“About a month before her birthday, I said, ‘Penny Lane, what kind of party do you want this year?’” says her mom, Lauren Jacobs of Orlando, Fla. “I figured maybe she’d say ‘Frozen,’ because all the kids love ‘Frozen’ right now, or My Little Pony. Nope. She said Walgreens. I thought maybe she just wanted me to take her to Walgreens, because sometimes I bribe the kids to do chores by promising them we’ll go to Walgreens afterward. So I clarified: ‘Penny, do you just want to go to Walgreens, or do you want a Walgreens party?”
The second one, Mom.
And what’s more, Penny Lane had a clear vision: a Walgreens “store” in her home where her guests could shop.
Her parents found her a miniature shopping cart and small toys to stock the “shelves,” but to simulate a real, honest-to-goodness Walgreens, there would need to be something more – something authentic. So Jacobs reached out to Walgreens through Facebook, hoping for a small assist.
“I just wanted a little ‘W’ sign, and was willing to pay,” she says. “They messaged back the next day asking for my address. We didn't know what to expect.”
Jacobs got a whole lot more than just a sign. Behind the scenes, team members from multiple areas of Walgreens were quickly pulled into an impromptu passion project to find all sorts of Walgreens-branded accents and accoutrements to make Penny Lane’s party sing. Kelsey Farrell, a digital marketing analyst, worked with others on the social media team to get a head count and guests’ ages. Brand marketing specialist Kristin Busch placed an order for hats, face masks, lip balms, notebooks, pens, ice packs and other small items bearing the Walgreens name and logo – to be worn or serve as additional Walgreens “merchandise” in Penny Lane’s “store.” And Bruce Abrams, a project manager in pharmacy and retail operations, connected with Walgreens’ uniform vendor to order polo shirts for Penny Lane and her guests, just like real employees wear. He also contacted the district manager for the Walgreens stores closest to Jacobs’ home.
That’s how Michael Cayton, a store manager in The Villages, Fla., got involved. Told what was happening, he went straight to work using his store’s photo kiosk to create a 2-by-6-foot birthday banner with a Walgreens logo. He also used the store’s supply-ordering system to request a healthy helping of Walgreens balloons – regular ones and beauty-specific ones, since Penny Lane especially likes visiting the beauty section. He even made her an authentic Walgreens beauty consultant name tag with a lanyard.
All of the ordered items arrived either at Jacobs’ home or Cayton’s store on Dec. 4, the day before the party.
“I found out the family’s favorite Walgreens is actually a different one nearby,” Cayton says, “so when I got off work that night, I drove over to that other store to drop everything off, and I let the mom know: ‘Everything is there – it’s good to go.’”
As a customer and a mother, Jacobs was floored.
“My goodness, the team at Walgreens just went above and beyond,” she says. “We could not stop cracking up the day we picked up all the stuff.”
The party guests – family members who have been distancing together for much of the pandemic – wore Walgreens gear and played party games to earn “money,” which they then “spent” on Walgreens items in Penny Lane’s store.
“She was just so happy,” Jacobs says. “We were all just overjoyed because it was the silliest, most fun thing ever. Multiple people made this little girl feel so special.”
Like all the Walgreens helpers, Cayton is thrilled he could play a role.
“Lauren sent me some pictures of the party afterwards, so I could see everything that was done, all put together,” he says. “It was really cool – something I never would’ve thought I’d get to be a part of.
“I was a little bit shocked when they first told me about it. A Walgreens birthday party? You wouldn’t think a kid would look at us and decide this is how she wanted to celebrate. But I think our response shows how much we really care – how passionate Walgreens is and how we go beyond what our customers might normally expect to make sure they have a really great experience.”