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How Much Can We Make on Coffee?

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #70

I secret shopped my 70th YMCA in North Carolina.

The New Year is always a busy time for our company. I finished setting up our third YMCA campaign and decided to stop at a Y on my way back to Charlotte, NC airport to head home. 

When I pulled up, there were signs all over the lawn about an enrollment fee special. This is such a played out promotion that is done every January at most Y’s. In my opinion, it's a bad idea to do the same promotion at the exact same time of the year. You are conditioning the market to rely on a once a year discount and wait until that time of year to join. Your marketing should be more strategic, creative and thought-out.   

I walk into a reception area with three employees behind the desk. I was greeted and asked if they could help me.

“Sure,” I said. “I’m new to the area and may be interested in a membership.”

The associate introduced me to the membership director that happened to be behind the desk. After a brief interaction, I was asked if I would like a tour. “That would be great,” I said.

After entering through a metal turnstile, I immediately saw a $1.00 K-cup machine (the first and last one I was hoping to see was on a secret shopping mission in PA) vending machine. Is it just me, or does it seem counterproductive to try and sell expensive K-cups at a Y? Do you really make any money from selling $1.00 K-Cups?

You want members to interact after workouts, right? Coffee is a great way to do that. By the same token, if you want seniors to sit and chat before and after workouts, coffee is a great way to get them to interact.

Whether you are for or against the Silver Sneaker program, a lot of Ys offer it. Want to encourage the Silver Sneaker member to swipe their card? Offer a sitting area with free coffee (have a donation box by the cups) in the morning and see a spike in senior traffic. In my opinion, you will make more money that way.

I was working with a Y in MO and they had this “coffee thing” figured out. They had a space in the Y with 6 round tables and chairs with a coffee maker in the middle. I watched groups of seniors every morning, play cards, read the paper, hang out in groups and enjoy each other’s company – drinking coffee. In other Ys I see the opposite side of the slate. They offer no coffee or seating area, and it’s a ghost town.    

Back to the tour: The representative was friendly, but that was about it. She didn’t fill out a tour card or gather any guest data, and she gave me a very basic tour. No substance, no education and no Y history. After the tour she handed me some information, but didn’t ask for the sale. I said thank you and headed out the door.


The critique: 


  • Friendly staff
  • Offered a tour



  • Get a tour card and use it
  • Gather guest data so you can market to me in the future
  • Share what makes you different during the tour
  • Share some Y history and donation stats
  • Educate me on why I should workout with some benefits and advantages
  • Don’t sell $1.00 k-cups. Instead, set up a senior gathering area with free coffee

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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Saturday, 26 May 2018