Drive Through Starbucks

by Alison Hodgins from Grande Prairie, AB
Jun 14, 14

Every fast-food employee knows that the Drive-Through window is the worst position. The window sticks with ice, the roar of engines hurts your ears, and your words are lost in the howling wind.

I work at Starbucks. 

And I love my job. But I hate the Drive-Through window.

Or I used to. 

It was freezing on the Tuesday afternoon when everything changed.

Every once in a while, it gets so cold in northern Alberta that car windows actually freeze shut. Drivers have to get out, stand in the cold, and scream their orders into the speaker box. Most customers take their frustration out on the employees.

This woman was different.

“I’ll get the next car’s order as well,” she said as she walked up to the window to pay.  

Though she was obviously freezing, her bright smile lit up her face.

“You can’t take their drinks,” I said, in confusion, my breath evaporating into fog around me.

The lady laughed. “No, but I’ll buy them,” she said. “Pay it forward and all that.”

Completely dumbfounded, I charged her as requested and explained what had happened to the next customer. Then I watched his expression change like a succession of photographs on a choppy slideshow — from frustration at being out in the cold, to surprise at this random act of kindness, and finally … to delight. 

“I suppose I’ll get the next one then,” he said, nodding at the driver behind him. He handed me the necessary cash and I gave him his pre-paid beverage.  

This continued for what seemed like forever. Customers pulled up irritated and rushed, to leave happy and calm.
Five cars, then ten, then twenty. Every one of them paying for the person behind. 

Some were shocked to find themselves spending more than they had anticipated. Others got their order for half the price or less.  

But as they drove off, nearly all of them honked and waved in gratitude.

And so I learned the power of one. It only takes one customer, one person, to change the entire flow of traffic. It only takes one moment, one smile, to warm up even the coldest of days.