Sam Odio, founder

Now: Freshplum. Then: Divvyshot, sold to Facebook.

How to use Jonathan's Card to buy yourself an iPad

August 12 2011

Filed under: Giving   Jonathans-Card  

Update 10/4/2011: See Closing the loop on Jonathan's Card Social Experiment for an update on what happened with Jonathan's Card.

I didn't buy an iPad, nor was I ever planning to. But read on for my account on how to use Jonathan's card for another cause...

Jonathan Stark recently released his Starbucks card to the public as a social experiment. It was quickly picked up by CNN, Time, and many others. For those of you who are living under a rock, here's what is going on: anyone can donate to the card and anyone is welcome to use the card. Just walk up to a Starbucks counter and show them this image.

Jonathan purportedly did this to understand more about online society. Would there be a balance on the card? Would anyone care? Jonathan himself has put over $100 on the card to get things started. Some have argued in disbelief that this must be some sort of Starbucks viral campaign, though Jonathan denies it.

Since I don't find the idea of yuppies buying yuppies coffees very interesting I decided to mix things up a bit. I coded up a script that would alert me whenever the card balance reached a certain threshold (github). And here's the twist: for the last week I (and others) have been using this script to transfer donated money off Jonathan's Card and onto our own Starbucks gift cards. It's easy: just head to your local starbucks, pop open your computer, run this script, and when the music plays, cash in.

Through this strategy I've personally netted $625 by spending less than 5 hours at Starbucks. That's enough for an iPad.

I'm not getting an iPad, though. Instead I'm selling the card on eBay and donating the proceeds to Save The Children. Assuming the card sells for face value I'll have fed 20 children for a month. So here's your social experiment: will people bid up the price of the card to face value (or possibly exceed it)? Or am I alone in thinking that helping a stranger find their next caffeine fix is not what we should be worried about in today's world?

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