Starbucks customer tries starting pay-it-forward chain; Starbucks Drive Thru Sign; Starbucks worker giving thumbs up at drive thru.

@fatalewoman/TikTok Eric Glenn/ShutterStock nizam kamaruddin/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘I’m gonna end it ’cause I’m broke’: Starbucks customer tries starting pay-it-forward chain. It backfires

'Don’t keep it going, the next one’s a big one.'


Tangie Mitchell


Posted on Sep 4, 2023

A Starbucks customer cites being “broke” as her reason for breaking the “pay train” after another customer pays for her order.

Captured in a TikTok, user @fatalewoman pulls up to the Starbucks drive-thru window to pay for her order only to be told by a Starbucks employee that the person in front of her already paid for her order. She’s pleasantly surprised by the news.

The employee confirms that this was the first “pay train,” which gives @fatalewoman the option to continue paying it forward or to end the chain there. 

“OK well I’m gonna end it ‘cause I’m broke,” @fatalewoman responds. 

As the video ends, the Starbucks employee affirms @fatalewoman’s decision, saying quickly, “Don’t keep it going, the next one’s a big one.”

A grateful @fatalewoman captions the video, “Much respect to the Starbucks worker this morning.”

The TikTok had 29,000 views and 18 comments as of Monday morning.


much respect to the starbucks worker this morning 😅😂

♬ original sound – 🖤

While the pay-it-forward trend at Starbucks and other food chains (the trend of paying for the next customer’s order) is well-intended by customers, it often makes the baristas’ and service workers’ job more difficult. The Daily Dot has previously reported on the disdain a Starbucks worker had for pay-it-forward, so much so that he’d end the chains himself by simply telling a customer their order was free and making up an excuse for why.

Along with the pay-it-forward model being a logistical nightmare for Starbucks employees, forcing them to juggle multiple orders on one tab over and over again, it can also pressure customers to continue a generosity chain they’d otherwise decide against—especially when the next customer’s order is far more expensive than their own.

Viewers of @thefatalewoman’s video were impressed by her honest decision to discontinue the chain and the Starbucks employee’s frank advice not to cover the next, larger order.

“She’s a real one,” one TikToker praised.

If Starbucks customers are feeling particularly generous and want to pay it forward in a way that doesn’t inconvenience employees, one viewer has a practical, firsthand suggestion.

“My friend is a SB manager and says they hate pay it forward,” they wrote. “They’d rather someone give a large bill/gift card and use it til it runs out.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to @fatalewoman via TikTok comment for more details.

Share this article
*First Published: Sep 4, 2023, 2:33 pm CDT