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Mystery Couple Starts "Magical" Chain Reaction

It started with one mystery couple in a Philadelphia diner.  Without leaving their name or number, they paid for not only their food, but a random stranger's breakfast.  This set off a chain reaction of generosity.

The manager on duty, Linda (who asked that I not mention her last name here, for reasons I can't get into but let's just say everything worked out okay...), tells me that a couple in their 30s paid their check at the register, then asked the cashier to let them secretly pay the check of another couple in the dining room - a couple they didn't know.

"They just wanted to do it," she said. "They thought it would be a nice thing to do."

When the unsuspecting patrons went to pay their check, they were floored to find out that strangers had picked up their tab. So they asked the cashier to let them pay another table's check, also anonymously.

When that table's patrons approached the register, they, too, decided to pay the favor forward for yet another table of unsuspecting strangers.

You know where this is going, right?

For two hours, delighted customer after delighted customer continued to pay the favor forward. And a buzz began to grow. Not among patrons, who had no inkling what was going down at the register, but among the dining-room wait staff - Marvin, Rosie, Jasmine and Lynn - and other Aramingo workers moving in and out of the room.

"We were amazed," says Linda, adding that neither she nor her staffers that day recognized any of the participating patrons as regulars. "Nobody knew each other. But once they found out someone paid their check, they got excited and wanted to do the same thing for another table."


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Geekazoid.

@Jill the article (in the link) say's the chain was broken by a guy who was on his own and was confused that someone paid his bill, just grunted and left.

@Barking Bud Yeah as soon as I read this I thought, it sounds like an improve everywhere style stunt - following the idea that the whole thing was a show put on for the staff to make them feel warm fuzzies.

Nice if it's tru tho
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I would expect that publicity would be the death of something like this.

Much good goes unnoticed - but as soon as it's "recognised" and people get to hear about it the parasites descend.
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I doubt that patron after patron after patron got so excited at having their meal paid for by a stranger that they just had to do the same thing. Unless, that is, the staff told them what was going on.

Most people, upon learning that their bill was covered, would smile, feel happy, and leave.
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I'll join the downer parade. It sounds to me less like "magic" more like "guilt." Someone finds out someone else paid for their meal, they say, "Oh, well, I don't want to leave without paying for SOMETHING, so I guess I'll pay for that guy's meal."
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People do this all the time at Starbucks. The store I work with has a drive-thru, and we get a lot of customers who pay for their drink, then say that they want to pay for the car behind them as well. Sometimes the second car will pay for the third car, and so on, but usually it's just the two. People do get really confused when it happens to them, though. Some get angry, but most are just happy to get the free drink.
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I didn't reall break the chain, but after a nice couple paid for my Girlfriend's and my Surf and Turf, I saw a guy just having an espresso and covered him.
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I've been in one of those chains at a drive-thru starbucks. Upon learning the car in front of us paid for mine and my wife's drinks we absolutely paid for the car behind us. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I'm sure someone broke the chain, and that's fine. Do what you feel is right :)
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If it was Improv Everywhere, it would be on their website. They're typically very prompt about these sorts of things.
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Its a cool idea, but if everyone is "paying it foward" you're still paying... The only thing that really changed is your perception.(except for the last guy who really gets a freebie.) Maybe for some, thats enough.

I do wonder though: how many people pay-it-foward due to not liking the idea of someone paying for them vs actually wanting to pay for someone else.
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Call me a Grinch, but I really don't get these kinds of things. Wouldn't you be doing a heck of a lot more good giving money to someone who actually needs it, rather than a random restaurant-goer? I wouldn't want someone else paying for my meal - it would make me feel guilty.
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Gail Pink: it's not a positive story if it's completely made up, is it? In fact, I'd say that making up silly stories to fool people who think life works like a TV sitcom plot is something the 'Downer Parade' would do.

Also, since when did expressing doubt over a dubious story equate to 'Hating'?
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This also happened to me at a local drive through. I kept hearing the cars ahead of me honk and wondered what was going on - turns out they were honking and waving "thank you" to the car who'd just bought their breakfast. The girl at the window said it just happens every once in awhile and usually lasted for hours (until a car was the last in line).

Totally made my morning. You should try it sometime.
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@fnord: this kind of thing happens all the time on various scales; it's common on toll bridges, for instance.

And some things can just be kind of neat. They don't have to make sense on every level, like how it might be "better" to donate money to a shelter or how the literal math has most people paying basically what they would have paid anyway. There's something about the psychological process of being the recipient of generosity and then being inspired to exercise generosity to someone else. It feels good; it may make people feel connected to the rest of the human race moreso than they usually do, etc.

The impulse to poke holes in such a story says more about the poker than the phenomenon. What's the pay off there? Oh, continued smugness. Yay!!
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if it were to be a true 'pay it forward', you would pay for 3 people's meals. the 1->3 paradigm causes the 'chain' to become a 'tree', so one person can't break it. and the longer it goes, the less probable it can 'die out'.
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