Pay it forward, or back, with The Q

July 24, 2012
By Katelyn Gendron

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — An experience at a drive-thru is pretty standard: pull up to the intercom, be welcomed by an employee, place your order, pull through to the window, pay, receive your wanted items and drive away. However, thanks to Feeding Hills-based station, The Q 99.7 FM, my experience at the Chicopee Dunkin' Donuts drive thru earlier this month was anything but typical.

For the past seven months, the radio station has been encouraging its listeners to participate in the Drive Thru Difference, which asks people to pay for their own order as well as for the person behind them. While sitting a minute or two past the usual wait time at the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru, I questioned what was taking so long but those few extra minutes made all the difference when I approached the window and received a note from the cashier as well as a verbal statement from the car in front of me: "God has blessed you today."

Never having listened to The Q, I was surprised and overjoyed to learn of the promotion as I drove into a parking space to read the note (available for download on the station's website): "Hi there! I paid for you today. No strings attached. I just felt like doing it. I heard about people doing this on the radio station, The Q 99.7 FM. I know they love to share 'Drive Thru Difference' stories on the air, so if you'd like to share, their number is 413-821-0997. You can also share your story at I hope this encourages you today. Sincerely, the car ahead of you..."

In hindsight, I should have kept the goodwill going by paying for the car behind me but I was in such a state of surprise that I thanked the cashier several times and drove away. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

According to Nate Thomas, operations manager at The Q, some Drive Thru Differences have included as many as 10 cars in a row and even in-house dining at local restaurants.

"It probably is the most successful and impactful thing we've ever done because it goes to all these different communities and it spreads like wildfire," he said.

"We're very family focused [at The Q] and our music is positive and uplifting so we wanted to give our listeners the opportunity to pay it forward but with the Drive Thru Difference I think you're paying to the back," Thomas said with a chuckle, noting casually that they probably should have thought that through a little bit more.

"There are people all around us going through different things and it gives us the opportunity to get outside ourselves," he added. "A lot of times people have had a bad week or bad circumstances of life and [the Drive Thru Difference] just comes at the right time."

When asked if The Q will continue the Drive Thru Difference indefinitely, Thomas replied that the radio station absolutely would. "It has become part of who we are and what we do in the community. We just want to make a positive difference in the community; it's just part of the DNA of what we do."

Their efforts have certainly resonated with me and while I may not listen to The Q, I have certainly become a fan of the station for their efforts to help make strangers recognize that there are good people out there in this world; they might even be in the car ahead of me.

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