What $150.69 will get you at Starbucks

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?

Thanks to Carla from Carla’s Funky Art for the awesome Starbucks picture.

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Banana Toblerone Pancakes

It’s no doubt that you already know I’m a fan of Toblerone after reading about my Toblerone Americano. Another breakfast favorite that we have in the house is Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes. In fact some of us in the house love them so much that we decided to make them for dinner tonight.

The only issue was that we ran out of chocolate chips last weekend — all of the kinds we had. When making chocolate chip pancakes typically using the mini-chipits works best so you don’t end up with a mouthful of just chocolate; not that it would be a bad thing. I went digging in the pantry and came across some Toblerone still to use up before the next holiday season. That’s when the light went on and I decided it made sense to substitute Toblerone for chocolate chips.

Much like the Toblerone Americano, making the Banana Toblerone Pancakes, though they should like be called Toblerone Banana Pancakes as there’s clearly more Toblerone than Banana, begins with preparing the Toblerone.

  1. Cut the Toblerone into small chunks. Toblerone is really good at melting so I was confident that it would work.
  2. Preheat the griddle to 350F. If you’re going to spray Pam or any sort of non-stick spray, do it when it’s cold.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients, including the Toblerone. I’m a bit of a lazy name brand cook and always reach for the Aunt Jemima ‘complete’ pancake mix whenever I can.
  4. Grab a few “dead” or “overly ripe” bananas from the freezer and thaw them in the microwave. About 20 seconds on high is enough, flipping once during the process.
  5. Cut open the banana and add it to the mix. Be sure to break up the banana chunks a little in advance. It makes for less lumpy pancakes.
  6. Add the recommended water to the bowl plus a little extra to make pouring the mix easier.
  7. Mix it all together with a spatula — there’s no need to get out the mixer. It can get messy, but it’s so easy a two year-old can do it. In fact, I encourage her help. They just taste better.
  8. Let the batter ‘rise’ for a few minutes. It’s simple — just leave it sitting on the counter while waiting for the few remaining minutes for the griddle to heat up.
  9. Pour about a 1/4 cup of the mix onto the griddle and cook as per the instructions on the box — or however you would normally cook them.
  10. Stack them up and enjoy.

Just a quick side note that I used some organic agave berry syrup on them this time and thankfully I barely used any. These are sweet. Like very sweet pancakes (and not in that “Dude where’s my car” sweet way). Occasionally when making the Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes, I’ll also add in some coconut. With the Toblerone the golden nugget seems to be enough to give some additional flavor.

Honestly, I know it doesn’t take much, but I was impressed along with the others who happened to enjoy dinner. I’ve noticed a craze around bacon for the last year and am starting to wonder if there’s a niche for different ways to use Toblerone.

What are some of the ways you use Toblerone or would like to see me try it out? Let me know. I’d be happy to share the results.

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Forget @Starbucks – 4 steps to a Toblerone Americano

What can I say? I’m a huge lover of Toblerone. You know the triangles of Swiss chocolate and yummy nugget. Add to that my love for coffee and it’s easy to see how I arrived at the idea for my Toblerone Americano.

Below you’ll see my pictorial guide and how to duplicate the awesomeness.

Step 1: Time to shave. I happened to have a nice big 750g Toblerone bar available for use. I grabbed my Henkel cleaver to start shaving away at one of the pyramids of the Gods chocolate. The photo shows about 1/3 of a shaved pyramid. It’s all I used the first time I made a Toblerone Americano…it wasn’t enough. The second time was better. Use at least 50% of a Toblerone pyramid.

Step 2: Pull those shots of fresh ground bean. In this case I’m using 100% pure Kona coffee whole bean that I grind myself. Water is purified from the tap and all done using the Breville we have on the counter. Make it a double of course. You want to ensure that your efforts maximize the caffeine result.

Step 3: Mix it all together. Now you need to pay careful attention to the order in which the components are mixed as it has been known to impact the flavor. First take your shaved Toblerone and place it into a mug of your choosing. In this case I chose a thermal travel mug from a Starbucks in Hawaii (you can probably make the Kona coffee connection now). Add the two hot espresso shots to the mug. At this point either agitate the mug in a circular motion, or mix the chocolate and espresso with a spoon. Then add in almost boiling hot water to the top of the mug and stir with a spoon. If you don’t stir it, you’re likely to enjoy a burning hot moutful of hot water on your first sip…speaking from experience.

Step 4: Enjoy it. Sit back and relax while you enjoy your custom created Toblerone Americano. You did after all take a lot of manual work to get it done. As a bonus tip, be sure to agitate the beverage before taking sips every so often. This ensures that the chocolate and nugget are mixed into the espresso.

Myself I normally take my coffee with milk and sweetener. In the Tim Horton’s world of coffee (if you can call it that) it would be a double-double for sure. The only downside, if you can call it that, to Toblerone Americano is that on occasion the nugget doesn’t get a chance to completely dissolve when you take the last sip. This really, is about the only time your coffee should ever crunch.

I hope that you enjoy making your own and let me know how it turns out. If you’ve got something else you think I should mix in my coffee, let me know. I’m game for eating a lot of strange things but I will only try things that will make coffee tastier.

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A burnin’ desire

It’s been a desire of ours for the last while to go for some good sushi. You may remember our visit to Kinjo Sushi and how great that was. Well today for dinner we had a friend in from out of town and decided it was time to try Globefish Sushi. There were 6 of us in total, including my 8½ month old daughter. We got there just before 5:00 when they opened and were amazed there was already a line…definitely a good sign. They opened the door promptly at 5:00 and we were seated quickly even though we were still waiting on one person. The place filled up quickly and within about 15 minutes there were already people waiting to be seated.

The menu was easy to read and definitely had a Calgary influence, including an Alberta Roll (beef rolled sushi). I opted for the Flames Roll Combo which was spicy tuna roll, spicy salmon roll and spicy California roll as well as a 7-piece salmon sashimi. There were other options like the Iginla roll, Flames Sushi Combo and more. It wasn’t until I left that I noticed all the autographed Calgary Flames photos on the wall…no doubt frequented by a lot of them. The service overall was pretty good, though nothing quite compares to the owner coming around offering free sushi samples. His recommendation on saki was bang on (it really just tasted like apple juice – even though it was made with plums) and everyone enjoyed their food. Even my 8½ had some teriyaki chicken and a few edamame beans. The price wasn’t that bad and with tip averaged out to roughly $36 a person…not including my 8½ month old.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend checking out Globefish Sushi in Calgary. We went to the one in Kensington however they have another one in Marda Loop. I look forward to eating there again.

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