A TikTok user and Starbucks customer by the name of Grace made a bit of a stir on the social media platform by filming herself as she proudly declared that she broke one of those infamous “pay it forward” chains that happen at the well-known coffee restaurant.

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The program allows customers to start a chain by agreeing to pay for the order of the person in line behind them, resulting in a nice surprise. However, the next customer is encouraged to continue the act of kindness for paying for the next person.

This can go on for some time, according to Starbucks workers, until someone breaks the chain by declining to pay for the next person in line and taking their order for free.

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Grace was one of these people, and she is not sorry about it.

At first, when she was told that she didn’t have to pay for her food and drink, she couldn’t believe it.

“And I’m like, ‘Tim! Stop messing with me. You always mess with me like this,'” she said. “And he’s like, ‘You don’t have to pay me. The person in front of me paid for your drink and food as a nice gesture.'”

“And I was like, ‘THIS IS AN EPIC DAY! Today is my best day ever. People are so kind. WOW!'”

Then Tim told her about the chain system and that she could, if she wanted, continue it by paying for the order of the person behind her. Her elation turned to disappointment, until she decided to do something nice for herself by accepting the charity she was offered — and she doesn’t think that was wrong. In fact, she thinks the entire program is basically a coercive chain of guilt.

“So you’re telling me that these people were shamed and caught into this conga line of morality that they had to give the gesture back?” she asks. “I’m not that girl. I deserve to have a good day. I deserve this free sandwich, dude. You’re not taking this away from me.”

“That defeats the whole point of someone doing something nice for me.”

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Grace is not the first to complain about the “pay it forward” system at Starbucks. Early this year, another TikTok user made a video saying that he broke the chain because the total for the order behind him was $46 when his own bill was just $6. People tend to feel guilty for breaking the chain, but not everyone has a spare $40 to throw around.

Additionally, baristas have spoken out against this practice because keeping track of the orders and who is paying is another pain in the neck on top of an already fast-paced and exhausting job with customers who expect both speed and perfection. And at the end of the day, only one person is helped.

“YES and baristas hate pay it forward chains,” wrote one commenter, “the people that do them never tip either… Honestly they should donate their money to a charity instead.”

For Grace, the system threatened to ruin her day rather than brighten it once she learned that there was a social pressure to keep the chain going.

“Immediately I was bummed out because I wanted to embrace the free sweet-cream cold brew and spinach feta wrap and continue my day,” she explained to BuzzFeed. “I am not the kind of person afraid to admit they like free things.”

A strong majority of commenters seemed to agree with this sentiment.

“The reason I pay for the person behind me is so that they get it for free, it defeats the purpose if they also have to pay,” said another coffee lover.

Grace herself used an interesting metaphor to describe this odd phenomenon known as “pay it forward.”

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“How can one successfully implement a good deed if it is unknowingly tossed around like a morality hot potato? How long could this go on? Who is the one that is going to accept it? Is that person breaking the pay it forward just a selfish person who thinks they deserve handouts?”

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*First Published: September 23, 2022, 12:59 pm