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Daze of My Life/In Name Only

by Kenneth B. Lourie

As I was standing in line (semi-patiently) in the No. 10 spot approximately, near the soda dispenser, to prepay for my gasoline fill-up at my local cash-only combination convenience store/service station, the reality of my position hit me. These combination food and fuel convenience stores should be renamed, because they offer neither convenience nor service. In fact, they really should be called ďinconvenience storesĒ and/or ďlack of serviceĒ stations. Certainly you may buy products - food, drink, snacks, sundries, cigarettes, gasoline and motor oil - but anymore, it seems, you really canít save much time (or money) or get any assistance.

Generally speaking, thereís only one employee accepting payment for all the food and fuel purchases. As such, the employee appears not to be in a position, figuratively or literally, to ever leave his post behind the counter adjacent to the cash register, to do anything other than perhaps go to the bathroom. (And in all fairness, itís likely the employees never get a break - lunch or otherwise - when the inside of the store is open for business.) Later in the day, however, after 6 p.m., when the entry doors to the store are locked, an employee can certainly find the time to safely use the facilities, coincidentally, Iím sure, when customers wanting-to-pay are queued up outside the cashierís window waiting for this one employee to return so they can pay for their less expensive gasoline and/or more expensive groceries and finally be on their way.

But as the present system works, or shall I say doesnít work, stopping for food and fuel at one of these so-called convenience stores has become more of a staying put. Sure, these stores are located conveniently enough, but the buck (credit cards not accepted) stops there, as do you. And until your change is carefully counted, as it is for all the previous customers ahead of you in line - all under the watchful lens of a camera suspended from the ceiling aimed directly at the registerís cash drawer - your pace, as do the wheels of justice, grinds excruciatingly slow.

I suppose itís only fair that the storeowner protects his investment, but at what cost is my question. Dissatisfied customers usually tell their friends.

And if a business, self-described as a convenience store/service station, fails to deliver on both, is that failure likely to be good or bad for business?

Moreover, if these problems/tendencies persist, am I, as the paying customer, somehow obligated, by the sheer force of habit (or location) if nothing else, to continue to patronize a business that seems to function contrary to its name?

Convenience stores/service stations, by their names, imply a positive-type experience (quick and easy and helpful), so if said business isnít living up to its name, does it deserve to call itself something itís not? I donít think so.

And if not, whatís to prevent me from simply driving ahead to the next convenience store/service station and finding food and fuel there? Nothing, thatís what!

I donít have the time or patience to consume products where my patronage is taken for granted. And stopping for food or fuel at a convenience store/service station that offers neither is doing exactly that. A convenience store/service station is supposed to be for the customerís benefit - not the ownerís.

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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