TRAVERSE CITY, MI–After nearly four months of dedicated frozen-yogurt consumption, Roy Kempner, 47, finally earned the 10th and final punch on his Creamy Pete's Preferred Customer Card Monday, giving him a faint sense of accomplishment.
"Well, I guess I did it," said Kempner, holding aloft the completed punch card. "That'll be one free yogurt for me next time."
Kempner, a Traverse City-area substitute teacher, was offered the card following an Aug. 19 purchase of a medium chocolate-vanilla swirl cone at the yogurt franchise. "When the lady asked if I wanted to join the Preferred Customer Club, I thought it might be some sort of racket with a sign-up fee, like they have at Waldenbooks," Kempner said. "But she assured me it was free and said I'd already earned my first punch for the yogurt I'd just ordered, so I thought, what the heck."
During the next several weeks, Kempner made no additional frozen-yogurt purchases, and the punchcard was soon forgotten in the recesses of his wallet. On Sept. 12, however, the card returned to the forefront of Kempner's mind when he pulled out his Visa card to pay for dinner at a local Outback Steakhouse.
"I just happened to notice the punchcard there in my wallet," he said. "Then I realized that the yogurt place was just a couple blocks away. It seemed like fate."
According to Kempner, that evening's purchase of a second frozen yogurt, a medium butterscotch with crushed Heath bars, put the punchcard-completion project into high gear. "I was enjoying the yogurt, and I started thinking, hey, I'm already 20 percent there. I could easily eat eight more of these and actually get that free one," Kempner said. "I'd just need to adjust my travel and dining habits to get to Creamy Pete's more often."
Over the next two months, he made four more trips to Creamy Pete's, enjoying such flavors as peanut butter, raspberry silk, and French vanilla, as well as such exotic toppings as Oreo cookie dough and Sour Patch Kids.
Kempner faced his first setback in mid-November, when he brought his friend Matt into Creamy Pete's. "I thought I could buy a yogurt for myself and one for Matt and get credit for two yogurts," Kempner said. "Matt didn't have a card, so he said I could have his punch. But the girl behind the counter pointed to the rules on the back of the card, which clearly state that credit can only be given for frozen-yogurt items consumed by the card's bearer. Then I asked her if I could get an extra punch if I ate a little bit of Matt's yogurt before he ate it, but she said no."
Embarrassed by his clumsy, ham-fisted attempts to circumvent the rules of the giveaway, Kempner tossed an extra dollar into the Creamy Pete's tip jar.
Upon reaching the six-punch mark, Kempner's free-frozen-yogurt quest stalled, his interest in frozen yogurt waning with the onset of winter. The quest suffered another setback when the card was misplaced during the transfer of materials to a new wallet.
"I forgot about the card until last month, when it somehow turned up in the sock drawer of my dresser," Kempner said. "I usually only eat frozen treats in the summer, so I thought about saving it for next year. But then I noticed it was stamped with a Dec. 31 expiration date. I was like, uh-oh."
Faced with the choice of abandoning the quest or forcing down cold yogurt in 30-degree weather, Kempner opted for the latter. On Dec. 1, he gained his seventh punch, ordering a large coffee yogurt with Butterfinger topping. A week later, a medium vanilla with crumbled Cap'n Crunch bits brought him into the home stretch.
With just two punches to go, the project was nearly derailed when frozen-yogurt fatigue set in. "After the eighth punch, I was really getting sick of yogurt," Kempner said. "On the other hand, I was only two away. So after digging deep and doing some serious soul-searching, I decided I'd gone too far to turn back."
Forcing himself to make two more trips to Creamy Pete's before the clock ran out, Kempner gamely choked down a medium banana with crushed nuts on Dec. 6. Finally, at 5:13 p.m. Monday, Kempner ordered a small, toppingless vanilla, earning his tenth punch and with it, a dim, momentary sense of triumph.
Reflecting on his accomplishment, Kempner said: "Well, it was a long journey, but I did it. I ate 10 yogurts."
Gazing at the well-worn punchcard, Kempner spoke of the future. "As good as I feel now, it doesn't compare to how I'll feel when I get that free yogurt. I will have enjoyed $33 worth of yogurt, and paid only $30 for the privilege–a reward lavished only on the brave."