Many companies profess to be all about their customers and employees. Spend anytime at QuikTrip, the subject of this month's cover story, and you'll see its devotion to these two vital retail components is sincere and palpable.
I was fortunate enough to spend a day last monthat QuikTrip's headquarters with Mike Thornbrugh, public and governmental affairs manager, and Debi Friggel,manager of corporate community relations. I came awaywith an overwhelming sense of excitement for how thischain does business.
For starters, its sprawling campus in Tulsa, Okla. iswarm and inviting—a sign of what to expect as you beginto meet the QuikTrip staff. Aside from the professionalism displayed by the corporate folks, store managersand clerks exuded the same high level of competencyand professional courtesy during a subsequent storetour of units in the area. Employees seemed both confident and proud of the work they were doing, whether itwas giving a lost commuter directions or recommendinga new coffee flavor on a particularly cool March afternoon. From an outsider's perspective, it was a pleasureto observe the satisfied looks on customers' faces asthey interacted with employees and moved from stationto station with fluid grace, as though they have done itmany times before. Indeed, so many have.
"QuikTrip is like my kitchen at home, with a much bigger selection," one customer told me as she watchedher four-year-old daughter rummage through theextended candy aisle with a smile so bright it seemedto make the overhead lighting obsolete. "I feel so safeand comfortable here that there is no reason to shopanywhere else."
That's just one reason why QuikTrip is the top operator in Tulsa, Atlanta, St. Louis and virtually all of the major markets in which it operates.
Rarely will I give into temptation when it comes to gas prices by seeking out the lowest price on the street to fill-up. I tend to be a core convenience shopper, filling up at the station nearest my home, office or Dunkin' Donuts. While driving home recently, though, I was lured to an unbranded station by a rather large billboard with a posted price of $1.99, a full 10 cents a gallon cheaper than my usual stop. Not since the Garden of Eden has mortal man been tested so. As you might expect, I gave in rather quickly. And as you might also expect, it proved to be a poor choice.
What I failed to see is the fine print on the big,impressive billboard that read "cash only." Two wordsthat turned out to be quite costly. Many stations in NewJersey have moved to two-tier pricing for cash and creditto gain a competitive advantage in the fight for cashconsumers. This strategy is especially effective in NewJersey because it is one of only two states that hasa law against self-service (Oregon is the other), andso many stations are devoid of convenience storesto help drive forecourt traffic. The cash discount, at atime when fuel prices are once again on the rise, is anattractive offer to motorists.
But there is one key to using the cash-only option:have the cash. After topping off at $15, I quickly calculated a savings of 75 cents. "Man," I thought, "this isgoing to make my next cup of coffee taste extra sweet."But while waving my trusted Visa, which has beeninvolved in more processed transactions than EllisIsland, the station attendant responded as if I had justmorphed into a pack of evil gas-sucking demons. "No,no," he shouted, while pointing his head in the direction of an even smaller "cash only" sign. He said twoother things as well, one was unclear and the other isnot suitable for print.
Fortunately for me, when I told the young man I didn't have any cash on me, he rediscovered his English long enough to direct me to the ATM inside. Being a smaller station, the cash machine was independently owned and just begging to give me the cash I needed to pay the nice man…for $2.50. Combined with the $1.50 surcharge I get hit with for using a non-Citibank ATM, I paid $4 for a 75-cent discount. Needless to say, I walked away with fig leaf on my face and some pleasant new words to use on the next driver that cuts me off.