Gas Station Coffee

New shield for the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut.

I get up really early to play golf on the weekend. I’m usually out of the house an hour or two before anyone else gets up and so I don’t bother to make a pot of coffee since it will only turn itself off before they can drink it (yes, we own a carafe but it never seems to taste as good when it’s held that way).
On the way to the golf course (where the coffee is awful) I sometimes stop to buy a cup on the parkway. In theory, this should be a great alternative – reasonable prices, a wide selection of Green Mountain coffees freshly brewed – but it’s not, and the business lesson lies in what they’re missing.There are a lot of people traveling along the Merritt Parkway, even at the early hour.  I’m sure more come within the next few hours.  The rest areas are every 20 miles or so and are usually pretty busy.  I’m sure most of you have taken a car trip and decided to use the rest stop instead of pulling off at an exit in search of food, drink, and a bathroom.  It’s way more convenient.  But it’s also a monopoly of sorts and that’s the problem.

When businesses think they have no competition, they often grow complacent.  In this case, there are usually 5 empty urns of some interesting looking types and one urn of the regular blend.  The milk dispenser is often empty and you have to yell to get someone to emerge from the back to take your money (and yes, there are multiple people on duty).  They seem not to care and are kind of snarky when they check you out.

I’ve written before about flying a route that is only served non-stop by a single carrier.  They, too, don’t seem to care – the flight is usually late, the service is lousy, and the pricing is ridiculous.   Lack of competition equals complacency if the management isn’t on top of things.

I’m sure you can tick off examples in your own life – until recently (when competition came to town) the cable company, your wireless carrier, maybe your Internet provider.  How did you feel as a customer and if it wasn’t great, why would you run your business that way?

You ALWAYS have competition and if you behave any other way, you’re destined to fail.  I’ve started leaving a few minutes earlier so I can drive a mile out of my way to get coffee at a place that says good morning and has a great selection.  I have no idea if I’m paying any more but I definitely know these people are aware that I have a choice.  So do you!

Had experiences like this?  Want to share?

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Filed under food, Helpful Hints, Thinking Aloud

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