COVID-19: Important Message About Best Practices

 

In this unprecedented time in our nation’s history, your NCASEF Executive Board wants you to know we stand with you and that we are working diligently to help you run you businesses.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we do all we can to keep our families and employees safe while continuing to serve our communities. Customers have relied on us to be that neighborhood gathering places or trusted “quick stop” for coffee. Customers come in to get Slurpees for the kids or something they forgot at the grocery store. Today, however, people are coming to our stores for supplies considered crucial to their households.

During these times, we want to remind you that it is more important than ever to be a trusted part of your community. SEI sent out a communication recently reminding us of the prohibitions against price gouging.

“We stand with SEI in regard to price gouging,” said Rehan Hashmi, NCASEF Vice-Chairman. “We have all heard the saying ‘perception is reality’, so even the perception that we are taking advantage of the situation during this pandemic is something we must avoid.”

“Many of us have likely had smaller suppliers offering to sell us products like toilet paper and hand sanitizer at inflated prices,” said Michael Jorgensen, NCASEF Executive Vice-Chairman. “Please resist any urge to do so. If you’re buying something like hand sanitizer at $12 a bottle and selling it for $13, the customer has no idea how much you paid and will only see the exorbitant price you’re charging.”

In addition, we must all continue to adhere to brand standards during this emergency. For example, water meant to be sold by the case cannot be separated and sold in individual units.

Currently, different states have enacted varying states of emergencies and sales restrictions on different types of businesses. Please monitor your local rules to be sure you are up to date on any restrictions you may face. When a state of emergency is declared, enhanced consumer protections go into effect, which include anti-gouging laws in a least 35 states and the District of Columbia. While these state laws vary widely, they prohibit exorbitant, excessive and unconscionable prices, and in some cases prescribe acceptable prices measured against pre-emergency prices. Violations of these laws can bring heavy fines as well as termination of your Franchise Agreement.

“We understand that the COVID-19 outbreak is testing us both personally and professionally,” said Hashmi. “The National Coalition encourages you to review your pricing and remain diligent in providing the best prices possible for your customers.”

Many franchisees have also decided to put limits on the number(s) of items that may be sold to each customer – things like case pack water, toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. “This is a great way to communicate to the communities we serve that we are concerned more with their welfare than with the quick sale.” said Jorgensen “And doing so at the same everyday retail price creates an opportunity to make people who are scrambling to purchase these commodities wherever they can get them a customer for the long haul. It can be an opportunity to win new customers.”

Please take a few moments to review this section of the Operations Manual. Here you will find information about displaying and selling essential goods during emergencies and natural disasters.

If you have any questions, please call either of these NCASEF Executive Board Members for clarification:

Executive Vice-Chairman Michael Jorgensen (347) 251-1828

Vice Chairman Rehan Hashmi (847) 845-8477

If you have a question about the price gouging laws of your state, send an email to Eric H. Karp, our General Counsel, at ekarp@wkwrlaw.com.

We will get through this and the 7-Eleven brand will once again stand as a beacon in our communities because of the dedication of the many 7-Eleven franchisees fulfilling our roles and serving our customers what they need, when they need it.