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Krispy Kreme Gives Free Doughnuts All Year to Anyone Who's Had a Vaccine. Here's Why That's Smart

Many large and small businesses are offering vaccine incentives. Maybe yours should too.

Anyone who's received a Covid vaccine can go to participating Krispy Kreme store and get a free glazed doughnut....

That's not just one free doughnut--it's one free doughnut a day for the rest of 2021. If you start today and get your doughnut every day, that's a total of 281 doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme's move is just the latest in a range of incentives businesses are offering to customers and/or employees to encourage them to get the vaccine. There's a reason so many companies are doing it: It's a very smart business move. To begin with, there's a simple, universal benefit to all businesses because the sooner the majority of the population is vaccinated, the sooner businesses can reopen to their full capacity and get fully back to work. There's the obvious marketing benefit--people who come in for their free doughnut are likely to buy something else as well, and some of them may have never tried Krispy Kreme before.

Not only that, research shows, it's the kind of incentive that might just work. Jon Bogard, a UCLA grad student who worked on a study about motivating people to get vaccinated noted that offering large incentives could backfire because people might think the vaccines were risky if they were paid too much to take them. Instead, he suggested "low-personal-value, high-social-value" incentives, such as the stickers that say "Protected" or feature a favorite team logo. A free doughnut can also be a high-social-value incentive, conferring bragging rights. It can also function as a small daily treat that many people would enjoy but wouldn't buy for themselves.

After Krispy Kreme's announcement, a few doctors and other health professionals chided the company on Twitter, noting that adding a donut every day to your usual diet could lead to weight gain. They worried that the chain's customers might not know that doughnuts aren't a particularly healthy food. I believe most people do know this, but for the record, actually eating a doughnut every single day for nine months and six days could be a bad idea, especially if you don't cut back on other sweets to make up for it.

Krispy Kreme is not alone. A lot of businesses are offering vaccine incentives to their customers. Cleveland Cinemas in Ohio is offering free popcorn at two locations to anyone who presents a vaccination card through April. Also in Cleveland, a local brewery is serving free beer to the first 2,021 customers who show proof of vaccination. And a medical marijuana dispensary is giving a free pre-rolled joint this month to those over 21 who've been vaccinated and qualify for medical marijuana. Chobani is handing out free yogurt at some vaccination sites, and Uber is offering free rides to vaccine sites to seniors and front-line workers.

Many small businesses are offering vaccine incentives to their employees, including cash, extra time off, and paying for child care so parents can get vaccinated. But they may not have considered the goodwill, marketing, and publicity benefits they could get from offering rewards to customers who've gotten vaccines as well.

If you decide to offer vaccine incentives to customers, keep in mind that some people won't or can't get the vaccine because of religious objections, health conditions, or because vaccines are not yet available to them. It's important not to offend or disparage the unvaccinated. Krispy Kreme has cleverly avoided that by also offering one free doughnut, along with a medium brewed coffee, to anyone who comes to a store on Mondays through May 24, whether they've been vaccinated or not. (Does that mean people with vaccine cards get two doughnuts on Mondays? The company hasn't said.)

One last thing: Staples has announced that it will laminate vaccination cards for free through May 1. Before taking them up on that offer you should test any stickers on your card by scratching them with your fingernail to see if they turn black. Any that do are thermal stickers which could be damaged by the heat of lamination.

If it won't harm your vaccination card, getting it laminated is probably a very good idea. It looks like you might be pulling it out to get free stuff quite a lot over the coming months.

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