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Starbucks pay-it-forward chain starts again; blogger purposely breaks it

Perhaps we can blame it on the halo effect. Something really nice happened at a Starbucks in St. Petersburg Wednesday, and Thursday it started happening again.

A poster to the Times' Facebook page said another "pay it forward" chain had started, and she was No. 37. By the time a call was placed to Starbucks around 11:50 a.m., the chain had grown to 160 and was still going. A harried employee who answered the phone then referred all phone calls to a media hotline.

Then at 2 p.m. came some disheartening news. The chain was broken by local blogger Peter Schorsch, who wrote on his website that he purposely put an end to it.

Schorsch objected to what he perceived as a guilt trip being placed on customers. Here's an excerpt:

What is not an act of kindness is what was happening today at the same Starbucks, where customers were being told that they had had their drink paid for and then asked would they like to pay for the drink of the person next in line.

That's not generosity, that's guilt.

When a new 'Pay It Forward' chain started today, I had to put an end to it.

So, yes, I drove to the Starbucks, purchased two Venti Mocha Frappuccinos and, even though someone in front of me had paid for one of my drinks, I declined the barista's suggestion to pay for the drink of the person behind me.

The Times could not immediately confirm that the chain had been broken after several attempts to reach the store.

The Times has previously reported that the baristas at the window handled the chain like this: 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?

A spokeswoman for Starbucks explained Thursday afternoon that Starbucks "by no means has the expectation for the customer to carry it on."

"More times than not, they are so appreciative and happy that they offer to do it," said Linda Mills.

Some of the customers Wednesday 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. In the end Wednesday, 378 people kept the chain alive, until No. 379 declined to continue.

On Thursday, this continued spirit of giving stopped with Schorsch, but he did claim that "I gave a the baristas a $100 tip just to prove that I am not a 100% grinch."