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Chillz

Sheetz Freakz
by yo go re

Where I live, in the Eastern time zone, we don't have 7-Elevens. I don't know if they ever tried to get into the market here, but it's possible they just looked at the fact we already have five widespread and popular convenience store chains competing for customers (plus at least two smaller entrants), and realized the odds of them being able to crack this region were too slim to be worth trying for.

But with that much choice comes a drawback: if you want to really take advantage of any loyalty programs, you're best off just picking one and sticking with it, rather than shopping around. That's what I do, at least, and it's now randomly paid off by delivering unto me my own little Freak.

Meet your inner Sheetz Freak. It's a pint-sized persona that represents your Sheetz-y urges and cravings. And it's yours because you reached Freak Status using My Sheetz Rewardz. Embrace it. Feed it. Take it on road trips and Sheetz Runs. Love it. And keep doing you, ya Freak!

Founded in 1952 in Altoona, PA, (a town, as far as I can tell, apparently best known for having the worst pizza style in the world [or not?]), Sheetz is a family-owned gas station/​convenience store chain mainly located in the upper mid-Atlantic region. If you've ever used a touchscreen to order food at a restaurant or something? They started that. I remember they first expanded into my area in that time after I could ride my bike wherever I wanted, but before I could drive, but it wasn't until Covid meant other stores were no longer open 24 hours anymore that I really started going there a lot.

Eventually I joined their "Rewardz" program (since "Sheetz" is spelled with a Z, so are most of their in-house brands - if you've ever wanted to buy some egg and chesse "Shmuffinz" for breakfast, they've got your hookup) to get 3¢ off per gallon of gas, but didn't really use it for anything else. Back then, it was terribly planned. The set up was that if you bought X number of specific items, you got rewarded with that specific item for free: like, buy 10 fountain drinks, get 1 free fountain drink; buy 10 Fryz, got a free order of Fryz. Which seems fine, but it was divided by size, so if you bought nine small drinks and nine mediums, well, you hadn't bought 10 yet, so you didn't get anything. Eventually they changed it to be much more consumer-friendly, where you just got points... sorry, "Pointz" for every dollar you spent, and could redeem those Pointz for whatever freebies you wanted. Tons better!

Sheetz has recently started featuring "Freakz" in their advertising: like the text up above says, they're little representations of your id, the part of your personality engram that says "supper's a long way away, why not get some Shnackz?" They're amorphous little red fur monsters with a body and legs and a mouth, like Gossamer had babies. Each Freak looked a little bit like the person it was influencing, suggesting they were personalized, like an angel and devil sitting on your shoulders. Shoulderz.

The more Pointz you earn as a Rewardz member, the higher level you reach, moving from Fan to Friend to Freak, with different offers - Offerz - unlocked at every new tier. I go there like once a week, so I'm at Freak level, and the other day they sent out an email telling all us Freaks we could get a free plush. Just had to ask for it at the counter. Toys? For me? Yeah, sold! Why the freak not!

Amusingly, the plushes are blind-bagged - there are five designs, and to keep people from being picky and bothering the workers, they're sealed in an opaque plastic bag. Rip it open and inside is your new tiny plush pal.

I admit, when the email went out and showed the various Freaks you could get, I was really hoping for the one with two giant drink cups on its hat (because that's wonderfully representative of the amount of liquid I drink in an average day), but I'm not disappointed by the one I did get.

"Chillz" is wearing glasses, a beanie, and a hoodie. He's got a small grin showing off his round teeth, and a bit of hair pokes out from beneath the front of the hat. The cap and glasses are permanently stitched to the body, but the hoodie is entirely removable! And it has a working drawstring? Holy heck, who put so much work into this, and why? The Sheetz S logo is emboidered on the forehead twice - once on the hat and once on the hood. The hoodie comes down onto the legs quite a way, but if you take it off, the legs are sewn in such a way that they can flop around a bit, not just being static.

The construction of the Freak is good quality. It's a little over 5" tall, there's no bunching around the seams, the nap on the fabric runs the right direction, everything feels nice and sturdy... I wouldn't necessarily use this as a pet toy wih a dog who likes to play tug of war, but if you give it to a kid it's not immediately going to fall to shreds, either. Shredz.

Sheetz is my default choice for going out for food. It's surprisingly good quality, pretty customizable, and often cheap - people love to laud the famous $1.50 Costco hot dog combo, but I've got a Sheetz Rewardz card, so that price seems high to me. And their dogs - Dogz - are good, too! "Gas station hot dog" is usually a punchline, but these are legit quality for the price you pay. And those Rewardz add up, too: this past weekend I got a sub that would have been, like, $28? But I got it for free because I'm a Freak and had the points to spend. And on that same trip, I also got this small plush Freak for free, again because I'm a Freak.

Maybe he'll hang out in my car's cup holder, and get sweated on every time I stop at Sheetz for a cold drink. After all, with his hoodie and beanie, he's got to be sweltering under there. Shweltering.

-- 07/07/24


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