The 13th Donut

by Barry Moltz on January 12, 2010

By Mary Jane Grinstead

At our house, the 2010 baseball season, with all its little rituals—has officially started.

One of those rituals is putting away all the 2009 fan souvenirs, like the Alfonso Soriano bobblehead doll and Phil’s used 2009 ticket stubs. Yes, after more than 60 (yikes!) years, my husband, who attends at least fifty to sixty Cubs home games per season still hates to throw away his ticket stubs. We have a bowl in our entryway where he drops his tickets after every game.

I think that Phil secretly likes to watch that pile of stubs grow as the season progresses because he’s reminded of all the games he’s seen. But he says that he only keeps those stubs because of the Dunkin’ Donuts promotion.

So here’s the deal on that.

Last year, every time the Cubs scored a run in the fourth inning, fans exiting the game were given coupons for free coffee from Dunkin Donuts. I figure this promo was some marketing guy’s twenty-first century version of that thirteenth donut in a baker’s dozen.

The catch was that you had to bring in a Cubs ticket with the coupon to get the coffee. Since it was easy to get extra coupons, the ushers gave them out at Wrigley by the handfuls, Phil says he kept all his stubs so there would be plenty to match up with the coupons for me to get free coffee when I work with my client in Barrington.

I’m helping this former CEO edit a book he’s writing, and when he’s in town I take the train out from the city  so we can work on his book. We always carryout muffins and coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts at Northwest Highway and Lake Cook Road that’s near the train station. Admittedly, using the coupons from the Cubs games for our coffee would have saved us more than $2 a visit, but even though neither of us is careless with money, we didn’t want to use the coupons.

Why? Because we like the people who work behind the counter at that Dunkin’ Donuts so much that we don’t want to not pay them. They remember our order each time and are so friendly with a big greeting that we look forward to seeing them.

They may work for a huge national chain that doesn’t always sell the best muffins in the world, but they make the Dunkin’ Donuts at Northwest Highway and Lake Cook Road feel like a local, family-owned place. They act like our business matters to them. We feel connected. Using a corporate coupon would feel like stiffing them.

So from April through October last year,  the used Cubs tickets and the unused  Dunkin’ Donuts coupons have piled up in that bowl in my entryway.

To my husband, the ticket stubs are souvenirs of sunny days and strike outs at Wrigley Field with the promise of a not-too-far-off Opening Day.

But for me, passing by on my way out the door to catch the train to Barrington, those stubs and glossy coupons are a reminder that in this age of understaffed franchises, inadequate training, cookie-cutter donuts, and coffee served up cold and wrong, an individual employee’s desire to welcome and serve customers does more to keep people coming back than an entire baseball season of free coffee coupons could ever possibly do.

If you are ever near the train station in Barrington, stop by that Dunkin’ Donuts. You’ll feel what I mean.

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