Quarterly Winner Brad Thomas, A Matter of Taste, Northridge, Calif.

All too often the daily grind of a job gets employees down. They become unenthusiastic and uninspired to go the extra mile. Brad Thomas is not one of those employees. For thirty years he's worked as a route driver, most recently at Northridge, Calif.-based A Matter of Taste, and is known for going above and beyond the common place in both work ethic and personal interactions.

"Still to this day, after he services any account he runs a dollar bill through each validator to make sure they are all working," said Cindy Welch, merchandising manager at A Matter of Taste. He fills every coin mech 100 percent and separates the bills he collects into the 1's and 5's so it’s easier for the money room to count. When he takes a vacation, he writes notes about each location's product preferences and he maintains a great yearly over/short percentage on his machines at about .01 percent.

Welch has also been personally impressed with Thomas. "I used to bring my son, who was 4 at the time, with me to the office and my son always wanted to go into Brad's truck," she said. Not only would Thomas let the young boy come onboard, but would have a small present - a new hot wheels toy car- for him. "It's moments like that that make you realize that not only are we at A Matter of Taste fortunate to have a employee who takes such pride in his job, but also be able to know such a great guy. I am very excited for Brad and couldn't think of a more deserving person to have won this," said Welch.

Quality customer service always paramount

Thomas' attitude toward work is especially inspiring considering he became a route driver in 1981 through a relative's friendship with another driver at Automated Vending Corp. Thomas values customer service, striving to provide it in his work, which includes adjusting routes according to how the accounts are doing. "Take care of the account from: merchandising, making sure they are always full, cleaning for an inviting storefront, (as well as) having a relationship with the employees and contacts at the account," said Thomas. He likes working for A Matter of Taste because it operates in a way he calls old school, like when he started.

Throughout his years in the vending industry, Thomas has seen consumers stay true to their favorite snacks. "It's funny," he said, "Many items that were popular when I started like M&M's, Snickers, Doritos, Cheeto's, Coke and Pepsi are still just as popular today."

Glassfront machines have had the biggest impact, explained Thomas, because customers love to see what they are buying and the selection available is extensive.

Recognized superior efforts

"I’ve been in the vending business for 28 years now and no other vending route man does what Brad Thomas does." John Costa, V.P. of operations at A Matter of Taste said. It's obvious Thomas deserves the honor of the first quarter route driver of the year award sponsored by Kraft Vending & OCS and Automatic Merchandiser magazine. Winners are judged based on a score in the following areas: years as a driver, number of machines serviced, miles traveled, accidents and citations, days missed, speed, thoroughness, customer compliments, truck condition, empty spirals, and sales.

In his free-time, Thomas enjoys fishing, woodworking and spending time with his wife, two daughter and grandson. He's optimistic about the future and the people around him. "The future of vending is endless. I hope the bigger companies are forced to return to a customer service that's more than a voice on the phone. The customers want to be cared for just like we do when we shop with our money," he said.

About the Author

Emily Refermat | Editor

Emily has been living and breathing the vending industry since 2006 and became Editor in 2012. Usually Emily tries the new salted snack in the vending machine, unless she’s on deadline – then it’s a Snickers.

Feel free to reach Emily via email here or follow her on Twitter @VMW_Refermat.

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