A convenience and a delight!

At some point while raising my childen, a trip to the “corner store” became a special destination. I think we went there as a reward for good behavior, maybe after a good report card, or sometimes combined with a trip to the library. The corner store was nothing more than the gas station convenience store a few miles down the road. At least that’s how it looked through my adult eyes. Why does it have a special appeal when you’re growing up?

Just walk in the door and you’ll remember. It’s aisles and aisles of candy, cookies, soda, icees, chips, nuts, hot dogs, donuts, and ice cream. It’s every treat you can imagine crammed into a very small piece of real estate, practically heaven on earth. Even as an adult, just walk in the door and your eyes are drawn to coffee, beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets, as well as all the things listed above. Like I said, heaven on earth!

These folks know what they are doing. They know that as soon as you walk past all of that on your way to the bathroom, you’ll definitely buy something on the way out. The store won’t make much money on gas, but the profit on snacks and soda is huge.

Yes, these folks know what they are doing. That’s why the Buc-ees franchise will do very well as it moves out of Texas into other states, including my home state of Florida. Before long, we’ll have two Buc-ees within half an hour drive of my home.

Yes, technically Buc-ees is a gas station convenience store, but it is about the size of three Walmart stores. It has all the heavenly treats mentioned above plus clothing, furniture, souvenirs, toys, sporting goods, tools and automotive supplies and more. Though we stopped at Buc-ees just outside of Dallas to fuel up for our ride home, we left with nuts, barbecue sandwiches, some homemade potato chips, kolachis and a tub of chicken salad. And we saw Buc-ee the beaver himself, who was making an appearance at the store. Buc-ees is much more than a convenience store. It’s a destination for a fun family outing. Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, espcially the convenience store.

I remember when a 7-11 was built in my hometown of Ridley Park probably sometime in the 1960’s. We thought that was the coolest thing ever. Imagine, a convenience store open from early in the morning til late at night! You could go just about any time to get milk or bread or soda. And they had Slurpees. They were new and they were fantastic! I don’t know how they made them then and I don’t know how they make them now, but I still think they are delicious.

Just a few years ago, the Wawa chain began building stores in Florida. People here went berserk. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I grew up a few miles from the dairy farm that would become the “town” of Wawa. Back then, life was shifting from having milk delivered to your home in a glass container (now that was convenience!) to going to a Wawa store to buy a gallon in a plastic jug.

As a grown-up, I mostly avoid convenience stores. For me they are a necessary travel evil. Sometimes the bathrooms are clean-ish. But not often. Sometimes the coffee is tolerable. But not often. Sometimes you get to see Buc-ee the beaver. But not often. However, the kid in me is hopeful.

Help! I’m being held hostage by product reviews!

In the good old days before online shopping, I would go to the store, look over the available products, and select one to buy. I’d pick the one that looked good, felt good, and was priced right. Do you remember those days?

I shop on line now. As do many of you. This means I buy a lot of things sight unseen. So I read the reviews. Positive reviews. Negative reviews. And some in-between. In a crazy, scary way, these reviews control my purchases. People I don’t even know are controlling my shopping habits.

And here is what I have noticed: negative reviews wield much power over me. A product may have, let’s say, one hundred reviews. 90% are four or five stars. I will read the one star reviews, the ten percent, to learn why this product is junk and the seller a piece of slime.

The negative responses usually go something like this:

  • “Worked for ten minutes, then quit.”
  • “Instructions were vague; assembly took three days.”
  • “Poor quality, missing pieces, shoddy craftsmanship, disappointing purchase.”
  • “Too hot” “Too cold” “Too hard” ” Too soft” “Too big” “Too small” (Goldilocks responses.)
  • “Arrived broken, seller unresponsive, and my life sucks.”

You know what? I tend to listen to the negative. I read about all the things that go wrong, and decide I need to buy something else. Something better. Something of quality. Whatever. People I don’t even know are controlling my shopping habits!

OK, Bill, take a deep breath. Who is writing these reviews? “Verified purchasers?” How do I know that’s true? Satisfied customers? Unsatisfied customers? Who knows.

Most of the time – the majority of the time – I’ve been happy with my purchases. And they had nothing to do with the reviews. I am not a bad judge of quality. I know that my purchase comes from China (duh!). And I know I can send it back for a refund. No harm. No foul.

You can either choose to be controlled by someone else’s opinion. Or your own discernment. My inner voice is valid, too.