Troy Carpenter loves his job as a server/trainer at Applebee's so much that he has worked there for 20 years. He says it's just in his nature to take care of people. Which makes perfect sense considering his recent idea to RAK Your World.
Troy Carpenter loves his job as a server/trainer at Applebee’s so much that he has worked there for 20 years. He says it’s just in his nature to take care of people. Which makes perfect sense considering his recent idea to RAK Your World.
The idea for his Random Acts of Kindness movement in the local community came to him as he was watching news describing the recent school shooting in Florida. “I started thinking about these random acts of violence and how I couldn’t do anything about it, but I thought I could actually do something to ensure random acts of kindness and balance it out a little,” says Troy. If I, or one of the kids that work at Applebee’s could have sat down and talked to that kid that did the shooting for 30 minutes maybe it would have made a difference, but then I thought we can do thousands of acts of kindness a day and we can make a difference in people’s lives that way. I work with a lot of young people and I tell them OK, next time I see you, bring me a random act of kindness story and they started doing it.”
When Troy first broached the idea to his coworkers he was worried that they might say “you’re nuts man.” But they didn’t. They got enthusiastically behind the idea and now it’s so important to them they come into work and immediately seek out Troy to tell him their latest good deeds.
He soon decided to share the idea with Applebee’s customers. “I just started talking about it to customers,” says Troy. “I would say, do you have a minute I want to share something with you and they say ‘sure.’ They are inspired by it. I decided to try it on a table, a mom, dad and a couple of small kids. I told them what I was trying to do and they said ‘that’s awesome.’ The mom got teary eyed. She said ‘keep doing what you are doing.’ When I ran their credit card for their $30 bill they left a $50 tip. I said you know that’s not what this is all about and the mom said ‘I know, that’s our RAK for the day.’”
The same thing soon happened to server Carrie. She got a $30 tip on a $30 bill and was so excited she ran to Troy and said, “Look, I just got R.A.K.T. (Random Act of Kindness Today).”
Troy stresses that the RAK doesn’t have to be monetary, just simple acts of kindness such as when Sam, a soccer player at University of Saint Mary who works at Applebee’s and who is very health conscious would always refuse the treats such as muffins that were handed out at the end of practices. Now, when he is offered a muffin he is reminded of the RAK movement and he accepts the treat and gives it to someone else. “It’s a mindset,” says Troy. “It made him think about someone else. He realized that he could pass the muffin on to someone who would really like it and it could be a RAK.”
The RAKsters at Applebee’s are determined that their ‘acts’ will not be a fading trend and they are coming up with some unique ways to pay it forward. Katherine, a server at the restaurant ordered a coffee recently at Scooter’s and told the barista to just go ahead and put the man’s order who was behind her on her tab.
Another server named Marina took a dollar to a vending machine and left it. She said sometimes she’s hungry and doesn’t have a dollar for the vending machine so she wanted to leave the money for someone else to use in case they were short on money.
These young people say it makes them feel good to help others. Christian, a high school student and Applebee’s server caught the T-shirt his school was giving away, which was being thrown into the crowd at a pep rally at a school assembly and immediately gave it to another student. Troy asked him if he would have done that before and he said “no, I was thinking of the random acts of kindness.” He also said it made him feel very good to do something nice for someone.
Another high school student working at the restaurant was selling candy bars for his school and bought 15 of them himself and gave them all away.
When Troy asked if he had done that in the past, he said “No, but I want to do it for others to enjoy.”
Dinah and Danny Zeck are regular diners at Applebee’s and they usually always have dessert after dinner. They always ask for Troy to be their server. “One night we didn’t order dessert and Troy brought us lollipops and told us about the random acts of kindness,” says Dinah. “Troy always goes out of his way to be kind and this is such a wonderful idea.”
Troy believes there are many ways to share positivity and kindness and he likes to visit Walmart on Sundays to practice one of his favorite RAKs. “The older ladies are usually dressed really nice because they’ve been to church,” says Troy. “Their hair is done nicely and it matters to them to look good. So I stop them and say ‘That is a beautiful dress, you look really nice.’ It means a lot to them and it doesn’t cost me a dime.”
When Troy noticed a 6-year-old girl behind him in line at a local store, he noticed her beautiful laugh and turned around and asked her dad if he could buy her a candy bar. “She was so happy and said ‘thank you,’” says Troy. “I told her dad I’ve been doing this for about four weeks and I told him I’ve had four outstanding weeks. I’m not backing down. If most people did this everyday, it would be a better world, we would have better days ahead. In the service industry we have always done RAKs. Now I’ve told the kids at work to seek them out. If you see an opportunity for a RAK and don’t do anything, that’s a missed opportunity.”
Troy also picked up an older man who was walking in the cold with bags of groceries.
Troy rolled down his car window and asked the man if he needed a ride.
The man told him that his car was in the shop and he would definitely appreciate a ride. He had about a mile’s walk left to get home so he hopped in the car and shook Troy’s hand. Troy told him about the RAKs. “The kids I work with told me never to do that, but it worked out fine,” says Troy. “When we got close to his house he said, ‘drop me a couple blocks away, I want my wife to think I got my exercise.’ When I drove home I felt so good. It cost me five minutes and 20 cents worth of gas.”
Troy also stopped to help a stranded motorist. He knows that most people have cellphones now and don’t really need other drivers to stop and help them, but he thought it would be good to just stop and check on her. “She said she had called her daughter and she was on the way,” says Troy. “I told her that her car was kind of out in the road so I pushed it over to the side for her. She said ‘thank you’ and I said, you just got R.A.K.T. and she said, ‘what?’”
He is also teaching his granddaughter about the joy of giving. When they go to Walmart they leave two quarters on the Claw Machine game. “She asked if I thought they would be there when we came back the next week and I said, no, they’re probably already gone,” says Troy. “There was probably some little kid who never got to play it and saw the money and said ‘mom, can I play this, there are two quarters on it.’ It costs us 50 cents but for that kid, it’s a week’s worth of happiness.”
When he was in another local store recently, he saw a mother with her four kids and the youngest was being very boisterous and misbehaving. When Troy looked at the mother’s face he could see she was exhausted and he thought about trying to do something to help her. “I didn’t do anything,” says Troy, but when I got home I felt sorrow because I thought I could have said, ‘hey buddy’ to the little kid and shaken his hand and got his attention and helped the mom out, but I missed an opportunity and I felt remorse. But you live and learn and just keep going. Opportunities are all around you. If you think about doing it, just go ahead and do it.”
Friends of Troy, Will and Bethany Blandin, came up with the idea of setting up a Facebook page, facebook.com/RAKMovement, for him so people could tell about their own RAK achievements each day. The whole crew at Applebee’s is fully on board with the project and Troy’s manager, Shelly, even came up with their ultimate goal and catchphrases — ‘We’re going to RAK your world,’ and ‘We’re going to make the world a better place to live one RAK at a time.’ Troy has also made laminated cards to pass on to the next person who received the RAK so they can pass it forward when they perform a RAK. “I hope they get passed around town enough that someday, I will be given back the tattered, well-used card passed on from someone else to me.”
As local RAKs grow in popularity, Troy says Applebee’s loves the idea and is helping to spread the love by giving candy bars and lollypops to servers to give to customers.
Troy insists that he and the Applebee’s staff don’t want acknowledgments, they just want to promote positivity and kindness. “I started saying hi, how are you doing to everyone who comes into Applebee’s and they are taken aback by it, but they really like it. I thought, I’m going to try this and see what happens. I bet back in the day everybody did that. It’s just little things that make a difference in someone’s day.”
Most importantly, the Applebee’s crew want people to know there are always better days ahead. And helping on a small scale to make the world a better place makes them all feel good.
“It’s something the kids can do their whole lives,” says Troy. “I asked the kids if they would have done these good deeds on a regular basis anyway and they said ‘no,’ but the RAK movement has made them aware of the importance of doing good deeds everyday. It’s positive and upbeat. You turn on the news and it’s depressing. I’m through with all that. I go to work and think what good can I do today. It might make a difference if people know someone cares about them. The point is to stay positive. If someone says this is a dumb idea, I’ll say thanks, I value your opinion.”