The car ahead of me just paid for my Starbucks order

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.

You know what? You convinced me. The beach ball analogy was especially good.

Happened to me at Taco Bell once. I never considered that the person in front of me got the exact amount rather than just gave the cashier a 5 dollar bill (which would cover a meal for one person at Taco Bell). I said no thanks, paid for my food and told her to use that money to pay for the person behind me.
I recall her being confused, I suppose, doing that (declining it) threw her off.

Is it odd that no one has given the $5 or whatever to the server/cashier who is almost certainly making minimum wage?

I often do my own version of it: “The guy behind me is paying”.

A few months ago I was in my old, beat up minivan with my daughter. She wanted Starbucks, so I pulled into the closest shopping center that had a Starbucks. I pulled up to a 4-way stop in the parking lot at the exact moment some nimrod in a sparkling McLaren convertible pulled up to the adjacent stop (actually, I think I beat him to the stop by a micro-second or two). Nice guy that I am, I made eye contact and gave him the OK nod to proceed before me. I figured he was probably headed for one of the fancy-pants designer shops in the center. But, no, he zipped into the Starbucks drive-thru line and I was stuck behind him.

Tibby: Look at that butt-head in his fancy sports car with his trophy girlfriend in front of us (he looked about 40 yo, his gorgeous companion looked ~20).
Daughter (age 14):* Don’t judge, Dad, he looks OK to me.*
Tibby: [teaching mode] He’s a taker, honey, a flash in the pan. Stay away from guys like that.
Daughter: You don’t know anything about him. He’s probably a great guy.
Tibby: No, honey, he’s a guy that likes to get ahead of you in line. He thinks he’s the cat’s meow.
Daughter: Stop it, Dad! You don’t know anything about him.
Tibby: … well, I know he’s a butt-head …

My turn to pull up to the window: The check-out person hands me my Tall coffee with cream and Sweet & Low and my vegan daughter’s Venti Crapachino with soy milk, no whip, etc., etc…

I attempt to hand my credit card to the barista/cashier and she say’s, “the customer in front of you paid for your order, you’re good to go.”

[Sheepishly] Huh? Well, ok …thanks. (crap, this is embarrassing) and I drive off with my head hung low.

Daughter:* See, Dad, he wasn’t such a bad guy after all, WAS HE!*
Tibby: *… Yeah, I guess not. But, there’s plenty of other butt-heads in the world you need to avoid.
It was a long and agonizing ride home.

I appreciate the concept of “paying it forward”, but, please don’t do it for me in the future or I’ll lose all credibility with my daughter!

I certainly agree with the following:

Yes. America has millions of millionaires. The real message when a guy drops $50 at Starbucks isn’t “Ooh Cool! Some people are so generous!” It should serve as a reminder of America’s ever-growing wealth and income gaps. (Though a huge number of Americans are too poor to indulge at Starbucks and benefit from the “generosity” anyway.)

Perhaps I’m in a bad mood because of the many millions of Americans who stayed home today, thereby casting half a vote for the Trumpists, but treating the pay-for-the-next-coffee movement as a big deal is, for me, just a reminder of how insipid American values have become.

At least the string-breaker, who may be a lower-income guy really happy to get a free coffee, can be a target of contempt, helping divert Americans from their real oppressors.

Tibby, great story.

Septimus, you’re talking like tonight was a shellacking of Democrats. I mean, in the early evening when 538 had Democrats at only 38% to win the House, I was ready to despair along those lines, but in the end the night wasn’t so bad. A lot better than what we’ve been living through the last two years!

That is a very bleak outlook. Maybe that reflects where you live, random of acts of kindness do seem to be the norm in my world rather than something that requires a conscious effort.

but you implied that both you and your wife do feel an obligation, or did I misread that? Wouldn’t that suggest to you that others may feel the same if you do it for them?

ah, a game is it? One that I didn’t ask to play.

well of course they are, making a show of any charitable act is a dick move.

A couple of weeks ago I was waiting to pay for a sandwich in cafe and the young woman in front of my was getting her cards declined, nothing worked and she had no cash and she was getting flustered. She turned to apologise to me for keeping me waiting and told me what was wrong. I stepped forward and said to the cashier that I’d put her stuff through on my card. I specifically said it quietly and out of earshot of everyone else to save her further embarrassment and told her that it was a company card and so she didn’t need to worry about paying me back, it was the little people getting back a big business! Of course it wasn’t a company card but I didn’t want her to feel obliged to repay me.

If what I did acts as a prompt for her to do something similar in future then great I suppose but to build such acts into some kind of semi official “game” seems weird to me. There may be a word or phrase for that kind of thing but it eludes me.

I recall another time when dining at restaurant with my wife, the bill came and my wife pointed out that they’d shoved a “voluntary” charitable donation onto the bill. No explanation and no forewarning. If we wanted to have it removed we had to have that discussion with the management. So we did, we had that removed and told them we wouldn’t be paying the “voluntary” service charge either. What on earth were they thinking?

But clearly, according to others in the thread, in some circumstances there is an expectation to keep it going. How is someone to know that they are playing by your pure altruistic rules where not passing it on is fine or by the other rules where being the one who breaks it carries, I suspect, some form of social cost?

Look, ya daft git, I’m buying your goddamned coffee for you and you’re going to feel all warm and fuzzy about it. Got it? Now enjoy your coffee and see the good in the world. Just look at the good. LOOK AT IT!

It’s happened to me a few times at the local 7-11. The person ahead of me says to the clerk “And her refill.” I always thank them. We need kindness in the world.

My name is Inigo Montoya … your coffee is paid for … prepare to be happy! :wink:

About 5 years ago I stopped at a Taco Bell to grab some lunch. I was inside, not at the drive thru. An older couple in line behind me were talking about what to get, it sounded like they were scrimping to get what they wanted. When I paid for my order, I told the cashier to tell the older couple their order was taken care of and that I would pay for it when they weren’t looking.

The couple ordered their food and had a look of shock when they were told that the order had already been paid. A minute later while the couple was getting their drinks, I went up to pay. Almost $40. They were buy lunch for a group from a nearby retirement home. I gladly paid know I saved some seniors some money. They walked out with 2 large bags full of food.

I want my expresso, you sonofabitch!

now *that *made me feel happy! :smiley: