Service with a smile

His fans have given him many names: Taco Bell Guy, Change Dude, Service Champion, Dollars and Smiley.The name his parents gave him is Peter Weeks. On any given lunch hour, you may find the 32-year-old behind the register in his tidy black uniform and matching embroidered ball cap. As the hungry masses file in, he waits for each customer’s order and greets them with a wide smile and bubbly banter. “Welcome to Taco Bell. How may I make your day awesome?” For 12 years, Weeks has been a member of Miller Hill Taco Bell’s Team of Champions. For the uninitiated, Taco Bell dubs its entry-level employees “Champions.” Champions come in two varieties: Food Champions and Service Champions. Food Champions are the people who cook; Service Champions take orders. Weeks is a Service Champion, but it is fair to declare him the Service Champion, champion. What seems like a simple job, Weeks has turned into an art. Not only does Weeks remember customers he has seen only a handful of times, but he can also make each order he takes a fond memory, almost forcing a smile on the grouchiest customer. In 2002, Weeks was 20 years old. A friend suggested that he get a job at the local Taco Bell so he could use his natural people skills every day. Weeks applied and got the job. As the months of work went on, Weeks found that the interactions he had with people were the best part of his day. While taking orders, he made a habit to ask every customer how he or she was that day. He would listen to their answer and have a short conversation during the order, throwing in jokes that cater to every customer’s mood. “I can judge how everyone’s day is going and what kind of mood people are in based on the first, ‘Hi, how are you?’ ” Weeks said. “If I know they aren’t having a nice day, I’ll do my best and make them smile.” After an order, Weeks made it his trademark to give customers’ change back and report exactly how many pennies their change equaled instead of saying dollars or cents. “It’s just a bit different. How often have you heard your change given back as 657 pennies?” Weeks said. “Plus, it’s kind of like a mini math brain teaser, too.” Once a customer gets his or her “pennies” back from Weeks, it is not uncommon to hear him say, “Keep that smile going. “I like to tell people that after I notice that I got them to smile,” Weeks said. “I figure if I tell them to keep smiling, maybe their day will be a little bit brighter.” When Weeks isn’t working, he is playing the role of family man with his girlfriend of 14 years, Sarah Kelly. Weeks and Kelly have made Central Hillside their home with their 5-year-old son, who started kindergarten this year. Weeks and his coworkers agree that he very rarely has a bad day, but when it happens, he can cheer up through his son. “He can take my day and turn it completely around,” Weeks said. “Just one conversation with him is all it takes for me to forget about my problems.” Recently, the longtime Service Champion decided to apply for a manager’s position. The bonus of a manager’s salary would help ensure Weeks’ fledgling family gets the financial support they need. “I feel pretty confident that I’ll get the job,” Weeks said. “I mean, I’ve been here so long I know all the ins and outs. I’ll be sticking around for a while longer.” In the 12 years Weeks has worked at Taco Bell, he has thought of other career options. The reason he keeps manning the till is because of the gratitude he is shown from his customers. Weeks receives notes on the back of receipts, comics of himself drawn on a napkin and positive surveys that get sent to Taco Bell Corporate. Those positive surveys have earned him the title of Customer Service Maniac almost every year. “The physical notes people leave me are a good way to remind myself of who I am and why I do the job how I do it,” Weeks said. “I’m the only Pete you’ll ever meet.” Weeks’ personality is also a hit with his co-workers, but his magnetic personality can sometimes overshadow his fellow Champions. “He’s definitely one of my favorite people to work with, and everyone loves him,” manager Laura Courtney said. “He’s just so good with the customers, and he always gets the most surveys filled out on him. Sometimes we get a bit envious. Every time I mention that I work here, people say, ‘Oh! You know that Peter guy?’ ” Appreciation for Weeks has even gone digital. Eight years ago Weeks’ manager created a Facebook fan page called “Pete the Taco Bell Guy.” It was a way for fans to write Weeks and share their appreciation. The page has more than 700 followers. Among other talents is Weeks’ natural ability to remember. He has memorized the menu and made a conscious effort to recall the name of every customer who has ordered at his register. As time went on, Weeks noticed that many customers remembered him the way that he remembered everyone else. “He’s amazing and genuine,” said customer Judy Campbell while waiting to order lunch. “I haven’t been in here for three months, and I bet that he’ll remember my name.” Campbell, a Hibbing resident, has been stopping into Taco Bell on her commutes to Duluth for several years. In that time, she recognized that Weeks goes above and beyond to make sure his customers leave with a smile. Campbell became a Peter Weeks fan. “People working customer service could really learn something from him,” Campbell said. “Ordinarily, they treat the customer like a burden and just want to see you leave. His attitude keeps bringing people back.”


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