Thursday, February 8, 2024

From Wawa to Larry

We published an article today on the AYM High blog called “Consistently Clear Communication.” If I do say so myself, it’s a pretty great piece and something every business professional should take a look at. As a follow-up to it, I want to share a few recent, personal stories of my own to exemplify just how important clarity is in professional communication, advertising, and relationship-based business practices.

As a quick preface, I am well aware of my outspoken mission to share positivity and of the fact that the stories shared here can come off quite negative. I’m sharing them with the hope that you’ll see the positive potential in them, taking lessons from the poor and unclear communication shared to improve how maybe you communicate and advertise to your own audience, clients, and guests. So, please excuse my negativity in these stories, understanding that it’s shared to prove a point and not to be a whiner. Though, it’s shared a little bit to be a whiner, because everyone needs to vent and let out a little pent-up snark now and then.

As in every share where I get critical or feel the need to protect someone or an entity to give them privacy or the benefit of the doubt, I’ve either left off or changed individuals’ and companies’ names. Except Wawa. Because Wawa is forever awesome and deserves the positive shout-out.

Wawa Wins

I love Wawa. Like, I seriously love Wawa. In high school, I had a dear friend whose parents, Sam and Pam, met while they were each managers of Wawas; their license plates read SPAM1 and SPAM2, if I recall correctly. Adorable. And Wawa is a fun experience—great food, great branding, fun-to-say name, clean, and full of good juju.

In southern Delaware where I’ve been for a couple of weeks and where I hope to relocate to permanently this summer, there’s a chain of Wawa-like stores/stations, which for the sake of this story we’ll call Blahblah. And I’ve always thought they were OK. They’re not Wawas by any means, but they do have good fried chicken. And seem clean-ish. It seems that most of the popular corners and intersections in this part of the country have both a Wawa and a Blahblah competing across the street from each other for gas, convenience, coffee, and snack business.

Some Blahblahs do have one thing that many Wawas don’t: a carwash. And I needed to get my truck washed yesterday, so I decided to skip my beloved Wawa and hit the Blahblah next door instead. On the side of the carwash was a huge vinyl banner that declared, “20¢ off per gallon with each carwash purchase, up to 30 gallons” and I thought that sounded like a great deal! So, I got in line for the carwash and, as I’m about to enter, see some very small print on the entrance signage that says, “gas must be purchased before carwash in order to receive discount.”

Seriously? You couldn’t tell me this before I got in line? Oof da! So, out of principle and quite annoyed, I backed out of the carwash entrance and went to get gas. I needed to fill up anyway. At the gas pump, I took special care to not miss the carwash purchase option and be sure to get my discount. I read every screen thoroughly and pushed buttons correctly. There was a big advertisement on the pump screen as well: “20¢ off per gallon with each carwash purchase, up to 30 gallons.” Sweet. I was going to make this deal worth it! But, how do you access the deal? How do you tell the pump you want the carwash discount?

Nowhere in the beginning of the transaction at the pump was there an option to purchase the carwash, so I filled up and figured it was something that would come up at the end. But, no. And then a receipt didn’t print, so I went inside to get one printed, figuring now that maybe the carwash would scan a QR code on the receipt or something to apply the discount. But, no. The Blahblah clerk inside the Blahblah building said, “You need to buy the carwash and the gas in the same transaction to get the discount.” So, I said, “How do you do that? There’s no option on the pump to buy a carwash, though there’s plenty of advertising for it.” And she said she didn’t know. And she obviously didn’t care. And so I obviously left, frustrated and quite peeved, with an unwashed truck and a full tank of full-priced Blahblah gas.

What a farce. What false advertising. What a bait and switch—actually, not even a switch, just a bait and downright dirty trick! Because of a complete lack of clarity and communication, what could have been an awesome hook to convert a very loyal Wawaian like me turned out to be a coffin nail in my potential Blahblah business because of a very anti-relationship, transactional style of doing business.

Also, while I’m complaining and on my soap box, Blahblah rewards program is called BLABLO Rewards. Where’d that second O come from? Shouldn’t it be BLABLA Rewards? I get dropping letters, but I don’t get changing vowels. I’m so confused. I think they need to hire a better corporate strategist…


The main reason I've been in Delaware for a couple of weeks, with two more to go, other than house hunting for my hopeful July move here, is to keep an eye on my parents’ house while they’re out of town and be there for my brother, who lives in their care. The other day, my brother needed to pick up a prescription at a pharmacy. He was having a good day and up for an outing, so we ventured out together, went and got some groceries, and then stopped at the pharmacy to get the refill he thought was ready. After all, three days before he had a notice that one of his doctors approved it. Or something…

I sat in a chair while he waited in line and then got to the pick-up counter at the pharmacy. The clerks there were anything but friendly, quite rudely interrupting him when he was simply trying to spell his name (my brother and I have different last names and his sometimes confuses people because it’s not nearly as common as mine). After some back and forth, they said his refill wasn’t ready and referred him to another window to talk to a pharmacist. So, he went over, and the pharmacist told him it was something that needed “prior approval” and that he should call his doctor.

So, he called and left a message for his doctor’s nurse. Later, he got a message back that the refill was already sent in, so I went back to the pharmacy alone to pick it up for him. I waited in the long line again, faced now-even-ruder clerks who both looked like they had just eaten all of the sour grapes on the break room shelves (and, I get it, it’s definitely not easy in customer service and especially in pharmacies in our current climate, many pharmacies experiencing extreme personnel shortages and other challenges). They barked at me that the refill wasn’t ready and said, “We told him it needed prior approval.” So, I said, “Yes, and he talked to the office and they sent that in and said it was ready.” Then the clerks sent me to the pharmacist window for more information. It seems to be their schtick.

Finally, I interacted with someone kind who could explain things to me. The pharmacist was a delight. I explained that this was the second time that day that I had visited and that both times was told the prescription would be ready and that both times was met with disappointment and frustration when it wasn’t. I told her it’s not a short drive to get there and I’d really like to know, before coming back a third time, how to ensure that it will indeed be read, as my brother had less than 24-hours worth of his last refill left and this is something that he depends on to live. She was very patient and took the time to empathize as well as explain that “prior approval” means that my brother has to call his doctor and then have the doctor call the insurance company and explain why he needs this specific brand of refill, because that brand isn’t otherwise covered under his insurance. So, it’s actually not a strict refill situation, but rather it’s an advocacy situation and, without the doctor pleading his case for this brand to the insurance company, the refill can’t be processed (even though it’s a refill he’s received again and again from this very pharmacy and insurance—so frustrating). I thanked her profusely for the clarification and her kindness and then went back to my parents’ house to tell my brother what needed to happen.

How frustrating that they couldn’t just explain that up front; that it took two trips there, with an impending third, to get something that should have been so simple to otherwise process, order, and pick up. All it would have taken was a deep breath, a smile, and a little cordiality and understanding and clarity in communication from those pick-up counter clerks, saving me a lot of time, gas (using up that Blahblah fill-up!), and the kind pharmacist’s very valuable and important time.

Update: After going back for the third time, the refill still wasn’t ready. However, the clerk at the pick-up window—one of the very same who was incredibly curt with me earlier today—warmed up after a minute and ended up being very friendly once she actually made eye contact with me and realized, perhaps, that I wasn’t there for a fight. I’ll try again to pick up the refill tomorrow. Fourth time’s a charm?


I got a message on my website the other day. I have a contact form on there to act as a gatekeeper, which protects my private phone number and email address from going out publicly. I get a lot of reach-out from people in my industry, having been in director, instructor, and mentorship positions in it for decades, and if I gave out my direct email or number to many of those people I’d never get any rest or anything done. As my AYM High team members and I mentioned in our article “Respectful Responsiveness,” people seem to have no time-of-day decorum anymore and feel empowered to call and text at the oddest, most unprofessional hours.

I use my website’s contact form as a sort of screening process, answering some messages myself if it’s from someone I know or a quick question here and there, but referring many that seem to be requests for direct coaching or consulting to my colleagues at AYM High who then vet the inquiries, decide which coach(es) is/are best for the request, and then set up a call or consult. It’s awesome. Anyway, on my website’s contact form, people generally leave their first and last name, a message or a question, and the best way to contact them back. Most people are very clear and respectful in doing so, realizing by the fact that I have a contact form that, perhaps, my time is valuable and, perhaps, I don’t read minds.

Anyway, this message I received recently was from someone named Larry. There was no last name or other context, other than a call he mentioned that he had with me in December that he was “following up on.” Now, to Larry’s credit, he did actually send that website contact form message to me in December, likely soon after the call he referenced when my memory would have been clearer about it, but I somehow missed his form submission in my spam and didn’t get to it until February, so that does factor into this whole debacle and is definitely my fault for the time-elapse.

OK. December. Hmmm. I can’t remember who I talked to this morning, let alone in December. In December, I still had my business storefront with a landline, and that landline often got calls from people who had similar businesses who wanted my advice or mentorship on something. So, that must have been it. Larry must have been someone who called me out of the blue at the office. See, because I rarely give out my cell number to people I don’t know well, new contacts often called the public, published number for the business that they knew I owned and where they knew my office was. I did my best to help with callers when I could, but I certainly can’t remember every call or person or interaction. I got the feeling that this was one of those situations, as his email address seemed like he had something to do with packing and shipping. So, I messaged Larry back and asked what it was I could help with and asked him for some clarity on who he is, including hopefully his last name.

Larry messaged back a few days later. Still no last name. But he did fairly directly and, dare I say rudely, call me out for not remembering the conversation from December. He shared that we had met at a conference that I co-hosted last fall. OK. Sounds believable. I meet so many people at conferences and do my best to keep as many names and faces and stories straight as possible. I do preach relationship-based business practices, after all. But, I’m not a name savant. I need a little context and background to jog my memory if we just met once at an event where I was simultaneously very busy co-hosting and teaching and navigating through rooms full of other people I also just met.

So, I messaged Larry back again. What is it you need, Larry? I’d sure love to know your last name or a little bit more context so I can look you up and hopefully help you out. What is your question? Do you even have a question? I’m so lost here, Larry! I’ll be glad to help if only I knew a little bit of information. And I do apologize that I’ve since fielded countless calls after yours, and quite a few of those callers I’m sure were also named Larry. So, just a little bit of information would do wonders for jogging my memory.

I do hope I'll hear back from Larry at some point and see if there's actually something I can help him with. Until then, I wonder if Larry's clear communication prowess could be best used as a corporate strategist for Blahblah...

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