The Unsecret Shopper Goes Shopping: Kum And Go Part 2


Hello shoppers…

Day 2 brings Part 2 of the Secret Shopping reviews of all 27 Kum and Go Convenience stores, carefully selected by flipping open the 2010 Dex Yellow Pages to the “K’s” in the business section, and finding the store listings.

The first 13 on that page were featured yesterday. You can check them out by clicking the previous sentence.

Today, the final 14, submitted for your (dis)approval, depending on how the review went.

As I outlined in Part 1, these evaluations are based upon the four pillars of great customer service, which are criteria I’ve created, as part of the customer service training I provide for clients of my company, The Buyosphere.

Those criteria include, but are not limited to:

1. Do employees smile?

2. Do employees greet, as I enter the store?

3. Do employees engage? Do they ask questions that are designed to break down the barriers that exist between people who don’t know each other? In other words, do they make an attempt to befriend me, by engaging me as a friend would?

4. Do they thank me at the end of the transaction?

5. Is the bathroom clean?

6. How do they answer the phone?

Those are the questions. We’ll have the answers shortly.

First, a quick review of the Secret Shopper scoring system:

  Horrific – a customer service nuclear bomb that’s every owner’s worst nightmare. The kind of service you call your friends to complain about.   

   Weak – a lot of work to be done, but there’s hope.   

   Forgettable – not great, not bad. This is where most businesses end up.   

   Strong – some very good things are going on. Just needs some tweaking.   

   Stellar – first-rate, exceptional, off the hizzle. The kind of exemplary service you call your friends to brag about.

You know the rules, as Rick Astley sang, and so do I. It’s time to hit the road. 

So hop in to my Earth-friendly Prius (Just a warning: If you toss garbage out of the window, you’ll be electrocuted) and join me now as I roll through Des Moines city streets and suburban highways, a thirsty traveler, seeking soda and smiles, greetings and warmth, friendly peeps and clean pots, at the remaining 14 Kum and Go stores.

Come and go as you please, as long as you’ll please, Kum and Go, with me…

6130 NW 86th Street, Johnston  2:00pm

Phone Greeting: (5 rings) “We go all out at Kum and Go, this is Andrew speaking.” (Flat, without inflection)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: There was major grime that smeared when I touched it with a wet paper towel, on each side of the door leading in to the bathroom.

That’s reasonable. People push the door with their hands, their hands are dirty, and the dirt transfers to the door. Unfortunately, it makes the act of washing their hands a bit of a moot point, if they then press their now clean hands against the still dirty door.

An elbow first is the way I roll. Then, of course, it needs to be washed.

The sink, counter and mirror, also needed cleaned, which I could have done, with a bottle of cleanser that hung from a railing by the toilet. If somebody leaves the cleaner in the bathroom (easy to do) the bathroom should suggest that the cleaner has, indeed, been used, and isn’t for display purposes only.

I’m just saying…

Comments: Cameron, who played soccer for Ankeny High and has a “Hi!” kinda smile, didn’t use it, or a greeting, as I came into the store and walked past the counter he stood behind.

As I came out of the bathroom, I walked past a female employee, who looked at me, then looked down, and away. I know I’m no beauty queen, but…maybe I need to start wearing the mask. Did I have a boog?!

This is very typical of how we humans, and particularly, we human Midwesterners, react to strangers.

Part of it is our deferential nature. We look down and away as a sign of respect. There’s also the fear factor. Stranger Danger!!

Somebody we don't know, could be anybody - AND PROBABLY IS!


Of course, if we don’t get to know them, how can we know them?

Looking away is cool beans in the world of being a pedestrian, walking down the street, but not in the retail world of being an employee, walking down the aisles of the store where they work, wearing that company’s colors on a shirt, representing that company’s mandate, which is, in Kum and Go’s case, go all out.

Look me in the eye, Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. K&G Employee, and smile, and I’ll believe that you are.

Look away, and the saying is just some high-priced marketing person’s nut-bag idea.

There’s a great scene in Stephen King’s literary opus to the undead, Salem’s Lot, that Unsecret Shopidly demonstrates this, better than my stupid explanation.

In the scene, a small-town priest – who has been questioning his own faith – is face to face with a vampire (Don’t they spray small towns for those?) who has a young teen boy in his grasp.

The priest steps forward and holds up a cross, from which a great light emanates, which makes the fanged one feel like he just got hit with a shot from a can of Raid. He hisses, and begins to tighten his hands around the boy’s throat.

“Let go of the boy, and I’ll put down the cross,” says the priest, doing more negotiating than Lebron James’ agent.

The vampire releases the kid, unharmed.

“Now put down the cross, as you agreed,” says the vampire.

Instead, the priest, since he may have been born yesterday but not last night, and certainly before supper, lunges forward, holding up the cross, backing up the vamp, and hedging on the deal.

The vampire reacts like me, watching Sex And The City 2. He also sees a bit of doubt cross the priest’s face, and a bit of the light, fade away from the cross.

I’m gettin there. Hang with me.

The vampire stops backing up, and takes a step forward. The priest puts it in reverse. DUMMY!

With each backward step the priest takes, more light is taken from the cross, until the light is gone, and the room is dark.

The vampire reaches forward, easily snatching the cross from the now trembling hand of the priest, and crushing it in his own.

“False priest!” bellows the vampire, knowing that soup’s on. “Without faith, the cross has no power!”

Later, the two men wed, and adopt the kid.

Without faith from employees, in the incredible impact of great customer service, and full and complete participation from that faith, the branding statement of a company has no power, and will be crushed by their next new competitor. And any employee, manager or owner of Kum And Go, or any other company, who believes their company – because of its size, scope or reach – is impervious to crushing, will get crushed, perviously.

Let me use another quick analogy.

Just kidding. I’m done. Let’s grab a soda.

As I approached the counter, Cameron said, “That’s the dumbest story I’ve ever heard.” Then he actually said, “Dollar seventy-seven,” without a greeting before it, a thank you after it, or a smile throughout.

Using a vampire/slang phrase, that sucked. I know you can do better, Cameron, that you can shine your inner light, brightly, on every customer you meet. And I have faith that you will.

1301 8th Street, West Des Moines  3:41pm

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “We go all out at Kum and Go, this is David, how can I help you?”

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: You do not want to look at the following picture.

AHHHH! YOUR EYES! I TOLD ya not to look.

(Click this sentence to find out why that picture is even funnier than it appears.)

Here’s one you may find equally disturbing:

That’s what came up from the floor, around the base of the toilet, in the bathroom at this particular Kum and Go.

There was also deep dust atop the dispensers, dirt on the doors, filth on the toilet, inside and out, the sink was dirty – if there was a clean spot in that bathroom, I couldn’t find it, and looked, until somebody pounded on the door, wanting in, to add to the grime.

The dirt throughout the entire bathroom didn’t seem “immediate.” It felt chronic. The bathroom, by now, may be spotless as you’re reading this – and hopefully will be, by the time everybody, including the store manager, is finished.

Comments: The phone greeting from David was pleasant enough.

I’d get less from David in person, as he looked right at me as I entered the store, but said nothing, no greeting, grin or grunt. Again, you’re an employee, David, that’s what you’re expected to do and paid to do – greet, grin or at least grunt. I won’t bite. I haven’t bitten anybody since 1964, and after that, my mother started bottle-feeding me.  

After continuing the Secret Shopping Kum and Go tradition and grabbing a bottle of caffeine free Diet Pepsi from the cooler, I walked up to the counter, where David tossed me a “Anything else?” bone, but left off the meaty greeting, “thank you,” and attempt to engage.

And off I went.

Twenty-three cents in change, twenty ounces of flavored water, two words, and one disgusting bathroom, can NOT be the sum whole parts of a patron’s retail experience.

Give us shoppers more, David. You’ve got an infinite amount of what we want from you, inside you – happiness. And if you’re running low, I promise, just like the free drink refills you get during your shift, your internal refills are also free. Not always easy, but always free.


101 Army Post Road  10:37am

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, this is Shelley.”

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: yes

Bathroom: Floor, sink, soap dispenser, toilet, towel rack, door – all squeaky clean!!!

Here’s the pristine potty, squeaking.

Comments: Vickie greeted me, right after I’d entered the store, with the sweetest, friendliest “Hellooo!” Which turned out to be for a dude she recognized, 15 feet in back of me, at the ATM machine.

Me, she ignored.

Vickie had a nice save at the counter, with a nice, if more subdued, “Hello.” I looked behind me – nobody there. Yep, that one’s for me! As was the “thank you” she offered, as I left.

Considering the crazy-clean bathroom, and Vickie’s very nice interaction, post-entrance, her snub at the door, stood out even more.

Direct that big, sweet “There’s a friend of mine!” greeting at me next time, Vickie, and this store will have a shot at top honors.

8228 Douglas Avenue, Urbandale  2:20pm

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, this is Josh.”

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: Low restroom light = managerial brilliance. There was some light dirt on the floor and the toilet, but nobody but a snoopy Secret Shopper and his wet paper towel would find it, in a bathroom that was otherwise okay, and looked, like even I do in low light, fantastic.

Here's a bathroom that's perfectly lit


Comments: Jacob missed the chance to greet me as I walked into the store, but picked up the dropped ball at the counter, where he greeted with a pleasant “Hi,” told me the price, then ran out of things to say.

Before I left, I hovered around the counter area, admiring the Twizzlers and flowers, while another employee stood four feet away, engaged in an important left-brain process, instead of that most important right-brain emotions , engaging a customer.

Remember, quoting that Jefferson Airplane ditty, what the Dormouse said, K&G Employees: “Feed your heaaaaad…feed your heaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.” (Both sides.)

(Marty Balin’s just been knocked unconscious again, this time by an 83 year-old woman wearing a Grandma’s Angels sweater. Is there a medic in the blog reading house?)

6990 Douglas Avenue, Urbandale  2:42pm


Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, can you hold, please?” (Phone put down for 1 minute) “Hello, this is Steve.”

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: This bathroom looks dirtier than it is, compliments of a deep, dark stain around the base of the toilet. There was some legitimate dirt and debris on the outside of the toilet bowl, which needed scrubbed. Everything else was okay.

Comments: In yesterday’s Part 1 post, I brought up the idea that putting a customer “on hold,” should include actually hitting a “hold” button, instead of forcing them to listen to an employee nicely engage a customer, while they’re stuck with a phone stuck in their ear.

In this case, it was 10 minutes, 31 seconds shorter, so didn’t matter as much, but still mattered.

Just a thought.

Inside the same store, probably the same Steve welcomed me with a very welcoming “Hello” as I entered, and again at the counter, with hello’s shorter but still athletic brother, “Hi.”

Steve has a face that’s smiling, even when he isn’t, which makes you smile back, even if you don’t want to.

The smiling ended when he began engaging another patron, someone he obviously knew, who had stepped up to the counter. There’s no problem with that, except Steve hadn’t sealed the engagement deal with me, with a “thank you” and/or “have a nice day.”

Strong start, Steve – just don’t forget to finish that way.

2930 Hickman Road  3:40pm


Phone Greeting: (42 rings, on each of 5 attempts, with no answer)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: The sink and toilet were great, the floor had some light dirt, and the trash can looked like someone thought it was an antique, and had been following the advice often given by appraisers on Antiques Roadshow: Never clean it.

You’d never know that I took multiple wet paper towels and wiped layers of dirt off – so I’m telling you, and now you know.

How about "Pitch It!"


I’m no genius, but this looks like an indoor trash can that was designed to be an outdoor trash can and was used as an outdoor trash can until someone brought the poor, ugly, filthy thing inside, where it now resides, nearly unnoticed, like a hippopotamus in a tea room.

Comments: There’s a problem when you call a 24/7 business, and don’t get an answer.

There’s a bigger problem when you call a 24/7 business five different times, over three days, letting the phone ring 42 times each time, until an automated voice comes on and says, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed….”

"They'll probably pick up any time now...doo bee doo bee dooooo..."


The bigger problem was that my ear hurt, my cell phone battery was running down, and I was running low on bananas.

I re-re-rechecked the phone book, and finally noticed, on the third re, that this Kum and Go has two phone numbers.

The one I called after figuring out that dual numbers existed, the one that worked (although I thought about dialing the other one, just one…more…time…) produced a “Kum and Go, this is Kathleena” greeting, which meant the store actually existed, and I could go on with my life.

The correct number is listed on the store’s Google Maps listing. When you call information, however, they are still giving both numbers, with the non-working number given first. Just…somebody…may want to check into that.

However, before they pull the plug on it, give the 42 ring number a call! It creates a fun accompaniment as you sing ELO’s Telephone Line:

“Helllooo.” (ring) “How are you?” (ring) “Have ya been alright?” (ring)

Here, try the number, and the tune, for yourself, or sing along with your own favorite phone song! It’s 255-8475. You may also enjoy belting out Call Me, or go old-school, with Pensylvania 6-5000. But I wouldn’t recommend Baby, don’t forget my number. It’s best left forgotten.

Phone fun was over. It was time to head to the store, where Kathleena didn’t greet me as I entered because she was engaged with a customer. Mike didn’t greet me as I walked past him twice because I had my cloaking device turned on. Andre, the store manager, didn’t greet me as he walked past because his head was down, so I could have turned off the cloaking device, and saved the Uranium.

0-3, I moved onto the counter, where Kathleena, after I engaged her, engaged me about Andre, who, she told me, had moved to that store, from another, two weeks before.

Your best chance to impact your employees is in the next 30 days, Andre. Your greatest opportunity to influence your customer’s attitude, satisfaction and desire to return, is right now, this moment, with the next person who comes through the door.  

Carpe Diem Venio Vade: Seize The Day, at Kum and Go.

Roughly translated 🙂

5970 Morning Star Court, Pleasant Hill  2:35pm

Phone Greeting: (3 rings) “Hi, this is Allison, how can I help you?” (D’oh!)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: yes

Thank: yes

Bathroom: The sink and counter were dirty, the toilet had fresh stains on the lid, and the floor had urine, of unknown vintage. Dirt and hair came up on a wet paper towel, run along the cracks between the floor tiles.

Employees get busy. Patrons get lazy. Pee happens. Unfortunately, it happened, and stayed happened, with three, and then four, employees in the store – see below.

Comments: “Hey Allison, whacha doin – besides answering the Kum and Go store phone like it’s the Allison cell phone?”

There are a few (hundred thousand million zatrillion) more effective ways to answer the phone. Allison gets a pass, because I just didn’t give her one, and because she’s going to hit it out of the park, in short order.

Allison and Kyle missed me from behind the counter as I entered, she with a customer, he without. Tyson followed Kyle’s lead, working on coffee machines and not people, while I, the people, browsed the coffee selections beside him, ungreeted, unacknowledged and unloved.


Allison, upon my return to the counter, showed the boys how it’s done.


She had a huge smile on her face and left it there, through her genuine “Hi, how are you,” greeting, some pleasant chit-chat, and a “Thank you!” and “Have a nice day!” double-shot of customer service goodness at the end. She was absolutely fantastic. Awesome job, Allison!  

Then, as Bill Murray woefully announced to an empty apartment in Stripes, depression set in.

It came in the form of a conversation I attempted to have, after I’d stepped away from Allison, with Hamad, the store manager, who ignored me as I stared at muffins, five feet away from his vantage point, behind the counter.

To break the ice, I thought I’d let the cat out of the Secret Shopping bag, and tell him what I was doing, and what a great job Allison was doing.

I began to speak to Hamad about Allison, and he reacted by turning his head almost towards me, while leaving his body still pointed in the direction it had been when I came up and, apparently, started to bother him with all this “You’ve got a great employee in Allison” nonsense. As I described how Allison had engaged me, and why I thought she was terrific, he kept saying “uh-huh…yep…okay…yep.” Not like a proud store manager who was interested in the words, but like a disinterested bystander, who only wanted them to stop.

Maybe I was misreading him. Maybe I’m off base. Maybe I’m carrying Kevin Cooney’s love child. 

It's okay. We're just friends.


Yet in spite of this strange exchange at the end of an otherwise great experience with Allison, I’m going to score this high, because she deserves it. 

Hamad, take a tip from an old man whose rapidly running out of them. Try not to be quite so dismissive, the next time someone sings the high praises of one of your employees. That kind of exceptional customer service deserves our full attention.

Allison, you’ve got ours. Congratulations! 🙂

3803 121st Street, Urbandale  6:31pm


Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, this is Ryan.”

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: The bathroom and everything in it, looked immaculate, and passed the WPT (Wet Paper Towel) test. Then, like a BOB (Bozo On the Bus) I tested the CBT (Cracks Between the Tiles) and came up with a GOH (Glob Of Hair) and DIRT (No acronym, just the word.)

Comments: I got a “Hi” as I came in, a “Hi there” as I approached the counter, and a “Have a great evening” as I left, courtesy of Ryan, the phone-answerin, patron-greetin stud. Throw in some polite conversation, a quick “Thank you” before the close, and a nice smile throughout, and you’re getting a “super-” before “stud.”

2110 Guthrie Avenue  11:17am

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, this is Dustin, how can I help you?”

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: The door going in (and coming out, since that was the only door) had very noticeable grime on it that came off with a wet paper towel. The rest of the potty was okay, except for a bit of urine underneath a urinal specifically designed in 1293 by Samuel B. Uranal, for men with even the worst aim, to hit something, other than the floor.

Comments: This is a Kum and Go location that is near and dear to my Secret Shopping heart.

Months ago, I had the most wonderful customer service experience at this store, courtesy of an employee named Mike, who did something simple, that was quite extraordinary. You can read the whole story by clicking on this whole sentence.

That’s why it pains me to report that on the day of the Secret Shop, the store – without Mike there – did not perform up to the standard he set when I visited, back in late April.

Savannah, pushing a cart of bags full of ice, walked past me as I entered and walked past the counter, obviously focused on balancing the merchandise, and not on greeting. That’s understandable. It’s also extremely impressive when an employee, in the middle of some taxing task that requires strength, focus or both, still manages to acknowledge a customer. That gets the employee, the manager, and the store, quadruple brownie points, which they can trade in for referrals, loyalty and revenue, and put the rest on a gift certificate.

I later saw that Savannah was capable of just that kind of patron exchange – different bags, different patron, same cart and different outcome, as she smiled the biggest, most beautiful smile at a customer, while doing her ice bag balancing act.

Yes, I felt jealous!

At the counter with my Pepsi in hand, Justin greeted it with the scanner, forgetting me in the (left-brain) process, his customer service amnesia lasting through to the end. He was the only counter employee of 27 who remained completely silent, throughout our entire transaction.


Justin, I know that Ron, your store manager, will probably react with something other than silence, after he reads this. I know he will read it, because Ron is also a fan of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, which he manages to get through without falling back to sleep, Saturday mornings from 8 to 9am, on the station where the legends live, except when I’m on, 1350, KRNT.

Ron will likely tell you that the only time it’s appropriate to say nothing to someone who is three feet from you, is either when they’re asleep, or when its WWII, and they just shot your plane down. Even under those circumstances, you’re still allowed to cough up a little info.

He’ll probably also mention the great job Mike did, and is doing – so good, in fact, that, according to Ron, who chatted with me a bit during this Secret Shopper visit, Mike’s been promoted to Sales Manager.

Congratulations, Mike! You deserve it!

Ron also told me that he was going to suggest to Kum and Go Corporate that I come speak at a Manager’s meeting.

That was before this review.

"Some of you Kum and Go Board of, may have read some stuff that I, like, wrote...and, uh...ummm"


Whether I speak or not, I’m quite sure that Ron will speak to his employees, and point out the things that I’ve pointed out here, including the good, and what needs to be gooder. He’s a wonderful man, with a wonderful staff, who is all a wonderful part of the Kum and Go family.

5800 Northglen, Johnston  10:56am

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “We go all out and Kum and Go, this is Sara.” (Very pleasant)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: Other than some light dirt inside the toilet bowl, it was very clean.

Comments: This is one of the newer Kum and Go’s, built within the past year or so. It had many of the older store’s qualities, and I ain’t talkin about the color scheme.

I’m not trying to humiliate or embarrass employees. What I’m trying to do is communicate to them, that it’s humiliating and embarrassing for us shoppers to walk, back and forth, within 2-3 feet of an employee, in a store aisle, without being engaged.

That’s what happened with Brock, who was given several chances, and didn’t use them, to acknowledge that a human being, not a puff of smoke, was in his midst.

Nobody enjoys being ignored


Brock – come on, my brutha, throw me a bone. Say hi to me, smile at me, stick a piece of packaged beef jerky in my ear, tell me you don’t carry Geritol, Metamucil and Polident.

Just don’t deny that I’m there, that a shopper’s right there beside you – remember that next time, okay?

Grant also missed engaging me as I walked past him at the counter, coming out of the bathroom, but he recovered nicely, with “How are you today?” when I approached the counter to pay for the standard Secret Shopper soda.

After the equally standard “Anything else?” he finished strong, but unsmiling, with “Have a nice day.”

A store that new, needs to have a new-feeling vibe, i.e. staff who are happy to be happily working at the happy new store – otherwise, it’s just another Kum and Go joint, full of indistinguishable, interchangeable employee parts.

4944 Douglas Avenue  4:28pm


Phone Greeting: (9 rings) “We go all out at Kum and Go, this is (indecipherable – Lucinda?) how can I help you?”

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: no

Thank: yes

Bathroom: It was clean, except for a slightly dirty floor.

Comments: Paul’s a pro, and proved it, by initially greeting me with a “Hello” at the door, a second one, in case I didn’t hear the first, as I checked out at the counter, and a “Thank you” as we finished, all served up with heaping helpings of great eye contact, and a nice grin tossed in.

Paul also said, as I engaged him about my Secret Shopper journey through the Kum and Go locations, that the company secret shops quarterly, and employees are graded on a percentage basis, with 100% being perfect.

“I get 95’s,” he shared, through a growing smile.

I wouldn’t argue with that. Ask Corporate if they’d like to switch to a mask rating system – they’d be shocked at how inexpensive the user rights are.

As for today, Paul’s great, and consistently great, customer service, has been unmasked, for the blog reading world to see.

Now you know. 🙂

7229 University Avenue, Windsor Heights  3:22pm

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) “Kum and Go, this is J.D.”

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: yes

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: The tops of the paper towel dispenser, blow dryer, soap dispenser, toilet paper dispenser, all needed a cleanser dispenser, as did the base of the toilet, the sink and the mirror.

Comments: Kara and Mindy were checking out customers as I came in. Again, totally understood that they didn’t greet, but still would have been nice to get it, especially as I walked sort of slow, directly behind the two patrons at the counter, glancing between them and at the employees, to see if I’d get a wink or a nod.

I’m lucky I didn’t get elbowed in the face.

Later, Kara, now without a customer except the Secret Shopper in front of her, remained silent, which is good for Miranda, bad for Jonnie.

Your Miranda rights


She finally found her voice, through a tremendous smile, with “Anything else, hon?” I love the “hon,” and am all over the smile. Just attach their two giddeyups to something funner, like, “How you doin?”

This was Kara’s second day, I discovered, after engaging her.

Kara, I want to engage you again, right here.

You have a foundation that most other employees, at Kum and Go or wherever they work, don’t have – a real, authentic, honest to goodness smile, that sits on your face, not because you think about putting it there, but because it just does, as a natural extension of who you are.

So combine your infectious grin with a consistent greeting, get to know your customers, toss in a thank you, and you’ll have as many days as you want, in whatever Kum and Go position you want, Kara, because the sky will be the limit, for a happy, smiling, engaging, thankful, thoughtful employee, like you. 🙂

15600 Hickman Road, Clive  5:45pm


Phone Greeting: (5 rings) “(Indecipherable) this is Robert.” (Mumbling and monotone)

Greeting upon entering: no (but yes from the sampling girls) 

Greeting at counter: no (but yes from the sampling girls)

Smile: no (but yes from the sampling girls)

Engage: no (but yes from the sampling girls)

Thank: no (but yes from the sampling girls)

Bathroom: Several flies buzzed the toilet. Flies don’t lie.

There was dirt on the sink, grime on the floor, fecal matter and urine on the toilet, and a need for oxygen masks. The hard grime on the tiled wall by the toilet was especially impervious to much scrubbing with a wet paper towel.

That’s one square inch space somebody won’t have to clean.

Comments: I could have been calling someone’s house, or a bail bondsman – but it sure didn’t sound like a convenience store.

At the store itself, there was a sign on the entrance door: “Mike’s Tasting Today! 4-6pm!” It promised more energy and fun than the call had suggested.

The two girls staffing the free drink display, Dana and Luann, certainly lived up to the promise of their signage marketing.

Levi, the employee at the counter, apparently hadn’t gotten the “Oh boy we’re having fun pouring free booze today!” memo.

With that sign on the door of that store, everybody in it should look like this


Levi didn’t greet me, and could have, as I came in. He also didn’t greet me, and should have, as I walked up to the counter, soda in hand.

His only words to me throughout the entire exchange, was a disinterested “Is that it?”

I was wondering that myself, Levi.

Unless you want Dana or Luann to take over your spot on the Kum and Go roster, Levi, please consider learning from them, taking their lead and following those oldie but goodie pillars of great customer service: Smile, greet, engage and thank.

The girls had ’em down pat. So can you.

141 South Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines  5:16pm

Phone Greeting: (3 rings) “Kum and Go, we go all out, this is Christine, how can I help you?” (Pleasant, with nice inflection)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: A bottle of De Vere Restroom Cleaner and Deodorizer hung on the railing by the toilet, begging me to spray it on the dirt on the urinal plumbing fixture, thick dust across the tops of dispensers, dirt in the sink, and human debris on the rim of its neighbor, the toilet.

Leaving a cleanser in a public restroom makes visitors look closer, to see if it has, indeed, been cleansed.

Comments: Victor missed me as I came in, and ignored me as I walked past him on the way to the cooler (as did John, on his way out the door) but caught me at the counter, greeting with a smile-less but nice “hello,” and sending me on my way with an equally pleasant “have a good one.”

A nice store that can greatly benefit from nice employees, being nicer.

And with that, our nice, 27 location Secret Shopping tour of Des Moines area Kum and Go’s, has come, and gone.


What did we learn?

First,  Kum and Go doesn’t build over 400 locations that employee over 4,000 people and generate more than a billion and a half dollars a year in revenue, and leave their customer service to chance.

Instead, their success is due to a long-ago established, high quality customer service training program, strong Secret Shopper program, and stronger incentives for store managers to run and maintain a popular store, because their paychecks are based in part on store sales.

Plus, let’s face it, as I’ve buried the lead, the Kum and Go ticket to ride atop the CS revenue train, travels down a track built on location, location, location, marketing, marketing, marketing, and cheap drinks and chow.

Combine that choo-choo with a smiling, greeting engineer, and you’ve got an unstoppable retail freight train.

Yet even with all of their sophisticated customer service training and secret shopper programs, the Kum and Go Company, along with every other company on the planet, still has to turn over the keys to the Lamborghinis they build, and pray they’re not driven like Yugos.

These Secret Shopping reviews are the customer service cops that pull over the bad drivers.

The information contained in these 27 store evaluations, as Kum and Go Corporate Representatives will tell you (and HAVE told me, which you will see, in next week’s Monday Morning Reaction Post) have shed light on issues that can only be characterized as chronic and widespread for the stores themselves, troubling for the people who manage them and work there, and unpleasant and off-putting, for us poor slobs, the shoppers, who shop there.

Those issues can be summed up with the big 2:

1.  A consistent lack of customer engagement by employees, including managers.

2. Chronic and consistent cleanliness issues with bathrooms.

Yet, into every ying, a little yang must fall, which signals the fun part of our blogging show: pointing out the customer service heroes – yeaaaaaaa!!!!

Here’s Jonnie’s Power Five:

1. Frank, at the SE 14th store – a smiling, greeting, engaging fool, at a fantastic overall store!

2. Steph, at the 5308 University Ave store, delivering perhaps the biggest, happiest initial greeting of all. You rock!

3. Alex, at 156th Street, was the only employee to truly engage me, just like a friend! Open your own store already, will ya, you stud? 🙂

4. Allison, at the Pleasant Hill store – you are a lean, mean, smiling, greeting, thanking machine!

5. Paul, at Douglas Ave, has been doing it the (W)right way, for years – his Corporate Secret Shopping numbers tell his great story!

For these five, and for every hard-working Kum and Go manager and employee, whether I met you or not, this is for you…

As the applause fades away, what they are left with, at Kum and Go, is the grind, that comes with operating hundreds of stores, staffed by thousands of people, serving hundreds of thousands of customers.

Somewhere inside the details of their day, the managers at the stores profiled in these blogging pages, will take this information, share it with their employees, and use it to improve their customer service.

Because, make no mistake about it, they are listening. Trust me, they are. That by itself is a small miracle, for such a large company. Yet perhaps it is their willingness to seriously listen to just this sort of feedback, that has made Kum and Go, an award-winning leader in its industry.

Within the glory of that point alone, there really should be little question in any of our minds, that Kum and Go – not in spite of its issues but because of them – will continue to go all out.


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT. Email Jonnie at

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