Hello shoppers...

Before posting the Secret Shopper review you're about to read, of 13 of the 27 Kum and Go stores listed in the 2010 Dex Phone Book (reviews of stores 14-27 will be posted tomorrow), I contacted Kum and Go Corporate, to get some background on their customer service training/secret shopper program.

Meggan Kring, the very nice, very thoughtful, very communicative Director of Communications for the Des Moines based company (which was founded in Hampton, Iowa, in 1959) explained to me that their employees (There are 3600, but it's possible that not all of them go through the program that Meggan described to me) at each of their 439 stores (Make it 440, if the one I've designed - which will sell only AE Chive Dip, Doritos, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and caffeine free diet Pepsi - gets approved), are required to learn, upon their hire, and follow, during their shift, the GUEST training program, which stands for the very clever: Greeting, Uniform, Encourage sale, Speedy service and Thank.

"New associates and General Managers of stores also attend KG University, " said Meggan, "where they receive more in-depth training on customer service, as well as other aspects of the job." They then take their newfound knowledge back to the store, and share it with staff.

Meggan explained that Kum and Go, which generates revenues of a billion and a half dollars annually, also pays good money (My words, not hers, and yes I'm guessing) for a secret shopper program, run by an outside firm, Ritter Associates, out of Toledo, Ohio.

"They do random mystery shops on all stores," she said. "Then the GM's of those stores are evaluated, based upon those scores."

Meggan wasn't aware of another layer of Kum and Go's secret shopping, that I found by Googling on the Internet, so I hope it's not a bunch of malarkey.

It's done unmalarkeley, and remotely, using Kum and Go's security system.

From Sourcesecurity.com:

"[Kum and Go] also uses its DVR [remote video and audio recording system] for a remote mystery shopper program.  A Kum & Go employee at head office selects a store at random and accesses video and audio from the location to document the customer experience.  The lessons learned alert management to training and merchandising opportunities and assist in improving customer service."

In other words, use the security system - designed to protect the store from theft - as a training system, to protect customers from bad service. That's a very, very smart idea, and not just because I've pitched it to more than one business owner/client.

Still not convinced that Kum and Go values good customer service?

You're such a doubting Jonnie.

Here are some opening sentences, from Kum and Go openings, at Careerbuilder.com:

"Join the growing Kum & Go Team in Newton, IA!  Kum & Go is recognized as the top rated c-store chain in the nation for delivering the ideal Customer Experience..."

"Kum & Go Sales Associates Full-Time/Part-Time Kum & Go is currently looking for high energy, motivated, customer service oriented individuals for full......"

And one more thing - the final sentence, from the "history" page, on Kum and Go's web site:

"...Kum & Go continues to strive for excellence in customer service and convenience – serving more than 360,000 customers on any given day."

Why is Kum and Go so coo-coo for customer service Cocoa Puffs?

You can't be cereal. A higher level of customer service has the highest impact on those businesses that depend on location, convenience, and lots of people buying lots of stuff.

The inescapable bottom line: Lots of transactions + great customer service = more revenue, better referrals (and fewer bad ones) and greater loyalty.

Kum and Go's marketing says that they "go all out." Do they live up to the promise of their marketing?

That's what your friendly neighborhood Unsecret Shopper, wants to find out.

Finding out also means keeping score. To quote Montell Jordan, this is how we do it:

  Horrific - a customer service nuclear bomb that's every owner's worst nightmare. The kind of service you call your friends to complain about.   

   Weak - a lot of work to be done, but there's hope.   

   Forgettable - not great, not bad. This is where most businesses end up.   

   Strong - some very good things are going on. Just needs some tweaking.   

   Stellar - first-rate, exceptional, off the hizzle. The kind of exemplary service you call your friends to brag about.

Each Kum and Go store will be evaluated using the same criteria that I teach - the four (of the five, excluding follow-up) pillars of great customer service, which include smile, greet, engage and thank.

The first, second and fourth are hopefully self-explanatory.

The third, engage, means, does the employee attempt to engage the customer with questions and conversation, knocking down those walls that exist between people who don't know each other, reaching out as a friend, and attempting to befriend, the people they are paid to serve?

The locations will also be judged on cleanliness. Specifically, is the potty, poppy-field clean, or poo-poo nasty?

The 27 stores were visited over a five-day period. The reviews are listed in phone book order, not the order in which the locations were Secret Shopped.

Today's review includes 13 stores. The final 14, plus tributes to who did the best, some suggestions for the rest, and an overview of the entire experience, will appear in Friday's post.

And now, to paraphrase the Del-Vikings, from 1957, come, little blog reader, Kum and Go with me...

3200 S.E. 14th  10:56am


Phone Greeting: (3 rings) "Good afternoon, Kum and Go, how can I help you?"

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: yes

Thank: yes

Bathroom: Floor, toilet, urinal, sink and mirror looked clean and everything passed the wet paper towel test. Great job!

Comments: This is obviously a well managed Kum and Go.

Frank, from behind the counter, greeted me immediately, with "hello" and then again with "Hi, how are you?" as I brought my soda to the counter. He even tossed in a smile, free of charge.

The only complaint is one that nobody can do anything about, unless Frank has a jack-hammer, or some explosives: The entrance into the Kum and Go parking lot, off of Park Avenue, is stupid-steep, at least for my low-hanging Prius. Over the years and dozens of visits, I've never pulled in, or out, without bottoming out.

Bottom line: The things the store staff can control, they did, and nicely - a very well managed store, an awesome job, all the way around!

1725 NW 86th, Clive  3:06pm

Phone Greeting: (4 rings) "Thank you for calling Kum and Go, this is Rita, can I help you?"

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: yes

Bathroom: The pungent smell of urine hit me as soon as I stepped in. I flushed the toilet but it didn't go away, even after I left and came back in, to see if it would. It was very nice to have a paper towel dispenser and blow dryer, as hand-drying options. The bathroom wasn't filthy, but needed a once-over with a mop and cleanser.

Comments: This was one of only three closed-ended questions I was asked over the phone. Out of 27 Kum and Go stores I called, and reviewed, I consider that number amazing, and in a great way. Clearly, their training, at least in regards to using open-ended questions over the blower, is working.

There will be other issues, with other calls, but we'll get to that.

Inside the store, Rita, who was engaged with a customer, and David, who was not, did not greet me from behind the counter, as I entered and slowly walked past them.

Should an employee greet the "bird in the bush," even when they have one in their hand? Depends on who the ornithologist is, and where they went to (KG University) school.

But I love it, as a patron or a trainer, whether I'm in the bush or the hand, to see an employee who goes all out, smiling and greeting every one, all the time.

When I asked David for the time, he looked at his watch without a smile, and then looked up and away from me with even less of one, avoiding eye contact as he said, "three-eleven."

I'm a customer, tossing you an easy one, David - hit that puppy out of the park. Give me a smile, look me in the eye and make me feel like you've been waiting all day to give a watch-less clue-less middle-aged dude, the time.

4200 Hubbell Avenue  3:28pm

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) "(indecipherable) Kum and Go, this is Terri, can I help you?"

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: There was some light dirt on the toilet rim and sink, but overall, the restroom was pretty good.

Comments: The phone greeting - delivered monotone, rushed and closed-ended - was an improvement over what happened at the store.

As I walked towards the front doors, Terri, leaning against the front of the building, 10 feet from the entrance, chatted with someone who looked like an employee, about employee stuff, and said nothing to me.

To her defense, that's probably because Terri, the store manager, had a cigarette in her mouth and might have lost it, and perhaps burned herself (safety first!) or at least wasted a perfectly good Camel (waste not want not!) or lost valuable manager time, sweeping up a spilled butt (company efficiency!) had she opened her mouth to say "hi." I was waiting for her to pop open an ice cold can of Schlitz, a lawn chair and a deck of cards.

Yeah, there's probably a better place to take a smoke break, especially when you're running the store. Yet equally offensive was not being engaged by the one person who sets the customer service tone for all of their employees.

Inside, Josh, taking his cue from Terri, ignored me as I walked past the counter that he stood behind, watching me wait for him to say something, which he later did ("That gonna be it?") as he rang up my caffeine free diet Pepsi. His "Have a good one" was a nice finish, and also showed that he'd taught himself a few things, as Terri, having returned from her smoke break, stood behind the counter and ignored me, for the second time, as I exited.

2211 University  4:03pm

Phone Greeting: (1 ring) "(indecipherable) this is Michelle."

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: no

Comments: This location has solved the issue of keeping the public restroom clean, by not allowing the public to use it. "Sorry, no public restrooms" was the largest sign on the building's window facade.

The phone greeting was horrific - I'm still not sure if it was in English.  

Back inside, Graham said a nice "How's it goin?" as I walked past his vantage point, from behind the counter. As I turned to respond, he'd turned away, making me wonder, perhaps, if he didn't really care, indeed, how it was goin.

Darryl, also behind the counter, eliminated the possibility of offending me, by not saying anything, as I entered.

He did manage "dollar seventy-seven" as he scanned my soda, then, somewhat out of order but still thoughtful, asked, "anything else?" His very pleasant "have a good one" was a nice finish.

Add some smiles, some consistency, some slowing down on the phone and some places to go potty, and this store will rock.

5308 University, West Des Moines  2:22pm

Phone Greeting: (5 rings) "Hello, Joe speaking." (???)

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: yes

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: Toilet, sink, mirror, dispensers and floor were quite good; especially considering this Kum and Go shares its bathroom with the adjacent Burger King.

Comments: I'm not sure why Joe answered the Kum and Go phone like he was at home, relaxing, instead of at Kum and Go, working, but at least his voice was pleasant.

Even more pleasant was Steph's in-person smiling, energetic, authentic "HI," offered right at the entrance - awesome job, Steph!

Nura, who was engaging a customer and said nothing, didn't keep the momentum going as I returned with my sodie pop, not only not greeting me as I stood there, but only offering a tepid "anything else?" and nothing else, as we finished, and I left.

This is a great example of how one employee can erase the hard work of another. Would any of us be more likely to remember Steph's warm greeting at the beginning, or Nura's disinterested exchange at the end? While Nura's interaction would have been quickly dismissed under normal circumstances, it felt worse because it was being compared to Steph's wonderful greeting. Steph showed how it could be done, Nura showed how it usually is.

Steph, pull Nura (or any other employee who is following Nura's lead) aside and tell them the following:

"Look, I've been standing all day, just like you. My feet hurt, my legs hurt and my back hurts. But you know what else hurts? My face, from smiling at customers so much. And there's one more thing that hurts - my feelings, when I'm being happy with customers, then I look over and you're not. So please help me out here, and make their day, my day, and especially your day, a little happier, a little brighter, a little faster and a little more fun, by enjoying what you're doing, or at least pretending that you are. Okay, Frownie Brownie?"

(Nura laughs, then tears up, and apologizes to Steph, who also begins to cry. The girls share a warm hug. Customers enter, notice the girls, smile, and think to themselves that this must be a wonderful place to work.)

They're right.  :)

196 South 50th street, West Des Moines  2:36pm

Phone Greeting: (11 rings) "(indecipherable) this is Matt, how can I help you?" (Delivered too fast, and in a monotone)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: yes

Thank: no

Bathroom: The sink was dirty, the toilet was worse, but the fly that buzzed it, wasn't complaining, as he/she/it tried to decide between the urine on the seat, or the poo on the base. There was hard grime where the toilet met the floor, which came up with a wet paper towel. The bathroom, understandably, smelled.

Comments: As I walked past the counter and towards the bathroom for my rendezvous with Mr. Fly, I passed Lorena, who had several patrons at the counter to deal with, and Chris, who had merchandise to stock, which he did, and me to greet, which he didn't, as I walked by, twice.

Ringing me up at the counter, Lorena was a customer service stud, greeting me with great eye contact, and a nice big "How are you today?" Her barely visible, and very pretty smile, could have been bigger, but her "Have a great day, hon" was the perfect size.

Keeping the shelves properly stocked with fresh merchandise, is one of the most important tasks you do, Chris. But when a customer walks past, it drops to dead last. Smile, greet and engage, every time, all the time.

The bathroom was very engaging, just in the wrong way.


3104 University  3:25pm

Phone Greeting: (2 rings) "Kum and Go, this is Bob." (Pleasant, poised and intelligible, although probably not the preferred corporate method of answering the phone)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: A caulking job that looked like I had done it had been done where the back of the sink meets the wall.

To draw attention to itself even more, the uneven, clumpy caulking had attracted lots of dirt, which was apparently invisible to employees, but not to customers. A wet paper towel and a little pressure removed some of the dirt, which may not have been as bad as it looked, but it looked terrible, which meant it was. Everything else in the bathroom was clean, and looked great.

Comments: Joshua and Jim both missed me from behind the counter, as I entered and walked past where they were posted, waiting on customers.

No problem. Before heading to the potty, I came back and stood by the sunglasses display, five feet from where Jim, the manager, stood, waiting for a customer to pay him, which he did, and left. 

A problem. At that point it was just Jim, the manager, Jonnie and the sunglasses, which eventually became the last two, as Jim, the manager, walked away, without a "We've got a great selection!" which they do, or "MAN you look great in those!" which I didn't.

Later, as I returned to the counter, Joshua continued the tradition set forth by Jim, as he didn't acknowledge me, but did acknowledge my 20 ounce bottle of carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate (preserves freshness), citric acid, natural flavor phenylalanine, and not much else, with a scanner.

He managed a "Have a good one" as I split.

I'm low-lying fruit, Jim. Sure, I may look like an overripe, unappetizing watermelon, but I'm still fruit, and easy customer service pickens for any store employee, but especially a store employee who wears a "manager" hat.

Joshua, denying a customer's reality will lead to customers denying your store's reality, and shopping elsewhere, which means Kum and Go spent a lot of money on a scanner, that you won't be using.

The "Have a good one" you said at the end, was great, now just add a huge smile, and some words before it, like: "Hey, how are you today? Are you enjoying this great weather? Those sunglasses you were looking at would really come in handy on a sunny day like today - great idea! Can I get you any candy to go with your Pepsi? Hey, you're being really good; I think you deserve a little treat, don't you? Your total is a dollar seventy-seven. Twenty-three cents is your change. Don't spend it all in one place, heh heh. Thank you for your business, and for stopping in. Come back and see us real soon. Have a good one!"

Those words just added 23 seconds to the transaction, and $100,000+ to your annual paycheck, Joshua, because you just added $1,200 to your store's annual revenue, by creating a loyal customer which, if you create a 1,000 of those, will add "store manager" to your title, then "regional supervisor," then "company ops manager," with an office next door to Kyle Krause.

Don't believe it, Joshua? That, to quote Yoda, is why you fail (the dude was a total pessimist) and why you can succeed - by believing in the power of your own ability, which possess, you do.

5969 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines  4:25pm


Phone Greeting: (2 rings) "We go all out at Kum and Go, this is (indecipherable), can I help you?" (Delivered monotone)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: There was light dirt and debris on the floor, sink and dispensers, but it was the toilet's filthy rim, under the seat, that stood out.

Comments: Katy, and Mick, the manager, were waiting on a half-dozen patrons at the counter, and there was, understandably, no greeting as I entered. 

After checking the bathroom and grabbing a soda, I got in line and heard Mick, who is a big man with a big voice, engaging a female customer, who he seemed to know, in a conversation about a camel - not the brand of cigarettes that Terri smokes (just a wild guess on the brand) but a camel of the four-legged, spitting, pooping, dromedary variety.  

Female: "...we saw the camel."

Mick: "Did it have a big hump?"

Out of 12 people behind and around the counter, somebody laughed - Mick. If it was a comedy club, he'd get tossed out, and we'd have to sit through an extra horrifying hour of Dane Cook filler.

Instead, it's a business, where off-color humor, regardless of how seemingly insignificantly off it is, is off base, out of bounds, jokea non grata and unacceptable, especially from a store manager. I like a good yuck as much as the next Unsecret Shopper, Mick, but stick with "Why'd the man put the car in the oven" when a kid brings up their just-microwaved hot dog.

After the guffaw had subsided, I approached Katy, who didn't greet at the counter, but flashed a fantastic smile and stopped clamming up, when I engaged her.

Engage me first, Katy, with that amazing smile on your face, plus don't forget to thank me, and you'll have me buying a dozen caffeine-free diet Pepsi's, and not knowing, or caring, why.

7265 Vista Drive, West Des Moines  4:55pm


Phone Greeting: (five rings) "Thank you for calling Kum and Go, can you hold?" (Places phone on counter)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: Clean enough, considering dudes and dudettes were both using it - see convoluted explanation, below.

Comments: First, an even more convoluted explanation of the disastrous phone call.

First, first - for a Kum and Go employee, even a Kum and Go bereft of patrons, the joint's still jumpin, with tons of stuff that needs to get done.

So we understand, as callers, that the call answerer may be very busy, and may not have time to chew the fat. "Hey Merle, how's the wife and kids?" "Swell, Hank. How'd Martha's cow do at the fair?"

So when someone picked up the phone, and asked me to hold, I was cool as the east side of the late afternoon gas pump.

Instead of physically putting the call on hold, however, the employee - who turned out to be Don, the store manager - physically laid the phone on the counter, where it stayed, for 11 minutes, 9 seconds.

Only a hard-core Unsecret Shopper, with an iron will (and a Scorpio's curiosity) would have stayed with it, til the bitter end.

While on un-hold, I heard some very nice interaction between Don, and store patrons ("How are you?" "It's been forever since I've seen you." "Have a great day.") And one side of another interaction, not quite as pleasant, between another employee, and someone else ("Where is he?! Tell him to get out here!").

There was also the interesting, then, after 5 minutes 17 seconds, irritating and relentless "beep boop baaang" sounds I enjoyed, then dis-enjoyed listening to, that must signify when a gas pump is being turned on by a patron, when they're choosing cash or credit, pay at the pump or in the store, filling their tank - I'm just guessing, trying to account for more electronic sounds than C-3PO after a cotton candy binge.

While waiting for someone to pick the phone back up, I caught up on some embroidery, read It cover to cover, and thought up 500 hilarious raTget jokes, for a book of yucks I plan on releasing in November - until the same voice who'd initially answered, spoke again, into the receiver, with this:

"Are you still there?"

Present and accounted for!

I told him, as I told every other employee at every other store I called, that I had the wrong number (just checking for the greeting) although under the circumstances, that statement seemed not just funny, but insane - and hung up.

Then, seconds later, I called back, to first find out who had answered the phone, and second, to understand why the person, who turned out to be Don, the store manager, hadn't actually put me on hold and had instead left me on un-hold, and for so long, and then, after finally picking the phone back up, had expressed, not an apology for being on un-hold, or a thank you for calling, but a "Are you still there?" as if I was stupid for still being so.

For as long as I live, and for several years after that, I'll never forget how Don responded.

"I figured the guy had hung up, and so did I, but then I picked it back up and there was another guy still on the phone."

My head was hurting, and not just from 600 seconds of "beepboopbang."

Apparently, according to what Don just said - either in-between cross-stitches, chapters or jokes - I hung up the phone, then so did Don, but then he picked it back up, and another person answered, who is not actually the person Don is currently addressing, but a third person, who somehow hopped into this conversation, under my inattentive radar.

He finally apologized, and all four of us hung up.

At the store itself, I - actually I'm too tired to go into the details.

Suffice it to say, Kristel (I'm sorry if that's an incorrect spelling) and Justin were busy when I came in, Justin didn't greet as I came up to the counter and only said "Anything else?" before I left. In-between, Kristel was getting visibly agitated, asking, and then yelling, at patrons to stay out of the men's bathroom, which had a yellow "Do not enter. Closed for cleaning." sign on the floor, in front of the open door, which was obviously not enough to keep some industrious men will full bladders from entering, anyway, until, finally, Kristel just shut and locked the door, which she probably should have done in the first place.

Those were two completely wacked-out experiences, at what is a fine Kum and Go location.

The teachable moments? Never let 'em see you sweat, Kristel. And don't answer the phone, put it down and think you'll remember, during a busy time, that three people are on the other line, Don.


4001 SW 9th


Phone Greeting: (2 rings) "We go all out at Kum and Go, this is Pam, how can I help you?" (Like she really meant it)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: yes

Bathroom: It smelled like urine, as places often do where men pee.

We might then expect to see an unflushed toilet (water was clean) or urine on the bowl (there wasn't) or tee-tee on the floor, around the base, which would show up yellow.

Instead, it came up dark, as grime, as it did with another paper towel test, several feet away from the toidy. That may have something to do with the stink. The toilet bowl itself needed scrubbed. Everything else was relatively clean. 

Comments: Pam - the same Pam, I'm guessing, who did such a wonderful job greeting me on the phone - was standing in an aisle, talking with a customer, and didn't acknowledge me as I entered and slowly walked past her.

If an employee is behind the counter and ringing up a customer(s), then not getting a verbal acknowledgement is more understandable, although I teach my client's employees to greet everyone who enters their store, regardless of what the employee is doing - as they teach at another convenience store.

But if an employee is one-on-one with a patron, away from the check-out counter, standing in an aisle, then there's no excuse: They've got to engage every customer they see.

Especially in the case of a store manager, like Pam, who is the Willy Wonka of the Kum and Go Chocolate (and beer and bread and milk and smokes and beef jerky and soda and pre-paid phone cards and lottery tickets) Factory, on SW 9th.

Back from the bathroom and approaching the counter, I received no greeting from Pam, but did get a "That it for you?" and a very nice "Thank you, sir," but without a smile, as I exited, stage right.

Pam seemed to be the only employee in the store, and did an OK job, which I know she can take to "AMAZING JOB!!!" if she greets everyone with a smile - as they enter, and at the counter.

After all, it's your house, Pam, so make us feel like you're happy we stopped by, and we'll be a) happy that we did, b) happy to stop back, and c) happy to tell our friends, about how d) happy you made us feel. :)

5225 NW 86th Street, Johnston  2:00pm


Phone Greeting: (4 rings) "We go (indecipherable) this is (indecipherable - Sabrina? Katrina?) 

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: no

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: Bathroom, including the toilet, sink, floor, mirror and dispensers, was okay, but the plastic trashcan is dirty, and should be tossed, along with the trash inside it.

Comments: Chad, from behind the counter, said an almost inaudible "hi," just before I'd walked past the counter and out of his eyesight - nice save!

He said it again, as I returned to the counter, soda in hand, although, as he'd done the first time, Chad sent the lonely little word out in to the world without a smile to keep it company.

Then, at nearly the same time he handed me my change, Chad turned his head away from me and towards another employee, and began talking to him, with more words, and greater enthusiasm, than he'd engaged me.

That might have been okay if he'd given me a bit more, before he gave his co-worker a lot more. Unfortunately, it demonstrates a very common issue with employees: They tend to share the best of themselves, with each other, and give the scraps to customers.  

Let me in on your fun, Chad! Invite me into your sanctum of joy! (Betcha didn't know ya had one, did ya! :)) Make me a member of the FOC (Friends of Chad) club!

I'm worth it. I promise. :)

4585 156th Street, Urbandale


Phone Greeting: "We go all out at Kum and Go, this is Steve." (Delivered with good inflection, and poise)

Greeting upon entering: yes

Greeting at counter: yes

Smile: yes

Engage: yes

Thank: yes

Bathroom: It looked great, at first glance; the toilet, sink, mirror and dispensers, all seemed clean, and passed the wet paper towel test.

Then, to quote Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment, I was just inches from a clean getaway, when I noticed unusual, uneven discolorations along the spaces, or cracks, between the bathroom floor tiles.

I took a piece of wet toilet paper (they come dry, so I had to wet it), put it against the discoloration in the crack, rubbed it back and forth, and came up with - a really gross glob of dirt and hair. (You'll see a photo of what this looks like, captured from another K&G location, in tomorrow's post, so either read it shortly after breakfast, or way before lunch.)

Obviously, the floor needed some serious scrubbing.

Another suggestion is to install a paper towel dispenser. This Kum and Go only offers blow dryers, for patrons to dry their hands. That's great for saving money, resources and the environment, but blows when you're trying to remove a stain from a shirt, or food from your face, or something from your eye. And toilet paper just crumbles.

Comments: Alex not only graduated with honors from KG University, he probably teaches a class.

As soon as I walked through the door, Alex greeted me with a huge smile, and a "Hi, how are you?" He repeated it as I approached the counter with my Pepsi bottle. Awesome, twice.

Then he took the whole conversation where no one else, in five days and 27 stores, took it. He asked me a simple but powerful question.

"Got any plans for the 4th?"

Yes. I'm voting for you, for Governor.

It wasn't, "anything else?" It wasn't, "any gas out there?" It wasn't, "that it?" It wasn't even the automatic, knee-jerk fallback, "how are you," that none of us answers honestly, because we usually don't ask it, seeking an honest response.

It was, instead, a question that required thought to answer, because the question itself was thoughtful.

Alex also ended our conversation with a flourish, offering a big fat "Thank you," and an even bigger, phatter, "Have a great day!"

Reviewing each of the four pillars of great customer service, Alex incorporated them all, into no more than a minute of total face time with me, yet his happy smile, his joyful greeting, his caring engagement and his authentic thanks, continues to resonate with me, long after I left the Kum and Go, at 4585 156th Street.

I returned a few days later, to tell Steve, the store manager, what I was doing, and what Alex had done.

He smiled a smile not quite as broad as Alex's, but pretty close.

I asked Steve if I could come back and take a pic of Alex, for this post. Unfortunately, I'd have to clear it with Corporate - not that dealing with Kum and Go Corporate is unfortunate, because I've found them to be great to work with. (Admittedly, that was before this review.) There simply wasn't enough time between then and now to get their permission, and so I'll just show you an *artist's rendition of Alex, smiling, until I can get a real photo of him put up.


There was a fly - not in Alex's ointment, but in Cade's, another employee.

While stepping back to the bathroom, I heard a voice, which turned out to be Cade's, say, loudly, "Oh, hell, I'll take care of that."

Ouch. Young man, you just can't go there, and I know you know that, and I know you know why, and I know you're going to feel stupid when this is pointed out to you, and I also know that, after it is, and you've read this post, that the likelihood of you saying anything close to that, at work, again, will drop by 9,528%.

On the very bright side, you have a smile that's even bigger than the one Alex shared with me, Cade. Keep the words that come out of it family-friendly, and you and Alex will be - along with Steve, your very cool manager - working at one of the biggest success stories in the entire Kum and Go chain - if you're not already. :)

745 South 51st Street, West Des Moines  2:53pm


Phone Greeting: (22 rings) "(indecipherable) this is Derrick, how can I help you?" (Delivered too fast, in a monotone voice)

Greeting upon entering: no

Greeting at counter: yes - sorta - see explanation, below

Smile: no

Engage: no

Thank: no

Bathroom: First, let me point out that this Kum and Go is adjacent to a McDonalds, which automatically qualifies the shared restroom as a federal disaster area, eligible for government funds and low interest loans. 

Having said that, there were three employees working at the Kum and Go when I visited. In spite of the additional hardship of having to clean up after the occasional milk and bread buyer with a full bladder, AND the Extra Value Meal eatin family of 12, that didn't excuse the condition of the bathroom, particularly a toilet in one of the stalls, which had urine on the lid, fecal matter on the rim underneath, and two flies jockeying for position in the buffet line. The bathroom reeked. There was also dirt in the sink, and on top of the dispensers.

Is it possible - likely, even, that just one someone had recently made that mess? Absolutely. That's the dude I really want to Secret Shop. Unfortunately, when it comes to the very hard work of keeping public restrooms clean, it's relatively hopeless, and completely thankless, and I know that employees do their absolute best to keep up with it.

So thank you to the person who eventually put on hazmat gear, and cleaned it up. You - along with every Kum and Go bathroom cleaner, are truly an unsung hero. If you're not getting extra combat pay in your check, let me know, and I'll talk to Maggie. :)

Comments: Dan and Chelsey said nothing to me as I walked past and between them, as they stood in an aisle.

Chelsey almost made up for it later, standing behind the counter, ushering me forward with "I can get you right here," and "Anything else?" They were both process statements/questions, not statements of engagement, but they were spoken with an engaging, friendly tone, which Chelsey also used at the end, with a very nice but unsmiling, "Have a good day."

Smile when you say that, and everything else, Chelsey, and make sure one of the things you (and Dan) say is a nice "hi" when I come in, or come up to you at the counter. Those simple actions, can have the most long-lasting "happy effect," on people who are truly searching for something that does it, from someone who will give it.

13 Kum and Go's down. 14 to go. How will the rest do? Join me right back here, Friday morning, and I'll tell you.

Between now and then, take a break from the road and visit any of these Kum and Go's I've reviewed, to see if my experience, matches yours.

Happy shopping. :)

Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, Saturday mornings 8-9am, on 1350, KRNT. Email Jonnie at jonniewright@thebuyosphere.com.

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