May I call you “Darling?” Thoughts on “the Dolores effect”

The CBS show Undercover Boss sent, Joe DePinto, the CEO of 7-11 into one of his franchises in Long Island.  

His mission: to figure out how this little 7-11 manages to sell a virtual Niagara of coffee every morning, some 2500 cups a day, more than any other 7-11.

DePinto expects the answer to be complicated.  But once he’s spent the morning in the franchise, the answer is obvious.

The answer is Dolores.  She’s been working at this store for 18 years.  She has been there a long time and, hey, she knows people.  Some she kisses.  Some she calls Darling.  She greets many people by name.  And some she hits.  

"I got to hit you.  You know I got to hit you."

And she does, on camera.  There she is, pictured above, laying one on a customer. Because she likes him.

Customers reciprocate by calling her Dolores and some call her "Ma."

Dolores represents a conundrum for the corporation.  In a perfect world, every retail employee would endear herself to customers as Dolores does.  

But we can’t legislate this sort of thing.  We can’t make it part of the "script" that employees follow.  Nor should we try.  Obligatory endearments are wrong, and frankly just plain creepy. And touching customers?  Um, I don’t think so. Go ahead, just try punching one of your customers and see what happens.

But that doesn’t mean that "The Dolores effect," let’s call it, can’t be managed.  We would want to do an anthropology of the Dolores effect.  Who can do it?  How long does it take to acquire?  What is the developmental cycle here?  Then we would want to create a Dolores training regime.  Dolores is a naturally gifted social actor.  We can train those who aren’t. The next step is to figure out an incentive system.  I bet 7-11 pays Dolores what they pay other people who do her job.  This is wrong.  We don’t want Dolories to simulate her bonhomie for commercial purposes, but once she has began to built a community, we should darn sure make sure she is compensated.

The fact of the matter is Dolores is creating value.  As it is, the only way we have to think about this value, the only way we have to measure it, is by the number of cups of coffee this 7-11 sells each day.  Surely, we can do better than that.  Surely, it’s time to understand the Dolores effect.


The YouTube clip for Undercover Boss.  If you know the concept of the show, you may skip forward to 1:10. click here

4 thoughts on “May I call you “Darling?” Thoughts on “the Dolores effect”

  1. Domen

    Godin tackles this topic in his recent book The Linchpin. There’s no doubt Dolores is indispensable.
    Nothing better than to starting your day with some humanity. It sure, beats all the other (increasingly strange) stuff we add to coffee.

  2. Greg G

    The Dolores Effect is in plain words being personable with customers. As the article said she has been there for 18 years. Most people in a given neighborhood visit there local convenience store. They go there and see a very social person who obviously implores them to return. She creates a comfortable environment and it shows that people are drawn to visit her store instead of somewhere else. To do this job the worker must be a social person and able to start a conversation with someone without turning a customer away. Some people have great people skills wile others do not. In my opinion Dolores is a very social person who has for the past 18 years been able to learn how to deal with people and create a welcome environment that people like and thus want to continue to be in. These skills are going to take some amount of time to get but I think its something you are born with to be able to talk to a complete stranger and hold a descent conversation, I no I cannot do this. The article says that there is no difference between Dolores’s wages and anyone else who has the same job. I would expect her to now get some sort of raise after the CEO of the company has seen a model worker. However I believe she enjoys her job and doesn’t only do it for the money.

  3. Sunil

    Working in clothing retails years ago, we were shown a video of a fish market from Seattle that had a really engaging and high energy staff. FISH! philosophy is what its called and you can find it here:!_philosophy

    I’ll never forget the backlash management felt after they tried to instill these ideas. We were young students but felt smart enough to see through it all. The goal and method of measurement was going to be sales and client feedback.

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