Thursday, August 13, 2009

Paying It Forward in the Drive-Thru

She is my lady, my girlfriend, the woman who I talk to through the intercom and in the drive-thru window. She takes my $5.80 every morning and in return, she gives me a Combo Number 6 (which, in case you're wondering, is a Dunkin' Donuts egg white flatbread sandwich, veggie, with a medium French Vanilla coffee, cream and sugar) with an order of hash browns.

She knows my order before I say hello, anticipating when my car glides into the Drive-Thru Only lane.

"How many orders do you have memorized?" I asked earlier this week, during a rare lull in the morning rush, mine being the only car at the window.

"A lot," she said grinning, understandably and deservedly proud of this. "I know a lot of 'em."

"I bet you do," I laughed.

She leaned closer. "I'm putting in an application today at the mall," she whispered, crossing her fingers. "Need more hours, you know? I got seven people living in my house and they're not giving me enough hours here."

Seven people.

"Good luck," I said, reaching for my brown bag. And I drove off, wondering if there was something I could do. Someone I could call.

I sat down at my desk in my large office, munching my breakfast, and started writing some letters. Writing letters is a big part of my job.

And then it hit me. A reference letter.

So this morning, I drove up to the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru as per usual. I handed my friend my debit card, and an envelope containing this:

August 12, 2009

To Whom This May Concern:

I am pleased to write this letter of recommendation to you on behalf of T ___. This isn’t the typical reference letter, however, because I haven’t worked with her in a professional capacity, nor do I even know T___'s last name.

For the past two years, however, I have been a daily customer of the Dunkin’ Donuts located on _____. And for those two years, T____ has been the person greeting me every single day at the drive-thru window.

As someone who has spent her career working in public relations, I’ve gotten to be incredibly conscious of good customer service, which is an essential part of any position. As T___’s customer, I can tell you that she delivers this – every single day.

I have seen her as the superb multi-tasker, often doing many jobs at once, and she always gets the job right. She knows my order even before I greet her with hello. She remains calm – always - when dealing with irritable, non-caffeinated commuters and if she is frustrated, we never know. She is personable and engaging, making small talk about the weather, the holiday weekend coming up.

She makes her customers feel special. That, among the other qualities I’ve listed, are rare and valued in an employee and are ones that cannot be taught. They would be assets to any business.

Indeed, this may be an unconventional letter of recommendation, and it is one that comes completely unsolicited from T___. She didn’t request this, nor would she expect such. Still, I hope that you will give T___’s candidacy and application serious consideration, as I am certain that she will be a benefit to your organization.

If you would like to contact me to verify this letter, please feel free to do so. My business card is also enclosed.

Many thanks for your consideration.



Some may say I shouldn't have gotten involved, but honestly, it never occured to me not to do so. I've been lucky in my life. There have been several people who helped me on a professional basis. A former boss/mentor/friend/all around wonderful guy that my husband worked for -gone too young from cancer, his oft-told amusing stories of his glory days silenced forever - played a major role in his career. He's responsible (along with hard work on the husband's part) for the lifestyle we enjoy now. We owe him a great deal.

I don't know what will happen with my lady's letter. Maybe it will help her get the job she wants and the financial stability she needs for her family. Maybe it won't make a bit of difference.

I share this, not for my own glorification, but as a reminder (which I needed, this week especially, wallowing in my own professional frustrations) that even in the smallest everyday transactions, like handing over my debit card every morning, we are actually paying on our debts, continually paying it forward.


Robin said...

What an excellent, excellent story. "We have not too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who travel the dark way with us.... Make haste to be kind." (Hacked to pieces I'm sure, I am sans notebooks.)

I'm sure it meant so much to her, regardless of how much it influenced her job search. We should all look for ways to let people know how their acts, big and small, gladden our hearts and light our days.

Niksmom said...

What a lovely and thoughtful thing you did for that woman. I hope she gets the job!

Florinda said...

Good for you, and good luck to her!

(BTW, this is getting linked in the Weekend Review - that's my paying it forward :-).)

Mel @ A Box of Chocolates said...

What a great person you are! I totally would have never thought of this. I hope everything works for the DD lady and thank you for reminding me to look outside of the box to help others.

Lori said...

Great idea and I hope it helped her! If nothing else, I'm sure it made her feel good and sometimes when working hard, you need a little pat on the back!

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Thanks, everyone. I'll keep you posted. She told me this morning that her daughter has actually been helped by the organization I work for (because I'd enclosed my business card) which made me feel really good.

JoAnn said...

What a nice thing to do...don't know that I would have even thought of it. I sure hope she gets a job, and thanks for the reminder!

Cavalier92 said...

I am glad you DID get involved. As someone who manages a team of great professionals who help students go to college, I can tell you that it's far too infrequent to hear about one of them doing great things.

You took the unusual word of thanks a step further and made it something the recipient could actually use to improve their place in the world.


Jerry Z said...

Just read the letter of recommendation from August. How thoughtful. It's one of those things I'd think to do but be distracted and never get to it. I'm glad you did it.

Book Dragon said...


that was wonderful!