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Starbucks closes 'Jonathan's Card' over misuse fears

Jonathan's Card let users get a free coffee, or donate so others could do the same.
Jonathan's Card let users get a free coffee, or donate so others could do the same.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Starbucks 'reluctantly" pulls plug on Jonathan's Card project
  • Move came after entrepreneur's blog post saying he was siphoning from the card
  • Jonathan Stark let people use a copy of his digital card, or donate to it
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(Mashable) -- Jonathan Stark's community-giving Starbucks Card is no more. At 10 p.m. ET Friday, Starbucks reluctantly pulled the plug on Stark's pay-it-forward social experiment following allegations of fraud or misuse.

Starbucks made the decision to shut down the communal Jonathan's Card, already in violation of Starbucks Card program terms, after it came to light that funds were being misappropriated.

Adam Brotman, vice president of digital ventures at Starbucks, phoned Stark earlier Friday evening to inform him that the card would be deactivated. Starbucks, he says, was rooting for the experiment from the sidelines, even though the company's terms do not permit the use of shared registered cards.

"I'm sad about it, first and foremost, because we were legitimately cheering on this experiment," Brotman says.

Friday morning, entrepreneur Sam Odio's "How to use Jonathan's card to buy yourself an iPad" blog post lit the web on the fire. Some saw the card exploit as an evolution of the experiment; others saw it as theft. Odio even later offered to return the funds. Once the exploit was public, however, Starbucks felt compelled to deactivate the card.

Stark launched Jonathan's Card on July 14 as a social adaptation of the "take a penny, leave a penny" concept. Hundreds of people donated several thousand dollars to the communal coffee project before it was shut down.

The Jonathan's Card website has been updated with the following message: "We believe this is the start to a bigger more glowing picture. In the last 5 days or so, we've received hundreds of stories of people doing small things to brighten a stranger's day: Paying for the next car at the drive through. Sharing a pick me up with someone who has had a rough time. Charging up a phone card and sharing it with strangers at the airport ... So, tonight we lose our barcode. But of course, we never needed it in the first place."

The@jonathanscard Twitter account, which was previously updating followers with the card's balance, observed its end with this final tweet: "The next chapter begins jonathanstark.com/card."

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