Horror at the Doughnut Vault

The chilling story of how one girl’s disastrous trip hurled $36 worth of fried gold onto the street

 

The line at Doughnut Vault has a surprisingly genial vibe, considering its length and the fact that everyone is technically a rival for one of the most limited resources in Chicago. Apparently, the possibility of hot doughnuts is enough to sustain the general goodwill. Each time another person comes out the door with another dozen, your desire multiplies tenfold. So does the creeping dread that you might walk away empty-handed.

We had been waiting more than an hour when an excited little girl came bounding out of the Vault with a dozen glazed and tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. The box flew open, and $36 worth of fried gold hurtled through the air and landed on the street, their sticky glaze mingling with cigarette butts and alley water.

“Ooohhh,” groaned the entire horrified line. It was the same sound you might hear from a stadium crowd that has just seen a fan get clocked in the head by a foul ball.

The kid was about to cry. Then the line-dwellers began trying to cheer her up.

“Pick ’em up! They’re still good!”

“Doughnuts have a 30-second rule!”

“Ask for another dozen!”

“Sell them to the people at the end of the line. They’ll never know the difference!”

The girl looked confused, as though trying to decide whether to pick them up or run away and never come back, when her father appeared behind her. Now, one has to assume that they had planned his whole morning around doughnuts—the sole reason he and his family had gotten up early, driven all the way downtown, and waited an hour with strangers. So the moment he saw them, lying face down on Franklin Street like a drunk sleeping off a bender, his face flashed all five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance: all in the span of ten seconds. 

“Get another dozen,” he barked to his wife, who was still in the process of paying their bill. Then he hugged the kid—who seemed like she would never be the same—and assured her it was not the end of the world. It was a sweet moment, though he appeared to be a much better father than husband.

We ended up getting chocolate, glazed, gingerbread stacks, and pistachio, two dozen doughnuts in all, and you better believe we watched where we were going on our way out, where the evidence of the little girl’s heartbreaking blooper was still there on the ground. But I will bet you that someone at the end of that line, some poor fool who hit the snooze on the alarm clock one time too many to score his own dozen, and was about to walk away stymied, saw the soiled doughnuts lying there and entertained some pretty desperate thoughts, if not actions.

 

Photograph: Esther Kang

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2 years ago
Posted by linda128

The "horror" is that people are willing to pay $36 for a dozen doughnuts! The follow-up to this story is that the family will probably sue the doughnut shop and the city for not properly maintaining the sidewalk.

2 years ago
Posted by cfish

If this is a horror story to you, get out of your Gold Coast penthouse and visit the real world. There are people hungry enough to eat those doughnuts off the street. For that kind of money you could get three dozen Dunkin Donuts and still have enough left over to buy 20 meals for the hungry. "Horror" is laboring in bakeries for minimum wage in unsafe conditions without health insurance. Throwing that label on a laughable inconvenience is offensive, even for a magazine essentially aimed at the 1%.

2 years ago
Posted by Deadguy

People can spend their money however they want. Plenty of people, and not just from the "1%" have determined that the Doughnut Vault's goods are worth the price. That's ah...that's how capitalism / AMERICA works.

I'll gladly pay for a fresh, handmade doughnut over the stale flavorless cardboard sold by DD and other chains.

I'd also like to see the math that allows you to buy 3 dozen doughnuts of substantially less quality as well as 20 meals for the hungry for 36 dollars.


-A 99%er

2 years ago
Posted by yonos

Thought that you could only buy 6 donuts for $3.00 each.

2 years ago
Posted by cfish

Here it is:

http://feedingamerica.org/get-involved/donate.aspx?convio_source=Y11X1GSEM&convio_subsource=donatefoodonline&gclid=CPSCur-6hKwCFUcDQAodpTsc-Q

2 years ago
Posted by cfish

I don't really care how people spend their money. What I care about is calling this a "horror" when hunger is a real horror.

2 years ago
Posted by TribReader

Oh come on people - lighten up!! Does the world suck, are there people way less fortunate, are there starving children in our country and around the globe, are whalers still killing innocent whales, is global warming still eating the ozone layer? YES. YES. For Pete's sake this was just supposed to be a cute story (which it was), on how all of us have that one identifiable thing that we love so much, and the heartache and saddness you feel when you lose it. It's a joke story people, not a commentary of the rich, or the 1% and their greed, or even on the price of donuts. I say again, and plead - LIGHTEN UP!!!

2 years ago
Posted by annieo

$36.00 for a dozen doughnuts....How stupid is this?

2 years ago
Posted by annieo

Whats chilling is the fact that someone would pay this amount when they probably don't need any waist expansion.

2 years ago
Posted by saa

Worst. "Saddest story" ever. Oooh baby dropped its ice cream cone. Cry me a river. Apparenly has $72 to drop of donuts. Funny thing is the kid wouldn't taste the difference.

2 years ago
Posted by Phanay

Thanks Tribreader!!! Its a cute story ... it was funny, I laughed at the irony because we've all been there ... even if you wont pay that amount for donuts (which is not the point of the cute lil story) ... maybe its standing line for over an hr for a ride at great america just to get to the front of the line and they close the ride for repairs ... taking a break from work for coffee and find you left your wallet at home ... or my fav, saving up for hair do, walk outside and it rains .... its laughing at the ironic ... its bad out here ... everyone knows it ... but dont lose your humor ... its one of few things out here still FREE!!

2 years ago
Posted by Robespierre45

Whoa! Someone from St Paul, MN (as I am), might likely look at the sympathetic, caring & concerned comments of the locals and say to himself, "Wow, pretty tough town! I wonder if they regularly kick dogs, too?"

2 years ago
Posted by gregger

Looks like the Vault missed an opportunity for some good customer relations, ie., give the family a break and replace the donuts. Just like the ice cream joint that replaces the occasional dropped cone, and soaks up the goodwill in the process. At $36, you'd think there is enough margin to make the occasional "friend for life."

2 years ago
Posted by webdiva

I'm glad the little kid didn't get blamed for tripping, but that said, this tale tells a whole lot more about the writer -- and the respondents -- than was expected. As for those defending the charges ... Spend you money however you want, it's your right -- but you're still a dolt with more money than sense if you pay $3 for a donut. ANYWHERE. What kills me is that when there are enough silly people willing to pay $3 for a doughnut that probably cost less than 1/3 that to make, that idiot price then becomes the floor, not the ceiling, for any similar product in that neighborhood. Everybody else raises their prices, because suddenly they can: the traffic will bear it. Starbucks is doing precisely the same by charging maximum prices for miniature pastries that are nothing special (being sensible, I refuse to buy them). Meanwhile, the average salary has been lagging well behind inflation for the last three decades! Do the math. It's stupid any way you cut it. If you refused to cooperate, prices would have to fall again, or bakeries and donut shops would fold.

And yes, this wasn't really a horror, and deciding to call it that was a dopey thing to do in this economy, even tongue in cheek.

2 years ago
Posted by meadowlark

What I would like to know is...do you ship your doughnuts out of state? If so, is there a minimum/maximum that you'll ship? I will use your doughnuts for dessert from now on if you do ship out of state!!

Please let me know all information. In reading the comments above about the little girl dropping the doughnuts...actually $3.00 per doughnut is not an outrageous price for a dessert...just think what you pay for a dessert in a fine restaurant...a whole lot more than $3.00!!!! (I'm assuming The Doughnut Vault's doughnuts are fairly nice sized doughnuts!)

Thank you!!

2 years ago
Posted by meadowlark

To the moderator: Please remove my name and email address from the above email. I mistakenly thought those would be "private" only for management.

Thank you.

MEADOWLARK

2 years ago
Posted by Elizabeth Riley (Chicago magazine)

Hi Meadowlark,

Your personal information has been removed. Please let us know if we can do anything else.

Best,

Elizabeth Riley

2 years ago
Posted by jil

I dropped one of my donuts right outside the vault the first time I went there. I was close to tears. I can relate to this horror.

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