BLOOMINGTON - Call it the spirit of the season. For more than three hours Tuesday, drive-through customers at the Starbucks on Bloomington's east side didn't pay for the coffee they ordered.
Rather, as each customer reached the drive-through window, he or she was told the order had been paid by the driver who had just pulled away.
By the time it was over, about 142 people had spread the Christmas spirit.
It all started about 9:20 a.m. when an anonymous woman told the drive-through worker at the restaurant at Veterans Parkway and Washington Street that she wanted to pay for the person behind her in line, said employee Erik Zambrano.
"She just wanted to wish the next person a merry Christmas," Zambrano said.
Initially, the Pantagraph heard the spirit of giving was going on at the nearby Krispy Kreme doughnut business. But a check showed it wasn't going on there.
But a later inquiry at Starbucks proved the Christmas spirit was alive and well. In fact, said Zambrano, people kept paying for the orders of the motorists in front of them until 12:57 p.m.
"I explained the person in front of them had paid for their order. Customers would offer to pay for the order behind them," Zambrano said. "Typically, they were ecstatic the person had paid for their order."
Customers really wanted to keep the chain going, said Zambrano, adding, "It has happened before. Someone would pay for a drink, but not that many. (Tuesday) it just went on and on and on."
Occasionally, the store saw some breaks in business, but the random acts of kindness didn't end just because the line was empty: A few drivers donated about $5 toward the next person's order if no one else was waiting, Zambrano said.
A typical order was $3 to $5, he said, though an occasional person had a large order.
"Sometimes, they would pay part of those large orders," Zambrano said. "Then (the person who placed the order) would pay the rest, but that didn't happen too often."