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As troubled Krispy Kreme breaks in a new CEO and struggles to regain its financial and competitive equilibrium, there is an interesting piece from the Associated Press about how humorist and writer Roy Blount Jr. – a Georgia native who now lives in New York – knew the company was in trouble.

The AP notes that when Krispy Kreme first opened a store in New York, Blount would enjoy going into the store when the red neon light was on, signaling that hot doughnuts were just coming out the oven.

"When Krispy Kremes are hot," Blount wrote in the Sept. 8, 1996, edition of the New York Times Magazine, "they are to other doughnuts what angels are to people."

But recently, seeing the light on, he walked into a New York Krispy Kreme and found that the doughnuts were cold – and that the store manager had decided to leave the light on all the time. "Something in my heart broke just a little bit," he tells the AP.
KC's View:
We retell this story because it is a fabulous example of how consumers perceive the problems of a retailer – it has nothing to do with finances or franchisees, but rather has a lot to do with the little operational and cultural breakdowns that signal a company has lost its way.

Sometimes these things happen because a company gets too big to keep its cultural imperatives in place. Sometimes it happens because cultural imperatives are given a lesser priority because of other issues. And sometimes, management forgets that the first customer that needs to be taken care of is the hungry customer who walks in the front door, not the stock trader who wouldn’t know the difference between a Hot Glazed Doughnut and a Glazed Raspberry Filled doughnut. (Or, during the sweet summer months, a Key Lime Pie doughnut. Mmmmmm…)

It’s a small thing, really, a cold doughnut. But how many cold doughnuts do we all have in our businesses? Cold doughnuts that signify problems not yet detected and issues not yet defined?

This is an object lesson for anyone in the customer satisfaction business. And at the end of the day, that’s all that retailing really is.