I became a Wawa fan first “down the shore,” where no shoes no shirt no service does not apply. But it definitely is the kind of place where everyone and anyone goes in the Lehigh Valley for food and fuel. And lottery tickets, clean restrooms, cigarettes, and COFFEE. Yes, other gas stations sell these items, but they are not the community centers that Wawa stores have become.
I have a confession to make. I was a secret shopper a number of years ago, and Wawa was one of my clients. I studied the training manuals and knew when a fresh pot needed to be brewed. I took note of smudge marks on the windows and how many people were in line before me. I got free gas, sandwiches and coffee, and they paid me after I filled out an online reportand submitted receipts. It was pretty rad, but now I can’t go into a Wawa without noticing whether the coffee station is “free of debris.”
When you spend a lot of time in Wawa, you learn that the bakery goods are only delivered once a day, in the early morning. There’s a fundraiser going on, and if you donate, you can write your name on the cute little JDRF sneaker-shaped paper (or shamrock for MDA, or…), and they will post it on the wall. In case the cashier doesn’t ask, your coffee hot sleeve will remind you. There are at least 10 different coffee varieties in carafes, and a machine to mix your own “cappuccino” or add “winter spice” creamer into your coffee. Wawa’s ATMs don’t charge fees, but your bank might. Soup is the fastest thing to order from the bar, but getting a sandwich from the island with pre-made sandwiches is even faster. “Specialty” coffees from the bar take the longest. The coffee is tasty and is 1/3 the price of a cup of Starbucks.
Being forced to “notice” what’s going on at Wawa (instead of going in on auto-pilot), I learned that every store attracts all walks of life. Business people getting lunch. Politicians ordering hoagies on a touch screen. Construction workers pouring coffee.Moms with a gaggle of little kids in baseball uniforms gettingIcees. A college student texting while waiting for his mac and cheese. Some lady in her pajamas paying for cigarettes, Tastykakes and ten dollars of gas on pump four. There’s a story behind every face, in these ordinary transactions, at the Wawa closest to you.
Happy Hoagiefest, everyone.