Howdy Customers, welcome to the fortieth checkout lane of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, may I see some ID for that item?
If you live in South Jersey (or certain parts of Eastern PA) then you’re familiar with Wawa, the “local” chain of convenience stores that have been in the area at least as long as I’ve been alive–a long ass time. Wawa is the name of the Canadian goose. I have no idea how the Canadian goose is different from any other goose. I will, of course, look all this up when I’m done with the ol’ rough draft here. (Note: include previous sentence in final draft.)
If you live in North Jersey then you’re familiar with Quick Chek, the “convenience” store chain found in nearly every locality across the NYC metro area. Yes, they actually remove the ‘c’ from ‘check. Why? I have no idea. Why do they need to differentiate themselves with the word Chek? What then does Chek even mean? Does it just mean ‘Check’ without the ‘c.’? But again, why? What’s the punchline? I DON’T GET IT.
Wawa’s logo is the silhouette of the flying goose against a fading sunset. It is forever etched in my memory as a symbol of swiftness and convenience.
Quick Chek’s logo is a letter Q made out of what I guess is a fluorescent green donut and a leaf.
Wawa has a nice wave to it. It ripples off of the lips. Wawawawawawawawawaww…Wawa…just a bit of the stream of vibratory emanations permeating the universe.
Quick Chek contradicts itself with its own name. I’ll explain…
Quick Cheks have 2 registers at most. They are usually next together in the same small booth. In my own personal experience, I nearly always have to wait in a slow line at a Quick Chek. Yet they call themselves QUICK Check!
Older Wawas are smaller buildings but they almost always have a cube in the center with two to four register counters. At a SuperWawa, the center island is bigger and more circular, with four register counters at each corner. So while there are times when you have to wait in line at a Wawa, you’ll always find them opening extra registers when things get crowded. Otherwise the checkout process is quick.
Both stores have a debit/credit payment system. At Wawa you have to tell the cashier Debit or Credit and she pushes a button for you to proceed. At Quick Check you do it on the keypad. The thing is, if you use credit the purchase will be quick at both stores. However, if you prefer debit, the wait time at Wawa is less than at Quick Chek. I think you have to go through less steps on the touchscreen.
Nevertheless, the wait time at these stores really has more to with…
Location Location Location
South Jersey is mostly flat with long parallel roads. We have miles of farmland and the Pine Barrens. North Jersey is a vast labyrinthine maze of roads compressed into a small area.
North Jersey either doesn’t have the room for SuperWawas or the Wawa Corporation chooses not to expand there. Instead, Quick Cheks are crammed into cities all around North Jersey. Some are big but most are small. Parking can be a pain in the ass. SuperWawas have so much damn parking around them you will never not find a spot. Apparently, Super Quick Cheks exist yet I’ve never seen one.
One Special Exception
There is one North Jersey Wawa that I know of. I’ve heard there used to be one somewhere else, but… One day I took Exit 1 (New Road) off of Route 280 and at the opposite corner was a bunch of construction gear and a sign that said ‘Coming Soon: Wawa.’ Holy Shit. If Douglas Palermo wasn’t right before when he said that North Jersey is Heaven, he sure as hell is right about it now.
I watched this Wawa develop from the ground up and some warm, sunny day last year I walked inside to experience the surreality of forced deja vu. My South Jersey reality tunnel and my North Jersey reality tunnel converged and merged at a collapsing vector of quantum possibilty. And I was there.
(Sure enough, there was a cute girl at the counter. More on that universal constant below.)
You can get gas at most Wawas, since they only build SuperWawas nowadays. You cannot get gas at most Quick Cheks.
The inside of a Wawa is a maroon grey, nice subdued colors. The inside of a Quick Check is white and green. It just doesn’t work. It makes me nervous just walking in there.
The music on the radio at a Wawa is usually some kind of rock station that’s never too loud. When I walk into the Quick Chek two blocks from home, no matter what time of day or night it is the pop station is always blasting.
Every Wawa I frequent is clean and well organized. With a Quick Check you never know. Their product layout design feels cluttered, probably due to the lack of space. Depending on the store, Quick Cheks may have different layouts so you have to search for what you’re looking for. Almost all Wawa stores have everything in the same location. In the future Wawa could offer portal services. You’d emerge halfway across the world in a Wawa that looks exactly like the one you just left, walk outside and be in Istanbul.
Although both stores sell the same items you see EVERYWHERE in this country, Wawa has more of a product selection. Again, it’s because SuperWawas(which really are regular Wawas nowadays) have so much space. That alone makes me prefer them. First of all, you can get more drinks and ice creams*. There’s more variety of chips and pretzels. Quick Check my sometimes offer more of other food items like frozen dinners, cheap pastas, tuna, mac & cheese, microwave soups, canned goods, etc. Wawa also sells car items while Quick Chek doesn’t.
* For some reason Wawa has stopped selling Haagen Daaz Rocky Road but my local Quick Chek does. Rocky Road may be my favorite ice cream of all time. Especially when you crunch some Utz Sourdough Specials on top and scoop in some peanut better. But I digress…
Wawa has another circular island with four sides that contains sandwiches, salads, fruit, yogurt, pudding, specialty drinks, assorted cold cuts, and packaged foods such as my favorites: pita w. hummus or the Protein Power Pack (hard boiled egg, almonds, apple slices, grapes, mini-bagel and peanut butter.
Quick Chek sells some or all of these things but the options tend to differ depending on the store. Again, lack of space means the product options just don’t match that of a Wawa. Also, keep in mind, everything in South Jersey is cheaper than it is in North Jersey.
At a Quick Chek you’ll find baked goods but these are usually premade and not fresh. Their cookies are an exception. I love me some “homemade” Quick Chek chocolate chip cookies.
Wawa has an entire shelf unit for freshly baked goods. Nothing is wrapped in plastic. You’ve got freshly baked muffins, donuts. My personal favorite is the crumb cake, which tastes just like Heaven if heaven was contained in a crumb cake.
OK, now we come to the meat of the matter. So Quick Chek and Wawa both have a full service deli with touchscreen ordering system. They both offer cold cuts, condiments, sandwiches, soups, sides and so on. Of course, they both sell many different varieties of coffee. So which store has better goods? Well, you know what I’m going to say: Wawa. But that’s generalizing.
First of all, it depends on your tastes, I guess. Also, we’re talking about a lot of different items. The Quick Chek soups are pretty good but nothing comes close to Wawa’s Chicken Noodle soup. I haven’t ordered many sandwiches at a Quick Chek, but I can tell you that Wawa seems to have more variety overall. They have cheesesteaks, meatball subs, grilled shit, tuna and chicken salads, different versions of these Hot-to-Go bowls, and so on. I guess Quick Chek offers some or most of these as well, but the last time I ordered a sandwich at a Quick Chek the deli guy yelled at me because I did something wrong with their receipt stamp/food pickup system. It was my first time and I didn’t know I should’ve gotten the receipt stamped and handed it back in or SOMETHING. This guy got all upset about it so I was like, fuck it, I’m not dealing with THAT again. At Wawa it’s simple. You order on the touch screen, grab the receipt that prints out, go get other stuff, wait in line, pay, go pick up the food and hand in receipt, boom, done.
Now I need to make a special note about the coffee. I generally prefer Wawa coffee over Quick Chek’s coffees. But whatever, that’s personal taste. Here’s the thing I want to talk about. So at Wawa, if you want a dome lid, they have a dome lid that’s universal–it fits all sizes of their paper cups. At Quick Chek, you have two different dome lids for two different kinds of cups. Now this may seem like no big deal, but then you realize how many times I’ve grabbed the wrong lid until I realized realize there is no reason to even waste plastic on making two different kind of lids. I think one lid is for Styrofoam cups. I don’t approve of Styrofoam cups. I don’t approve of paper cups either because the hot liquid melts the wax inside which releases formaldehyde into your drink, or something. Nevertheless, I hate Styrofoam cups.
Yes, this gets its own category. There is no snack I enjoy more on this Earth than pretzels. Pretzels are underrated. While I love hard pretzels and tend to eat them more often, I also enjoy soft pretzels. Let me be more specific, I enjoy GOOD soft pretzels, not that SuperPretzel Soft Pretzel shit you find in the frozen section or at stadiums.
Both Quick Chek and Wawa offer freshly baked pretzel braids that are radically different from each other. The Quick Chek pretzel braid is long and thin, a double helix of dough. These are sometimes kept under heat in paper bags but generally just sit in front of the counter. These pretzels harden fast. You have to catch ’em when they’re just right or they get crunchy quick. Also, they use a salt that is rather big, course and cubish. They’re not really consistent with the salt ratio. One time I stood in line and saw only two remaining pretzel braids. One had the entire top surfaced covered in salt and the other had not one speck of salt. Oh duality, will you ever cease to confound me? Anyway, this salt is SALTY. So it depends on what you like, but I tend to prefer Wawa pretzels because…
Wawa pretzels are simple butterfly braids. They’re smaller, but that also means they’re cheaper. They are held in plastic and kept in baskets near the cash registers. They use a different dough, one that doesn’t harden as much on the outside. The center dough is always perfect consistency. These pretzels will harden rather quickly too, but it I’m pretty sure it takes longer than a Quick Chek pretzel. Their salt is, how do I say it–softer. It may look as if there isn’t enough salt on it. The specks are scattered evenly over the surface with lots of space in between. But when you bite into it you discover that it’s just the right amount of salt. It’s not overbearing, which is exactly how I would describe Quick Chek pretzel salt.
Restrooms and ATMs
All SuperWawas have two ATMs with no surcharge and full restroom facilities. At Quick Check you’ll have one no surcharge ATM and no restrooms.
There are all kinds of characters that work at the Quick Check two blocks away. There’s the older folks who work night shifts and weekends when the college kids are partying.
There’s these two guys, each the polar opposite of one another. One guy I call Clean Cut. He’s always smiling, talks to every customer, and moves quickly to ring them up. The other I call Slacker. He looks like a hippie conceived, gave birth and raised the kid at Woodstock as if the event never ended. He’s unkempt, always has a headphone in one ear, gets distracted in side conversations, takes forever to ring people up and just generally exudes an unhealthy apathy. GUARANTEED: if this guy’s behind the register, there’s a line of at least five people waiting. Look, I HATED dealing with humanity when I worked retail. However, I always did my best to get them the fuck out of there quickly. The sooner the better.
There’s one girl who doesn’t speak English and always looks kind of lost.
Then there’s Incredibly Hot Indian Girl. When I say incredibly hot, I mean holy shit, out-of-this-world hot. One day it’s raining out and I’ve had a bad day and I’m fighting a cold. I look like shit, I feel like shit and all I want is a pack of cigarettes. I ask her for American Spirit and she says, “I’ve got an idea. How about you not smoke today?”
Now, my first internal reaction is, she is absolutely right. How sad and pathetic I am. This is a sign from the Universe and Humanity that I don’t want any Death Sticks, I want to go home and rethink my life.
My second internal reaction is, WHY DON’T YOU SMOKE MY COCK? Why don’t you blow me EVERY SINGLE TIME I feel like smoking a cigarette? Like right now. Here, on the counter, in front of everyone. Blow me. Blow me twenty times a day, every day, whenever I get the urge and MAYBE I won’t smoke today.
Now I have to add more about this because this just happened TODAY: Every time I’ve gone in since and she’s been working, there’s always this brief flash of the eyes. She remembers that day and I remember that day. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t flip out or anything. I made some joke and went about my day. But we both remember it and neither of us talk about it. Actually she doesn’t really say anything. In fact, there are times I’ve walked in, seen her at the counter and walked right back out again figuring it’s worth the extra mile to the TigerMart. Then I walk in there this afternoon. This time it’s sunny out, I’m in a relatively good mood, and I’m even singing to myself in my head. I tell her I need a pack of American Spirit blue. She exaggerates a “Yes sir!” and smiles. Then she tells me she likes the color of my (turquoise)shirt. I said thank you. End of story.
The cashiers at Wawa can be broken down into three simple categories: cool guys, cute young chicks, and old folks. I’ve had many friendly relations and more than a few unhealthy fantasies with many Wawa cashiers. One woman, Karen, has been working at Wawa as long as, well, she’s one of the longest running memories in my consciousness. I don’t even live in South Jersey anymore, and I just saw her last week.
The American Spirit
And so we come to it. The conclusion. Suffice it to say: Wawa is better than Quick Chek. One thing they both have in common though, no matter what store or who the cashier is, whenever I ask for a pack of American Spirit they ALWAYS ask “Yellow?” I know I should just say “A pack of American Spirit–light blue” but sometimes I forget or sometimes I just want to experiment with this phenomenon.
Maybe they sell more yellows than light blues. Maybe that’s why they just assume I want yellow. It still bewilders me how every single of them asks me “Yellow?” first. What is it about yellow?
This little scenario has gotten me into more unwanted “relationships” with cashiers. Some of them pride themselves on remembering that I want blue before I ask for it. Some of them even pull it out when I walk in the door. JESUS. A few will ask me how this color brand compares to the other or what each of the colors means. A couple will even argue that the color is not light blue, that it’s proper name is turquoise or sky blue or fucking periwinkle. One guy told me it was teal but I was too angry to even correct the motherfucker.
Towel Boy prefers debit.