Nobody likes long lines at the grocery store. But for customers at Hannaford supermarket in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, a problem with the cash registers made checkout lines a living nightmare.
That is, until store manager Shawn Quelch and his team turned the financial fiasco into every shopper's dream.
The Northeast-based grocery chain, like most stores these days, uses an online system to facilitate transactions. At 11 a.m. on Jan. 21, however, Quelch told TODAY Food that his store experienced a problem with its routers connecting to the server.
Slowly but surely, each of the store's cash registers began to shut down.
"We had to funnel folks into to the few registers remaining," Quelch told TODAY. "I had my staff handing out cookies and coupons and smiling and trying to assure people we were doing what we could." Aside from the fiasco being an opportunity to eat grocery items before paying for them, this was an unfortunate situation for shoppers. And it only got worse as more people started to get in line.
Around 2 p.m., every register had shut down completely, with roughly 50 people still waiting to be rung up.
So, what better way to make a bad day better? After a quick call to corporate, Quelch was able to announce to his customers that he had a wonderful surprise: free food for all!
One shopper named Stevens Blanchard posted a photo of the single line that remained before Quelch offered about 50 customers the chance to bring home their groceries totally gratis.
"Wow! Props to the Hannaford staff! They took being in the wrong place at the right time and made it the right place at the right time," Blanchard wrote.
History has certainly proved that people get really excited when they get free stuff — especially cartfuls of groceries. Drake made that clear when he bought a store full of Florida shoppers $30,000 of food while filming a music video.
Since Hannaford's registers were on the fritz, Quelch can't be sure exactly how much of the bill the store footed, but he estimates it was between $3,000 to $5,000.
"I've been with Hannaford for 30 years and have never experienced that kind of unique situation. I always say, 'Our first chance is our best chance to make it right for customers.' And I wanted to do everything in my power to make it right for those customers in line that day," Quelch said.