Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant
Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant

Friday, September 23, 2005

They get it! at my local Sunoco gas station


In the fall of 1973 I lived in (West) Germany during the course of the 1973 mid-east war. This war impacted fuel supplies in western Europe to the extent that I witnessed long line-ups for gas (including many who would fill up to a dozen containers) and experienced, during my last three weekends there, carless Sundays (only those in designated public services, such as hospital employees, could drive a vehicle on Sunday).

Yesterday I once again witnessed exceedingly long lineups at every gas station I passed in the Streetsville area of Mississauga. Somehow word got out that a few stations were charging over $1.50 per litre in the morning so when they saw gas at $1.04 per litre they had to fill up.

So this morning I went to my local corner Sunoco gas station to get gas for my lawn mower and to fill up my car which was only down 20 or so liters from a fill-up (@ $0.95/litre) last Sunday. I arrived to find they had just run out of "regular" gas which also meant none of those "intermediate" octane grades were available as they are a mixture of regular and high octane grades. Only their highest octane grade was in supply and I started to pack up to visit the PetroCan station kitty-corner which was advertising $1.04/litre. As I got into my car, an attendant came out and said "Don't leave; we've just repriced the premium grade at regular grade prices" -- amounting to a $0.16/litre hit to their revenues.

Simon Cooper, a senior Marriott hotel executive who participated many years ago, as I did, in the U. of Toronto Executive MBA program, used to say his biggest fear as a hotelier was that his lowest paid employees were the ones who interfaced to the public. So he made sure his desk clerks, waiters and others who provided service to their customers were empowered to make decisions that kept customers loyal. This policy occasionally got me a few (unsolicited) free meals and room stays when he was at Delta Hotels.

It was refreshing to see that, in this era when politicians make hay deceiving the public into thinking they can put a "freeze" on gas prices, there are gas company (and possibly their franchise) employees who are empowered to make on-the-spot decisions based on the competitive factor in providing true customer service. These guys do get it!

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