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3 min Read
Published January 5, 2014

Starbucks Kindness And Suspended Coffees: One Cup Can Change The World

It’s surprising how easily and often humanity inspires you when you’re working in a coffee shop. I’ve heard people complain how working with customers makes them bitter at the world. But in my few months at Starbucks, I saw random acts of kindness preformed almost daily. And one act was so large and unexpected, I’ll simply never forget it.

If you’re a regular reader, you know how obsessed I am with random acts of kindness. However, please don’t mistake me for a good person just because of my strange set of hobbies. I enjoy surprising drive-thru workers with candy, dressing like a superhero, leaving flowers on people’s doorways, and scattering smiley-faces all over Raleigh in much the same way I enjoy collecting comics and video games.

It gives me an odd thrill. Tingles. The sweet terror of getting caught. Like ringing a doorbell and running. So it’s not really altruistic. I totally do it because it’s fun.

So when I started working at my local Starbucks, I was really hoping to experience one of those amazing “100 Cars Pay It Forward in the Starbucks Drive-thru” or have someone buy one of those “Suspended Coffees” I’ve read about in the news. Something about coffee just seems to bring out the do-gooder in people.

RELATED: 10 Service Projects for Kids, Teachers, and the Classroom.

And as idealistic as I am, I was still shocked when after only a few days in the drive-thru, a woman bought her French Vanilla Latte and then offered to pay for the car behind her. I got those familiar tingles of giddiness as I squeed, “Really?? That’s awesome!! Thank you! Have an amazing day!”

Really, I wished I could have somehow imprinted upon her how much of a rock-star she really was.

I got to deliver the good news to six more people, as the chain continued, completely brightening an otherwise mundane day. The sixth person, rather than paying for the person behind him, simply gave me an extra large tip.

In the weeks that followed, I had several more experiences like that. People paid for the car behind them. People brought our staff Halloween treats. People proved over and over that Kindness is alive and well in our city.

Just as the act of customers simply paying for the car behind them started to become ho-hum, three gentleman entered the Starbucks. I was in drive-thru like usual, and my shift supervisor rushed over, excited eyes and wide smile. “Heather!” she whispered, “These three guys just came in and they want to pay for the next six cars that come through!”

She handed me six slips of paper. You’ve been hit by a Random Act of Kindness! Please enjoy your day! was scrawled across them in personalized handwriting.

Starbucks Kindness And Suspended Coffees -- One Cup Can Change The World 1Beaming, I regaled each customer that drove up with the heroic tale of these three gentleman, and I passed out the slip of paper. I was alight with inspiration. All the workers were glowing. The customers were astonished. This kindness was impacting everyone.

When the sixth car finally approached, I took the order over the headset and started to worry. The woman didn’t just order a drink. She ordered five drinks, a few sandwiches, and an order total of over $25. I turned to the men inside, afraid to test the limits of their generosity.

“Um,” I said nervously, “This is kind of a big order. Do you still want to take this one?”

“Absolutely!” they chimed.

When the woman got to the window, I was simply dancing with the thrill of getting to share the news with her. “Guess what?” I said, “Your order is all paid for! There are three men in here, and they’ve been paying for the cars that come up the drive-thru.”

The woman’s eyes grew teary. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “Who does that? I’ve never heard of that before.”

“People pay for the car behind them here a lot, but I’ve never seen this big of a random act of kindness,” I said.

She seemed in disbelief, like she’s never even considered that total strangers sometimes just do nice things for no reason at all. And she told me, “Oh my god, this is incredible. I am going to my sister’s rehearsal dinner. That’s why I have so much coffee here. She’s getting married tomorrow. She’s going to flip over this! It’s like a wedding gift from a stranger!”

She paused a moment, reflecting, then added softly, “What a great way to start their lives together.”

When she pulled away, I ran up front to talk to the three guys, who were about to leave. I told them the woman’s story, so they’d know the impact they made. I asked them what had made them want to do this today.

“I dunno,” one said. “We just wanted to do it. We had a little extra money and it seemed fun.”

They left us an extra large tip. Their story never got a sappy YouTube video or coverage on a major news network like all the other Starbucks stories you see. But now I’ve told their story here. Their kindness literally changed the way that woman looked at the world. Maybe my acts of kindness do that sometimes, too, I hope.

RELATED: Ten Heartwarming Valentines Written by Kids — for Kids Fighting Cancer.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy someone a cup of coffee. Who knows? You might just change the world.

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  • heather


  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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