Atlanta, Georgia. Circa 1994. 6:30 am. Weldon Spangler, DM in this new market and I were visiting stores at opening. We walk up to first store and observed a line of customers out the door. The system down load that took place during the night to the cash registers had crashed. All registers were down in the entire system. It was still early on west coast (where most of the stores were located) so my pager had not yet started buzzing (remember those?).
We observed many behaviors that day. How to turn something stressful into something positive. Deploying creativity. A bit of giving up. It was early days and we did not have a 'hack' for system failure, i.e. cigar box with cheat sheet and instructions for making change.
We helped from the sidelines and continued our tour, as partners and customers rose to the occasion. We saw experienced cashiers who knew the old school method, counting out loud, making change for the customers, (mechanical cash registers back in my day did not prompt with change amounts). Customers were telling the partner how much their usual was and handing money across the counter with a smile and 'keep the change'. The were grateful for their coffee.
We saw cashiers with a sign up sheet taking customers names and drinks and their promise to pay the next day. We saw cashiers giving away drinks as customers paid what they could or stuffed money into the tip jar.
We saw a cashiers giving away the coffee with a smile and a bow and no attempt to collect anything.
We saw stores that decided not to open at all.
By 10 in the morning the system was back up but the rush hour of all time was over. Lost revenue circa $500k and a lot of learning for all us.