A simple act of kindness meets social experiment launched last month and hit the Internet by storm. A Providence, RI man, Jonathan Stark, deposited $300 on his Starbucks card then published the account snapshot to the world.
Consumers needed only to transfer Jonathan’s card image to their smartphones and display it on the screen for scanning. Hundreds used the card’s fluctuating balance to buy themselves coffee. Many also put money on the card (reportedly more than $8,000 was deposited – read Mashable’s story). It quickly became a share and pay-it-forward system – proof that most people are honest, appreciative and giving.
Starbucks loved the experiment and hoped for its true success. But, when a San Francisco hacker wrote a script to transfer funds off Jonathan’s Card and onto his own, the coffee giant pulled the plug. Late yesterday, Starbucks canceled the card for use.
Sam Odio also published his method for stealing coffee money and posted the script for anyone to grab and use. His reason? He didn’t like yuppies buying coffee for other yuppies. Odio admittedly transferred more than $600 from the card, and encouraged others to do the same in his post, “How to use Jonathan’s card to buy yourself an iPad“.
Soonafter, Odio’s Twitter account was flooded with tweets, the majority bashing him for ruining the experiment. Some argue, however, that Odio was simply proving a point – that not only are corporate systems vulnerable, but so is social “goodness”.
Odio, who’s been pretty mum about the ordeal, explained Stark need only ask for the card money to be returned. He’s trying to justify his hack by auctioning off his Starbucks cards for charity.
It’s funny, because I am a loyal Starbucks customer, and yet I drive a ’96 vehicle approaching 145,000 miles. There’s nothing else about me that screams “yuppie”… but, if that’s how Odio sees it…
Does anything, however, justify Odio’s actions?
In my book, Odio is a thief. While you can argue Stark made the card vulnerable by including the account number on the snapshot, nothing changes the intent – for users to take a coffee, give a coffee… Look deeper, though, and you’ll realize that this wasn’t Odio just taking money from someone else – he actually hacked one or more of Starbucks’ systems to obtain information on balances and transfer funds.
Odio can pride himself on saying he’s donating the money to charity. That doesn’t change the fact he stole from one cause to give to another. Some call him a modern-day Robin Hood, but it’s clear Odio took action to gain attention and punish those who have good taste in coffee.
Does Stark, Starbucks or even those who funded the card have a legal leg to stand on? Could any of them press criminal charges against Odio? I’m sure an attorney could answer those questions. Morality, however, tells me that Odio isn’t worthy of respect. If anything, he needs to realize something quite important…
The simple act of kindness of, say, buying a stranger a cup of coffee can and has “done good”. Years ago, after an emotional ordeal, I ordered a burger at a drive through. The server could tell I’d been crying for some time. She handed me my order, then handed me a slice of pie in a box and said, “This is on me. I hope it sweetens up your day”. I’ll never forget that experience. And, you know what? It did make me feel better and made me remember that the little things can make huge differences.
Fortunately, there’s something good that arises from the negative. Today, I walked into a convenience store, walked up to the cashier, and said, “See that guy over there? I’d like to buy his coffee.” I paid, and left.