Facing' Problems Head On

Wawa, RaceTrac use Facebook to listen to customer complaints, explain pricing

WAWA, Pa. & ATLANTA -- Even as the convenience retailing industry learns the in and outs of social media, chains continue to ramp up their use of and to explore the usefulness of Facebook, Twitter and other such tools. Wawa Inc. and RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., to name two recent examples, used Facebook to communicate directly with customers to acknowledge and address problems.

In the case of Wawa, the retailer received Facebook posts complaining about and expressing disappointment over its decision to raise the price of its popular "shorti" hoagie sandwiches from $2.99 [image-nocss] to $3.99.

CEO Howard Stoeckel posted the following letter on the Wawa Facebook page, www.facebook.com/wawa:

"I have read the comments expressing disappointment about the higher price point for Hoagiefest this year, and I would like to share why we made this decision. We were able to hold our $2.99 price for the past three years, despite significant increases in commodity costs; however, we faced the tough decision this year to either increase the price or walk away from Hoagiefest altogether. The feedback we received was clear: 'raise the price if you must, but keep the celebration alive!'"

He added, "One of our most cherished core values is 'delight customers.' To this end, we make every effort to avoid price increases, particularly in tough economic times. We have chosen to maintain the quality and the size of our hoagies, rather than cutting corners to achieve a price point. We believe that this is the best way to continue to serve and delight you, our valued customers."

Click hereto view the Wawa message. Alsoclick here to view some of the comments.

In RaceTrac's case, it recently received Facebook posts lamenting the ending of the chain's popular Freefill summer promotion that in previous years encouraged customers to purchase a Freefill Cup for $6.99, allowing them to get unlimited refills for free during the summer at any location.

The company posted the following message on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/RaceTrac:

"To our guests and fans, we understand your disappointment regarding Freefill, but we're always wanting to try different things at RaceTrac, and we promise you won't be disappointed with the savings we'll offer this summer. We know you loved Freefill, but this summer, discounted fountain drinks can be enjoyed by ALL of our guests! Stop in and experience the difference at RaceTrac!"

The retailer is now featuring "It's Sodapalooza," a 49-cent fountain discount promotion.

Click hereto view RaceTrac's message and some of the comments.

The messages posted by both companies also elicited further discussion.

Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa operates more than 560 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

RaceTrac, headquartered in Atlanta, operates more than 300 retail gasoline convenience stores in five southeastern statesFlorida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.