Iowans, Lets Have A Discussion About Paying It Forward [OPINION]
You've read and heard all kinds of stories of people paying for coffee for the person behind them or paying for the meal of the car behind them in the drive-through. Let me start by saying, this is a really kind and sweet gesture, and the people who do this surely mean well.
It's a simple thing to do and an easy way you can do something nice for someone else. We need more kindness in the world, so if this is your way of trying to be a good person, I'm not trying to stop that. With that said...I hate this.
If you've never had someone pay it forward for you while waiting in the drive-through, here's basically what happens. You order your food, approach the window to pay, and the person working the checkout informs you that the car in front of you has paid for your item/s. This has happened to me twice and both times I immediately start to wonder if I'm being pranked. After that wears off, I start to panic.
Maybe this is just me but I immediately start to feel a bit of pressure to offer to pay for the person behind me. Now, it's not the person who's working the checkout's fault at all. They're just doing their job but you can't tell me you wouldn't feel a little bit of pressure or judgment if you just took your order and drove off. I always feel obligated to pay for the person behind me.
The problem is, what if I order something that turns out to be $8 and in my rearview mirror I see a minivan with a family of 6 in it? Odds are, that order is going to be way more than my $8. I could just ask the cashier to take off $8 from their order but when they approach the window, what are they supposed to do once they find out someone offered to pay $8 off their order? Do they now have to ask to take off $8 from the order behind them? It's an endless cycle until the real hero shows up and takes their food, says thanks, and leaves.
You have maybe heard stories of drive-throughs having 20/30/100 people paying it forward in a row. A Starbucks on the east coast made national news when they had 1,000 people in a row pay it forward. Well if everyone is paying it forward, isn't this gesture completely pointless, as everyone is really just... paying? At that point, just pay for your own order. Now we're just making more work for the people working as they have to keep track of who's buying what for who.
Yesterday when someone graciously paid it forward for me, there wasn't a car behind me. Trying to be a good person and not get judged by the entire fast-food restaurant, I gave the cashier a $10 bill, which was about what my order cost, and asked if they would use it for the next person who drove through. Who knows if the next person had an order that even totaled $10? What if they had an order that was only $6? Now there is just a random $4 in limbo.
I'm way overthinking this, I know. It was a kind gesture and I probably could've just been thankful and left. To the person who did that for me, I'm very thankful and appreciate it.
The way I see it, if someone is going through the drive-through or grabbing a coffee, they have the money to pay for it. They're already expecting to spend money. If they aren't expecting to have to pay anything, they shouldn't be there in the first place. If someone is in a situation where their card declines, for whatever reason, then surely I'd say go ahead and help them out if you can. That's a completely different situation.
I think we can find a better way to be gracious to others rather than this endless cycle of paying it forward at drive-throughs. Maybe hold the door for someone next to you're feeling like being a good Samaritan. It takes 10 seconds and no one expects other people to do it for them.