Pay-it-forward chain in a Minnesota DQ drive-thru lasts through 900 cars

A Dairy Queen drive-thru
“Pssst! Pay it forward!”
Photo: Star Tribune via Getty Images (Getty Images)

If A Christmas Carol and all subsequent Christmastime mythology has taught us anything, it’s that during the month of December, we are all supposed to turn into nicer people. Yes, we will give money and Christmas presents to complete strangers! Yes, we will donate coats and turkeys! Yes, we will invite our employees to Christmas dinner!

In practice, this doesn’t always hold. More often, I’ve found, people are impatient and cranky and hungover. However, the good people of Brainerd, Minnesota, proved that there is goodness to be found, even in this shitshow of a year.

It all began last Thursday when a customer at the DQ decided to “pay it forward” and pay for the order of the woman behind him in line.

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“So the lady pulled up and I said, just to let you know, the gentleman in front of you paid for your order,” store manager Tina Jensen told KARE11 in Minneapolis. “If you like, I can pay it forward and you can pay for the order behind you and we can keep this going. She’s like ‘really, why would he do that?’ I said, we just have it every once in a while where someone will take care of the person behind them, and today is your lucky day.”

So the woman decided to pay the luck forward. And so did the person after her. And the person after that. And the person after that. And etc., etc., etc. Until the DQ closed. But then the last customer in line donated some money so the chain could keep going when the restaurant reopened on Friday. Then it ran all day Friday. And into Saturday. Jensen posted news about the chain on Facebook, and the good people of Brainerd, a town of about 13,000 roughly 125 miles northwest of Minneapolis, came to the DQ just so they could participate.

“Our kitchen crew was like, ‘are we really still going?’ I said, ‘yep, we’re still going,’” Jensen told KARE11. “Especially now and how things have been going this year, it definitely helped us here in the store with our crew members. Very excited for them.” Jensen was excited, too; she said it was the best day she’d had on the job in a long time.

The chain finally petered out midday Saturday, after 900 cars and more than $10,000 in sales, leaving everyone in Brainerd full of Blizzards and a nice holiday glow.

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(But can you imagine being the asshole who stopped the chain? Has Scrooge been reincarnated in Minnesota? Bah, humbug!)

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

I don’t know how I feel about these drive-thru “pay it forwards”. I mean, if I’m in line for a Blizzard at $4 and the person behind me is buying a cake and food for an event and it’s like $50 or something, am I an asshole for not “paying it forward” and paying for their order? Do I have the concept wrong?