I am in awe of the people who work at convenience stores.
They must greet ambivalent customers with “hello” and “hi” and “how ya doin” over and over and over and overandoverandover while acting like they care about the response. They handle hundreds of dirty dollars and grimy coins. They have to repeatedly and patiently explain how to pump gas to those who can’t read and follow simple written instructions. (“Push the ‘start’ button….lift the ‘lift here’ lever…”) They have to clean up after people with full bladders and poor aim.
Convenience store clerks are basically daycare providers for really large toddlers with money.
The people behind the counter are the stable hub of a transactional wheel that travels over the same physical and emotional road thousands of times a minimum wage-paying shift, and they do it with a smile, or at least without growling, and somehow without running out of the building, screaming.
I have run and walked into many convenience stores, probably thousands. I spend a lot of time (and money) at these gas stations with groceries – Quik Trips, Kwik Trips, Kwik Shops, Kum and Gos, Git n’ Gos, Caseys. The warm colors of their illuminated signs beckon me like a moth to a Flamin Hot Cheetos bag. I am a self-proclaimed expert on their bathroom cleanliness, condiment packet selection, junk food freshness and, most important, customer service.
Beyond convenience (Closest store wins my purchase of four Pepsi Zero’s and a chocolate donut!) I also shop the most at the locations where the people seem to know me and like me, or at least tolerate my loud voice and poor fashion choices. They know me as “Mr. Happy” at my nearby Casey’s General Store, and they never fail to engage me at a higher and happier level when I come through the door. Same sorta thing at the Quik Trip just down the road a bit further yonder. If I recognize the counter clerk and they recognize me, they will usually give a little bit more of themselves – friendlier tone, “Howzya day?” shout out, good eye contact. That means something to me. It makes me feel like somebody gets me – me and my penchant for roller warmer hot dogs and Doritos.
Convenience store clerks are not perfect. I’m there buying a 700 calorie chocolate chip cookie the size of a Prius hub cap, so neither am I. But most seem perfectly suited to doing something that seems both incredibly simple and extremely hard. I make it a point to always smile at them, whether or not they smile first. I hope they know how grateful I am.
Thanks for getting me.
Jonnie Wright is the President and CEO of The Buyosphere, a customer service training, marketing and recruiting company based in Des Moines, Iowa.