Protecting Our Nightshift Employees
It’s no small secret that our stores are targets for criminals, and in places like Chicago—where my stores are located—crime in general is on the rise and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep our stores, customers and employees safe. This is especially true during the overnight hours. That’s why I have been meeting with SEI upper management and local and national franchisee leadership to discuss an idea that could make our stores safer.
Chicago area franchisees are suggesting that we use existing technology to install an electronic door latch to be used during the off-peak hours between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when the crime rate tends to be the highest. On the outside of the store, we’d have a camera and a sensor. Inside the store there’d be a chime and a 40-inch monitor above the door. Let’s say at 3 a.m. the door is locked. When a customer approaches the door, the chime will sound inside the store. The clerk can be working and will hear the chime, look at the monitor above the door and unlock the door by remote control.
There would be only two reasons the clerk will not buzz a customer in: if they’re wearing a mask or if they have a visible weapon. Obviously, this won’t stop someone with a concealed weapon from entering the store. Legally, according to the laws of Illinois, a business owner can institute a dress code. The mask is a dress code. As an owner of a business, you cannot allow firearms in your store, even if the person has a permit to carry.
Contractually, we’re supposed to operate our stores 24 hours a day. However, the contract technically does not define what “24 hour a day operation” means. In my perspective, if you are staffed 24 hours a day and a customer comes to the door and your staff is able to service them, then you’re running a 24 hour a day operation. 24 hours a day does not mean that you have to keep the doors open 24 hours a day. If you go to SEI corporate offices, you have to be buzzed in. Lawyers’ offices are locked also and you have to be buzzed in. But that doesn’t mean they are not open for business. With our proposal we are just putting value on our employees’ lives by protecting the clerk that works the overnight shift, the most extreme situation.
We put this idea in front of 7-Eleven, and we’ve had several meetings and conference calls, some with our Chairman Joe Galea and Executive Vice Chair Jay Singh involved. SEI did not like the idea. They said they can’t stop us from doing it, but they did not encourage us to pursue the issue. SEI expressed concerns that controlling this program would be difficult, even if we train our clerks to only keep out those people wearing a mask or carrying a weapon. They also pointed out it would open the franchisee and SEI to a discrimination lawsuit if a customer feels they were not allowed into the store because of his/her race.
I believe for a program like this to be successful, we have to do it together and the company has to agree with it. We have more meetings scheduled with SEI on the matter.
If they think this isn’t a good idea, then they should come up with a better one. At the end of the day, your clerk is a family member. He or she is helping to run your business and they’re protecting your inventory when you’re not there. They deserve to be safe.
What To Do In The Event A Robbery Occurs
Even if you’re following all the rules, robberies happen. Your number one goal is to prevent violence during the robbery. Most robberies take less than two minutes. Here are some key things to keep in mind to help keep you and your employees safe.
- Remain calm.
- Don’t be the hero.
- Do as you’re told during the robbery, but don’t be overly helpful.
- If possible, get a description of the robber, but only if this doesn’t endanger you or others nearby. Try to get an idea of how tall they are and other characteristics such as the clothes worn, race, hair color, eye color and approximate age.
- Cooperate with the robber and try to get them out of the store as soon as possible. Robbers seldom hurt people who cooperate with them.
- Handle the entire procedure as if you were making a sale. Keep it short and smooth.
- If you’re not sure exactly what the robber is asking you to do, ask.
- Don’t allow or create surprises for the robber. If you’re going to have to reach into a drawer or perform some other movement to comply with his instructions, tell him ahead of time.
- If another employee is in the back room or is expected in the store soon, tell him so he won’t be surprised. Surprises can cause a nervous robber to become violent or do something he didn’t intend to do.