Pilot Flying J: No More Verbal Agreements

Published in CSP Daily News

VP of sales addresses ongoing federal investigation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In the shadow of a federal investigation into an alleged diesel fuel rebate scam, Pilot Flying J is making a concerted move away from making verbal agreements.

"Having verbal agreements is a common practice in our industry” said David Hughes, vice president of sales and transportation, in a question and answer interview posted to Pilot Flying J’s rebate education website. “However, as leaders, we are changing the industry standard at Pilot Flying J by creating and implementing new systems and processes.”

Hughes also said the Pilot Flying J sales team is focusing on business and the future, rather than dwelling on the ongoing investigation and resulting lawsuits from customers.

"Our sales team members are very strong,” he said. “We have been dealing with a lot, but we are focused on moving forward. Our attention is on our customers and how we can best serve them."

Below is a digested version of the interview. Click here to read the complete piece.

Q: In your recent interaction with customers, how do they feel about the government investigation?

A: While some of our customers have shared their concerns with us, they have also given us the opportunity to show them that we are working hard to rebuild their confidence and trust in us. They know that we are taking this matter seriously and doing our best to put the proper systems and controls in place. Our customers have been very patient with us while we review all their accounts. We continue to strengthen our sales team and be focused on each and every customer.

Q: Things obviously have been tough for the sales team recently. How are sales team members handling things, and what is morale like?

A: Our sales team members are very strong. We have been dealing with a lot, but we are focused on moving forward. Our attention is on our customers and how we can best serve them.

Q: Over the next five years, what is your goal for the sales team?

A: Our ultimate goal is to build strategic partnerships with our customers to help them streamline their buying process and purchase fuel more efficiently. As we continue to provide them with the day-to-day services they need, we also want to support them with long-term solutions to their corporate goals, helping them operate their businesses as effectively as possible.

Q: Before all this happened, most of Pilot Flying J’s agreements with its customers were verbal. Now you’re working to document agreements in writing. Was “verbal” just the way the industry did business? How are customers dealing with the change to written agreements?

A: Having verbal agreements is a common practice in our industry. However, as leaders, we are changing the industry standard at Pilot Flying J by creating and implementing new systems and processes. For example, we are documenting all agreements with our customers in writing, which is just one more step in our commitment to doing the right thing.

Q: If you could get across one single message to Pilot Flying J customers, what would that message be?

A: We are committed to doing the right thing. Period. As part of this endeavor, we are making great progress on our five-point plan to address the issues raised in the investigation.

Pilot Flying J, Knoxville, Tenn., is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Its network provides customers with access to more than 60,000 parking spaces for trucks, more than 4,400 showers and more than 4,000 diesel lanes.