Over the last few years, pay-it-forward chains at restaurant drive-throughs have become very common.  In fact, it seems like they have become even more common since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  It makes sense.  Everyone wants to do a good deed.

If, for some reason, you are unfamiliar with the concept, they start when a drive-through customer pays for their own order AND the order of the person behind them.  The chain continues when everyone buys into the concept and they continue to pay for the order of the person behind them.  There have been instances in the past where these chains go on FOR HOURS!

According to WJLA TV, in 2014, a chain at a Starbucks went on for eleven hours.  Actually, their story was specifically about the guy who ended that chain by refusing to pay for the person behind them.

Here’s where I come in…  There’s a good chance that I accidentally ended a pay-it-forward chain.  It never dawned on me what I was doing until hours later.

Last week, I took a station vehicle to get a coffee at a local restaurant.  I rolled up to the speaker, placed my order, and slowly (as part of a long line of traffic) worked my way toward the drive-through window.  I could see the person in front of my checking out my vehicle in their mirrors.  In case you did not know, all of our station vehicles are fully-wrapped.  They definitely stick out!  When I got to the window, the restaurant employee told me that the person in front of me had covered the cost of my coffee.  The arrogant jerk that I am, I just assumed the person had bought my coffee because they had seen me driving a radio station vehicle and they were a fan of the station.  I thanked the employee, took my iced coffee, and moved on with my day.

Hours later, when I was thinking about the scenario, I realized that the person in front of me could have been trying to start a pay-it-forward chain.

What had I done?

Yeah, I am not 100% sure that’s what was going on.  It is possible the person really was a fan of the station, but I still felt like a jerk.  The good news is that I came up with way to make good on it.  Next time I go for a coffee, I am going to start a chain.

Have you ever been responsible for starting, or ending, a pay-it-forward chain?

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