After today's global stock market meltdown over the United States' recent credit downgrade and European debt worries, you're probably in need of a cup of joe to calm your nerves but don't really have the budget for a Starbucks? No problem. The generous programmer and writer Jonathan Stark just decided to share his preloaded Starbucks card with you.
All you have to do is download the above image of his Starbucks Card to your phone and pay for your drink by scanning the barcode at any location within America (including the kiosks in Target), assuming there is any money left on the card, of course. You can get up-to-minute updates on its balance by following Stark's Twitter feed and Facebook page. Unfortunately, Starbucks fans in Australia or the Cayman Islands will not be able to use this card; Canadians can give the card a try but it's not guaranteed to work.
Still waiting for the catch? There really isn't any. Stark only asks that people who use his card to get their Starbucks fix to tweet what they bought or take a photo of the store, drink or receipt. Hopefully the good Samaritans out there will top up the card to keep this experiment going. Earlier today there was $180 US on the card and the balance has dropped to zero a couple of times, but people have been refilling the card throughout the day according to its Twitter feed.
Stark insists he is not affiliated with Starbucks in any way but wants to apply the "take a penny, leave a penny," trust-based practice to digital currency like a Starbucks dollars and social media. In fact, the idea of enjoying a pre-paid coffee from strangers is an old Italian tradition (Caffe Pagato).
While it's tempting to enjoy free drinks on some unknown stranger's dime, I suspect the social element will deter some people from abusing the privilege; after all, tweeting about your free drink would tie your freebie to your online identity. Of course people can use the card without revealing their identity as the feed currently does not link users' Twitter account to the amount spent. Or will this feel-good experiment just implode due to the inherent greed of netizens? Make your predictions in the comments below. Let us know if you were able to use Jonathan's Starbucks card at all.