The car ahead of me just paid for my Starbucks order

Happens often enough up here in Ottawa at the Tim Horton’s.

A few years ago I met my gf after work for some reason. We went through a drive-through (not Starbucks), me in my vehicle and she behind me in hers. I told the cashier I wanted to pay for the person behind me, she told me the amount, and I paid.

Later at home, I asked if she was surprised. After some puzzled back-and-forth it turned out that she was charged for her order. It wasn’t worth a trip back there, and the place closed down a few months later anyway.

Hopefully, it’s not because you accidentally got in front of the person who was really supposed to be behind him. LOL

Yes, I’ve had it happen. I took it as an unexpected kindness in a grumpy world. Sometimes I pay the toll for the person behind me. Same idea.

Probably has happened to me at least once a year going back 5 years or so.
Happened twice already this year.

My wife, a Starbucks junkie, just told me I was supposed to keep it going by paying for the next person. Oops. :smack:

Buuut…if you are supposed to keep it going, the only person who ultimately benefits is the one who breaks the chain. That seems logically/philosophically perverse.

This has been promoted by christian radio stations for years as a “drive through difference” or something.


Yes. And it’s fun to read about.
It’s just another little thing to remind us all that we’re human beings and that being kind to one another should be our default position.

Random acts of kindness are great. A few years back my mother-in-law had a major birthday party(relatives came from around the country). After the party I gathered up all the helium balloons that weren’t labeled, which turned out to be about five dozen, and stuck them in the back of my van. On the way home driving by the park I saw small birthday party being thrown for a couple of kids, so I stopped nearby and grabbed all the balloons and brought them to their picnic table and said, “I was told to bring these to you”, handed them over and walked back to the van and drove off.
I just love doing things like this. :smiley:

Someone did that for me years ago, and it really made my day. Now, if I’m in a bad mood and going through a fast-food line, I sometimes pay for the car behind me. I find it really cheers me up.


The other people who benefit are those who placed expensive orders, but are being followed by people who placed cheap orders. If I order a latte with 101 shots of espresso for myself and each of my six minivan passengers, and the guy in front of me pays our $586.25 bill - and the guy behind me just orders a small cup of coffee for a few bucks, which I pay for - then my passengers and I are having a pretty good day.

Uncertainty. Although not everyone thinks that’s a gain. If I order a cup of coffee, and the guy in front of me pays for it - and the bill for the minivan behind me is $586.25 - you can be pretty sure I’ll break the chain.

Seems like an unnecessary complication to me and one that apparently carries some form of obligation that you neither asked for nor wanted.

Pay for your own stuff, If you want to do a good deed don’t have a Starbucks and give to charity instead. Any person in a random Starbucks queue is unlikely to be quite as needy as starving kids in Africa.

My wife (most definitely NOT a Christian woman) does that at Starbucks. I probably would, but I don’t often find myself at Starbucks unless under orders from The Missus.

When life gets really stressful for her, she is more likely to go to Starbucks for a treat. And when things are particularly hard, she’ll pay for the person behind her. It’s her way of flipping the bird at the universe when it seems to want to crush her into a grumpy, selfish person. And of course any time someone buys hers, she pays it forward as well. I would, but it just doesn’t come up.
ETA: For what it’s worth, it’s not about creating any sort of obligation. It’s about you receiving a random act of kindness, and it’s about creating some very low-level social interaction between strangers who ought not to be strangers. If it bothers you that you feel obligated as a result, then you need to reassess what you think a “gift” is. And if it really sticks in your craw that the money wasn’t donated to charity instead, then make the donation yourownself.

Not quite sure how it creates a social interaction when you don’t leave your respective cars.

I have no need to reassess what a gift is. I’m clear that it should be something freely given with no expectation of reciprocation. If someone gives me a gift with any sort of obligation implied then I prefer not to receive it at all.

I’ve never come across this phenomena it so wouldn’t know much about it, but someone upthread said you are supposed to do the same for the person behind you, if that is the case then clearly it is not a gift but very definitely an unrequested obligation.
You seem to suggest as much in that both you and your wife do feel somewhat obliged to do it for the next person so I’d question just how much of a purely altruistic process it is.
The upshot of it is that if a line of 20 people all do the same thing you end up with one person very slightly poorer, one person very slightly richer and 18 smug people patting themselves on the back. A small act of kindness? possibly, getting close to negligible I think.

I still think the main part that is weird is that the only person who gets a true freebie is the one who breaks the string.

A few times I have found an excuse to pay for someone at the supermarket. However, I make a conscious effort to do at least one “good deed” a day. It can be anything, just smiling at someone can be enough but on another occasion, it required spending a whole day to help a stranger move out of my apartment block.

I find that adopting that attitude causes me to have many more positive interactions with the world.

I can see doing at the discount grocery store, or the Dollar Store, or some other potentially low-income store. But to gift a stranger in the drive-thru lane at an effing Starbucks seems roll-eye-making. If they needed money, they hopefully wouldn’t be in line at Starbucks.

It brings to consciousness in another person’s mind that they are not alone in a world of machinery; and that at the very least, not ALL of the machinery is out to get them. If you’ve not spent much time feeling alone or defensive of the universe, then you are truly blessed and it’s clear why such a gesture would be wasted on you.

Yep, that’s a gift alright. And until a giver, personally, tells you about an attached string you are right to assume there are none.

People who offer an outwardly selfless gift but expect any action from the recipient as a result are passive aggressive retards and are to be scorned if not destroyed entirely.

No obligation is felt. It’s a game, that’s all. Play or don’t play, I don’t care. Seems dumb to get offended by someone else playing a game that has no negative consequence for you. If me or The Missus buy you a cup of coffee, all we’d expect is that you enjoy your coffee. We’d hope your day is a little brighter/less lonely, but that is forever your own choice to make.

It’s a game at that point. It’s like tossing a beach ball in a crowd. Yep, at the end someone is going to be down a beach ball, and someone is going to be up a beachball. Net losses and net gains are not the point. The point is that the ball was kept off the floor, and there is no consequence whatsoever if it drops. It’s just a quantumly small pastime that is less destructive than constructive. Makes some people feel good and there is really no downside.

Some people get funny about receiving public charity. Back in the days when I got turned away at the checkstand in front of my kids, having to leave dinner in the cart as we returned home, I can’t say I would have met a stranger’s kind gesture with anything resembling grace. Pride’s a bitch, especially when it’s all you have. But again, this whole thing is not about helping anyone out financially in any meaningful way. It’s about camaraderie among strangers. At least one person in your community is not out for number one all the time.
Man, that was wayyy too much effort. Play, don’t play, I don’t care. But keep your cynicism.