There were discounts and free rides to help get people to the polls this Election Day, and then there were the rewards waiting for voters after ballots were cast.
Local merchants and national chains jumped on the get-out-the-vote bandwagon by offering price cuts and freebies to voters wearing the “I Voted” sticker.
At the local outpost of Shake Shack in the Central West End, customers were surprised to hear order takers say, “Your Election Day fries will be free!”
“This is something we’re doing nationally,” explained Ryan Hux, general manager, who opened the first Shake Shack in St. Louis less than a year ago. “As a company. we want to ‘Stand for Something Good.’ It’s our slogan and we want to encourage our guests to also stand for something good by getting out and voting.”
Among the happy customers were Mary Lynne Humphries and her wife, Linda Pinsker. They had just voted a few blocks away.
“We had no idea they were giving away french fries,” said Humphries.
“I would have voted twice, if they gave me a hamburger,” said Pinsker with a wink and a laugh.
Hux predicted his restaurant would treat 800 voters to free fries by closing time. On an average Tuesday, they would sell 500 orders of French fries, but he said it was worth it to take the loss for one day to celebrate democracy.
The focus on voting at Shake Shack included employees, too.
“We encouraged our team to vote,” said Hux. “We worked out scheduling to make it easier for them to vote. Many members of our team have never voted before.”
If voters weren’t hungry, they could find a 20 percent discount at Left Bank Books, on Euclid Avenue in the Central West End. Clementine’s ice cream shop in the Lafayette Square neighborhood, several bars and restaurants in the Niche and Bailey’s groups, were among local businesses offering Election Day specials for voters.
Wooing voters with freebies may be a feel-good public relations stunt, and it might prove to be good business in the long run.
“We’re seeing an increase in traffic,” Hux said about two hours after opening Tuesday. “And everybody coming in through the door has the ‘I Voted’ sticker. So good signs all around.”
Some legal experts do not approve of the Election Day giveaways. Citing federal law, some scholars claim the freebies could be considered as “expenditures to influence voting” despite the fact that they are given after votes have been cast.
Melody Walker covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio. Follow her on Twitter @melodybird.