You’re probably familiar with the concept of paying it forward, but have you ever heard of pay it forward chains? When someone at a drive-thru offers to pay for the person behind them, it sometimes starts a chain reaction. Dozens of customers end up paying for each other’s meals or drinks and brightening each other’s days.
This seems to happen most frequently at Starbucks. Several locations throughout the country have had pay it forward chains that lasted all day and ended up in the news. For example, 160 people covered each other’s drinks at a Starbucks in Bethel Park. In St. Petersburg, one woman started a pay it forward chain that spanned 11 hours and involved 379 people.
These stories are a reminder that just one small act of kindness can start a big wave of generosity. If you want to pay it forward at Starbucks and hopefully start your own chain reaction of positivity, here’s how to go about it.
Here’s How to Pay It Forward at Starbucks
We’ve all had a hard year, so maybe you want to spread some happiness by paying for someone else’s Starbucks drink. But how does that work logistically? Here’s everything you need to know about paying it forward at Starbucks.
Treat Someone to a Drink at the Drive-Thru
If you want to pay it forward at Starbucks, the best place to do it is usually at the drive-thru. By the time you pull up to the second window, the barista already knows what the person behind you ordered and can simply add it to your bill. This makes the whole process seamless and enables the next person to easily pay it forward and start a chain.
Starbucks orders can get expensive, especially if the person behind you is getting several drinks. If you can’t afford to cover the person’s whole transaction, you can give the barista some cash or a buy a gift card to cover a portion of the cost. The barista will let the next person know that you paid for a portion of their order, which will brighten their day just as much as getting the whole thing for free.
If there’s no one behind you in line, it can be a little harder to pay it forward at Starbucks. But you can always estimate what the next person will spend and leave behind some cash or a gift card. To give you an idea of what Starbucks usually costs, the average drink is usually around $2.75.
Another benefit of paying it forward at the drive-thru instead of the counter is that you can remain anonymous. If you pay for someone’s drink in-store, they’ll probably overhear you doing it and come up to thank you. But at the drive-thru, the person behind you will have no idea who covered their drink, which makes it feel more like a random act of kindness.
Leave Your Barista a Nice Tip
If covering someone else’s drink isn’t enough, another way to pay it forward is is to leave your barista a big tip. Baristas and other essential workers have played a huge role during the pandemic. For many of us, getting takeout or a latte was a treat that kept us going through the hardest days of quarantine.
To show them you appreciate them, leave your neighborhood barista a nice tip. You could even write them a note to tell them how much you’ve appreciated their friendly service during the pandemic.
Some people think pay it forward chains are silly because at the end of the day, everyone in line ends up paying for a drink. But these random acts of kindness aren’t about the money—they’re about making someone else feel special and brightening their day.
Instead of keeping the free drink for themselves and ending the chain, each person chooses to pass on the kindness to show the next person in line that they care. Although it’s a small gesture, it can make a big difference in how someone feels, especially if they’re going through a hard time. So if you can afford to, try to pay it forward at Starbucks the next time you stop by for your morning coffee.
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