7-11 vs. gas stations

I try to avoid shopping anywhere but Whole Foods, Wegmans, Shoppers FoodWarehouse, and ethnic groceries.  But several times lately I’ve stopped at food marts at gas stations.  Each time I’ve noticed how much better they are than the average 7-11, most of all for selection.  There are plenty of such marts, so I’m wondering why I should ever go to a 7-11 again.

Are the prices at the gas station food marts so much higher?  Are my data points too few?  Or is the rest of the world discovering this same truth?


No Trader Joe's fan?

Interesting. I'm sitting here pondering it, and the only reason I can ever remember wanting to specifically go to 7-11 (rather than a generic convenience store, now attached to ever other gas station) is because I wanted a Slurpee. Nothing else makes 7-11 stand out in my mind.

The average 7-11 is owned by a franchisee, whose franchise contract with 7-11 requires him to send 50 cents of every gross revenue dollar to 7-11 Inc. Your typical franchisee operating another chain brand (am/pm, etc.) generally gets to keep a much greater share of what he earns. Whether this explains his ability to offer lower prices than 7-11 and still make a decent living I don't know, but it might. Being owned and run from Japan, 7-11 tends to take a very different approach on many things than anyone else in the industry.

Trader Joe's in Philadelphia also cannot sell alcohol but does a quite brisk business. The selection is generally smaller and slightly less up-scale than wholefoods and the running of the store is much worse- dairy products often almost expired, big gaps on the shelves due to bad ordering and stocking, etc. Not so much of this at wholefoods, but higher prices, too.

"I try to avoid shopping anywhere but Whole Foods, Wegmans, Shoppers FoodWarehouse, and ethnic groceries."

-Elitist signaling at its finest. Well, at least he's not a _credit_ snob.

I shop at 7-11 a couple of times a week for nothing fancy: 1-quart bottled milk, a 6-pack, an ice-cream, the Citi-bank ATM machine. Not to mention, I also get to free-ride some trashy magazines in the middle of a night. I would have gone to a Food Mart or a Wawa if there is one in walking distance. The bottom line is that a convenient store competes more on convenience than on the quality of its offerings.

"Traders Joe's in Massachusetts can not sell alcohol and does well without it."

This is incorrect. Grocery store chains in Mass can only sell alcohol at a maximum of 3 locations. Thus, most TJs in Mass don't sell alchohol, but the one on Magazine St in Cambridge does (including 3 Buck Chuck).

Actually they have sandwiches at the 7-Elevens around here (I am not sure if they have them at all 7-Elevens as I never went to a 7-Eleven before I moved here, except maybe on a road trip) that are made locally and daily and are not bad and are very cheap. So, if the local food mart / gas station doesn't have the same, that would be one reason.

I'm not saying they are some delicacy or that I might not prefer a Whole Foods salad bar instead, but for a light cheap lunch, you could do a lot worse.

Being owned and run from Japan, 7-11 tends to take a very different approach on many things than anyone else in the industry.

I can't give too much credence to this. 7-11s in the US are very different from 7-11s in Japan, and I can't say that I've noticed any change in the US franchises since the Japanese franchise holder bought out the company.

I live near GMU and am curious as to why Tyler doesn't shop at the Trader Joe's around here. They DO sell alcohol.

The average 7-11 is owned by a franchisee, whose franchise contract with 7-11 requires him to send 50 cents of every gross revenue dollar to 7-11 Inc

50% of gross revenue? No effing way that's true.

This has been a fairly common phenomena in northern California for quite some time. I haven't lived there in almost 10 years, but NorCal has Arco AM/PM gas stations which not only usually offer the lowest gas prices in a particular area, but they also outshine 7-11 etc., on food and beverage selection. Arco has crazy loyalty in NorCal -- and I can remember back during the first gulf war, they had a gas station in Lodi, Ca selling gas for 67-69 cents a gallon -- a good 30-40 cents cheaper than anywhere else. They had people lined up for nearly 2 miles trying to get gas, and when they got to fill up their tank, they'd spend a significant amount on soda, burgers, hot dogs, etc. The police had to come in and finally ask them to raise the cost of gas because traffic got blocked up so bad.

Anyway, long story short, I was very surprised when I first moved to DC, and the Exxon Mobile stations essentially just had a cooler with sodas in them. Place would have gone out of business in northern California. :-)

Vice, vice, baby: While the Philly Trader Joe's doesn't sell booze, it IS literally across the street from a "Girls Girls Girls" porno theater.

I've often wondered whether any othe TJs location can boast of being quite so, er, flava-ful.

Correction to my earlier post: today I was informed that Minneapolis now has a Trader Joe's.

I have nothing to add except: Sheetz is the be-all end-all of convenience stores. If there's one thing Pennsylvania has going for it, it's Sheetz. William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie...the historical significance of these men is nill compared to Bob Sheetz.

Professor Cowen.

The answer is simple. You pay more for the 7/11 brand. It is the same reason you go to a Holiday Inn or Marriot in a town, rather than another hotel, when you have no-one to refer you to a less expensive or better alternative.

I should add that 7-11's in Japan are much like 7-11's in the US, except they carry more dried fish and squid. Plus in Tokyo, you can usually pick up a collared shirt (only one size: thin), tie, or panty hose in case you stayed out all night drinking with your work buddies.

I shop at Whole Foods over TJs and it has nothing to do with signalling. Whole Foods around where I am (Silicon Valley) has a wider selection in general, and a more complete selection of organic (which I eat for non-hippy reasons). It's far more expensive, often for exactly the same product, but I'm very price insensitive for food. Also for time which means I won't shop at more than one place.

If I wasn't particularly intrested in organic, and a few products that you can only get at WF I'd be all over TJs. However I admire the Brand Management success that WF has had building themselves up.

If that 3-location-only law in Massachusetts is real, then I can furnish the third Trader Joe's that can sell alcohol there. My wife picked up a couple of bottles of their wine at the Framingham store just last month when we were in the area.

I have yet to see anything remotely like a high-end gas station convenience store in my area of Connecticut (between New Haven and Hartford).

I work at an exxon station and have worked at two other "gas stations" while in college and have learned that the owners usually only make a few cents per gallon on the gas. The the the gas does do though is bring business for other things. The station I work at is all about location. It serves a rural stretch of highway with no competition and the owners sell the right products; tobacco, animal feed, oil by the gallons, fence posts and wire, hardware of all kinds, and of course a huge selection of snacks and drinks and some decent breakfast bisquits and hotdogs for lunch. They also sell home decor items and gift shop type items that are attractive to the mountainous area. The majority of their income comes from what is sold inside the store, not what they make on gas. People blame us everyday for jacking up the price of gas but in reality we wish the price would go down as much as they do and charge as little as we can.

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