The acts of kindness began at 7 a.m. Wednesday with a woman, her iced coffee and a stranger's caramel macchiato.
The woman paid for her own drink, then asked to pay for the drink of the person behind her in the drive-through. That person returned the favor and paid for the person behind, and so did that person, until the employees at the St. Petersburg Starbucks on Tyrone Boulevard began a tally on green laminated paper near the drive-through window.
By 1:30 p.m., the chain had reached 260 customers.
People ordered a drink at the speaker. When they pulled through to the next window, the barista, Vu Nguyen, 29, leaned through and said with a smile that their drinks had already been paid for by the person in front of them. Would they like to return the favor?
"It makes your day better, I think," said Lexie Kane, 17, of St. Petersburg, who ordered an iced coffee.
Tim Burnside, 19, had visited in the morning and paid it forward. He returned later to see whether it was still going on. Seeing that it was, he ordered a second chai tea.
"It's nice just to do a random act of kindness for someone you don't know," said Burnside, also of St. Petersburg.
Some said the simple act connected them to all of the others in line before them. Others said they didn't want to be the jerk to end it.
The baristas inside began to think of what they might do if it lasted until 10 p.m., when the Starbucks closed. Perhaps they could put the final amount on a gift card and continue the next day? They tallied 378 people by early evening.
Then at 6 p.m., customer No. 379 — a woman in a white Jeep Commander — pulled into the drive-through and ordered a regular coffee.
Nguyen leaned out the window. He told her about the chain that had begun that morning. Would she like to participate? The woman declined, saying she just wanted to pay for her $2.25 drink and not someone else's.
Nguyen said it appeared the woman didn't understand the concept of paying it forward.
A random act of kindness called 'paying-it-forward' happened more than 330 times in an unbroken chain on Wednesday at a Bay area Starbucks, according to the store manager.
"It was a pleasant surprise," said customer Melissa Garrand. "Everybody likes their coffee paid for. So, it was nice."
It happened at the Starbucks located at 2186 Tyrone Boulevard, in St. Petersburg.
Store manager Grant Drain said it started at 7 a.m. with a woman in her mid-60's and by 4 p.m. a whopping 333 customers had kept it going, which more than doubled that stores previous record.
"Someone started a good thing and we’re just trying to carry the ball," said customer John Myers.
"I paid for the two cars behind me," said customer Sharon Taylor. "I was feeling generous today."
Garrand said she bought a gift card to pay it forward because there was nobody in line behind her.
"I had nobody behind me. So, I just bought a gift card in the amount of mine," she said. "So, whoever’s next will get it."
Customer Lucy Ramon said she paid it forward twice in the same day. This morning Ramon said she was No. 57 and by the afternoon she was No. 297.
"I think it just puts a smile on people’s face and it made me happy this morning," she said. "It actually showed my son here a nice little lesson as well. So, it’s a great thing."
"It’s nice to have people being nice to each other," Garrand said.
The Starbucks manager said the previous record was 141 times.
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