Starbucks drive thru worker(l), Starbucks sign(r)

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‘Am I a bad person?’: Starbucks customer says they broke pay-it-forward chain because they could barely afford their own drink

'The staff was grateful for you I promise.'


Melody Heald


Posted on Dec 13, 2023   Updated on Dec 13, 2023, 8:52 am CST

Pay-it-forward chains are almost as divisive as tipping.

One person starts these chains by paying for the person behind them in a drive-thru line. They believe they are doing a good deed, but in turn, they are subjecting the person behind them to either end the chain with them—and probably feel like a bad person—or pay for the person behind them without knowing how much their total is. The person behind them may have racked up a heftier bill than they did, so they could leave the establishment paying way more than they intended.

A Starbucks customer was recently met with this dilemma, they shared on Reddit Monday. Redditor AffectMindless5602 said that Starbucks is a “special treat” for them and that if they are “lucky,” they get it twice a month. “I have to save up for it,” they said. So when the person in front of them paid for their drink, they had to end the chain there.

“I have no idea how much the order behind me is and i was not willing to ask and have to deny if it was a lot,” they wrote.

“I didn’t feel as bad because when the barista handed me the drink she just said the person in front of me paid and nothing about would you like to pay it forward. Am i looking into this and baristas don’t give a sh?t if we keep it going?” they questioned. “The barista looked a bit stressed so i was happy to grab my drink and get out of there.”

They questioned if they were a bad person for ending a pay-it-forward chain.

The post garnered 347 upvotes, and other redditors assured the poster, arguing that they, too, always break the chain and that workers were probably grateful.

“Yes I always break the chain. It’s ridiculous. When they tell me the person in front paid for my drink I tell them ‘That’s wonderful, but I’m breaking the chain!’ I stick whatever my drink cost into their tip jar,” one user wrote.

“As a barista: take the drink and end the train. It’s more of a hassle for us than people realize,” a second said.

One barista shared how they try to end chains like this. “I don’t even tell the customer the car in front of them paid for their order. I just hand them their drink and say, ‘it’s on us have a great day’ and don’t deal with a chain starting,” the barista stated.

Pay-it-forward chains are especially popular at coffee spots, like Starbucks. In 2014, one chain at a Florida Starbucks reportedly lasted for 378 orders. While the person who ended was probably villainized by some at the time, they were also likely appreciated by Starbucks workers, who notoriously hate pay-it-forward chains. “Pay it forward is extremely annoying and makes everything confusing. It makes it easy to hand out the wrong drinks and just sucks,” a former Starbucks barista complained in a Facebook post in 2021, according to Today.

The barista then argued how customers can better show kindness. “Instead of paying for the people behind you, who can probably afford their own stuff since they’re in line intending to pay, tip the people making your drinks who have been understaffed for months,” she wrote.

The Daily Dot reached out to AffectMindless5602 via Reddit direct message.

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*First Published: Dec 13, 2023, 10:00 am CST