- 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.


Information from: The Birmingham News

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