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Cheer chain spreads goodwill in Starbucks drive-through

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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

Cups of cheer.

More than 100 customers enjoyed those Monday morning, lining up in an unbroken chain of motorists playing "pay it forward" at the Starbucks in the Greengate Centre in Hempfield.

For two hours, drive-through customers were informed that their lattes and other drinks had been paid for by the customer in front of them, employee Rebecca Hack said. They were offered a free beverage and asked if they'd like to pay for the driver behind them or to pass on the cheer in another way.

The "cheer chain," as Starbucks' employees referred to it, began at 7:20 a.m. Hack said the woman who started it is a regular and has paid for the customer behind her in the past.

But such chains usually stop after half a dozen cars or so, store manager Safka Vayo said, when there's a lull in the traffic. On Monday, the lull took longer than usual.

"(Monday) was just amazing," Vayo said Tuesday. "The flow was perfect."

Customers were told they were under no obligation, both women said. But only one, No. 53, declined to participate.

"He said, 'No, that's too much,'" Hack said, estimating the order of the customer behind him was around $4.

"I said, 'Well, enjoy your coffee today, no big deal,'" Hack said.

The chain remained unbroken, she said, because several customers had tossed in a few extra dollars to compensate for anyone who declined.

A tall coffee at Starbucks costs $1.64 with tax, Hack said, but many drivers picked up higher tabs without complaint.

Yesterday morning, regular customers asked how long the chain continued, Vayo said.

Hack was hoping the woman who bought the first cup of kindness would come in soon, so she could tell her what she started.

"She is the type of person that, when you ask her how she is, she always has a very unique way of answering," Hack said. "She'll say, 'I'm dancing above marvelous,' or 'I'm flirting with fantastic.'

"She'll say, 'Tell you what,' almost as an afterthought, 'toss it (the order of the customer behind her) on as well with the condition that he needs to do something nice for someone else today,'" Hack said.

"What I really enjoyed yesterday was watching what happened as it dawned on people," she said. "Their faces went from confusion to the corners of their mouths turning up. Everyone said, 'You're kidding,' or 'That's cool.' "




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