Are Convenience and Service Inversely Proportional?

It was miserable and raining tonight. A rainy December in Northwest Florida typically means cold, too. Cold. Wet. Blah. That basically describes the scene. Oh – and add an almost flat tire with low pressure.

I decided to stop by one of the newest gas stations in town. It had a lot of things going for it. First, it was a Raceway. They’re everywhere and typically “look” nice. And this one was new. Nice stonework columns and clean concrete. Between the newness and the brand name, I had built in my mind the perfect place to stop to add air to my tire on this cold, wet night.

I was wrong. Now, in the defense of the Raceway, the vendor that handles the air/vacuum devices are completely separate from the convenience store management. In my defense, I didn’t know that prior to walking in.

And here we go. I walked in to get change for the air compressor, walked out, and added two quarters to the machine. Then I realized the power light was off. I walked back in and asked the clerk if he was aware of the status of the compressor on their property. He said, “no”. I asked if I would get a refund should it not work after adding my coins. He said, “no”. I asked to see a manager. He said, “come back tomorrow”. At this point, I’m down $.50 (not a lot) and waaay down on principle (and pride) when another customer informs me of the relationship between convenience stores and the air/vacuum service they offer. They’re completely unconnected. I suddenly realize that I’ve made a booby of myself.

I got in my car and drove away. I went to a gas station where I knew the air worked. As I filled my tire, I realized something. The Raceway – which I expected to be convenient and provide the service I needed – was neither convenient or helpful. And I will forever think twice before stopping at a Raceway.

And I also recognized that they could have saved me as a customer. All the clerk needed was a little customer service training. When I first asked, he could have informed me to call the number on the device. Or he could have simply refunded me the fifty cents. Just a little care about my situation would have gone a long way in keeping me as a customer.

My question to you: have we sacrificed service for convenience? Is it possible to still offer both to customers? I hope so. I strive to with my businesses. Please share your thoughts.

Disclaimer: I have friends in the C-Store industry who have run very professional stores with a high level of service and convenience. What struck me most about the situation was the chasm between my expectation and what I actually received – and how that has affected my overall perception of the brand.