Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is republished here with permission.

I recently read an interesting story about a technological glitch at Starbucks that made it impossible for the point-of-sale registers to work. What that meant was that they couldn’t take money for the coffee — or whatever else they were selling.

This didn’t happen in just one store. The internal glitch caused an outage in 7,400 stores in the US and another 1,000 in Canada. In my mind, this qualifies as an emergency. What should employees do in this situation?

A Little Goodwill Goes a Long Way

After reading the various reports, it seems that Starbucks and their employees did a fine job of handling the crisis. The solution was simple. Just give away the coffee. That’s right. Give it away for free.

Some stores did close early, but in the process, they still gave away what product they had. If you think about it, it makes sense. You have coffee brewed and fresh food items. If you don’t move the merchandise, it goes bad. So, why not create a little goodwill and put your best foot forward with your customers and show them a little love?

Pay it Forward

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to work with a fast food/quick serve restaurant. I asked how they handled a customer who placed an order in the drive through lane, but didn’t have the money (for whatever reason) when they got to the payment window. The response was so customer service friendly. In short, they know that most people are honest and in most of these situations they simply misplaced their wallet or their purse. It happens. Rather than deny the customer the food, they give the customer the food and tell him or her that the next time they come back they can pay for it.

This is right on several levels. First, it takes the embarrassment out of the situation. Second, it shows the restaurant is more interested in taking care of the customer than the few dollars they might lose if the customer never came back. Third, it most likely creates amazing goodwill. With social media, the customer has a loud voice and may share that positive experience with their friends and colleagues. That’s some very inexpensive, or even free, word-of-mouth marketing.

This article first appeared on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog and was written by Shep Hyken. You can read the full version here.