Dairy Queen Drive-Thru Customers Ignite Two-Day-Long ‘Pay it Forward’ Chain

by Chris Haney

Last Thursday, a random act of kindness at a Minnesota drive-thru turned into a “pay it forward” chain that continued for two and a half days with more than 900 cars participating.

A man at a Dairy Queen drive-thru in Brainerd, MN asked to pay for the meal ordered by the car behind him, in addition to his own food. The small gesture turned into something much bigger as it multiplied for days.

The store’s manager Tina Jensen told CNN that she has seen a “pay it forward” chain reaction like that before. However, she said she’s never seen one last this long since she explained that they usually end after 15 to 20 cars. In addition, Jensen says the Dairy Queen exceeded $10,000 in sales over the two and a half day period. Jensen thinks the random acts of kindness truly “touched a lot of people” this holiday season.

“There’s all different types of ways to help people,” Jensen said to CNN. “I think this touched a lot of people that we didn’t even know it touched, deeper than we know. And you don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life.”

The last customer on Thursday night left a $10 bill so the Dairy Queen could continue the “pay it forward” chain Friday morning. Additionally, Jensen gave updates on the store’s Facebook page, which shared how many cars participated each day.

‘Pay it Forward’ Chain Restores Faith in Humanity

A customer named Heidi Bruse experienced the chain of events herself. She grabbed dinner at the Dairy Queen on Friday and paid it forward as well. Bruse called the continuous acts of kindness a “breath of fresh air” during what has been a tough year for all.

“During times like these it kinda restores your faith in humanity a little,” Bruse explained. “The way the world is now you see a lot of anger, tension, and selfish behavior. What we witnessed was pure kindness and it was a breath of fresh air really.”

Yet, Bruse’s favorite part of the “pay it forward” chain was getting home and telling her family about it. She said it was nice to know that they were part of it and could help keep the chain going.

“Not that we got free ice cream,” Bruse said. “The gesture was way more valuable.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the food and beverage industries especially hard this year. Countless restaurants and bars shut their doors temporarily, and many did not survive and went out of business altogether. For those that have made it, they’ve faced other challenges, including adapting to new business practices and coronavirus regulations.

Jensen said her top priority has been the safety of her workers and her customers. Therefore, the Dairy Queen manager has further increased the store’s disinfecting and cleaning policies.

“With the lobby shutting down, being only open for take out, being able to open for half your capacity, different things like that,” Jensen said of some of the changes this year.

The manager said her employees felt uplifted by the “pay it forward” chain. Not only did the customers love it, but it had a positive effect on her staff as well. Jensen said the entire experience was touching.

“No matter what’s going on, take care of each other. Be positive, be happy and don’t focus on the negative. We’ll get through it,” Jensen said.