She wasn't the first to receive the holiday cheer.
At the Starbucks on 116th Street NE in Marysville, a chain of more than 350 people bought coffee for the people in line behind them -- either in the drive-through or inside -- starting with a woman who first came in about 8 a.m.
"I think it's awesome," said Molstad, 28, who had just picked up her daughters on her way home from work. "I feel really bad because I ordered drinks for my kids, and the person behind me only had one."
Starbucks employee Michael Smith of Marysville was working the drive-through window when the first woman drove through and paid for the next customer.
When he explained to the next person what happened, that customer decided to pass the good will along, Starbucks shift supervisor Sarah Nix said.
Then the next person followed suit. And the next person. And the next person.
Once the chain picked up, Smith refused to leave the drive-through window. He saw it as a special trust given to him by that first customer.
"I'm really worried they're going to stop," he said Wednesday afternoon, after the chain surpassed 250 people.
During the holidays, it's not uncommon for customers to occasionally buy coffee for whomever is next in line, said Nix, who used to work at the Starbucks in Lake Stevens.
But she's never seen anything like this.
"I'm really shocked," Nix said. "This makes Christmas so much nicer, knowing people care."
Some customers went above and beyond paying for the next person, giving $15 or $20 to the coffee shop. Any extra money that isn't used to pay for drinks is planned to be used for Starbucks' holiday toy drive, Nix said.
Randy Davis, 49, of Camano Island read a newspaper at the Starbucks while sipping a cup of coffee someone else paid for. He said he's bought coffee for strangers before, but he's never heard of so many people paying it forward.
"It's a lot of people," said Davis, a science teacher at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. "It's kind of cool. It's neat to see that people still appreciate stuff like that."
Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or email@example.com.
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