(CNN) — In the face of the government shutdown and showdown in Congress, Starbucks is launching a "Pay It Forward" campaign.
From Wednesday through Friday, customers who buy a drink for a fellow patron will get a free tall brewed coffee.
In a letter to employees, CEO Howard Schultz said the government shutdown and other factors have created a period of uncertainty in the United States.
He said it would be understandable if many workers and customers felt cynical, powerless or disengaged. He said the Pay it Forward campaign is meant to help fellow citizens support one another in this challenging time.