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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Mary Ann Schwehm Carmichael and her friend, Betty, sat on the porch at Starbucks sipping their drinks and chatting.

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"How often am I here?" said Carmichael. "This is my second home".

The two women know the staff by name at the Starbucks on 2186 Tyrone Blvd., N., in St. Petersburg. So, hearing what happened there on Wednesday didn't surprise them.

"It just shows the true generosity of people," said Carmichael.

GENEROSITY: People pay others' bill

At 7 a.m., a woman pulled up, ordered an iced coffee, and offered to pay for the caramel macchiato for the stranger in the car behind her. That generous act sparked a chain reaction that lasted nearly all day. By 6 p.m., 378 straight cars had "paid it forward."

Hundreds of people paid the tab for the next person in the drive-thru at a St. Pete Starbucks.

"That's like one of those great moments that helps people get through the day easier," Peter Schorsch said from his car in the drive-thru lane. "It's five minutes of extra happiness you weren't planning on."

Starbucks spokeswoman Linda Mills said the 378 people was an unofficial number and that the store actually thought the true figure of pay it forward participants was closer to 450 cars. Either way, it's still quite short of the company's record for Pay-It-Forward guests – more than 1,000 cars in a Connecticut store last winter.

"I hope it goes on and on and on," said Carmichael.

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