Why One Guy Lets Anyone Use His Starbucks Card

Inside Jonathan Stark's social experiment
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2011 12:39 PM CDT

(Newser) – Need a pick-me-up but can't afford a dose of caffeine at your local Starbucks? Jonathan Stark can help. The mobile applications consultant is currently running a social sharing experiment—he's letting people use his Starbucks card to buy coffee, at no cost to them. Stark hit on the idea while researching mobile payments, which he believes are the wave of the future. He began allowing people to download a picture of his Starbucks card's bar code and use it—on their smartphones, via a printout, even on their laptops—and he also asked people to pay it forward by helping to fund the card.

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The experiment picked up over the weekend, when it went viral; most of the $4,400 that had been spent on the card as of yesterday had been spent in the prior two days. Stark estimates $4,000 of that was funded by anonymous donations, since he hasn't put money on it in a while. "All the money going through the card right now is the kindness of strangers," he tells the Los Angeles Times. And though some have criticized him for "[giving] away coffee to people with iPhones," he sees it as "giving people hope. ... Imagine if you had a CVS card and you could give someone $10 for their Alzheimer's medication." Want to use the card? Read more here or check the balance on Twitter. (Read more social media stories.)

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