Krispy Kreme announced this week that it was compounding the joy of getting a COVID vaccine: Show your vaccine card and you can get a free plain glazed doughnut every day through the rest of 2021.
This, objectively, rules. Krispy Kreme’s plain glazed doughnut is truly the best doughnut, a perfect yeasty-sweet treat. The promotion seemed to be a marketing coup for the company, drawing attention from the press and on social media. And who knows? Maybe there’s a Krispy Kreme superfan somewhere who will change their mind about getting a vaccine.
But there’s an asterisk to Krispy Kreme’s rollout. Here’s what its website says under a question on behalf of those who choose not to get vaccinated:
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO BE VACCINATED, CAN I STILL GET THIS OFFER?
We understand that choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is a highly personal decision. We advise all employees and guests to consult with their healthcare provider regarding whether to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination and which vaccine to receive after reviewing the available information. If you have made the personal decision to not receive the COVID vaccine, please visit us on Mondays, 3/29/21 – 5/24/21, to receive a free Original Glazed® doughnut and a medium brewed coffee to get your week off to a good start.
Anti-vax Mondays! To be fair, the Monday promotion is open to anyone—those turning down the vaccine and those desperately waiting to be eligible for their first shot of Moderna. The noteworthy thing here is that Krispy Kreme directly addressed this group of customers. As a public relations move, it is a bit of a head-scratcher. Doesn’t this messaging undercut the point of this promotion? Not to mention that, unlike getting a mole checked or going to the dentist, getting vaccinated isn’t just a “highly personal decision”—it’s a public health measure that will protect the more vulnerable and help put an end to a pandemic.
It seems that Krispy Kreme, while developing a feel-good corporate promotion, ran into a cold, hard truth about America: You can’t even give away a free doughnut without stepping into a culture war. The discourse over these free doughnuts has already involved a public debate about the health risks of weight gain. It’s not clear if the company already had warning signs of a pushback, or if it wanted to preemptively head off such a firestorm. However it went down, it’s clear the company continues to be worried about appeasing the anti-vaxxer portion of its customer base.
Still, at least Krispy Kreme isn’t exactly treating the anti-vaxxers equally. They get nine Mondays total. Their promotion doesn’t even go to Memorial Day. Assuming you already have your vaccine card at hand, you could get 283 free doughnuts this year, starting today. So if a vaccine skeptic in your life won’t heed the pleas of public health experts, perhaps they’ll consider the trade-offs presented by the good folks of Krispy Kreme: 0 percent of the protection from the virus, sure—but also only 3 percent of the free doughnuts.