High Variance

Wawa: Philadelphia's Hidden Jewel

I recently made a quick return visit to Philadelphia and rediscovered one of my favorite Philly institutions. It wasn’t the Liberty Bell, the Love sculpture, or even the giant tetris tower. It was Wawa: the world’s greatest convenience store. What makes it so much better than 7-Eleven, ampm, or even the recently departed White Hen? Two things:

  1. Wawa has the high tech efficiency of a Japanese factory. They do everything they can possibly think of to get you exactly what you want as fast as possible. When you want a fresh sandwich (or bagel or breakfast burrito or anything else that needs preparation) you don’t wait in line and talk to an error prone human. Instead, you tap your way through a perfectly designed touch screen interface and when you finish, your receipt is instantly printed. While you pay for your order (and anything else), they make your food. Wawa is always packed, but no one is ever waiting for anything.
  2. Wawa has their finger on the pulse of America. Do Americans want roller hot dogs or stale donuts? No! We want fresh baked goods and 10 flavors of fresh-brewed coffee. Do we want two choices for liquid additives for our coffee? No! We want to choose between skim, 1%, 2%, whole, half-and-half, full-on-cream, and three different non-dairy creamers. And they all better be on ice. Wawa is on the cutting edge of smoothies and fancy iced coffee drinks too. At the same time, they’ve got a great selection of sodas, candy, and medicine.

I admit I’m a little biased. My three-year-old and I enjoyed playing find the “Wawa” in the store (not a hard game given the number of self-branded items) while listening to a continuous stream of 80’s music (Everybody Wang Chung Tonight!). Even so, I’m perplexed. Why is America outside of Philadelphia almost completely deprived of the Wawa experience? It made sense before 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series and the city needed something to be proud of. But now? Nothing should be stopping Wawa from total world domination.