Local News

Use of Whataburger Number ‘Tents’ at Crime Scene Get Cops in a Pickle

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Tony Maples Photography


In a true example of Texans making-do with what’s available, Houston police commanders recently declared that police may not use Whataburger number tents at crime scenes to mark evidence. This rule didn’t come out of thin air, of course, but instead is a result of a crime in Houston.

The action was taken following the shooting death in March of a young woman. Officers who were waiting on crime-scene investigators wanted to mark bullet casings and other evidence and borrowed the order numbers from a nearby Whataburger. According to KSAT 12 News in San Antonio, police spokeswoman Jodi Silva expressed concerns that use of the markers amounted to a police endorsement of Whataburger.

‘Take a Number’ but Not Forever

Whataburger number

Photo: Flickr/Minh Hoang

But, this isn’t the only time that Whataburger number tents have been at the center of a crime. The Wall Street Journal wrote recently about Whataburger lovers’ fascination with stealing the tiny table tents, and how many tents the stores go through each year (1.2 million tents each year in its 815 restaurants). The stores don’t track how many tents get carried off, but some stores “particularly near high schools and colleges” go through them so quickly, that they have to order new ones every month. Each tent reportedly costs .25 to make. However, any exposure can be viewed as good exposure so, displaying number tents in places other than the restaurant amounts to good marketing for the already-beloved Texas brand.

Whataburger Since 1950


Photo: Flickr/Mr. Nixter

Whataburger was started in 1950 by Harmon Dobson in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson sought to serve a burger so big that it “took two hands to hold, and so good that after a single bite, customers couldn’t help but exclaim, ‘What a burger!’” Whataburger remains a family-owned company and is famous all over the globe. There are now more than 790 Whataburgers in the United States.