I drive a green 1996 Chrysler New Yorker, and I’m not bragging. The air conditioning doesn’t work, the interior lights refuse to turn on, the driver’s seat is broken and must be propped up with an ice scraper; I can keep going but I won’t. However it does get me around, aside from the occasional stalling. At least the tires are in good working order. They only leak gradually, which means I have to occasionally fill them up at the gas station. But in the winter, and especially now that I commute to Sioux Falls, I need to make these tire-inflating trips more often.
The Hy-Vee gas station is my go-to convenience store in Brookings. It’s near my apartment, has the coffee I like, the beer I like, an air compressor, plus I have one of those nice little punch cards that gets me a free coffee or soda after purchasing ten. The only problem is, in the winter months it’s always a gamble as to whether or not the air compressor will be available because it doesn’t work well in the cold. So when I want to get gas, grab a coffee and fill my tires all in one stop, it’s really frustrating when upon arrival, I discover that the air compressor is unavailable. In that case, I have to drive clear across town and fill my tires at the only gas station in Brookings that has a reliably working air compressor, but seems to lack everything else. So when I have to go to Hy-Vee gas’s alter ego, I might as well fuel up while I’m there; meaning Hy-Vee has suddenly lost a sale that could have easily been theirs. And since I buy a lot of gas and need to frequently fill up my tires in the winter, Hy-Vee loses to its alter ego on a regular basis.
I don’t think the people in charge at Hy-Vee realize that their crappy air compressor is costing them sales, sales that end up going to their competitors. And I know that I’m not the only one who needs to fill my tires. I’ve had to impatiently wait in the air compressor line plenty of times. Being a CONVENIENCE store, I expect convenience, which makes it all the more inconvenient when my needs aren’t being met.
The moral of the story is, don’t underestimate the little things that could contribute to a loss in sales for your business, and this doesn’t just apply to gas stations. It’s amazing how a seemingly miniscule thing can negatively affect business. Maybe it’s minor, but nonetheless, it’s a loss. And little losses can add up. Sure, you’ve got all the major pieces in place, and sales are doing well, but don’t stop there. The minutiae matters too. Sometimes it’s the little things that set you apart from your competitors, especially when it comes to businesses like gas stations when there isn’t a lot of room for distinguishing yourself. They all have gas, they all have coffee, they pretty much have all of the same stuff. So if you’re in favor of optimizing your sales, take care of the little unexpected things. Get that pot hole in your parking lot fixed, keep your store at a comfortable temperature, and for God’s sake, get a better air compressor!
Tire pressure photo by Robert Couse-Baker