- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - Some customers at Starbucks shops around the Birmingham area have been getting an extra ingredient with their coffee: Kindness. Customers at shops in eastern Birmingham, Hoover and Vestavia Hills are paying it forward by anonymously picking up the tabs of others.

Sharon Dierking got a taste of the movement when she pulled up to the window at a Starbucks on U.S. 280 and the barista told her the driver in the car ahead of her had paid for her order.

“I was completely dumbfounded, but I was thrilled,” she said.

Dierking was last in line that day, but was able to return the kindness to another at a Starbucks in Inverness a few days later.

“It makes you feel good and it brightens your day,” she said.



A Starbucks spokeswoman said the Seattle-based company promoted a Cheer Pass program in 2007 to remind customers to spread kindness, but the recent phenomenon is “consumer-driven.”

Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the book “Pay It Forward,” launched the movement in 2000. Hyde wrote the book after two strangers helped her when she was stranded on a California road and her car caught fire.

Stacie Elm, a barista at an Alabaster Starbucks, said a line of five cars recently paid it forward. Customers are usually surprised to find out their order is already paid for, she said.

“Most are like, ‘You’re kidding,’” she said.

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Information from: The Birmingham News

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