It seemed like an unsuspecting morning at the Starbucks at my office. I was greeted in the early morning by our regular barista, Val. We exchanged a little bit if chit chat and then I asked her the question. No, not “the” question, just a question if she was willing to help me out with an experiment; a view into human reaction and interaction. Thankfully, she said yes.
So that brings me to this experiment I’m dubbing “Starbucks Pay It Forward” or SPIF (not to be confused with a sales promotion incentive fund). Let me begin with a little history. About three years ago I was going through the drive through at a Kelowna Starbucks location. When it was my turn to pay, the barista smiled and said it had already been taken care of. I was beside myself. Who would do such a thing? And then, almost like it smacked me in the head, I turned back to her and said I would pay for the person behind me in line. I have no clue if the person behind me paid for the next person or not and honestly I don’t care. Every now and then it’s simply nice to get something for nothing. And today, on February 2, 2011 just happened to be one of those days.
Around 8:00 I walked up to the counter and handed over a pre-paid Starbucks Card – registered of course to ensure I get the extra benefits – and took a seat nearby to watch the reactions and activity unfold. The entire staff already knew what was going on. Apparently Val had explained it in advance to ensure it was as smooth a process as possible.
“people were shocked so much they didn’t even say thank you”
In the first few minutes I managed to catch a few reactions. Most people, had none, but some appeared to be shocked. I couldn’t sit around forever, so headed back up to my desk to get to work. About 45 minutes later I logged in to my Starbucks account to view the balance of the card – and it was $0.
I headed back downstairs to claim the empty card and some reactions. Apparently it didn’t even take 20 minutes to use up the entire card balance. Speaking with Adrian, the guy who essentially manages the location, he said it went quick and that most people were surprised. “A lot of people were shocked so much they didn’t even say thank you,” he told me. “But everyone seemed grateful.”
The interesting thing is that I can easily estimate the crazy amount of revenue this Starbucks location does. As the amount on the card was $150.69 – the $0.69 was left over from previous transactions. Based on the fact it took 20 minutes to rip through the funds and the location is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm I would conservatively estimate they do $4000 in revenue a day ($1M based on 250 days a year). I had to reduce it a little because it was clearly a peak time for coffee goers.
Most people are grateful when they get something for nothing, but overall just don’t know how to show it. Remember sometimes that a “thank you” can go a long way to the person on the other side of the counter. These people are serving us, the consumer and more often than not, help to add a certain level of pleasure to your day. Be nice to them.
I did this experiment without the need or hope of recognition, I honestly did. If you happened to receive one of these free drinks, there’s no need to thank me or anyone else – I simply hope you enjoyed it. The SPIF was an experiment in social behaviors that I felt like doing funded by my Calgary Web Design & Marketing company. If you feel like thanking me, check out my stuff and like the Facebook Group for it.
With or without money you can have a positive effect on others around you. Even as simple as holding open a door. Be sure to recognize those who help you or give you a hand, even with a simple thank you. Now I’m curious to know, how will you pay it forward today?