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December 17, 2007


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Vicki Verona

It happens all of the time. Its definitely not a PR stunt. It happens at least once a week at my store and when holiday time comes, it happens at LEAST 3 times a week. Yesterday morning, the customers had it go for about 11 cars.


Vicki -- And how many times did you call the local media to report this?

I'm not saying "Pay it forwards" don't happen; I, like many others, suspect that Starbucks PR, or one of Starbucks' outside PR agencies, set up these PIFs for the sake of media coverage.

Vicki Verona

None thanks for asking.

Herman M.

I see the first one a lot, at many stores. But I have yet to see anyone in the second car do anything but put the money back in their wallet.

...and I wouldn't call the local news outlet for anything less than the end of the world. And even then, I'd have to think about it.


Vicki -- You prove my point. Does anyone think a store-level employee is going to call the media to report that some people at the drive=thru are paying for each other's drinks. AND, even if the call was made, do you think the city desk is going to jump on that story?



honestly i think if i was a barista and it was happening at my store, i'd probably do free drinks for the people who didn't pay it forward and see if i couldn't keep it going.

Vicki Verona

I agree with you, I'm not saying that regional marketing specialists didnt get on the phone with local media to talk about the gesture, however, to me when someone says PR stunt, it implies fabrication.

This is something that has been going on since the early stages of the DT implementation. Starbucks desperately needs good press, and tipping off the local press on a story for their daily fluff piece and letting people know that the Starbucks experience is still there, is just good PR. But its definitely not a stunt.


I just mark out everybody's drinks, for 15 minutes each half hour (e.g., 6:00-6:15, 6:30-6:45). My customers love me!! My manager doesn't like it, but it's great to bring people back to the store.


Steffan: so you give out free drinks 50% of the time--that is A LOT of wasted time, product, and MONEY! No wonder your manager doesn't like it.

On Sunday morning three separate cars paid it forward... or I guess it would be backward?... and not a SINGLE person kept it going! They all just said... wow! that's cool! And drove off. It never even occurred to them. I can understand not doing it when the person's total is 20 bucks or something but they never even asked.

louisville barista girl

the only time i ever remember this happening was about a month ago.

we had about 7-8 cars going.

the last car in line was a teenage couple....and when i told them that the car in front had paid for it they just stared at me and the girl said "why'd they do that?" and i tried to explain that sometimes people just do nice things. then the guy got all macho and comes off with "was it a dude? was he hitting on her?" and it then started a fight between the two of them.

it was obscure.

Drive Thru Darling

We get pay-it-forwards ALL the time in our drive-thru, especially in the last week or so. In my 9-hour shift today, I had a string of 16 cars and then a seconds string of 5. I think people get genuinely excited about this kind of thing! When it's not holiday time, we get maybe a set of 4 or 5 cars paying-it-forward once or twice a week. It's so much fun to see the looks on peoples faces! They're so not just PR tools! My favorite was a regular who comes through on his way to work (as a Macy's Santa...) every afternoon in costume. He ALWAYS pays for the car behind him as a Merry Christmas gesture. Today the gals behind him payed for his drink on the condition that he take them off the naughty list... The look on his face was priceless! :)


honestly...i don't know what to believe, because i know these things happen. but i'm pretty damn sure i read that story on a venti cup when i was working about 4 weeks ago. haha

also..this is a terrible publicity stunt if that's what it is. i had 4 disgruntled customes come through drive who were extremely unhappy because the cars in front of them didn't buy their drinks. excuse me...not my fault that a car that came through here 10 minutes ago didn't think of you and your 'mochachinolattes.' (yes someone said that to me today.)

Holly Hotness

I don't think so.

Pat Nerr

I'm going to need someone to pay it forward for me today...




Interesting, and quite possible.

But for whatever it's worth, one of the commenters on my post about this, which you refer to, is a manager at a starbucks in KY, and he mentions that it happens all the time...


Karma at it's finest: about a year ago on a whim I bought the order of the person behind me in the DT...last week someone did the same for me at the very same sbux! Did I keep it going? No, man I'm horrible... :-/


well, I am a Partner and I can certainly believe this be be happening in the States, never have seen this in Canader ehe!!! my God, the customers even want their 2 cents change....


I would feel more sorry for Pat if he was ONLY paid in stock options during his tenure at the bux....but alas, he was not....it was part of his compensation package, but by no means was his only income.....

Yeah...the stock is low now...and it was high once.....it will even out....stocks at our level (non millionaire) are a long term investment...you can't check the price every day and get all bent out of shape....

And anyways...how is this any different from any other company that offer stock as PART of the their compensation package??

Grammer Grinch

The article about the Florida pay it forward chain is so poorly written as to make it almost seem like bad PR.

Grammar Claus

And what's even better is that I spelled "grammar" wrong. That'll teach me to be a grinch!

Tall Guy

I don't have a drive thru but I regularly have customers pay for the persons drink behind them. I also have customers that will provide a buck or two to the customer who is short a buck or is digging through a purse looking for money.

The best though is the handful of customers who actually load Starbucks cards (I've seen $20 to $100 loads on a dozen occasions) and leave the card at the store to be used when military, police or fire come in for a drink. They never get thanked by the person getting the drink but they don't do it for the recognition.

Also, at my store we have a handful of local media newscasters and reporters who come in for their daily fix. I wouldn't be surprised if the reports came from media who witnessed said events.


I have been known to be a cynic so I guess it's no surprise that I can't find any redeeming quality with this whole sbux "pay it forward" thing. Seems to me that the "goodwill" is limited to the DT line, a place you're not usually going to find people that could really use some goodwill. Sbux gets to come off like a caring corporate citizen when all they're really doing is encouraging people to spend $ at sbux, not that there is anything wrong with that.

The benefit would extend outside of the DT line if the recepient of a "pay it forward" is given the option of paying the money they would have spent to a non-profit, or to buy food for the needy, etc.

ristretto caramel macchiato

This happened to me at my starbucks (two years before I started working there) except I didn't consider that particular instance a PIF - the lady a few cars ahead of me left a $20 for other people's drinks along with a few of her business cards. Management put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, but I did get a few drinks free out of the deal...


A couple of days ago a woman paid for the drink of the person behind her... in the cafe. He was surprised but pleased. And, no, it wasn't because she was coming on to him. She was just being nice. I think.


I've been the recipient of a "pay it forward" (on the day that I was having a rotten morning), and I've paid for other people in line behind me at the DT. So, it DOES happen, though not all the time.


how to you pay it forward if you don't know what the person behind you is ordering?


Superflush, you ask the person on the register -- duh!


By the way, I am impressed with the WEBMASTER'S punctuation. He seems to have an excellent command of the language which suggests to me he is in some sort of writing profession.


By the way, I agree it's probably a PR stunt. I have seen maybe 3-4 pay-it-backwards at my 'Bux in my 2 years there, and none lasted more than 3-4 cars. The chain would break when the person's total was something like 15 dollars. (We sell a lot of pastries in ours). This is a well-to-do part of town as well.

We had a lady try to pay for the customer behind her. Sadly, it was a parter coming to work. She was very sweet though, and he was gracious.

I hope they're not PR stunts. That's just the naive barista in me though. I'd love to think that people are still nice and decent.


-pat nerr

"Yeah...the stock is low now...and it was high once.....it will even out....stocks at our level (non millionaire) are a long term investment...you can't check the price every day and get all bent out of shape...."

i am starting to feel like the people who jump in to debunk the starbucks/iraq rumor for the umpteenth time. mstack2638 this is not a simple up and down even out over the long-term situation. this is a 50% drop in the stock value in a 12 month period that is completely unprecedented in the company's history. the only time the stock ever dropped that far was immediately after 9/11 when the entire stock market fell and starbucks was able to bounce right back. the 50% drop in value for starbucks this time which took place over a period of an entire year of poor performance is not reflected by the stock market in general. in fact, when you consider that over the years the tendency for starbucks' value was to double and split ever year or two at the most, a stock value drop of 50% in one year is a monumental face dive of epic proportions, not a simple up and down even out over the long-term situation.


I'm not one to wear tinfoil hats and scream about various conspiracy's, but this just "feels" like a PR stunt.


I had someone pass the cheer to me last week at a drive thru in San Diego, I was so surprised and thankful! I pulled up to the window and the barista said the lady before me paid for my drink and muffin. She said it's been happening alot. So I immediately offered to pay for the person behind me.
It's a thankless gesture and it made me feel good all day! I do wonder how long it went on for. Hopefully alot!
Merry Christmas!

SoCal Rocks!

Jabanga (and all the other insider cynics)- have you ever considered that maybe publicly denouncing this company (and our customers, our fellow partners, etc) could have any impact on public perception, impacting our stock price? Don't you all recognize that with every word you write here, you are representing the brand? I'm not saying that you have to bleed green, but please, remember when it feels so "good" to get out your personal frustrations with the challenges you experience at work, it has a much greater effect.


"Pay It Forward"...a film that was roundly detested for its maudlinism...and a drive-thru concept I find equally as odd. "Pay it forward"? Sure - I'll take the prepaid drink, but I'm definitely not replaying the favor.


during the holidays, there are lots of people who do this. Yesterday, we got through 11 cars that all paid for the drink behind them!


You gotta wonder about people like "the angry meow" "Sure I'll take the drink, he'she said, but I won't return the favor." What a scrooge. Are there any happy people left in the world?????

Pat Nerr

hmmm... Socal Rocks makes a great point. Perhaps us cynics have driven the stock price down... I hadn't thought of that.

lagging sales figures, no thorough plan for increasing traffic, mixed messages to the customer about who Starbucks is and growing faster than you can maintain... lack of accountable leadership...and dropping partner engagement scores... I guess we're all responsible for that stuff.

I'll own up... I did it.


Sounds like SoCal Rocks and Howard are on the same page. Unhappy partners are the poison in the well...no need to do a "root-cause analysis" as to why those partners are unhappy.

noran warot

I am tired of the lack of holiday spirit and especially the eagerness people possess this year to be nasty this season. ! i found the christmas spirit very low this year, and those that want to be grinches an all time high! If someone wants to buy someone a drink, let them--no one stops them at a bar!


It's happened at our store before, but not this year yet, as far as I know. I'm wondering if a news crew went through the drive through and asked about it, it's happened at our store, except after they asked, they didn't run the story.

Bemused Barista, IL

I think that there's some truth in this, but its mostly manufactured by the company. Once in a while in my store (in the cafe, not DT) the person behind the one at he register will donate a buck or two if the person is looking for change in their pockets- which is a very nice gesture in and of itself. But no way will we have a line of seven people paying it forward. My suspicion is that some of the people who are telling these "real life stories" are eciving some sort of, ahem, comission for it....


Just remember, that usually only one person actually pays anything extra of significance, and only one person gets anything of significance - perversely, the person who breaks the chain.


I can't imagine why anyone would want a "pay it forward" chain. Just let me pay for my own drinks and be on my way. I don't want to hear about what the car full of strangers behind me ordered, and I certainly don't want to pay for them.


I don't know why so many of you are cynical of this practice. This has been around longer than SBUX Drive Thrus in other forms. When the bridge toll in the bay area was just $1 (and even when it was $2... not so much now that it's $4), it was quite routine for the car infront of you to pay for your toll. It was considered good luck/karma whathaveyou if you returned the favor to the car behind you. I always did when it happened to me. I have no idea how many cars it went on for and the toll both collector did not prompt me to pay for the car behind me, I just did and knew others who did the same thing. It really just takes one person to start it, and one person to end it... everybody in between really isn't doing/spending anything more than they probably would have. They're just making a concious decision to keep it going rather than breaking it. It happens people... it's nice and kinda fun when it happens... there are plenty of nice people out in the world, at least I like to think so, why be a downer and question the whole concept?
Happy Wednesday everybody!

So you wouldn't be touched if you pulled up and were told that the person in front of you had bought your drinks????

Matt Brewer

Remember people, this was not Starbucks that started the benevolence, it was a customer. Starbucks did nothing to facilitate it other than have a drive-thru. They deserve NO credit, and certainly won't get it from me.


Official 'bucks pass-the-cheer coupons:



"Jabanga (and all the other insider cynics)- have you ever considered that maybe publicly denouncing this company (and our customers, our fellow partners, etc) could have any impact on public perception, impacting our stock price? Don't you all recognize that with every word you write here, you are representing the brand? I'm not saying that you have to bleed green, but please, remember when it feels so "good" to get out your personal frustrations with the challenges you experience at work, it has a much greater effect."

-socal rocks

i don't believe you are reading my posts correctly. if i was in fact a partner bitching about customers or management practices making my life miserable i would be venting my frustrations. i am a former employee. i actually do believe that those of us that who hold the people responsible for the degradation of the brand actually are not the ones harming the brand: they are. "Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow." perhaps the new leadership believes that should be changed to the past tense.

Sebastian J

I'm pretty hungry, and too lazy to go upstairs for food. Anyone want to pay-it-forward tonight?

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