A couple days ago I got a call from Walmart pitching me on the story that today is National Doughnut Day. I'd never heard of it. Apparently, it's a day when some stores give away free donuts, including Walmart. I didn't respond to the voicemail. Who wants to give Walmart attention? But Walmart just kept coming at me.
After the person who left the voicemail sent a follow-up email, and then another, and then left another voicemail, I felt bad for the guy, so I gave him a call, and it turns out he doesn't work for Walmart. He works for another company Walmart hired to call people like me and pitch this story. When I asked how it worked, he said, "Walmart is giving away free donuts."
"I got that—but how does it work? Do people get as many donuts as they want? Do people each just get one?"
The guy didn't know.
"If a family of six shows up, do they each get a donut, or do they split the donut six ways?"
He didn't think the family would have to split it six ways, but he wasn't sure. He offered to contact the actual Walmart PR department and get back to me. So, feeling bad for him, I threw him a softie.
"Why does Walmart do this?" I asked, because I recently had read the Wikipedia page for National Doughnut Day.
"It's a promotion," he said.
"Okay... that's it?"
"In light of it being National Doughnut Day, Walmart is giving away $1 million in free donuts."
For Walmart, $1 million in doughnuts is a drop in the bucket. I would have asked a follow-up question about why Walmart was giving away free doughnuts when maybe they should just pay their employees more so they don't have to rely on food stamps and other government assistance (which of course you and I pay for), but the poor guy didn't work for Walmart and didn't even know if a family of six gets one donut or six.
Plus, there aren't even Walmarts within Seattle city limits.
So I called some Seattle doughnut stores to ask if any of them are giving away free doughnuts.
(In case you're wondering why I'm going back and forth on spelling, the more correct spelling is "doughnuts," but Walmart and certain other places spell it "donuts," and at this point the culture has accepted the alternate spelling, much the way "alright" has become all right, and either one is fine.)
The first place I thought of is Top Pot Doughnuts. I called them up and talked to a guy. No luck. No free doughnuts.
Then I called Mighty-O Donuts. An employee there said that, while they're not giving away free donuts today, "We're partnering with the people behind LunchDebt.Org—for when kids can't pay for school lunch meals. Ten percent of all proceeds today at stores are going toward eliminating that lunch debt in Washington." Good for Mighty-O.
Then I called Krispy Kreme, and an employee there said yes, they are giving away free doughnuts today, one per customer. I asked if there had been a run on them this morning, and she said the store has been swarmed. "The line is very big, so if you’re coming be prepared to wait at least 20 to 40 minutes in line," she said. Wowza. Forty minutes for a doughnut.
There's a breakdown of all the Seattle-area places celebrating National Doughnut Day here.
In case you're wondering, National Doughnut Day was "created by The Salvation Army in Chicago in 1938 to honor those of their members who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I." Would you like to know more?
Soon after the US entrance into World War I in 1917, The Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France. The mission concluded that the needs of US enlisted men could be met by canteens/social centers termed "huts" that could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service. Typically, six staff members per hut would include four female volunteers who could "mother" the boys. These huts were established by The Salvation Army in the United States near army training centers.
About 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near to the front lines, the two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. These are reported to have been an "instant hit", and "soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts". Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: "Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee."
In other words, it's a holiday built on the free labor of women. They should just give the free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme to all the women in line.
I also learned this from Wikipedia:
There are three other doughnut holidays, the origins of which are obscure. International Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day is widely recognized as June 8 (occasionally as June 9). National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day is celebrated on September 14 although there is also a National Boston Cream Pie Day observed October 23rd. Buy a Doughnut Day occurs on October 30.
The birthday of the United States Marine Corps was once referred to as National Donut Day, in a successful ruse by American prisoners of war at Son Tay prison camp to trick the North Vietnamese into giving out donuts in honor of the occasion.
By the way, a different person who works for the same company as the guy who called to pitch me on free doughnuts at Walmart called me back and clarified: "Anyone who comes into the store and would like a free glazed donut may have one. And I think they're planning to give away 1.2 million by day's end."
She clarified that her colleague must have meant 1.2 million donuts, not $1 million dollars' worth.
Not that it matters much: As mentioned, there are no Walmarts within Seattle city limits. Whenever there's the possibility of a proposed Walmart, people protest. This happens in a lot of big, liberal cities. Moreover, Walmart is probably not wild about Seattle's minimum wage.
You have to expand your scope—to Renton, Bellevue, Port Orchard, places like that—to find one.