10/19/13, "Ma’am, Your Burger Has Been Paid For,
" NY Times Sunday Review, Kate Murphy
“The people ahead of you paid it forward,” the cashier will chirp as she passes your food through the window.
This is taking place at a time when the nation’s legislators can’t speak
a civil word unless reading from Dr. Seuss. “We really don’t know why
it’s happening but if I had to guess, I’d say there is just a lot of
stuff going on in the country that people find discouraging,” said Mark
Moraitakis, director of hospitality at Chick-fil-A, which is based in
Atlanta. “Paying it forward is a way to counteract that.”
While confusing in the context of paying for the car behind you in a
drive-through, “pay it forward” means to repay a kindness by being kind
to someone else rather than the person who was kind to you.
Whereas paying it forward in drive-throughs occurred maybe once or twice
a year a decade ago, now fast-food operators said it might happen
several times a day.
“This is an example of goodness gone viral,” said Ms. Ryan, who since
the publication of “Pay It Forward” has become somewhat of a
clearinghouse for random acts of kindness. “People bring me their
pay-it-forward stories, and I’ve been hearing about the drive-through
phenomenon a lot lately.”
Serial pay-it-forward incidents involving between 4 and 24 cars have
been reported at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Del Taco, Taco Bell,
KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Maryland, Florida, California,
Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North
Dakota, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington.
More typically, though, it’s one customer acting alone and perhaps
routinely. “We have a lady who always pays it forward in the
drive-through, every day,” said Aaron Quinton, co-owner of Old School
Bagel Cafe, in Tulsa, Okla. “I point at the person behind and she just
The anonymity of the drive-through makes it especially easy to pay it
forward because it dispenses with any awkwardness and suspicion about
motives. The payer pulls away before the next car pulls up and discovers
a gift that is impossible to refuse.
She said her kindness stemmed from feeling
blessed and wanting to share her good fortune. But others have told
drive-through cashiers they wanted to pay it forward in gratitude to
drivers who waved their car ahead of them in line or after noticing in
the rearview mirror a woman weeping into her steering wheel, and wanting
to make her smile. Cancer survivors have done it in appreciation of
life, and new parents have done it to celebrate their baby.
But more often there is an expressed desire to do something good
time when so much else in the
world seems so dishearteningly bad. It’s a
stark contrast, and perhaps a backlash, to the seemingly unremitting
reports of unkindness in the news — politicians shutting down the
government, N.S.A. spying, teenage suicides resulting from
cyber-bullying, vicious slayings at a mall in Kenya, gas attacks in
“It’s about giving, and letting people see not everybody is bad, and
there are nice people out there and maybe we can turn it around,” said
Connie Herring, an optical technician in St. Pauls, N.C., who pays it
forward at drive-throughs at least once a week.
But her generosity has its limits
. “I don’t do it at Starbucks because I
did it there once and that one time ended up costing me 12 bucks,” she
said. “You can’t pay it forward if you’re broke.""