Jan
16

An Open Letter to am/pm

My car has been running on empty for almost two days now, I seem to notice that I do this a lot and I chalk it up to my experiences at gas stations as to a reason why I let my life be possibly hindered by running out of gas rather than to take ten minutes and fill up. Below is just one of these experiences that shape this consumer behavior.

I’m pretty busy today dodging from salon appointment to home to do some work in time to get back out on the road to get to a meeting. I have been running on empty in the car for two days, so I decide to stop at the am/pm on the corner of McClintock and Southern in Tempe, AZ to get some gas quickly before I head back home.

I’m not a real big consumer of am/pm because they seemed to be a leader in a movement I noticed a few years ago where gas stations started charging their customers extra to pay by debit or credit to cover their fees from credit card companies to process these cards. Thanks guys. Anyhow, so I stop in to this station because it was close by and recently completely renovated and I thought I’d check out if the experience had gotten any better. I pull in, and I notice flaw #1.

Flaw 1: Poor support column placement.

When I go to get out of my car, there is a support column RIGHT where I would open my door out to. So even though I parked a decent distance from the pump, I still can barely get out of my car. I manage to squeeze out of my car door and go to start filling up. I notice Plus #1.

Plus 1: Pay at pump, yaay convenience for me.

The pumps now take cards at each station instead of at the main pay column in the middle of the pumps. This is helpful to me because I don’t have to go to the pay column, stand in line to pay, etc. I also don’t have to go inside. So I enter my card details, agree to pay the extra fee to use a debit card. I go to the pin pad and there’s a flat label that says Yes and a flat label that says No next to the push button number keys. I assume I push 1 for yes and 4 for no. I push 1 for “yes” and it goes to the next screen, a.k.a. Flaw #2.

Flaw 2: Don’t up-sell me when I just paid you a bunch of money to already do something I think should be standard.

The next question is, “Do you want to buy a car wash?” Ok, I get this, you’re trying to upsell me. You want to offer me a added bonus that I would enjoy. Great, but don’t offer this to me when you just charged me for something I think should be standard when I purchase from you. I can appreciate your gesture out of context as my car is dirty, but I really don’t have the $ or the time.. also you never told me how much extra it would be so no I’m not going to say yes. Here comes flaw #3.

Flaw 3: Inconsistent interface outcomes.

I push four for “no”… the pump beeps at me but the screen to upsell me the car wash is still there… I push four again… this time two beeps from the machine but still nothing happens to get me through the payment process on the screen. Why when I pushed 1 for “yes” it worked but now when I want to use 4 for “no” it won’t? Is this a shitty way to make people have to buy a car wash, do I have to just to pump my gas? So now I think my pump is broken. Shit. Just as I move to get back into my car and go to a different gas station, here comes a guy that has a blue polo on. I’m like oh what’s this guy want? He’s about to be flaw #4.

Flaw 4: Sales guy disguised as customer support.

He’s a decent looking guy, looks trust worthy and decent so I’m not thinking that I’m going to get kidnapped or mugged by talking to him. He smiles, taps on my window (which has some dings in it) and says, “You know, we can fix your windshield for free today if you like.” What? Ok, nothing is for free. I look at him puzzled (and a bit annoyed that he’s selling me while I’m having trouble with the pump) and retort, “What’s the catch, nothings for free?” And he says, “Well you have insurance, probably full coverage or glass coverage, you pay a premium every month that isn’t used.” and he continues, “Since Arizona is a “Driver not a fault state it’s automatically covered in your premium every month.” Ok, what the hell did he just say? Is he trying to sell me a premium monthly service, is he trying to say that it’s already covered in my insurance, don’t I have to pay the deducible before insurance will cover it? I just get more confused and then realize I’m not even HERE for glass service. I say, “Look I’m really not interested, I’m really busy and I’m just trying to get some gas but this pump doesn’t work it just keeps trying to sell me a car wash that I don’t want.”

This one could have been a plus (just like the car wash), but the way it was handled just felt wrong. You’re right those dings in my window bother me, and yea I do want to get them fixed easily and cheaply but they don’t bother me enough to go to an auto-shop. But don’t say things a free when people know the money comes from somewhere. I would have been much more inclined to talk to him about doing it today (if I weren’t so busy) or at a later date if he would have told me more about the service and how little it would cost since they work with my current insurance to take care of theĀ  cost.

Also, tell your sales people to approach people while they’re waiting for gas to be pumped after they’ve finished the transaction with the pump. It was so hard to listen to him while I’m trying to figure out why the pump won’t work. But lets get back to the story…

He says “Oh, I see this problem all the time, let me help.” Incoming Flaw #4.

Flaw 4: If you know something is broken, for the love of God fix it.

This is another situation where it would be a plus if he were just offering help , but he sees this issue all the time, why don’t they just fix it? How many customers does it take to drive away with a bad system before you stop to fix it? I understand if only a few people have this issue, but for the sales guy to notice that he helps people with this issue all the time and then to not fix it.. what the hell.

So, I accept his offer to figure out the “trick” to getting this pump to work. At least it will make him quit trying to sell me a service I don’t even know how it would be paid for. He goes over to the push button interface, and instead of pressing 4 for “no” he actually presses on the flat label “No” and like magic the screen is gone. Flaw #5.

Flaw 5: Inconsistent interface.

Why would all the numerical keys be push button but the “yes” and “no” be completely flat. They weren’t even raised even a little! If you’re going to have buttons to interface with the system, make them look all the same! So, on the next screen comes flaw #6.

Flaw 6: Don’t offer something (pay at pump) that just doesn’t work.

“This card is not accepted.” I look at the sales guy and he says “Eh, that happens all the time too, the card reader doesn’t like some cards, try again.” Flaw #4 strikes again! I slide my card again, and the screen says “Please come inside to pay.”

At this point, I’m over even wanting to buy gas here. I excuse myself from the sales guy and get back into my car, still on empty, to drive to a Shell station several blocks away. Shell an interface I can use (all flat buttons) but charges me for use of my debit card, but at least I can get gas and not be up-sold to every five seconds while I try to figure out an insanely unusable interface.

4 Comments to “An Open Letter to am/pm”

  • Twitter Comment


    Hey @BP_America a customer experience review for you – An Open Letter to am/pm [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment


    RT @aprilholle: Hey @BP_America a customer experience review for you – An Open Letter to am/pm [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Aww honey! Don’t go to am/pm, just go to QT! If I am thinking of the right corner there is one very close by, cause I always pump there and have never once had any issue. Pay at the pump, just works, get receipt, and leave. It’s lovely! They might have some horrid business practice I’m unaware of, but if so, damn ignorance is bliss!

    <3

  • Ride a bike. Then you won’t have to deal with stupid stuff at any gas station. :)

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This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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