CITGO Revamps Marketer Menu, Adds Image Fines

"Trimark of Excellence" program will involve quarterly mystery shops

Carole Donoghue, Petroleum Editor

HOUSTON -- Look for CITGO to tighten its branded image standards for jobbers this year, for the first time introducing penalties for marketers whose stations don't make the grade.

In meetings with marketers to unveil its 2012 branded marketing menu, CITGO officials said the company will roll out a new mystery shop program that will reward marketers who meet its image standards, but punish those who do not with fines, and possible debranding.

The "Trimark of Excellence" program will involve quarterly mystery shops of marketer sites. CITGO has jettisoned its previous "gold," "silver' and "bronze" grading system in favor of point-based scoring, with a top score of 100, plus a three-point bonus question.

A marketer will receive $150 in CITGO gift cards, plus a letter of commendation and a certificate, each time his store scores 95% or more. For the top 5% of locations averaging 90% or higher on all four shops, he will receive $1,000 in Visa gift cards, plus a plaque and door decal. Cost per shop will be $350, 50% of which is covered by CITGO's co-op fund. CITGO will waive the bill entirely for high-scoring sites.

Starting in the fourth quarter this year, marketers whose sites score below 70% on any given mystery shop will get a warning letter. For a second consecutive failure, they will be fined $100. The third, fourth and fifth failures earn penalties of $200, $500 and $1,000, and possible debranding of the store.

CITGO's jobber council last year recommended that the company introduce penalties for poorly imaged stations, as exclusively reported by CSP Daily News in December (see Related Content below for previous coverage).

Based in Houston, CITGO is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by PDV America Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Watch for more on these initiatives in tomorrow's CSP Daily News.