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Want free coffee and got an iPhone? Use Jonathan's Card (Updated)


Update from Editor-in-chief: According to evidence surfaced via, this was supposedly a "viral marketing campaign." While we strive to verify sources before posting, it appears we were too eager to believe this "social experiment" was legitimate (and others have been in the past, just not from Starbucks). - Victor Agreda, Jr.

Update 2: We received this statement from Starbucks:

"I received your note and wanted to let you know that the information you read is inaccurate. Starbucks had no knowledge of Jonathan's plans, and has no official relationship with him or the company he works for. We do think his project is interesting and we are flattered that he is using Starbucks as a part of his 'pay-it-forward' experiment.

Again - Starbucks did not have any knowledge of Jonathan's project."

While we here at TUAW find it curious that Starbucks was, at one point, listed on the Mobiquity client page, and shortly after this story went wide that page was removed, it is possible that Jonathan, obviously a Starbucks customer as well, independently came up with this idea on his own and implemented it. Note the use of past-tense when referring to the relationship with Starbucks and Jonathan and his employer. The only comment from Jonathan has been by way of this Facebook page. - Ed.

Update 3: Our pals at TechCrunch were even more generous in this post, published 3 minutes before update #2 there. Faith in humanity is once again restored. Mostly. - Ed.

App developer Jonathan Stark is taking the Starbucks app and adding a philanthropic twist to it. Stark is trying out a social experiment by offering up a picture of his Starbucks card to the Internet and urges people to get a cup of coffee on him.

He bought a Starbucks gift card, took a screencap from his iPhone and uploaded it to the Internet for anyone to use. The only thing Stark asks is that if folks are feeling generous, they can add to the card's balance to pay the good deed forward once they get their free cup of joe.

To participate, download a copy of the image to your iPhone and take it to your local Starbucks and use it to pay for your coffee. A Twitter feed keeps track of the current balance on the card. Instead of launching the Starbucks app, open the saved image and have the Starbucks employee scan it. This can be used in locations where the Starbucks mobile app is accepted.

Stark told CNN that as of Monday, more than $3,650 has been spent on a card that started with just $30 on it. Starbucks told CNN that the company was flattered that Stark chose to use it for the experiment.

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