Stillwater News Press

July 25, 2013

Paying it forward makes you feel more in control, OSU professor says

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — A local franchise of a national fast-food chain is the setting for generosity in a unique way.

The McDonald’s on West Sixth Avenue is no stranger to a kind act that takes place occasionally — paying it forward. Occasionally, customers will pay for the food ordered by the vehicle behind them in line.

General Manager Heather Plummer said it’s not rare, but random.

“It might be once a day, twice a day or it might be a few weeks,” she said.

Wednesday saw two or three vehicles taking part, but that’s far from the record.

“There was one day and it was several months ago ... it was like 16 cars in a row,” Plummer said. “I was on cash and I couldn’t believe it was happening. This one lady came through and said, ‘I’m going to get the car behind me.’”

That chain continued on and on. It was the longest streak of generosity Plummer had seen in her eight years at the location.

Plummer said it’s Oklahomans being Oklahomans.

Owners Biff and Sue Horrocks agree.

“We’ve lived in Oklahoma since 1998 and it’s just different from a lot of parts in the country,” Biff Horrocks said.

The 16-car line included customers from young to old and college kids, work professionals and some with very little to give, Plummer said.

“I had one guy who ordered a sweet tea,” she said. “His sweet tea has been paid for, but the car behind him was $12. He paid that $12 because that guy in front of him paid his $1.”

Oklahoma State University Associate Professor Thad Leffingwell said people give because it makes them happier.

“Acts of kindness give people a sense of control, of having an impact, of mattering,” he said. “All of these are associated with happiness.”

He cited a recent study at Stanford that demonstrates random acts of kindness can improve mood.

“Anonymous random acts of kindness also don’t come with the burdens of relationships after the act,” Leffingwell said. “People can do it, feel good about it, and it is over.”

Aside from day-to-day, holidays are commonly known as the time when customers go the extra mile.

“Christmas is our biggest generosity time always at McDonald’s,” Plummer said.