Jonathan’s card – an experiment in paying it forward

Last week the web was all atwitter with a social experiment that provided free coffee to thousands. Jonathan Stark posted his Starbucks card online, allowing any and everyone to purchase a coffee at their local Starbucks by just flashing the code at the register. The cost of the coffee was taken off Jonathan’s Card.

At the same time Stark encouraged others to pay the kindness forward in whatever way they saw fit. Some sent money to Stark to increase the value on the card (which started with a mere $30 on it). Others paid for a fellow restaurant goers meal, or gave a filled phone care to someone in the airport.


Stark was apparently overwhelmed with the response he was getting from people all over. They were getting their free coffee and paying it forward by giving to a neighbor or a total stranger. The social experiment seemed to be going amazingly well. A success…

Until someone posted about how you could buy a computer off the Starbucks card and then claims of fraud got into the mix and people started blaming Starbucks saying it was just a clever marketing ploy on their part. Starbucks jumped in and shut the card down.

So, while it only lasted for a few days the experiment gave everyone who followed Jonathan’s Card a chance to think about that stranger next to them in line or passing in the hallways. It gave those involved a moment to look beyond themselves and think of the others. To me – anyone who took the experiment for what it was and paid it forward, they learned a valuable lesson and are better as a result.



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