Starbucks Social Experiment: Would You Buy Coffee for a Stranger?

Living 2011/08/11 18:30:04
Add Photos & Videos
What if, instead of leaving a "give a penny, take a penny" tray on the counter at Starbucks, they set up a "give a coffee, take a coffee" system? And what if they made that system available to anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world?

Well, they didn't. But Jonathan did.

Jonathan's Card is a unique social experiment being carried out by Jonathan Stark, a mobile application consultant from Rhode Island. The premise is simple, but the way he put it to use is remarkable.

Basically, all he did was take a picture of his iPhone mobile Starbucks card and make it available to the public. Anyone in the world with access to a Starbucks and a smartphone can walk into their local branch and use the picture of Jonathan's Card to buy a coffee.

The card cannot be used once the balance hits zero, of course, but here's where the "give a penny" comes in.

You don't even have to have a smartphone to put money on the card. All you have to do is go to Starbucks' website, plug in the card number, and click "Reload." It allows generous users to either make a donation, or pay their karmic dues.

Jonathan's Card has been public for about a month now, but it only recently started seeing large amounts of transactions. Ever since Stark's idea was picked up by the media, the card has been dipping from $100 to $0 and back again every hour or two.

Stark told CNN on Monday, "It's been a bit emotional, actually. People's reactions have ranged from accusing me of stealing to thanking me for renewing their faith in humanity. It's been very uplifting overall, but it does hurt when the occasional pessimists -- someone games the system or sends negativity my way."

You can track the card's balance at its official Twitter feed.
Add a comment above

Top Opinion

Sort By
  • Most Raves
  • Least Raves
  • Oldest
  • Newest

  • Dan Hood 2011/08/15 18:59:14
    Dan Hood
    I really like this. It's a cool thing to be doing.
  • Christina 2011/08/15 16:43:12
    i use to buy coffee every morning for this homeless guy that hung out on the corner at the metro I use to use to go to work.
  • Yuki ~ ♦Lion King of PHÆT♦ 2011/08/15 15:16:47
    Yuki ~ ♦Lion King of PHÆT♦
    I like this social experiment. =)

    I always drop my spare change from buying stuff in the give/take penny places, or the donation boxes for causes. Usually at places like whole foods.
  • Kaylee Anna Rose 2011/08/15 14:24:41
    Kaylee Anna Rose
    But onley if the person is homeless or hurt.
  • Tigger Too 2011/08/15 11:18:51
    Tigger Too
    Actually, I HAVE bought coffee for a stranger. I was coming out of a shopping mall one evening, right around Christmas, and there was an old homeless man standing in the parking lot asking for money. I told him I wouldn't give him any cash, because I didn't want it spent on booze or drugs. Instead, I went back into Sear's and bought him a hat and gloves. Then I told him to meet me over at the McDonald's across the street. I went in and bought him a meal, and two cups of hot coffee. I mean, it was FREEZING that night, and he must have been cold as hell standing outside with no gloves or hat to wear. I will never regret my act of kindness toward a stranger.
  • Xinea 2011/08/15 07:24:53
    I would donate to John's experiment though because it's cool.
  • sally 2011/08/15 04:54:15
    Not the way he did.
  • RageFury 2011/08/15 04:53:58
    I am not opposed to it once in awhile when I have the spare cash. I usually drop my pennies in the trays anyways...
  • Dan 2011/08/15 03:36:08
    Food is a different story, but no one is going to starve if they don't get their Starbucks. I just think that money could be better spent helping the needy.
  • Jessakash 2011/08/15 03:03:50
    sure why not
  • Mechelle 2011/08/15 03:01:12
    There should have been an UNDECIDED CHOICE. Here is why. I would buy a stranger a cup of coffee but not at starbucks. With their prices are you kidding me right now? I know they are trying to beef up their rep by doing something nice and sweet and warm. But let's get real, Starbucks is the most expensive place to buy coffee. Anywhere else? Yes I probably would.
  • wilsonmja 2011/08/15 01:44:03
    I would do this. This is an example of people helping people out willingly instead of the government stealing your money and giving it away to anybody they see fit.
  • E.G. 2011/08/15 00:21:49
    Not at the prices Starbucks charges for a lousy cup of burnt tasting coffee with a weird name. Would I make a pot of coffee and drink it with total strangers? Already done. *grin*
  • Denis B 2011/08/14 23:54:07
    Denis B
    If I can buy two cups of coffee, why not. It is nice to be important, it is more important to be nice.
  • Lizzie Sparkes 2011/08/14 23:20:21
    Lizzie Sparkes
    sure why not
  • Jenna ☮♡ッ 2011/08/14 21:24:36 (edited)
    Jenna ☮♡ッ
    Sure, I would.
  • it'skrissie!d:) 2011/08/14 21:14:29
    Sure when I was in the coffee shop, but I would never give out my card. That's a bit dumb.
  • sweeturock41 2011/08/14 15:33:06
    Just offer to pay for the coffee of the car behind you in the morning. I worked at a coffee shop where this would happen and the effect was incredible. Sometimes it would continue on for cars and cars and sometimes only that one car would know about it and it would change their whole day. Completely worth it and inexpensive to do.
  • C. C. R... sweetur... 2011/08/15 11:00:22
    C. C. Rider
    That happened to me at Dunkin donuts!! At first I said I did not know the people in front of me and the clerk explained, and I loved it.
  • angel sweetur... 2011/12/12 05:02:32
    The car ahead of us at the drive-thru paid for mine and my hubby's coffee. It did make our day. We laughed for hours at the absurdity and stupidity of buying coffee for strangers who could afford it. If they had wanted to do something to make themselves and someone else happy then they should have taken that money and bought a coffee and a sandwich for any of the cold homeless people who hang out in the area, or put it in the red Christmas kettle, or used it to buy 20 canned food items for the Food Bank, or any other number of worthwhile things. That's what we do - and that is inexpensive and worth it.
  • Aes Sedai 2011/08/14 15:29:20
    Aes Sedai
    "Don't talk to strangers...unless you want to meet anyone ever."
    --Dmitri Martin
  • C. C. Rider 2011/08/14 15:17:29 (edited)
    C. C. Rider
    I would say at least once a day I will buy a coffee for someone, but I will take control of that situation, not anyone else. I have also stood behind a harrased, stressed out parent with kids who ran about 5 bucks short on their bill, and could just die. And help them out. The oddest was a man who was at a bus stop in one of the worst rains, thunder storms to hit in a long time. and it was not clearing up for awhile, he was just sitting there getting drenched...I NEVER do this but I stopped and told him to get in. He got in and he must have cried for an half hour! We never said a word, I just let him cry. I got him to the address he wanted and out he went. He said Thank you for everything. I was to see him later and he had started a type of pick up service that runs ONLY during BAD WEATHER! LOL I am a BIG believer in RANDOM acts of kindness.
  • C. C. R... C. C. R... 2011/08/14 15:20:37
  • Mechelle C. C. R... 2011/08/15 03:08:03
    God Bless You.
  • C. C. R... Mechelle 2011/08/15 10:38:10
    C. C. Rider
    I wish I could say it was an originial thought, but really I got it from all the people who have been kind to me. God Bless you too.
  • Mechelle C. C. R... 2011/08/15 19:29:44
    It kinda was an original thought. You were in the right place at the right time and God knew you and you alone would take care of that man. Maybe God held him while he cried and your car was there safe haven for rest. Everything happens for a reason. I believe you are truly a gift from God. Have a blessed day.
  • C. C. R... Mechelle 2011/08/15 19:35:42
    C. C. Rider
    thank you for such a beautiful compliment.
  • Mechelle C. C. R... 2011/08/15 19:37:56
    I just speak what my heart believes. You are welcome.
  • intolerantrwj 2011/08/14 13:58:30
    ..... I've actually bought two of whatever on countless occasions and gave the second to the person on the sidewalk in the wheelchair with no legs .... I have it better then they do, so I share.

    The ' Yo' man, give me a dollar guys ' .... usually get a ' Go 'eff yourself ' ..... and you never walk as your saying it, stand your ground while your saying it
  • Wizard 2011/08/14 09:10:18
    If I had the money and someone was in need, I might.
    Folks have done it for me, and my late mother.
    One lady even left us $20 to get my autistic sister something to eat, as we squabbled in a restaurant over the menu, when she overheard us.
    People can surprise you with kindness when you least expect it.
  • Mz.Torrie 2011/08/14 08:28:41
    I always do. mainly at TH. it's cheaper and i like it. it makes me feel good to see the smile that they have once i give em' the money :]
  • ElisaGalvan 2011/08/14 05:10:44
    depends on the situation im guessing... lol
  • Shawn 2011/08/14 01:41:40
    Sure, but it most likely be a hot chic! I don't know about this way, but I read a few articles on it and it's pretty cool. I'd do it.
  • Steven 2011/08/13 21:29:05
    This is stupid. People who have smart phones don't need coffee bought for them.
  • angel Steven 2011/12/12 05:15:08
    Can I get an AMEN to that?
  • Olivia27 2011/08/13 18:38:20
    It's a nice/interesting idea but overall it doesn't seem logical. People can buy their own coffee. No need to complicate it.
  • Cloaked_In_Darkness 2011/08/13 16:51:57
    Why not?
  • Cosmosoddgirl 2011/08/13 16:34:49
    If I had the $ and they really needed it.
  • EastIndianFemme 2011/08/13 16:05:57
    Yes, for womyn only!!

    womyn shane l word
    womyn olivia wilde
  • cutter's falls 2011/08/13 14:17:32

See Votes by State

The map above displays the winning answer by region.


2016/02/14 16:53:19

Hot Questions on SodaHead
More Hot Questions

More Community More Originals