BOLOGNA--It started in Italy, not surprisingly, where people are by nature kind and generous, having lived together in close quarters through good times and bad. In the country's small towns and crowded neighborhoods, no one's a stranger; everybody's related, and you take care of your own.
In 2010, a group of regional festivals revived the tradition of the caffè sospeso, a "suspended coffee" paid for but not yet consumed, and the following year municipal authorities in Naples proclaimed an official Giornata del Sospeso to coincide with Human Rights Day on December 10th. Here in Bologna, far to the north, we find a receptacle for cash receipts (indicating that the coffee has been paid for) on the counter at a neighborhood bar frequented by international students.
"The caffè sospeso has been identified as a symbol of grassroots social solidarity," its advocates say. A report on NPR claimed there are 500 coffee shops across the US that offer some sort of mechanism for a coffee-buyer to pay it forward. So far, Starbucks is not among them. For shame.