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One Woman's 'Pay It Forward' Moment Inspires 11 Hours Of Kindness

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At a drive-through Starbucks in St. Petersburg, Fla., a chain of generosity included hundreds of customers. Each customer in the chain chose to "pay it forward," paying for the drink of the customer behind her. Weston Phippen of the Tampa Bay Times wrote about the acts of kindness and offers his take.


Something extraordinary happened yesterday at a very ordinary place, a Starbucks drive-through in St. Petersburg, Florida. Around 7 a.m. a woman pulled up to pay for coffee, she also paid for the iced triple grande latte for the guy behind her.


That guy felt compelled to pay for the car behind him.

CELESTE GUZMAN: And then it just became a thing where we started counting it and letting customers know how many customers had been on the pay for it forward before them.

CORNISH: Celeste Guzman was the Starbucks shift supervisor on duty yesterday. She says, this isn't the first time something like this has happened.

GUZMAN: We have short bursts of pay it forwards on frequent occasions.

SIEGEL: But this time it just kept going and going through the afternoon and into the evening, with people often paying much more for the next person than they would've paid for themselves.

GUZMAN: I had a guy who was supposed to get a tall coffee so he would've normally paid $1.88. And the person behind him had three frappuccinos and they also had some sandwiches, too. So their total was going to be in the $16 range. And he was just so nice about it. He was like, yeah absolutely. If somebody paid for my coffee I'm paying for the next person. I don't care what it costs.

CORNISH: Weston Phippen, a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, got wind of this altruistic chain and went down to talk with people coming out of the drive-through.

WESTON PHIPPEN: Some people thought it was pretty deeply touching that some random person in front of them would think about them or they figured that this chain was fairly remarkable in that it took them out of whatever they were doing for a moment and forced them to think about a stranger in front of them and a stranger behind them. To a guy who said, that he did it out of peer-pressure because he didn't want to be the jerk to end the line.

SIEGEL: And then Phippen encountered a woman driving a white Jeep Commando. She only wanted to pay for her coffee. He asked for her name.

PHIPPEN: And she said, no. I'm from out of town.

SIEGEL: Well, despite the nonconforming out-of-towner, Starbucks shift supervisor Celeste Guzman says the pay it forward chain was more than 450 customers long. And it even started back up this morning.

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