My wife and I have a bit of of an unhealthy obsession with Sheetz. We were a little too excited when we discovered that the gas station/restaurant/ice cream shop/purveyor of endless combinations of soda was opening a new location in our neighborhood. If you’re not familiar with Sheetz, don’t fret; it probably just means that, unlike me, you are not the kind of person who would have a date night at a gas station.

I probably stop in to Sheetz 3-4 times a week, usually to buy a 32 ounce Diet Coke with vanilla syrup for $0.79. The price is amazing, but even better is the customer service. Employees smile, joke, offer help, and genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves. Posters on the wall tout Sheetz’s perennial inclusion in Fortune’s list of Top Companies to Work For.

Two weeks ago I went up to the checkout counter with a huge soda in each hand – one for me, and one for the Mrs. When it was my turn to pay, the clerk looked at me and asked, “Is that all for you today?” I nodded yes, and she said “You can go.” I couldn’t believe she would just give me the drinks for free. I walked out of the store beaming.

Sheetz bought my undying loyalty that day for the grand total of $1.58. I continue to go out of my way to buy drinks and snacks there, even after my wife and I moved into our new home a couple miles away. I’ve told dozens of people about my experience; I’m blogging about it here. Talk about money well spent.

So what’s the point? Well, I’ve been bound and determined since that free soda day to give everyone in the Kidznotes Team and Family their own Sheetz experiences. My mind went first to our students and their families. What are the things we can do for them to make them walk away beaming unexpectedly? How can we exceed expectations in daily interactions with those we serve?

The more I thought about replicating my Sheetz, experience, though, the more I realized it wasn’t my experience alone. The sales clerk (who had been empowered by a positive and purposefully crafted corporate culture to give away a product) had probably enjoyed it as much as I had. So how can I create for our staff a culture that makes them feel empowered to “give away the soda” – and not just because of the value to the “customer”, but because of the value to themselves and to our work environment.

I’d love to hear from you all; where have you experienced your own Sheetz moments? Ever had anyone give away the soda? Ever worked in an environment where you felt empowered to go above and beyond for your constituents? What are some of the small but important ways you could see Kidznotes giving away the soda? Please feel free to email me your thoughts at nick@kidznotes.org. I’d love to hear from you!

p.s. – The mutual creative use of z by both Kidznotes and Sheetz hasn’t escaped me. I’ve had discussions with store managers about partnering together. Sheetz, not surprisingly, is already very philanthropic. I hope we can do something together!