Convenience Stores

March 02, 2007

I'm a big fan of a good convenience store. Some will think that there's not much difference between convenience stores, but those people would be wrong. Sure, they all keep the tobacco and dirty magazines behind the counter, but aside from that, there are big differences.

The worst store I know is the Circle K on Lobdell Blvd in Baton Rouge. Now it might be better today, as I know a lot of the local Circle K stores have been renovated around here, but in my memory this store is small and dirty. As soon as you walk in the door, your nostrils are assaulted with the stench of vomit. Once upon a time, I figured that I had just caught bad timing -- I walked in as the employee had just finished cleaning up some throw-up. But after three consecutive trips -- all with the puke smell -- well, at some point you have to figure that this is just the suckiest convenience store in the world. Also, they make you pay before you can pump your gas. I hate being treated like a criminal.

The stores with the "On the Run" brand are all pretty good. They're clean, they have huge selections of fountain drinks, offer Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They make good coffee and in the mornings, they offer actual milk to accompany it. They do have fake powdered or oil-based milk substitute, for other times of the day.

Awards for Scariest Store and Strangest Store both go to the convenience store on the intersection of East Airport and Florida Blvd. It offers huge cold-saving styrofoam cups for its drinks, but it also includes a bored person sitting in a plexiglass-enclosed check cashing booth, as if he's part of a reptile exhibit at the zoo. They also have turning racks of sneakers up at the front of the store. They have the world's largest selection of candy that I've never heard of. Perhaps one or more of these oddities had something to do with the random shooting that took place there about six weeks ago. Not coincidentally, this happened right around the LAST time that I was a customer there.

I like it when the convenience stores have a counter serving hot food. There's one on Florida as you approach downtown, almost across from the Greyhound bus terminal. They fry anything under the sun, and there's a line of people to eat it starting early in the day. I haven't eaten lunch there, but I'm certainly willing to. A different store near my house sells a pretty darned good gyros sandwich.

Here's my list of the most unforgivable convenience store sins, in no particular order:

  • Crushed Ice Only.
  • Missing lids for the drinks.
  • Be out of gas. A convenience store out of gas is like a Subway store that's out of bread. Yes, I've had that happen to me as well.
  • Don't stock Twizzlers. The only time I want a Twizzler is for a long road trip, but for the convenience store manager who fails to stock them when I stop there on my way out of town: may the Lord damn you to eternal hellfire.
  • Make me go inside to pay. I'm reluctantly willing to pay at the pump and then again at the register. But I will close the tank and drive off before I walk in to let your clerk hold my credit card while I pump.
  • Don't provide me a pen or pencil to pick my lottery numbers. You're lucky enough that I'm subjecting myself to a voluntary $1 tax. You get a cut of that. Don't discourage me.