Store Owner in Japan is Latest Example of 7-Eleven’s Abuse of Power

Jan. 6, 2020, San Antonio, Tex. In the wake of 7-Eleven’s public retaliation against an outspoken Japanese franchise owner, tension among franchisees is running high. The National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees (NCASEF), an elected, independent body representing more than 7,000 7-Eleven franchised locations in the U.S., is calling on company leaders to improve communication and collaboration with their store operators.

“We see a tremendous imbalance of power within the 7-Eleven franchise system, where the corporation exercises control over its franchisees and retaliates against those that speak out or offer criticism,” said NCASEF Chairman Jay Singh, a Texas franchise owner.

In Japan, 7-Eleven has canceled the contract of franchisee Mitoshi Matsumoto, who has become the face of a movement, first for pressing the company’s mandate that stores remain open 24/7, then for closing his store on New Year’s Eve.

“They don’t want to let me take New Year’s off. That’s all there is to it,” Matsumoto told The New York Times.

Since Matsumoto’s emergence, other franchisees have spoken out about their issues.

“We are concerned about the company’s abuse of power and retaliatory measures against franchisees that speak up,” said Executive Vice Chairman Michael Jorgensen, a Florida franchise owner who was part of a National Coalition contingent invited to Japan last year to learn about the issues store operators face there. “By trying to squelch Mr. Matsumoto, 7-Eleven is telling all its franchisees they had better not take a stand.”

The publicity surrounding Matsumoto’s decision to close his store overnight prompted 7-Eleven to review the mandate that all stores stay open 24 hours, 365 days a year, but after Matsumoto announced he would close for New Year’s, 7-Eleven announced a number of violations against Matsumoto seemingly unrelated to the closing. The company canceled his contract on Jan. 1.

The head of Japan’s Convenience Store union, Takanori Sakai, sent a letter to 7-Eleven questioning the company’s culture of open communication. “Is this the way we respond to our business partners who want to be the honest company you advocate?” he wrote.

“It is a frightening realization for franchisees to see such a blatant abuse of power,” said Singh. “It is time for the leadership to commit to a collaborative relationship that protects store operators’ profits, health and well-being.”