How to get more coffee than you can drink

A mobile app consultant from the US has persuaded 1,000 people to contribute to the balance on his Starbucks card
Cup of Starbucks Coffee
If you have a smartphone, it seems you can always get a coffee. Photograph: Alamy Photograph: Alamy

Forgive Jonathan Stark if he seems a bit caffeinated. In a unique crowd-sharing experiment, this new father from Rhode Island in the US has persuaded more than 1,000 strangers to contribute to the balance of his Starbucks card.

The idea behind Stark's card is simple: if you don't have the money to buy a coffee, but you do have a smartphone, you can download his Starbucks card barcode and make a purchase. Once in a while, Stark hopes you'll give something back – and so far more than 1,000 strangers have ploughed over $11,000 (£6,760) back into the pot.

"Get a coffee, give a coffee" started with Stark, a mobile app consultant, playing around with the Starbucks app. "I thought it hilarious that I managed to buy a coffee with a picture," he says. "I went to my blog, put $20 on the card, uploaded the barcode image, and told everyone that the next person at Starbucks would get a free coffee."

A surprising number of people took him up on the offer – and after a while he noticed the balance had gone up. "That freaked me out as I thought someone had hacked my account," Stark remembers. "It turned that one of the guys who'd read my original post had discovered that you could anonymously put money on anyone's card as long as you had the number. That's when the lightbulb went on. I set up the website, the Twitter feed and in the last week it has gone from 100 followers to over 13,000. It's overwhelming."

Starbucks is working with him to find the best way to use his card benefits, which allow him a free drink after every 15 purchases. "Initially I thought the free coffee would be added to the card but that's not the case," he explains. "They send you a postcard. At one point I had over 1,000 coffees owed so the plan is to wait until it dies down a bit, take a month of transactions, work out what the money equivalent is – it could be $10,000 or more – and give it to charity."


Lisa Marks

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Unicorn, Dragon and Mermaid Frappuccino – Starbucks’ latest crimes against coffee
The cafe giant has instigated a new trend for luridly coloured coffee drinks – which reviewers have likened to mouthwash mixed with sugar. But is there a simpler way to get an enjoyable caffeine fix?

Homa Khaleeli

02, May, 2017 @5:03 PM

Article image
Boycotting Starbucks? What's the best-tasting alternative?

Where should you head if you're unhappy with the company's policy on corporation tax? Our reporter samples the options

Oliver Thring

11, Dec, 2012 @4:00 PM

Article image
Hot coffee: how Britain fell in love with the bean

How do you take your coffee? As the drink goes (quite literally) from strength to strength on high streets, we look at how our love affair is moving to a whole new level

Stuart Jeffries

19, Dec, 2012 @7:00 AM

Ravi Somaiya: The hottest coffee maker in the world

Ravi Somaiya: The arrival of a revolutionary coffee machine has led to queues stretching out the door

Ravi Somaiya

31, Aug, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Why America’s coffee drinkers can’t resist a shot of civil litigation
Two Californians are suing Starbucks for underfilling their cups – but they’re not the first to take US coffee vendors to court ...

Will Dean

27, Jun, 2016 @12:57 PM

Article image
Why did 1,701 people apply for just eight barista jobs?

Times are hard and coffee culture is on the rise, but does the story of this Nottingham branch of Costa Coffee point to bigger changes in British society?

Leo Benedictus

20, Feb, 2013 @7:19 PM

Article image
How the duffin, a muffin-doughnut hybrid, is provoking cake rage
A teatime treat developed by London tearoom Bea's of Bloomsbury is at the centre of a row with Starbucks over trademarks that's leaving a nasty taste in the mouth

Jon Henley

08, Oct, 2013 @3:57 PM

Article image
How to spot a fake indie business

The part-Tesco-owned coffee chain Harris + Hoole has confused customers who thought they were sipping non-corporate lattes

Leo Benedictus

03, Jan, 2013 @3:06 PM

Article image
Ignore the foodie scrooges: I love ​a​ ​high-street ​​eggnog latte​
They may be saccharine-sweet marketing vehicles, but festive drinks from the likes of Starbucks and Costa fill me with joy – which is surely the point

Ruby Tandoh

30, Nov, 2016 @3:18 PM

Article image
Coffee shop revolution continues to stimulate the high street
The UK already has 15,000 coffee outlets and is about to get thousands more thanks to our increasingly sophisticated taste

Rupert Neate

22, Jun, 2012 @4:19 PM