Video of Starbucks Customer Ending 23 Car 'Pay It Forward' Chain Sparks Debate

A viral video has sparked debate over the "pay it forward" drive-thru trend, after a man shared online that he ended a 23 car streak.

The pay it forward trend starts with a car simply paying for the order behind them as a gesture of good will. But when the next car gets asked if they'd like to continue the chain, it becomes a continuous cycle of each car paying for the order behind instead of theirs.

Of course, it's a great deal if theirs is cheaper than yours, not so great if it's pricey.

In a video with over 1 million views, TikTok user @im_blessed55 admitted to ending a 23 car-long chain after refusing to pay for the car behind him.

"At Starbucks they were doing the pay for the person behind you thing," he wrote. "I pulled up and ended a 23 car streak."

"They tried to set me up," he said, showing his iced coffee order. According to the Starbucks customer, the car behind's order totaled $46, while his was just $6.


How y’all feel about this am I wrong? What would y’all have done? #starbucks #viral #fyp #payitfoward

♬ original sound - I’m Blessed

The TikTok user took to his video, which can be seen here, to ask others what they thought about his decision to end the chain, writing: "How y'all feel about this? Am I wrong? What would y'all have done?"

Unsurprisingly, viewers were split with some on either side of the fence—albeit slightly more taking his stance.

"Unfortunately, I'd be the same. I can't drop $46 on someone else's order most days cause I can barely afford my own order," commented one user.

"Turning it into a chain makes it so everyone pays a random amount instead of just paying for their order. It's pointless," added another.

Baristas weighed in with their views too, claiming it makes it difficult on their end: "As a drive-thru employee, my favorite people were the ones who would end these godforsaken lines." While another user even claimed a barista once "begged" her to end the chain "because she said it was too complicated."

Others, however, defended the premise of the chain, suggesting ways to keep it going even if you can't afford the order. "You could always pay it forward by putting the cost of your drink towards the person behind you instead of the full amount," wrote one user.

"I start the pay it forwards all the time," added another. "If I had it, i'd pay the $46. I believe in good and bad karma."

The pay it forward trend has risen in popularity over the years, especially at chains like Starbucks.

In July 2021, another TikTok user similarly went viral online for sharing her frustrations towards the trend after being lumped with a $30 order from behind in a Starbucks drive-thru.

Cody Katrina racked up views in the millions after posting a video about her experience, saying: "My order was $10 and because you had to go and order for the person behind you, my anxiety ridden butt couldn't be like 'oh okay, thanks bye,' I had to pay for the person behind me. $30!

"For me, if this bill had been $100, I still would have felt obligated to pay it. It was a very kind gesture on the part of the person that paid for my drink, and if I saw them I would thank them," Katrina told Newsweek.

"I just wanted to open a discussion on the discomfort that comes along with the tradition of pay it forward."

In 2020, a Dairy Queen continued a chain for over 900 cars, stretching over two and a half days and, according to CNN, earned $10,000 in sales.

When the Dairy Queen closed for the night, a car even left a $10 bill to begin the chain again the next morning, and again the next day.

In 2014, Starbucks also saw a similar event with a chain of almost 400 cars making national news. However, like @im_blessed55, the chain abruptly ended when car number 379 ended it. It wasn't without its controversy either, with one headline even referring to the customer as a "cheap b***ard."