and wanted to spread some cheer. Best of all, there was guy across the street doing the same thing with kittens and a lady half a block down with a shitload of free ponies. I heard the guy with the free ferrets was at Starbucks looking for free coffee.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2007 [7 favorites]


mrgrimm - you didn't read my response. your theory is the same as mine, which is why I fall into From Bklyn's category #2. the post isn't fishy, but the content probably is.
posted by ericbop at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2007


Wow, guys, I could suddenly really go for a half-fat white chocolate peppermint mocha, hold the mint sprinkles and whipped cream right now, how about you? And some tasty Starbucks mints, too, to refresh my breath and my spirit.
posted by SassHat at 8:26 AM on December 17, 2007


Anyone who is as cynical as I and hates this pay it forward bullshit should sit down and watch 'Paha Maa' (aka Frozen Land).

It's basically the Finnish Pay it Forward: you do someone shitty to someone else and they'll take it out on the next person until someone ends up dead.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


or vice president
posted by ericbop at 8:31 AM on December 17, 2007 [9 favorites]


I once had my lunch bought for me by some lady in a van at McDonald's. I always thought she was being nice because she thought I was poor. Now I wonder if I ended up breaking some chain.
posted by robtf3 at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2007


note: everyone needs a hug

(But From Bklyn needs to be held down for his).
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Such things have happened.

Celebrating its 10th holiday this year, this seasonal classic will feature “cheer stories” inspired by the wonderful spirit of Starbucks customers. One featured story recounts the tale of a Starbucks Drive-Thru in California where a customer spontaneously decided to pay for the drink for the person behind him. That delighted person was in turn inspired to pay for the drink for the person behind her, who then acted in kind, inspiring a chain reaction of cheer-passing that lasted for many more cars in line.

It's highly doubtful that it would last all day, as at some point, a driver would have nobody behind them, and so would not be able to pay for an order that has not been made yet, especially if they don't have any cash on hand. My guess is "many more cars" means maybe a dozen.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:36 AM on December 17, 2007


Count me in with the espresso-machine-smashers. Flagged even though some mods have commented.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:36 AM on December 17, 2007


Uh, the first link is clever and believable. The second is from a rather obvious joke site (tagline: "This blog is not real"). Also Gordon Ramsay (yes from the BBC), is the author...
posted by poppo at 8:37 AM on December 17, 2007


or vice president

That pounding sound you hear is me trying to favorite that more than once.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:37 AM on December 17, 2007


You people are so cynical, but these things do happen. Just yesterday at our local Planned Parenthood clinic, the Buddhist in front of us paid for my girlfriend's abortion.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2007 [19 favorites]


Ah yes, Christmas. That time of year where you spread cheer to people who can afford to buy overpriced coffee by buying their overpriced coffee for them. But only because you expect them to buy overpriced coffee for someone else. And because someone already paid for your overpriced coffee. IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.
posted by turaho at 8:40 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds like this stupid story is a great advertisement for a hot refreshing STARBUCKS™ beverage!!!!
posted by xmutex at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2007


Thorzdad has it right. It will take about a month, or maybe it will be next Christmas, but this story *will* be forwarded to me by one of the simpletons in my family as proof of Americans' Jesus-loving generosity.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:45 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


only, the coffee was POISONED!

(and the call came from inside the house)
posted by blue_beetle at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


Aww, Chicken Soup for the gullible, caffeinated, corporate shill soul.
posted by rmless at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2007


It's a matter of time 'til some barista starts making latte art with Jesus' face in it, then serves it into the cheer chain.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just called the Starbucks mentioned in the Pantagraph article and verified that the employee referenced in the article, Erik Zambrano, does not work there. That doesn't mean he's not a Starbucks employee, though; maybe he works in a different location, e.g. the national PR office.
posted by scottreynen at 8:47 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Obviously, you're not a golfer
No, my dress sense isn't that fucked.
posted by adamvasco at 8:47 AM on December 17, 2007


Die-hard Starbucksters may have just been inculcated by the little red cup's own propaganda. Hell, after reading the story of the original "cheer chain" printed on the side of my mocha, I almost felt inspired to pay for someone else's drink myself. Then I remembered that I'm a bitter, snarky cynic and assuaged my charitable instincts with the realization that the whole thing was just a corporate attempt to hijack one (possibly) genuine, original act of charity in order to create a viral marketing campaign that has taken other forms in previous years.

And then I got rather resentful that my emotions were being so cleverly manipulated by someone's ad department. It's so devious it approaches evil - to attempt to inspire me into an act of charity, the recipients of which are wealthy enough to make the act itself meaningless, all in an effort to create happy brand-loyalty-affirming feelings within them and furthermore inspire them to act as vectors of transmission themselves.

And then much later, as I finished my mocha outside and marveled at Mars rising in the dark sky to the east, seemingly as red as my cup, I cried a little over the fact that at some point in my life (most likely during childhood) my brain evidently fought a battle against my heart and decimated it.

Oh, wait. No I didn't.
posted by zylocomotion at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


The Pantagraph article is a year old, so maybe Erik's moved on, scott.

And, yes, someone's already tried to shoe-horn jesus into this story (scroll down to the middle of the page)
posted by ericbop at 8:49 AM on December 17, 2007



That pounding sound you hear is me trying to favorite that more than once.

stupidsexyFlanders, I favorited it for the next poster in line.
posted by 40 Watt at 8:58 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Screw the coffee. I'm still waiting for the time when I'm in a bar when somebody buys a round for everyone in the whole joint. Now THAT would send some cheer!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2007


jock@law writes "I don't think 'cheer' is about financial gain. Whether it's a wash in pecuniary terms is irrelevant to the question of whether each successive person was cheered by the idea that the person in front of them paid for his drink without even knowing him."

But what's the point? There is no kindness involved. It's just a bunch of people exchanging money for no reason. I get that there doesn't have to be some gain involved, but acts of kindness usually involve a small (or large) bit of sacrifice, and I'm not seeing it here. This is just shuffling money around.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:59 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Pantagraph article is a year old, so maybe Erik's moved on, scott.

I was told he's never worked there. Maybe that's not true, but having submitted press releases to the Pantagraph myself, I know they don't generally call to verify anything before publishing them. I also contacted the reporter who wrote the story and requested contact information for her source(s), so maybe I'll get a more definitive explanation. Meanwhile, I'm assuming this is the dishonest PR campaign it appears to be.
posted by scottreynen at 9:01 AM on December 17, 2007


Every time you pass the Starbucks Chain to the next in line, there is still a poor caffeine-deprived little hipster, huddled in a cave in ___[3rd world country]___, cursing the fuck out of America and their so-called generosity.

Fuck Starbucks, and Joyeaux Hunukwanzamasadan anyway!

Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by not_on_display at 9:02 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know how these stories get distorted with re-telling.
What ends up as a master of tai-chi and a honker starts off as a masturbator with chai tea and a hooker. Then some dude says, "I'll have what he's having."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2007 [10 favorites]


I just called the Starbucks mentioned in the Pantagraph article and verified that the employee referenced in the article, Erik Zambrano, does not work there.

Did you try calling the one across the street?
posted by drezdn at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2007 [8 favorites]


Once the first guy pays for BOTH his and the next guy's coffee, then everybody after that is still paying for coffee. Not his, but still he's out of pocket the same amount.

So it's not so much a chain of "cheer" as a single incident of cheer, followed by a chain of people declining to be assholes. But I guess that's not an aptly alliterative annotation.


I think you just debunked Christmas.
posted by designbot at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2007 [8 favorites]


Slack-a-go-go: "Screw the coffee. I'm still waiting for the time when I'm in a bar when somebody buys a round for everyone in the whole joint. Now THAT would send some cheer!

I'm still waiting for the time when I'm in a round and someobody buys a joint for everyone in the whole bar. wakka wakka.
posted by not_on_display at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


wgp, you just made my venti-soy latte come out my nose (film at 11).
posted by ericbop at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2007


How did they know he was a tai-chi master? Did he announce it to the girl at the window before his random act of kindness?

Or, more likely, he ordered a chai tea and they just heard him wrong.
posted by jeremy b at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


Bunch of Grinches in here.

Hey everyone, do something nice for someone today. <---Try not to dissect this statement.
posted by parallax7d at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hate Christmas I hate consumerism I hate the co-opting of human kindness for the desperate selling of often overpriced crap. I reject your attempts to charm with quasi-folksy stories of human goodness. I refuse to patronize your franchise.

That is all.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:21 AM on December 17


Eponysterical.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2007


Yeah, Starbucks is just trying to artificially generate a new viral meme to make up for all the bad publicity they got when a bunch of their arab employees where singing and dancing when the twin towers fell on 9/11 and everyone talked about it for MONTHS.

Or was it that one of their stores kicked out a bunch of soldiers because the manager told them they "don't serve baby killers here"?

Well, either way I'm sure it was Starbucks.
posted by yhbc at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


parallax7d, your failure to associate that statement with a prominent brand is deeply, deeply suspect, and when we find out who you're crypto-turfing there is going to be violence.
posted by cortex at 9:14 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm just wondering if I buy a Pepsi-Blue, should I still pay for the next person's Pepsi-Blue?
posted by inthe80s at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2007


Yeah, Starbucks is just trying to artificially generate a new viral meme to make up for all the bad publicity they got when a bunch of their arab employees where singing and dancing when the twin towers fell on 9/11 and everyone talked about it for MONTHS.

Or was it that one of their stores kicked out a bunch of soldiers because the manager told them they "don't serve baby killers here"?


They also charged 9/11 workers for water.

Starbucks: Helping Al-qaeda since 9/11!
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2007


Several years ago, I was in the drive-by for our local Tim Hortons when I noticed a uniformed soldier indoors. He was buying a bunch of stuff for a truck cab full of buddies who were in Ottawa to help the city out of what was a week-long paralysis and power outages triggered by a massive ice-storm that pretty well froze most of Eastern Ontario.

I asked the drive-by cashier to go over and monitor the indoor cash's total when the soldier had finished ordering, then add that to my bill.

A couple days later, I read in the local newspaper that the Armed Forces in the city who were working on ice-storm relief duty were having a hard time paying for anything whenever they went into a Tim Hortons.

I still like to think I started that particular "chain of cheer" for some Ottawa-deployed folks who, in this country, are woefully underpaid for what they do.
posted by Mike D at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


A cheer chain sounds like something you might encounter at a festive swingers party.
posted by rhymer at 9:23 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why is this here?

Why is this still here?

It's a flippin' Starbucks ad.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2007


Am I the only one wondering if the tai-chi master ordered a chai tea?
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


I use the Starbuck drive through a couple of blocks away from the Starbucks HQ. For some mysterious reason it seems to be the best run Starbuck drive through in the world.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do ya'll remember what Cheer is?

Sure.
posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


parallax7d writes "Hey everyone, do something nice for someone today. <---Try not to dissect this statement."

I do nice things for people all the time.

A payment bucket brigade at Starbucks is not "doing something nice," even though people like to think that it is.

How about this: buy a coffee for the person in front of you when they get to the counter. Don't let it turn into some obligatory chain. Or, better yet, give the money to a shelter or charity.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:40 AM on December 17, 2007


This is a story for idiots.
Just because it isn't on Snopes this morning doesn't mean it won't be within the next couple of days and it will be shown to be bullshit.
Please go away.
posted by 2sheets at 9:42 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's heartwarming and it sells more coffee.

In fact, it's heartwarming because it sells more coffee -- the whole point is that you're not just supposed to buy a Starbucks double-whip-extra-foam-tofu-and-tinsel-latte-half-calf-with-organic-gravel, but that you're supposed to buy another one for some other guy.

At the end of the day, Starbucks sells one more coffee in each outlet than they have customers. That's worth millions. Merry Christmas.
posted by ardgedee at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2007


I officially hate this notation: *$.

from now I refer to poundcake as #cake, and carrots as ^.

I'd write more but I'm late for a :oscopy.
posted by shmegegge at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2007 [7 favorites]


Something wrong with your exhaust |, bro?
posted by Wolfdog at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just wish we had a drive-thru Starbucks around here. I don't give a shit who pays for my coffee as long as I can stay in my car.
posted by padraigin at 9:46 AM on December 17, 2007


I'd write more but I'm late for a :oscopy

I hope the results come back ok, I'd hate for you to end up with a ;
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:46 AM on December 17, 2007 [13 favorites]


shouldn't a tai-chi master be teaching, instead of working a slave-wage service job?

maybe his students couldn't pay him after they got addicted to starbucks' high-priced burnt drinks.
posted by eustatic at 9:47 AM on December 17, 2007


Just let me know when a "cheer chain" is happening nearby. I'm gonna rush over, get in line, and order up a Ascaso Espresso Machine -- $849.00 ("Pass The Cheer - 20% Off Sale"). Sucker in front won't even know what hit him!
posted by ericb at 9:47 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ooh, don't miss that shmegegge. You could wind up with a ;
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


SteveInMaine: I'm afraid not.
posted by Acey at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2007


2 minutes=the fine line between clever and stupid.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Schmegegge... isn't #cake something else entirely...?
posted by Acey at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2007


stupidsexy, there's still plenty of fertile keyboard abbreviation comedy soil that hasn't been ~ yet.
posted by ericbop at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


I first read "tai chi master" as "chai tea master." There is no hope for me.
posted by gc at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2007


I'll just be over here with my #|.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


I vote shmegegge King of Funnytown.
posted by JHarris at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought this was a pretty cool story until it said that the Starbucks staff were asking the customers if they wanted to pay for the person behind them. At that point holiday cheer is actually just the avoidance of embarassment. Fakey marketing bullshit.
posted by autodidact at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2007


"We're going to federal # me in the * prison."
posted by Wolfdog at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


there's still plenty of fertile keyboard abbreviation comedy soil that hasn't been ~ yet.

Soil? I've been busy watering my sandbox because I thought I needed d&
posted by turaho at 9:59 AM on December 17, 2007 [13 favorites]


Hey, guys, did you know that tai-chi sounds like chai tea?

It's true, look it up!
posted by designbot at 10:03 AM on December 17, 2007


I wish I could stay longer for the puncutation jokes; I hate to just comment – like this.
posted by cortex at 10:10 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


cortex wins the prize: free sweetener for his next Starbucks coffee. I reckon four = ought to do it.
posted by ericbop at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


it starts with this "cheer chain" and 500 years later they're serving Full Body Lattes complete with happy endings. It has been written.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:18 AM on December 17, 2007


This would be more interesting if it happened in a whorehouse.

So what if I wanted an expensive one, but the person in front only paid for a cheapie? What if you want any snacks to go with it?

Comments are more fun read out of order.
posted by rokusan at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I went to *$ and no-one paid for my coffee so I came `ed.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:22 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great, one more fucking reason for me to hate Starbucks, their "coffee" sundaes, their crappy, over-roasted drip coffees.

this comment written from my local, independent coffeehouse
posted by mkultra at 10:23 AM on December 17, 2007


This past weekend I got free drinks at my local indie coffeeshop (on Sat. and Sun.). At first I thought it was a fluke, since it was a different clerk each time, but now I know that Starbucks must have been involved. Should have known they'd infiltrate my bastion of indie coffeehouse nirvana one of these days.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2007


Metafilter: the fine line between clever and stupid.

Thank you folks, I'll be here all week.
Uhhh... Make that half a week.
Okay, I'm leaving now.

posted by Dr-Baa at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2007


It would seem that the filter is faulty, the noise level increasing in anticipation of a FPP getting yanked, which is unfortunate because there are still often things to be said.

For example, in the thread regarding 10 Things Chrisitians and Athesists Can (And Must) Agree On the pile on seemed so decisive I even chimed in with pure nonsense, something along the lines of an onomatopoeia for dropping an FPP. But well after that point and much more noise, sotonohito posted an excellent analysis of the problem of locating the basis of all moral feeling in deity.

Now that I've decried all the noise above (wait for the yank), I just wanted to say something about stupidsexyFlanders economy-minded cynicism: which is, there is an effect of receiving an unexpected gift (from a nearly anonymous source) that may produce positive effects in the network. The story may be bogus. Fine, but that doesn't stop us from considering the possibility that small acts of grace might have on the beings who happen to be connected to each other.

The story is not about "who ultimately gets something free of charge." The story is about "holiday cheer," and the apocryphal (not necessarily the same as "untrue") nature of the story does nothing to diminish the story's meaning.
posted by mistersquid at 10:25 AM on December 17, 2007


I thought this was a pretty cool story until it said that the Starbucks staff were asking the customers if they wanted to pay for the person behind them.

I like the idea of someone randomly paying for someone elses order in an attempt to add an interesting change to someone's ususal routine. I find the act of giving to be very pleasurable.

Deciding to start, or continue the chain, seems to lack the spontenaity and good will of the first gift. Since the person who recieved the first free coffee ends up paying for a coffee anyway, instead of just accepting the gift. I am not against this practice, but I don't understand why it is so hard for people to recieve a gift without feeling guilty or a need to cover the cost of the gift in some way.

Finally, The customers being promted to pay for the next customer pretty completly ruins the idea. Using the initail gift as a way to goad people into giving in a like manner is an ugly and manipulative way to deal with people.

(apologies for any spelling errors)
posted by Hicksu at 10:28 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Missing the glurge tag.


I ♥ed new york until a mugger ♣ed me with a ♠ and took my ♦s.

posted by boo_radley at 10:30 AM on December 17, 2007


This may be true but it resonates as one of the iterations of the classic Martial Arts Master "makes a bully cry and then they all hug" chestnuts.

When your taking Aikido it's an Aikidoka Master (if not Ushiba himself) on a Tokyo subway talking down a ogre sized dunk.

If your taking Wing Chun it's William Cheung compassionately showing a knife wielding gang member the error of his ways on a street car.

You know where you don't hear versions of this? At boxing gyms. Because it would end with "...and then while the drunk began to weep Dempsey hit him with an overhand right and the drunk died on the spot."
posted by tkchrist at 10:37 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


cortex: I wish I could stay longer for the puncutation jokes...

I don't know why. Seriously, guys, these jokes are awful. I mean, « » a break.
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2007


Nice story, viral or no, but when I hear it, I imagine a long line of these guys at the drive-thru, each of them sitting alone in a huge SUV with the engine on idle, thinking 'I did a good deed today, so I'm entitled to being a selfish son of a bleep later...'
posted by Termite at 10:42 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


*

Posted on December 17, 2007 at 12:45 PM

@

Posted on December 17, 2007 at 1:15 PM

*

Posted on December 17, 2007 at 1:45 PM
Liveblogging the colonoscopy, a MetaFilter first.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


i was astonished to learn from this post that a tai-chi master and a jewish zen master are the same thing!
posted by bruce at 10:47 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Once I was driving to San Francisco from Berkeley and a jerk cut in front of me right before the toll booth after having sped along in the fastpass lane. But then the booth operator told me the guy had paid my toll, too.

But, I didn't pay for the guy behind me. I was already up $4!
posted by ORthey at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2007


When I lived in London, Ontario and was commuting back and forth to Detroit every weekend, I often paid the toll for the car (or two) following me just because it felt good to do it. This was in 1982.

I didn't need a holiday or a reason, although it was always nice to have them pull up alongside on the 401 and mouth "Thanks".

Not every small act like this has to be viral.
posted by disclaimer at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, I think this could have started out as a Starbucks publicity ploy, absolutely. I am actually cheered, though, that people continued to keep the chain going. You may feel they were still paying for something so it didn't mean anything, but maybe those people were motivated to continue being charitable the rest of the day, and that's a good thing.

Honestly, I'm amazed that more of you don't believe things like this happen all the time, not just out of guilt or just during holiday time. I've paid the tolls of drivers behind me on the expressway, given thank-you notes to courteous employees working dead-end jobs at fast-food drive-thru windows, and donated toys to the hospital for all the sick kids that have to be there over the holidays. And it's not like I'm some sort of saint! I'm just able to do the odd thing now and then, and I can't be the only one.

In fact, I know I'm not. I helped a lady who accidentally knocked down a pile of boxes at the grocery store to pick them all up, for just one example, and later she insisted I go in front of her in line. People remember little courtesies and then they repay them in kind.

So lighten up, and if someone does something nice for you, consider just accepting it graciously. No one says you are obligated to "pass it on". But later, if you have the chance to do something nice for someone else, why not do it? What do you lose?
posted by misha at 10:54 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've been doing this for decades. COINCIDENCE?

Just randomly pay for the person behind you. It's fun, that's all.
posted by sidereal at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2007


God FUCKING DAMMIT!!!! I hate it when anyone tries to sell me something!

Not even me personally, just in general!

I am SHOCKED and OFFENDED that advertising exists!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:59 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I always try to pay for the person in front of me in the drive-thru. Never seems to work out for some reason.
posted by cog_nate at 11:06 AM on December 17, 2007


Not every small act like this has to be viral.

Well, in the case of herpes ...
posted by ericb at 11:07 AM on December 17, 2007


The whole idea of lazy twits funding one another's 5 dollar lattes being construed as some sort of charitable behavior as opposed to just never-ending circle-jerkery is hysterical. I can just imagine the sort of shallow dipshit that imagines his karmic balance in the black after buying the idling SUV behind him a three dollar cup of coffee. But then again, if this is what constitutes a break in the existential monotony of commuter life, then keep it coming.
posted by docpops at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2007


Any dude tried to pay for my coffee, I'd chase after him and kick his ass.
posted by Flashman at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I find it strange that this Rosenfeld fellow's action, if it's not part of a pre-arranged promotional gimmick, is being somehow linked to him being a "tai-chi master."

He was holding up the line so he bought the person he was inconveniencing a drink. To treat that as if it's some sort of Jedi mind trick ("I performed a change of consciousness") is really stupid and pretentious.
posted by jayder at 11:18 AM on December 17, 2007


I had an extra spicy panang curry and a block of cheddar and the next day, man, thai cheese blaster.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:22 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, in the case of herpes ...

Haha hilarious. Whenever you get the chance, mention herpes, it makes you funny!

(fucking shitwit)
posted by autodidact at 11:23 AM on December 17, 2007


Metafilter: never-ending circle-jerkery
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:23 AM on December 17, 2007


I'm surprised the barrista didn't wait until someone paid for the super-grande-venti-double something or other and then just pocketed the cash. That's how the chain ends if I work there.

But hey, if this worked reliably, make sure you and your friend are separated by 1 car (b/c we know you each drive your own instead of car pooling, you starbucks swilling, suv driving american) and have your friend order the most expensive thing on the menu. Maybe you'll get it for the price of the small decaf your mark orders.
posted by Crash at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm just horrified at the thought of some poor effing drive thru barista with a line of ONE HUNDRED FORTY TWO suburban yuppies wanting coffee. How about pay for your coffee and throw in a four dollar tip for that poor schlub.

Plus you guys are so cynical. I don't know if that makes me happy or sad. At any rate, I read the whole thread, which I never do, hoping to find enlightenment. Or at least a free cuppa joe.
posted by nax at 11:27 AM on December 17, 2007


New idea:
Get a job at starbucks drive thru. Every time someone orders a small coffee, tell them the guy in front paid for it and pressure them into buying the triple mocha grande fo the customer behind them ("you don't want to break the chain of 96 people, do you?"). Pocket the $12 difference.
posted by Crash at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sometime last Christmastime I got off the F-Market streetcar and noticed that a car waiting at the stoplight had a paper cup of coffee on its roof, right above the driver's door. I said, "Hey, you left your coffee on top of your car." Turns out that it was a Starbucks marketing...thing. Anyone who was nice enough to mention it to the driver got a Starbucks gift card. I hate Starbucks coffee, so I gave it to someone else.

Does that count as passing the cheer along?
posted by rtha at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2007


Metafilter: fucking shitwit
posted by shmegegge at 11:31 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Snarksnarkcynicalcynicalsnark

BAH HUMBUG
posted by craven_morhead at 11:46 AM on December 17, 2007


I can see myself breaking this chain very quickly:
"Yes that's my tall (normal) coffee. Here is the small amount of money I owe you."
"Oh, don't worry, the person in front of you already paid FOR you!"
"Oh...oh... okay. That's odd. Well, I'll pay for the person after me then. It's only fair, right? What did they order?"
"They had one venti half-decaf peppermint mocha, one grande no-whip java chip frappuccino, one venti double sho--"
*sound of screeching tires as I escape*
posted by easternblot at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Haha hilarious. Whenever you get the chance, mention herpes, it makes you funny!

(fucking shitwit)


LOL, what? Talk about a disproportional response.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2007


Hi I'm on Metafilter and I could overthink a plate of ground roasted beans.
posted by Adam_S at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just another person to poke holes is this (and I also thought I had seen it on Snopes). I don't think it could have happened because I can guarantee at least one of those cars was making a coffee run for the office. So they weren't buying $4 worth of coffee, they were buying $20 worth of coffee. If the person in front of them on the chain willingly paid for that, I'm sure it wasn't without exclaiming a few choice words about trying to be nice under his or her breath.
posted by kimdog at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2007


note: everyone needs a hug

(But From Bklyn needs to be held down for his)


Poetry. I'm putting it on a t-shirt.
posted by eclectist at 11:59 AM on December 17, 2007


Any dude tried to pay for my coffee, I'd chase after him and kick his ass.

Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays.
posted by Hicksu at 12:05 PM on December 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


I think next time I go to Starbucks I'll ask the cashier to see if anyone else wants to pay for my drink before handing over the money.
posted by autodidact at 12:08 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is it that, in this day and age, the archetypal holiday kindness and seasonal joy anecdote is no longer something like donating food and clothing to a local charity or homeless shelter -- but getting your latte paid for at Starbucks by someone who seems to think that said payment is a way of bettering your heretofore tarnished consciousness?
posted by blucevalo at 12:10 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I can't help liking this just because it reminds me of being in a bar and buying a friend their next drink or vice versa. I think bar culture needs to generally get out more amongst the population, every fourth thing you buy should be free and puking and passing out shouldn't be such a big deal either.

I think I might go down to the corner deli on xmas eve and ask my friend Ali to put the next 10 cups O Joe (75 cents each. Sweet!), on my tab. No over priced coffee, viral marketing or guilt required.
posted by Skygazer at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think the next time I go into Starbucks I'll vomit on the person in line behind me. If he/she doesn't turn right around and vomit on the next person, then there is no such thing as holiday cheer any more. Devastated, I'll walk out of the store and across the street to a gun shop - I'm in Texas - where I'll pick out a heavy, cold revolver. I'll then go home and watch television in the dark for a few hours with my new purchase cushioned on the couch next to me. Occasionally I'll pick the gun up, running my fingers over its unforgiving surface and marveling at the way holding it brings both fear and comfort.

Starbucks will do this to me.
posted by item at 12:18 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hey, I still occasionally randomly buy strangers Jell-o and tell 'em "Penn says hi", so who knows?
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:21 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Though there is a whiff of manufactured marketing to all this, it seems mostly harmless. But if you really wish to grinch this to death, a little performance art should work, as usual...

Girl with Nosering: That'll be $5.45.
Me: What, that guy in front didn't pay it for me?
GwN: No, sir.
Me: Selfish asshole. I'm gonna kick his ass now.

GwN: That'll be $6.50.
Annoyed woman: What, that dorky guy beating up that other fellow didn't pay for me?
GwN: No, ma'am.
AW: Fucking shitwit, I'm gonna...

Nobody will dare do it again.
posted by rokusan at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great, one more fucking reason for me to hate Starbucks, their "coffee" sundaes, their crappy, over-roasted drip coffees.

Ever wonder why this Starbucks guy has never opened a store in Italy? Because he knows no one there would go. You can plunck down one euro at any bar in any town or train station in Italy and get a cup of coffee that doesn't taste like the dirt that lives under dirt.
posted by wfc123 at 12:38 PM on December 17, 2007


This would be more interesting if it happened in a whorehouse.

Man, they'll put a starbucks anywhere nowadays.

I used to occasionally pay for the person behind me at the GGB toll plaza. It amazing how much of a boost you can give to someone's day for the mere cost of $3.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:42 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


HERPES!

see, I R Funny 2

Or maybe it's just the red cups.

Or perhaps it's just bullshit. We report, YOU decide.
posted by Sparx at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2007


"This would be more interesting if it happened in a whorehouse.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:07 AM on December 17"

You made me laugh during my holiday depression. Thanks.
posted by bjgeiger at 12:54 PM on December 17, 2007


Sigh. That guy ain't no "t'ai-chi master." This is a t'ai-chi master.
posted by aught at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2007


I've paid the tolls of drivers behind me on the expressway, given thank-you notes to courteous employees working dead-end jobs at fast-food drive-thru windows, and donated toys to the hospital for all the sick kids that have to be there over the holidays.

Yes, and when you do it, you don't write a press release to send out to local papers and have them print it as if it were an unbiased news story. That makes all the difference.

(In fairness, a more accurate analogy would be "the expressway, fast-food restaurant, and hospital don't send out press releases claiming credit for your generosity.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:17 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is it that, in this day and age, the archetypal holiday kindness and seasonal joy anecdote [...]

No, it's an apocryphal holiday kindness and seasonal joy anecdote.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:49 PM on December 17, 2007


NOT: everyone needs a hug
posted by micayetoca at 2:09 PM on December 17, 2007


Sigh! That ain't no Tai Chi Master This (might be) a Tai Chi master
posted by criticalbill at 2:24 PM on December 17, 2007


The same story with a Japanese Rabbi would have been much more incredible. Especially if it was to take place on a saturday.
posted by nicolin at 2:30 PM on December 17, 2007


I used to occasionally pay for the person behind me at the GGB toll plaza. It amazing how much of a boost you can give to someone's day for the mere cost of $3.

I've done that a couple of times myself, and from what I saw in my rear view mirror they were confused more than anything else. I don't think they started a chain of kindness or whatever.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:35 PM on December 17, 2007


Or, y’know, for the same money you could buy a couple sandwiches and feed some homeless folks freezing out in the cold and just ignore the asshole behind you with the horn and the sense of entitlement because he’s a self-obsessed prick.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


You're right about the press release thing, Devil'sAdvocate. Thinking about it later, I felt bad that I had even posted my stuff, because that's not what it's all about. So, yeah, I am understanding the snark a bit more now.
posted by misha at 3:09 PM on December 17, 2007


....or maybe its marketing.
posted by mano at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2007


I'm with Smeds on this one, I'm pledging to increase my street and subway handout budget for the foreseeable future.

I go to the race track in the summers with my in-laws for a little light gambling and canned beers in the lazy Sunday sunlight at Belmont. My uncle in law has a little thing about paying for the guy driving in behind him as a way to shake loose a little good luck. One time I followed Uncle B into the lot and he paid for me, when I got to the booth the (degenerate, shitbird, we're talking about the race track now) dude tried to charge me anyway. Uncle B say me handing over my two or three bucks and slapped on the brakes, charged back, all 120 pounds of rail thin Irish social worker retiree and gave that loser an epic lecture filled with threats, insults, questions about his lineage, parentage, value to society, personal hygiene habits and state of mental impairment, all without using a swearword warmer than dammit, your man was trembling and shamefaced when it was over (and once again, this is the race track, low-level chicanery is the name of the game) it was a thing of beauty and an inspiration. To this day, I pay for the guy behind me at the track and assume that the dude is pocketing it and I don't care, because of Uncle B, long may he live.

I don't imply Starbucks workers would do that, by the way.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:36 PM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


When I buy my weekly public transport ticket there is a validity overlap of an evening. I usually try to give my ticket to someone else in the queue saying, "I'm buying a weekly, do you want a free ticket? It'll last you until 1 o'clock tomorrow morning". It can be surprisingly hard to give away, but when it works it's gratifying and it doesn't cost me a cent. No-cost altruism — Rocks!
posted by tellurian at 3:41 PM on December 17, 2007


Or, y’know, for the same money you could buy a couple sandwiches and feed some homeless folks freezing out in the cold and just ignore the asshole behind you with the horn and the sense of entitlement because he’s a self-obsessed prick.

Exactly. We should all be more ike Jorge Muñoz, the Chicken and Rice Man.
posted by ericb at 3:56 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


(And yeah, nothing wrong with general altruism - but why is a tai chi master getting caffeine? When I have caffene my joints swell and I move like an old man. And why are all these guys ‘masters’? The Grandmaster I trained with was just Jung-nyeong (Lt. Col) or ‘teacher’ when training. ‘Grandmaster’ was just the title other folks gave him because he repeatedly kicked everyone’s ass. Sorta like ‘champ.’)
And I’m supposed to believe “Mary Pickels”? I’m no Ed Murrow here, but I suspect journalism has to do with interviewing more than an employee and the store manager on the story.
No. 53? And paraphrasing? And how the hell is he supposed to know how much the order is going to be behind him? There’s no way I could estimate someone’s purchase beforehand.
What, is it like a huge lumberjack guy and an eskimo in a panel van emblazoned with “24 hour service” on the side behind him? Were they licking their chops or looking really jittery or something?
‘Pickles’ (if that is her real name) didn’t talk to any of the customers, as far as I can see. That’s not journalism, that’s PR.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2007


A little late, but here's my random kindness story .

Me and a coworker were out of town working in Indy, and working long hours. We went to McD's for a quick dinner, and as I was about to pay a gentleman came up beside me and said, "I've got it covered. I've got the next two hundred bucks of orders here" as he then turned to the rest of the folks (15-20 or so) in line.

Apparently he and his family with two kids were at church and received the money as some sort of prize or raffle or something, and he, his wife, and the kids decided to buy dinners with the cash. We politely declined his offer (our clients were covering all our expenses) and told him to cover another family in line instead. Everyone behind us was covered, and even a few more that entered as we were leaving.

I thought it was really neat, and I was a little surprised how delighted people were, getting simple 10 dollar meals paid for by some strangers - everyone was smiling and laughing. His kids were really enjoying it, talking with other kids that were in line and having a lot of fun.

We took our stuff to go, but on the way out, turning and look at 20+ strangers all talking and laughing practically like it was a party was pretty neat.
posted by glycolized at 4:19 PM on December 17, 2007


(nifty ericb)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:22 PM on December 17, 2007


Ericb,
Holy shit, what a story. I'm in Jackson Heights all the time, now I gotta find that guy and give something, thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:35 PM on December 17, 2007


Haha hilarious. Whenever you get the chance, mention herpes, it makes you funny!

Sometimes on Metafilter I like to play this game where I strip all sarcasm from responses like this and say them out loud. It makes us sound like a bunch of children!

Wait... they often do anyway.
posted by ORthey at 4:58 PM on December 17, 2007


Well, in the case of herpes ... Haha hilarious. Whenever you get the chance, mention herpes, it makes you funny! (fucking shitwit)

Damn, autodidact, you got me on that one! Sizzle and cut. Wow ... I'll take lessons from you on the "funny!" Thanks, bro, for the pointer on comedy. You're the man!
posted by ericb at 5:14 PM on December 17, 2007


Damn, autodidact, you got me on that one! Sizzle and cut. Wow ... I'll take lessons from you on the "funny!" Thanks, bro, for the pointer on comedy. You're the man!

Try it on this one, too!
posted by ORthey at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2007


ORthey -- there a'int a tinge of sarcasm in my response to autodidact. No, siree, not a tinge!
posted by ericb at 5:44 PM on December 17, 2007


And, yes -- we were reminded recently that "THERE IS NO SARCASM TAG IN HTML."
posted by ericb at 5:49 PM on December 17, 2007


Along the lines of tellurian's post:

I like to swipe people into the subway system with my monthly Metrocard when I'm getting off the subway, in the morning when I arrive downtown and at night when I get to my neighborhood. It costs me nothing and puts a smile on the face of most people.
On more than one occasion, I've had people give me a dirty look and purposely switch to another turnstyle. Go figure.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:31 PM on December 17, 2007


Clearly they want nothing of your thievery!
posted by Artw at 6:55 PM on December 17, 2007


On more than one occasion, I've had people give me a dirty look and purposely switch to another turnstyle. Go figure.

I would assume that they suspect that you are guys that charge $1 for a swipe... using the old folded card hack (which i believe no longer works?). I suspect that they think you are about to ask them for a buck.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:28 PM on December 17, 2007


Herpes is the Chuck Norris of STDs.
posted by autodidact at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2007


If you Google "cheer chain," this seems to be something Starbucks is pushing, this holiday season.

Like many others earlier in this thread, I don't get how this spreads cheer. It is a corporate-designed, Starbucks-encouraged marketing gimmick, and it's not like you're getting something for free --- you're having to pay for someone else's coffee in return for having yours paid for.

How does Starbucks deal with the situation where there's someone in line who is ordering ten fancy coffee drinks for co-workers at the office? Does the poor schlub ahead of them get stuck paying for that?
posted by jayder at 8:05 PM on December 17, 2007


Herpes is the Chuck Norris of STDs.

Ron Paul is the Chuck Norris of Presidential Candidates.

No dogs in South Korea were killed in the filming of this ad.
posted by ericb at 8:07 PM on December 17, 2007


Clearly they want nothing of your thievery!

Their righteous indignation keeps me warm on these cold winter days.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:34 PM on December 17, 2007


I'm disappointed the story didn't involve a conveyor belt.
posted by Tube at 8:44 PM on December 17, 2007


Your unabashed Metropiracy disgusts me. You might as well hand them a CD full of ripped MP3s of your record collection as they pass by, or just punch a passerby in the face.
posted by Artw at 8:47 PM on December 17, 2007


I broke the fucking Starbucks ‘Cheer Chain’ (not) by Gordon Ramsey
posted by 2sheets at 9:11 PM on December 17, 2007


That'd be the "this guy" link from the post, 2sheets.
posted by cortex at 9:17 PM on December 17, 2007


Ron Paul is the Chuck Norris of Presidential Candidates.

Err -- not meaning to be sarcastic, ericb, but it's "Mike Huckabee is the Chuck Norris of Presidential Candidates."
posted by ericb at 9:39 PM on December 17, 2007


I know everyone is having a grand old time knocking this whole "cheer chain" thing because it seems to be a gimmicky marketing ploy, but it wasn't always that way.

My sister, a former Starbucks barista, had a very similar experience to these "chains" about two years ago. She made a short post about it to the LiveJournal community for Starbucks baristas here. Apparently it was notable enough for some guy to put it in this book about Starbucks. For all I know, this campaign came from this incident getting back to decision makers in Starbucks advertising.

The condensed version is that some guy couldn't afford his drink one day and a fellow patron was kind enough to pay for him. The next day, the guy who couldn't afford the drink came back and paid for the person behind him in the drive through to pass on the kind act he had received the previous day. It only went on for eleven cars, but it's the same basic idea that's being discussed.

For those further cynics, I called my sister and asked if it had been any sort of Starbucks marketing plan to create false goodwill. Her response was that if it was, she wasn't privvy to any information about it.

Further point of reference, this was in Bakersfield, California.
posted by mindless progress at 9:54 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Full disclosure: I'm a store manager of a Starbucks. About 2 years ago we were sent a batch of coupons detailing the story of a drive through chain as described above. The story took place in California if I recall and lasted for a dozen or so cars. The coupon was for a free drink, and of course encouraged the customer to pass it on. It wasn't advertised or part of any promotion (holiday or otherwise), and we only got 50 or so coupons-- just a nice way for a huge multinational company to "suprise and delight" (and yes, that is a corporate phrase) some of our customers.

This holiday promotion our theme is "Pass the Cheer" which fits in nicely with this kind of story. Was it real, or a planned PR event? I don't know-- I do know that we've celebrated this sort of thing before, and that it would be relatively easy to plan and execute. I also know that people get excited by the tiniest gesture of kindness-- even if it is for a luxury item and that those four dollars could be put to better use. You'd be surprised what a free cup of coffee in the morning can inspire people to do.

On preview:
For those further cynics, I called my sister and asked if it had been any sort of Starbucks marketing plan to create false goodwill. Her response was that if it was, she wasn't privvy to any information about it.

I haven't heard of any official marketing plan involving this sort of thing. It would be super easy for a store manager to say "Hey, let's make this happen today," though. And just because goodwill is planned doesn't make it false!
posted by madag at 10:13 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I am off the clock. My views may resemble but do not represent the opinions of anyone other than myself. I am a Starbucks manager, but I am not your Starbucks manager, and this does not constitute Starbucks advice.
posted by madag at 10:20 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


madag writes "I haven't heard of any official marketing plan involving this sort of thing. It would be super easy for a store manager to say 'Hey, let's make this happen today,' though. And just because goodwill is planned doesn't make it false!"

Well, this is the last I'll say about it, but thinking about this amuses me ...

It's like a game of hot potato, where nobody wants to be the recipient of the generosity, so each person passes it down the line. There is a bit of guilt involved. If a gift is given, it's something of an instinct in our culture to refuse it if it's unexpected, but there is something to be said for accepting the gift and allowing the generosity to enrich you, rather than avoiding it. Sure, it feels good to give to someone. But sometimes, like compliments, a gift should be accepted in the spirit it's given. Personally, I like unexpected forms of generosity, and honestly a chain situation seems so contrived. It sounds sort of neat, but then it just sounds like people playing a game, thinking they're doing something worthwhile and generous, even if they're really not.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:18 PM on December 17, 2007


krinklyfig: ...honestly a chain situation seems so contrived. It sounds sort of neat, but then it just sounds like people playing a game, thinking they're doing something worthwhile and generous, even if they're really not.

Oh I definitely agree. Nine times out of ten that I give a free drink to a customer it ends right there. And I certainly am not expecting anything different-- I'm not giving a free drink away expecting a chain to start, or to get that person to tip, or anything. Which makes these chain occurances in the original post kind of cool-- sure, maybe deep down it's guilt, or cultural mores regarding gifts, and maybe they're playing a game without doing anything generous. Or maybe it's engineered by the manager or marketing crew. But customers do their normal morning routine--spend four bucks and get their coffee-- and this time they get to feel good about it. Maybe, just maybe, they "pass that cheer" on somewhere else. It's nothing big, and it might (to them) count as their good deed for the week, but the hope is that the amount of niceness in the world increases :)
posted by madag at 11:47 PM on December 17, 2007


Erik Zambrano: The Modern Mythmaker
posted by salishsea at 12:37 AM on December 18, 2007


When I hear stories like this I assume that someone wanted to confuse the Starbucks employee more than anything else.

And I approve, so tomorrow I'm going to go through their drive-thru, hand the barista a $5, and tell him "I want to pay for 17 cents of each of the next 29 customers' orders."
posted by mmoncur at 2:25 AM on December 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


So today, testing out how well this works in practice, I went into McDonald's and ordered a Coke (yes, I know, high fructose corn syrup is bad) and a $10 giftcard, then gave the card to the person behind me in line with a "Merry Christmas!"

I think I startled him as he didn't say anything; I know he didn't pass it on. As I filled up my Coke at the fountain (love how we had them our money and they hand us a cup and that's service, btw), he bought coffee and french fries for his wife and himself and then pocketed the card again.
posted by misha at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't really like the idea that wealthier people buying lattes are less deserving of gifts than poor people. The whole point of a gift is it's not about deserving it. Poor people are more deserving of charity and social aid and political activism/solidarity, but there's nothing about being poor that makes you more worthy of gifts.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:11 AM on December 18, 2007


I think the idea Salamandrous is that gift giving is one thing and corporate marketing is something else. I would say tho I prefer to give something meaningful to someone in need who can use it rather than spend it as a frivolous luxury for someone who is already well capable of - and in fact obviously intends to - buy something for themselves.
I wouldn’t get in anyone’s face about it, but yeah, I think poor folks are more worthy recipients of gifts.
Doesn’t mean this isn’t a nice thing given the conditions you outline. The criticism is that it’s not genuine however.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:39 PM on December 18, 2007


This is awesome.

Should be on the sidebar...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:58 PM on December 18, 2007


And, another "spontaneous" chain reported from Marysville, WA....
posted by curse at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2007


True story, I once gave a couple of extra bucks at a toll booth ($0.25) to pay for the people's tolls behind me. But I was never sure the operator didn't just pocket it. She did seem really, really weirded out by the idea.
posted by loiseau at 3:34 AM on December 22, 2007


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