Taking a populist stand against ATM surcharging, a convenience store chain has begun an advertising campaign touting its fee-free machines.
With signs in store windows and print and radio advertisements, Wawa Food Markets Inc. of Wawa, Pa., has been boasting to customers: "Get your money for nothin.'"
The 498-store chain began running the ads in early May, capitalizing on the growing anti-surcharge sentiments among grocery and convenience store customers.
The company stated that drawing traffic to its stores was a higher priority than skimming fees from ATM withdrawals.
And since the advertising started, in-store ATM use has increased 15% to 20%, according to Howard B. Stoeckel, Wawa senior vice president for marketing.
The chain operates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. The company name-a Lenape Indian word that refers to a type of Canadian goose-is drawn from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem "Hiawatha."
PNC Bank Corp. owns and operates the ATMs that have been inside Wawa Food Markets since 1995.
"The original contract was drawn before ATM access fees," said Jonathan Williams, a spokesman for Pittsburgh-based PNC.
Neither Wawa nor PNC would comment on the specifics of the multiyear contract, but experts agreed Wawa was trying to foster a pleasing environment for the consumer.
"The main priority is to inspire customer loyalty," said Linda Zitelli, director of research at Carmody & Bloom Inc. of Ridgewood, N.J. "Surcharging is not their business. They want to pull people into their stores."