Bad news from abroad, sad news on the domestic front, the heat, the dog days – is it any wonder someone in St. Petersburg, Fla., wanted to do something nice for a stranger, like buy them a cup of coffee?
It happened, and a spontaneous “pay it forward” chain ran for nearly two days at a Starbucks location. Thusly, that one nice little thing became a minor sensation, as each person bought the person behind them a coffee, a chain that lasted for 11 hours straight at one point.
It’s a Sunshine State heartwarmer, and just the fact that what people did at some Starbucks counter is news suggests a nation hankering for a little kindness amid the rancor. But the guy who stopped the chain after over 700 acts of kindness says he’s calling Starbucks out for taking advantage of an “organic” marketing stunt.
According to ABC News, a local blogger and part-time political consultant named Peter Schorsch heard about the chain on the radio, and decided this was a piece of dubious do-goodery that he had to stop. In turn, the Week magazine took note of that news with the headline: “American hero goes out of his way to stop pay-it-forward campaign at local Starbucks.”
“I’m really not trying to be a Grinch. I just don’t want to be forced into doing something. This is turning into a social phenomenon and I had to put an end to it,” Mr. Schorsch, who broke the chain, told ABC News affiliate WJLA.
Other critics – cynics? – also jumped on the news, agreeing that customers were doing it more out of guilt than beneficence. More than one pointed out that each customer was getting a free drink so paying for someone else just made them even.
Even though local baristas kept the tally and helped it along by making customers aware of it, Starbucks the corporation says it had no hand in the chain. Another café-style American restaurant has more wittingly adopted the concept. Panera Bread has a number of “pay-it-forward”-style cafes where customers can pay what they can afford while giving everyone the option to pay a little more to cover costs.
If nothing else, the Starbucks kindness chain down in Florida proved one truism: Whether out of guilt or actual kindness, considering the virtue of strangers probably isn’t going to ruin your day. Unless, perhaps, you are a political consultant.