Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Breaking Sam's Club Beverage News

I joined Sam's Club two years ago and have been very pleased with the selection of merchandise, the hours (Plus members can get in during the 7 o'clock hour instead of waiting until 10 freaking a.m. as at Costco), the proximity to my home (five minutes), and their Coca-Cola fountain (with good ice!).  The latter is important as I like to end my shopping trip with a large, cheap drink -- a pleasure that Costco robbed from me when they switched their fountain over to Pepsi.

I scooted over to Sam's early this morning and, as ever, held up a styrofoam cup to be scanned at checkout.  "Oh, did you know we switched over to Pepsi?" said the cashier in a very nonchalant way, as if that news would be either positive or neutral.  The most fitting word for my feelings in that moment:  despair.  Despair that would have turned into the fiery anger born of betrayal had I not looked over at the fountain and determined that Diet Coke was still on offer, along with a bevy of new beverage choices.

Excuse the blurry pics.  As I've said before, photographing soda fountains makes me feel like a creep.  Sam's Club is now offering Your Club. Your Choice as the signage above illustrates.  

Here's what I'm feeling...
Relief.  Diet Coke is still available and my addict's heart can rest easy.

Admiration.  I respect Sam's for not fully selling out by accepting whatever enormous incentives Pepsi seems to be offering these days.  (Ahem, Costco.  Ahem, Frisch's Big Boy).  Also, even though I don't drink them, I know of many who passionately love Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Dr. Pepper.  Glad to see those choices included.

Confusion.  There are some wacky offerings on this fountain that I would never drink.  Two varieties of Tropicana.  Sunkist Orange.  Sobe Lifewater.  Canada Dry.  A Raspberry Brisk Iced Tea (is that necessary with the regular iced teas in their own dispensers?).  A specialty Mountain Dew.  Something I can't recognize and that the photo is too blurry to make out.  I'm scratching my head at these choices, but not necessarily complaining since they have not replaced any standards.

Also, I said to myself, "Megan, you are perhaps out of touch.  Living in your bubble in the neighboring town of Pleasantville, you shouldn't assume that everyone has a loving/addictive relationship with Diet Coke just because you and many of your peers do."

I did some research.  A 2010 NBC News piece lists the top three sodas as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Pepsi (in that order),  A 2016-17 list from (can't attest to reliability of this source) ranks them Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Diet Coke with Diet Pepsi in the seventh spot.

So, yes, Diet Coke is incredibly popular, right up there with the perennially loved full-sugar colas.

The other feeling, then, is Suspicion.  Regular Pepsi fills 3/24 spots on the Sam's Club fountain.  Diet Pepsi fills 1/24.  Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi (?!?!) fills 1/24.  Whereas, Regular Coke fills 2/24 spots and Diet Coke, the second or third most popular soft drink, fills a mere 1/24 of the fountain. Hmmm.

Concern.  If after one shopping trip, I find that the Diet Coke tap has run dry and I can't get my 89 cents worth ... I don't know how to finish that without looking like a complete psycho.

I'm curious if each spot on a 24-tap fountain is carefully planned and negotiated on the corporate level or if it varies by store.  Or, if it's kind of haphazard arrangement.  Was my Sam's Club arranged on the whim of some Pepsi-loving beverage distributor?

There's another Sam's Club about twenty minutes away so I'll check out their fountain next time I'm in that area.  I'll be asking my parents and sisters to check their respective Sam's Clubs and will follow up with another edition of fountain drink dissertating when I have something to report.

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