The Road Warrior

Roving CSP reporter experiences Sheetz for first time

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

Linda A. Zid, CSP

PITTSBURGH to ALTOONA, Pa. -- It evolved from my conversation with a gentleman on the plane to Pittsburgh. Being from the Midwest and never having experienced a Sheetz, I was curious about what he thought of Sheetz convenience stores. "I have one friend who goes there all the time for their sandwiches; he thinks they're the greatest," he said. "For me, they have a clean bathroom and a good cup of coffee."

When I told him I was driving two hours east from Pittsburgh to Altoona, Pa., and hoped to stop at one, he laughed and said, "You'll see plenty of them along the way."

The "game" I invented for myself from there was simple enough: Stop at every Sheetz location on my journey, to see firsthand what made this company this year's CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop winner.

(Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage;click here to read the cover feature on Sheetz's mystery shop victory from the August issue of CSP magazine; andclick here to view a CSPTV feature.)

I approach my first Sheetz ever in Murrysville, Pa. I'm struck by how many people are hanging out at the tables outside. The mood is festive, like an ice-cream social, rather than a parking lot.

I realize I have no cash on me, and notice the "surcharge-free" cash station. Now, that's just nice. Later, Travis Sheetz, vice president of operations, explains to me that they do that as a traffic generator. "People would come here as a destination to get money, and then spend some while they're in here," he said.

And as if to prove that point, after getting my cash, I apprehensively approach the foodservice ordering kiosk I have heard so much about. As I scan through the plethora of items (many, such as fryz, sliderz, saladz and flatbreadz playfully calling out the company's signature "Z" branding), the man at the kiosk next to me is in and out in seconds; he's clearly done this before.

I get nervous and quickly add macaroni and cheese as a side, and close out my order. Macaroni and cheese? "What kind of road warrior eats macaroni and cheese?", I chide myself. (To my delight, it fits neatly in the rental car cup holderalthough I finish it before I get going, because it is piping hot and good.)

As they are calling out order numbers, a middle-aged man in a long ponytail and leather vest (there is a unique collection of families, biker types and teenagers, all who seem to just somehow blend together as a "Sheetz community") has ordered literally about a second ago and there are many ahead of him. He teases the lady behind the foodservice counter. "Denise, how about No. 780?" She laughs, and asks him how he's doing tonight.

It is now my turn to pay. The fellow behind the counter is young, probably in his 20s. He smiles and is polite, but moves along at a steady pace because the store is full at the late-ish hour.

I spot three other Sheetz locations along the way on my 111-mile journey, and stop to fulfill the responsibilities of the game. And the experience is pretty much the same at each. A jovial atmosphere in the outside seating, customers joking with the clerks, a substantial product and clientele mix--and smiling politeness for me, the Sheetz newbie.

(Got a Sheetz experience you want to share? Comments on this story? Please email Linda Abu-Shalback Zid at [email protected].)