While Enron, Worldcom, and even AOL Time Warner are under
investigation for corporate corruption, 7-11 is what most
corporate America is really about.
Though 7-11 is celebrating its 75th anniversary, this year, you
hear much about the purveyor of Slurpees and other American
conveniences, in the media. They’re not interested.
That’s because 7-11, like most American corporations, is not
dishonest or corrupt. It’s the world’s largest
convenience retailer, but not the big, bad corporation reporters
love to hate. It’s not using Arthur Andersen to hide
expenditures and stock options to fattened CEOs, while abusing
Ma and Pa investor. No. Like most businesses, 7-11
is more concerned with providing the latest conveniences and
contemporary products to make life easier and more inexpensive
for consumers increasingly on the go.
From Slurpees in the hot, humid summer to the Big Gulp for those
who want more drink for a lower price, there’s nothing sexy
reporters eager to uncover dishonesty and bloated CEO bank
accounts. That a company full of firsts has strongly survived
years—remaining a market giant while the five and dimes, and
even Kmart, have largely died versus Walmart and Target—should
be big news.
Like McDonald’s, 7-11 is an important piece of Americana, and
monumental anniversary is important news. 7-11 has been a
great innovator of things we now take for granted. The
company—founded in 1927 as Southland Ice Company in Oak Cliff,
Texas—created the convenience retailing and “dashboard
dining” we’re so used to, today.
Begun as “Tote’m” stores, 7-11 was the first to sell
gasoline at a convenience store and later to offer self-serve
gasoline, the first convenience store chain to introduce 24-hour
operations and introduce ATMs to make it easier to satisfy that
craving for a hotdog in the middle of the night. It was
the first national chain to sell
fresh-brewed coffee to-go, the first to have a self-serve soda
fountain, the first to offer super-size drinks (making the chain
a convenient target for the PC food police), the first to offer
"freedom of choice" at the softdrink fountain by
offering all major softdrink brands, and the first to sell
pre-paid phone cards. The convenience store chain was even
the first to advertise in a national television commercial--in
its 1949 “owl and rooster” ad. Then, there’s the
Slurpee, introduced in 1966, and much imitated by others ever
Rather than sit on its laurels at age 75, 7-11 continues to
innovate, introducing Vcom--financial service centers in its
Texas and Florida stores, and giving consumers new flavors
unavailable elsewhere, such as Mountain Dew’s Blue Shock.
The store even developed “Heaven Sent” hosiery, inexpensive
pantyhose in a lipstick size container convenient for a
woman’s purse. The company holds open “Product
Innovation Days,” welcoming anyone to introduce a new product
to its top marketing executives, to meet the changing
convenience demands of customers. 7-11’s Oak Park, Michigan
store in suburban Detroit became the first 7-11 to offer
certified kosher Slurpees, and that location has become the
biggest seller of Slurpees in the global 7-11 family of over
But for reporters and liberal, anti-business “reformers”
more interested in practicing the politics of envy, you won’t
hear about these things. They’re more interested in
attacking capitalism based on its aberrations—by covering
excesses like ex-Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski’s flashy Cape Cod
mansion and $13 million art collection, including a $4.7 million
Renoir, “Fleur et Fruits,” and a $3.95 million Claude Monet
landscape. True, the lifestyles of these rich and infamous
are vulgarly ostentatious and criminal, as stockholders were
lied to and swindled of life-savings. But these
corporations and their CEOs are a scintilla of a fraction among
the vast majority of American corporations and their executives.
Corporate corruption beat reporters and self-coronated
constantly criticize all of corporate America for a variety of
like underserving or neglecting poor neighborhoods and
minorities, and discrimination in hiring. But, in reality,
most corporations are just
like 7-11. Instead of generating sexy stories about the
CEO’s new jet or vacation retreat, 7-11 is the real, but
untold story. The company bends over backwards to please
minorities and still make a profit. Besides spending thousands
on affirmative action scholarships and hiring programs for which
non-minorities need not apply, many 7-11 stores are located in
some of the most dangerous neighborhoods and are the subject of
constant robberies. The company also pays $5,000 for
referrals of qualified minority franchisees.
And 7-11 made the American dream come true for many American
immigrants, so much so that tribute is paid through parody on
TV’s “The Simpsons” with character “Apu,” an immigrant
franchisee. 7-11 gives millions to programs addressing issues
such as literacy, reading, crime prevention and multicultural
understanding. It donates hundreds of thousands of pounds
of food to local food banks through its Harvest program to help
fight hunger. Last year, 7-11 raised more than $3 million
for the victims of September 11th.
But 7-11 is not alone. Most corporations are not evil like
wicked like Worldcom, or cooking the books like Arthur Anderson.
7-11 is like most successful corporations in America—a good
corporate citizen and a good neighbor offering inexpensive
conveniences to make our lives better and easier.
But you’ll never see that on the nightly news.
Debbie Schlussel is
a political commentator and attorney. Join her fan
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