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The Worst Business Practice Ever (All Over 22 Cents)

Every morning, I head over to my local 7-Eleven (convenience store) to fill up on my much needed cup of coffee.

Always offered are 4 cardboard cup sizes; 12oz, 16oz, 20oz and 24oz.

My routine is to grab the 16oz. cup, fill it up with regular black coffee and head on my way.

This morning, however, something was off.

As I made my way to the coffee section, I saw other customers looking a bit confused.

Getting closer, I immediately became confused with them.

The 12oz and 16oz cups were nowhere to be found. Instead, there were big empty voids where they usually are.

I turned to look at the closest employee and she simply offered, “We didn’t get our delivery.”

Odd, I thought, that one late or missed delivery would cause 50% of the coffee cups to run dry.

Does 7-Eleven order just enough cups that if a delivery is missed it causes their entire inventory to run out?

My head was already beginning to hurt and I just needed my coffee.

So I did the next logical thing.

I took the bigger 20oz cup, filled it up 3/4 of the way with coffee and headed to the counter.

It was my turn and I quickly said to the cashier, “This is 16 ounces…”

Ignoring my remark, she replies back with, “$1.92.” (The usual price for the 16 oz is $1.70.)

I said, “No, look, I filled it up just 16 ounces. You don’t have the smaller cups.”

“That’s not my problem.” she said, as I couldn’t believe my ears.

“But it is…” I said back. “You don’t have the smaller cups…”

“Sorry, nothing I can do.” she said and waited my next move.

I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation. I placed my cup on the counter and said that I didn’t want it then.

The cashier took my cup of coffee, said OK, followed by, “No problem. Thank you.”

“No Problem?” I kept thinking…

I left the store and went a block up the road to Dunkin Donuts and got my 16oz coffee, still thinking about the terrible customer service I just experienced.

Is This Just A $0.22 Principle?

So, what do you think? Should I have agreed to pay the ‘forced’ extra change for the coffee I didn’t take in the only size cups they had?

Or should 7-Eleven have honored the amount of coffee in the cup because they didn’t have the smaller ones delivered?

What would you have done as customer? What would you have done as business owner?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

* Update – Update – Update *

Just one day after this article was posted, I have an interesting update on the situation. (This just shows the power of the Internet today.)

Funny enough, a pet sitter active in our community here happens to work in the 7-Eleven corporate office. When he saw my email, he immediately got in touch with me and said he will pass along my story to the appropriate people.

By day’s end yesterday, I received a very apologetic email from a 7-Eleven business manager from the Northeast Division. He assured me that the franchise owner, quote, “will take the necessary measures with the employee and I could assure you that is not in his policy to take that action and the employee took it upon herself to make that decision.”

He then asked me to call him so he could ‘make it right.’

We spoke for a short bit and he handled it perfectly.

I may not return to that specific 7-Eleven but at least now I feel comfortable again giving 7-Eleven my business.

So… What can we as pet sitting business owners take away from all this?

Leave your thoughts below.

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. . .

Josh Cary is a respected and well sought-after speaker and business consultant within the professional pet care industry. Since 2009, having grown his own pet sitting business, Josh provides his industry with the tools, support, and resources to build and maintain a thriving and respected pet business.

With a strong focus on digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and website development, Josh’s one mission is to help you Get Found First through a professional and effective website.

This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. I believe you were right and if it were me, I would be tempted to take my business else where permanently.   Perhaps this was just the stubborness of one clerk and should be brought to the attention of someone in charge of the store.

    1. I know.  I’d hate to have to take my business elsewhere ONLY because the location is convenient.  However, I will happily find another place close by to never give them the benefit of my patronage.

  2. There is no reason why that cashier couldn’t have honored your request to charge you the 16Oz. price.  It was just bad customer service all around. I attended a seminar this weekend at the HH Backer Christmas Trade Show here in IL. One of the things that was said in the seminar is when managing your time – make “Floor Time”!  Majority of business owners either retail or service providers do not get out on the floor & deal with their customers themselves. This is one major reason I’m a sole proprietor! I would be where I am today in my business without my clients! Another reason I wont buy into or care for franchise businesses. You are buying a name, getting customers through a name & somebody else’s reputation.  

    1. Shannon,

      That simple concept of “floor time” is amazing.  As business owners, you can quickly lose site of what’s happening outside of your walls, and the only real way to keep a pulse on your business is to get yourself in front of the customers.

      Either stubbornness, fear or laziness would prevent a business owner from putting themselves in front of the clients to see how things are going.  Most owners fear what the feedback would be, even though it would be the most powerful they could do to improve the business.

      1. I agree, Josh! Where I come from that is referred to as MWA —Manage by Walking Around :). Definitely something to keep in mind when trying to grow your business! Josh, I can certainly see why you were completely dumbfounded! Especially BC (Before Coffee, lol!). So many employees just don’t get it. They just want to put in their time, go home and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. They fail to see that’s whats good for the company is good for them, and if a customer is unsatisfied, that is very BAD for the company, and thus bad for them!! Especially with so many companies are trimming their work force you would think those that have a job would want to keep it. I do feel that when you see that kind of employee apathy, the genesis of the problem is usually somewhere in the  management chain. Sounds like this girl could’ve used a jolt of joe to get her brain in gear, but maybe there’s just no hope for her. LOL!

        You should email the store manager with a link to this blog. Maybe highlighting the part where you went down the street to Dunkin Donuts! So, now the question is, are you still a 7/11 customer or have you made the switch to Dunkin Donuts permanently?

  3. I would have asked to speak to the manager. That was one easy way to lose a valued customer! If she was the manager I would have asked to speak to the next higher up.

    1. If I would have already had some coffee in my system (or if I wasn’t so shocked by her reply) I definitely would have asked to speak with someone.

  4. That’s probably why nearly all the 7-11 stores in my area here in NY/CT/MA are out of business. Bad business practices make businesses go bye-bye.

    1. Interesting point, Melanie, about how nearly all the 7-Elevens are out by you.  Yep, bad business is the kiss of death.

  5. Interesting.  Ran into something similar this weekend.  Had a booth at our local shelter`s Octoberfest.  As we are not selling a product, we decided to buy a couple of flats of bottled water and ask for a donation of a dollar.  This would have gone to the shelter.  “You can`t do that, this is a fund raiser for us.” was the response we got without giving us the chance to explain that the proceeds would go to them. Yet, while walking the fair later, we discovered that more than one booth was donating proceeds.  And yes, we had a water station for the pets (free).

  6. The point here is that $.22 is not worth losing a sale or even future business. Our biz is also listed on a very popular business website in GA, and customers leave reviews. I go as far as recommending how clients can package services to save money and offering discounts for long-term commitments, recommendations, and reviews. It makes the customer feel that we have them and their pet as our priority, not just making a buck.

  7. Joshua,
    My mouth is still wide open! What, how. UGH! As a business owner, if I heard someone say that to a customer I would have freaked. If they can not supply the product you needed and were not being that flexible, I would have walked out. I would send a complaint to the store. All over 22 cents.

  8. May I share this with the 711 CEO? They really need to hear about this! You were DEFINATELY in the RIGHT! In fact, I think your solution was quite creative (does not surprise me….you are a very creative person!).

  9. PEOPLE DON’T BUY PRODUCTS OR SERVICES….THEY BUY RELATIONSHIPS! The No. 1 reason that people leave a place of business is based on how they were treated. Smart companies understand the value of their current customer base, and recognizing what they need to do in order to keep them. By focusing on the customers, the smart companies are really broadening their customer base by increased referrals.


      Betheny, that is 100% the truth of the matter!  Not only that, but often we as pet sitters forget that the reason a potential client might choose one sitter over another is not usually over price, location or experience, it’s about how the potential client feels about entering into a *relationship* with that pet sitter.

      If she doesn’t feel comfortable with you as a person, she will not hire you to care for her pet no matter how much you charge.  Thanks for bringing that truth up here.

  10. Sweet out come!! I would definitely go back to the same store! No big deal!
    What i always learned before becoming a business owner myself was in such a situation you always reply with ” let me find out for you”. Thanks Josh i am hiring this week and i might just use this senerio!

    1. Awesome Kirsten.  Glad you were able to relate it to your pet sitting business!  Good luck with your new hires, and please let me know how it goes (good, bad or otherwise – we can all learn from each other’s experiences here).

  11. I recently went to Race Trac and went in for a drink..with coins in hand..I dispensed my Gatorade flavor….but upon tasting it was not dispensing properly..I went to the front and the clerk went to the back to check the fountain.  He returned to inform me the machine was not working properly and Pepsi would have to come out and work on the dispenser.  While he was in the back I noticed they had Dr. Pepper Icee’s and decided if the Gatorade machine was broken then I would get a ICEE but I didn’t want to dirty another cup or waste a cup to get a smaller size..I told the clerk of my decision and he said “no is on the house”..I filled my cup and went and asked if I could at least pay for the Gatorade and he again replied…It is on the house..that experience made my day ALL day and every time I took a sip of my frozen treat I smiled at the awesome customer service I received…

    1. There ya go!  Just reading the story I can tell how awesome an experience that was.  Handled perfectly by the “it’s on the house” guy!

  12. I know this comment is a bit too late, however, I thought I’d leave my thoughts on this. I’m an ex-employee at 7-eleven, I worked there for about three years before moving on to bigger things. I worked pretty much every shift working my way higher on the ladder, from 3rd shift graveyard, to morning shift and each shift had its good, and bad times. Graveyard and morning shift more so. I am way too familiar with what happened to you, ordering is done manually and bi-weekly so mistakes are bound to happen, each company has a limit as to how many boxes they can order and at times, one too many if i may say, we were short stock on things from coffee cups to Slurpee lids! Costumer satisfaction is always a must, believe me, and I understand the way that particular cashier handled it might have been a bit rude. However, and this comes from a seasoned cashier, try to put yourself in her shoes and see it from her point of view. Working cashier is not only standing behind the counter and taking orders, we had to take costumers, cook food (or stock on hot food items such as hot dogs), prepare coffee, keep vault clean and cleared for expected deliveries, all at the same time every time. You end up tired, sweaty, and still you have to smile and look presentable. The cashier was probably tired, hot, headache and had heard the same line since her shift started. I used to hear the same thing over and over, “I come here all the time, I spend too much money here, I’m just a few cents off, it’s your fault not mine.” The level of self entitlement most costumers have is too high, and we as costumers need to understand the costumer is not always right. It wasn’t the poor woman’s fault her manager didn’t prepare enough just like it wasn’t your fault you weren’t properly caffeinated that particular morning. It wasn’t bad business practice, it was a bad morning starting bad. I’m writing this now perhaps to help future costumers going to any store handle it the proper way. The moment you filled your cup, took it to the cashier and demanded you were charged another amount was just simply the wrong way to go. She probably had to give away plenty of times before you came along. She probably heard it all by then too, from the “I don’t want it then,” to the “I’m never coming here again.” She probably had to trash many cups that same day. The franchise offer a service, but at the end of the day it’s all business. When I got costumers who in good spirits joked or asked nicely I would not only honor their order, I would sometimes charge them less for their troubles. Instead of doing the logical thing, why not instead ask first and prevent yourself a headache later? Fill your cup, say you only have enough for your usual and in a jokingly way ask them to honor it just this once. This escalated too high way too fast, corporate shouldn’t have even bothered with this. You could have cost a cashier her only means of income for the .22 principle, or in this case, .22 cent pride. Maybe you just needed some coffee huh lol.

    1. Hey thanks for your reply, Jay, and better late than never 🙂 I can agree and understand with all of what you are saying. The customer is NOT always right. I have worked as a waiter in the service industry for many years and get the whole concept. There are always two sides to every story and two individual human beings just trying to go about life the best they can. Perhaps it would have been handled differently if it was for a 16oz slurpy at 3 in the afternoon! I, for one, am always sensitive to jobs of others and try to give the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for your extensive reply here.

  13. I have to side with the cashier although I don’t have the whole story, the cashier is not the “manager” of the business, he or she could get in trouble with an angry boss for charging less, and sometimes stores have barcodes per cup, how is the cashier supposed to know exactly whether you filled 18 oz or 14 oz, granted its coffee , a higher margin product, but even still not all products or drinks may be as a higher margin, if the cashier’s manager was around, then its a different story,
    but usually the employee doesn’t want to get in between the boss, its the boss business, of course the franchise and head division may blame the employee to deflect criticism, and of course the cashier could have said, “well I will be willing to charge you less but I am not sure I have approval”, of course then there are other aspects, what if the owner new that he had to make larger amounts of coffee, so he would charge that price or did he deliberately ignore to make money or would he lose money (although lets make margin irrelevant) because he won’t have enough cups of coffee to serve everybody so he limits it to high volume? The owner is at fault for not taking this into consideration, and I would still say that the customer is almost always right, certain snobs will disagree, and fine but then other snobs will disagree with that snop, consider the “iced espresso” and “iced latte” debate in which any espresso drink with ice and non-steamed milk is suddenly charged as if you put in maximum milk, and somehow its stealing and then how iced espresso ruins coffee.

    This is coffee but blaming the cashier fine, but only to a small extent, the boss and management get the blunt of the blame.

  14. Ugh…

    I know this is very old, and so I probably shouldn’t bother responding, but I can’t resist.

    Just pay the extra 22 cents for ONE day.

    Or better yet stop wasting the well over 1 extra dollar a day and make your coffee at home, if 22 cents is such a burden.

    Are you happy that now that employee got reprimanded or in trouble? Is her job really so great, and did she do anything that bad, that she deserved that?

    For all she knew, she might have gotten in trouble for charging 22 cents less.

    My God, I hate how in Europe (at least Latin Europe), often employees make you feel they are doing you a favor by doing their job. But sometimes customers in the US just make way too much of a fuss over nothing.

    1. Hi Scyld – Thanks for your reply. I agree that paying 22 cents is no big deal and the arguement can be made “hey, why not just pay the pennies and move on?”

      To pay the 22 cents or not to pay the 22 cents is not the issue here. It is the fact that the employees first response to me was “That’s not my problem!”

      Don’t you feel that as a paying customer of a business, you deserve a bit more appreciation than a reply like that? I do, and that is why I posted this and made a deal over it.

      Pet sitters are also business owners, and this is a solid example of how not to treat potential clients.

      If this employee got reprimanded, it was warranted because of her attitude towards me as a customer – NOT because she couldn’t honor the 22 cents. Big difference.

    2. Scyld, thanks for keeping this conversation alive. The only two viable options are to value your time, pay the 22 cents to keep your day moving, and never come back to that store. Option 2 would be to not buy and walk out as Josh did.

      We can’t reward poor behavior with continued patronage. If the employee was pursuing more education or starting a business she may have been comfortable doing the right thing because IF she got in trouble she would have options for better employment. Please correct me if I am wrong but may be the reason you have the poor customer service experience in “Latin Europe” is due to too many guaranteed benefits. The incentive to advance yourself is diminished so your level of effort is diminished.

      If consumers seek out better experiences and employees seek out better jobs, by increasing the value of what they bring to an employer, the market will eliminate bad business owners. Either they change or go away.

        1. Josh, Thanks for your comments. As a sales person in a service business it’s the only angle. We learn this in grade school and everyone seems to be ok with it then, but when we get to be adults for some reason segments of the population don’t like market forces and self improvement.

          When picking teams for play yard games the less athletic kid has a few options: Figure out how to get first pick and stack his team with better players, get better himself, or play a different game. We all need to find the thinks in life we love so we can excel which allows us to give and receive the best that life has to offer. Even if it is just a cup of coffee.


  15. I agree with you 100%. I am appauled with the lack of customer service that comes from so many “front line” employees in customer heavy businesses, like restaurants, gas stations, etc. I have become very impatient with rude behavior and have been known to do things very similar to this, as a matter of principal. I’ve learned through both being an employee in restaurants, as well as managing in restaurants, that you are there for one reason and one reason only, to provide excellent product and service to your customers. They are the reason you are there. Without the customers, there is no need for employees and businesses. I take that philosophy with me as I run my Pet Sitting Business. I never miss an opportunity to remind my clients how much I appreciate them. I consider myself a very lucky gal to get to work with such wonderful people every day! Kudos to you for making a stand.

    1. Hey there Bark Fitness – I appreciate your comment, and no matter which end of my business I am working in (dealing with other pet sitters, or dealing with pet parents) customer service is priority number one! Have you ever read the book by Zappos CEO “Delivering Happiness”? It’s amazing and shows how Zappos lives on the concept of customer support as a company-wide philosophy, not just a department.

  16. I used to be a 7-Eleven franchisee and I can tell you that this problem originates with corporate and their broken accounting system. 7-Eleven used to have a retail-based inventory system with the cups. That is, every coffee cup in the store has a retail dollar amount attached to it. At the conclusion of each quarter, every store had to count each and every cup.

    So if someone accidentally drops a cup onto the floor and throws it out, it technically costs the franchisee about $1 or so (85% of which is deducted from his equity account at the conclusion of every quartlerly inventory audit). This led most stores to be extremely stingy with the cups.

    7-Eleven did change this system at the end of 2011, but many employees are still conducting this practice. I don’t know why. I know that I didn’t find out about the change in this until a few months later due to poor communication from corporate.

    The bottom line is that you, the customer should not have to deal with this stuff.

    1. Hey there Hal,

      Thanks for your insight on this topic. It does really help put things in perspective. So often in life, we only see our side of the event, and do not take other aspects into account.

      It’s like the saying goes about “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes…” You just never really know what the other person is thinking, or going through, that affects their judgement and decision making process.

      I appreciate you stopping by here.

  17. As an old 7 11 employee, sometimes we run out of inventory. But in my store we never showed the customer service you observed. We always honored the fact we didn’t have the stock and we honored the price of the lower oz cup.

  18. Two years too late but they charge the size of the cup not the coffee. So when you went up to the register with half filled 16 oz expecting to get the price of your 12 oz was wrong. Sounds like you had a bad attitude even though you don’t want to admit it. She can’t charge you for the 12 oz because you showing up with a 16 oz regardless of how much coffee was filled. The establishment would know. Yeah she could have rung you up the size of the 12 oz but the boss would have known and would get her into trouble when they look at the tickets they may think she was skimming. I worked in bad business myself and had bad bosses, there been times when so many people would complain the same day about the same things that you have nothing to do with or control over. I would tend to just do my job as entitled. I don’t have to charge less, i don’t have to do this or that i do however have to do my job. Most of the time when someone comes up and gives me a hard time i don’t listen or let them get it there way, because like some mentioned customers even though they like to think so are not always right. Her attitude at the register was probably reflecting to your hassle with .22 cents. In the back of her mind shes probably saying OMFG another one. I bet the workers at 7-eleven has more hassle daily with things and prices and stuff that you don’t on your job and are expected to be nice about it lol not me m8 not me. Rip my ass i rip your ass right back lol. 7-Eleven round my block has been robbed several times too and it’s not the workers fault either they are some of the nicest people i have met and the only one i actually would go to in my area. I have witnessed a 7-eleven cashier get ripped and threatened to be shot for not giving them something for free or a lower price wtf. People thinks they should be super friendly or very nice regardless because they are in retail but that is wrong it’s a different kind of retail. Many people thinks they don’t have it harder or have a hard job but they are absolutely wrong. They deal with unruly rude customers on a daily basis, they deal threats and have been robbed. When was the last time you had death threats or been robbed at your job? So next time instead of trying to contest .22 cents or expecting a different kind of service just be nice consider what they may go through and pay the difference it’s not a hard thing to do.

    1. I found this article while trying to find out how many ounces were in the extra large cup. This article is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. No doubt he had an attitude.

  19. If you bring your own refillable mug to 7-Eleven instead of using the paper ones (which tbh you should if you are going there every day), they charge you the price of a small coffee for any-sized refillable mug up to 1L. Do that instead.

  20. I think you were wrong sir. They measure sales by the cups themselves that are used in a purchase. I would have gone to Dunkin like you did but they are more expensive per ounce than 7-11 so it wouldn’t have been the frugal move. I’m thrifty too so I get where you’re coming from but in the case of coffee at 7-11 I lean towards the cashier in this bout.

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