Keeping Our Stores Safe

By Joe Rossi, NCASEF Executive Vice Chair

As we come out of the pandemic and work to resolve the issues created by COVID—supply chain, delivery, labor, etc.—we now face a new set of challenges, and top among them is the sharp increase of crime in our stores. The news is filled with headlines of rampant crime being committed not only at 7-Elevens, but at mom-and-pop shops and even bigger retailers across the country. From flash mob robberies and wanton property destruction to assaults and murders, the proliferation of crime within the retail sector in the last year has been very disturbing. Some companies like Starbucks, Walgreens, and CVS have opted to cut their losses and shut down their locations in high crime areas.

Unfortunately, since our stores operate 24/7, they are popular targets for those with criminal intentions. Therefore, our priority must be to keep our employees, our customers, and ourselves as safe as possible if a crime occurs in our stores. Here are some steps you can take that can help.

Train and re-train your employees to NEVER chase a criminal outside the store or otherwise engage them. The best thing they can do is call the police and provide them with a description of the perpetrator. Instruct your employees that if an armed robbery occurs, they should comply with the criminal’s demands and not resist. Give them the money and get them out of the store as quickly as possible. After the robber has left the store, they should lock the doors and notify the police. They should also be very careful not to touch anything the robber has touched so the police can extract their fingerprints.

Reiterate and reinforce keeping low cash levels in the registers, especially to your overnight employees. If a robber hits your store and there is an excessive amount of cash in the registers, then that criminal and others will believe all 7-Elevens have loads of money at hand. With our safe systems the way they are today, there’s really no reason to keep cash at a high level. You can always disperse cash if you have to make change for a $50 or $100.

Shoplifting happens all the time, that’s a known truth in the retail business. However, a good way to discourage shoplifters is by making eye contact with everyone who enters your store and greeting them, or at least acknowledging them in some way. If a shoplifter knows you or your employees have noticed their presence in your store, it may help deter them from stealing. Make sure you encourage this practice among your employees.

If you don’t belong to a local franchisee chat group—whether it’s WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, or the like—then join one. If one doesn’t exist in your area, create it and invite neighboring franchisees to join. Should you have an incident in your store, after you’ve alerted police, you can then report it to other franchisees via the chat group. This is the quickest way you can alert each other of criminal activity in your area so precautions can be taken. I and my fellow franchisees in Chicago do this, and it helps prevent criminals from hitting another 7-Eleven nearby because the other franchisees can lock their store doors immediately and be selective as to who they let in, particularly during the overnight hours.

Make sure you get on a regular cadence of repeating these safety tips to your employees every month or six weeks. Maybe set your calendars to remind you to have a conversation with your store associates again, or send out an email or text message to just to remind them, “Hey remember, keep your cash levels low at all times. Make your drops. Let’s be safe.”

Periodically check that your security alarm is working. Call up the alarm company, set a test, make sure the pendants are working, and make sure the buttons are working. If you have tracking devices for cigarettes, call them up and see if they are working when you move the pack. That’ll help. You could have some of this stuff in your store and you just haven’t checked them in a while, and it may turn out they’re not functioning. Those alarms should be checked at least three times a year.

Lastly, get involved your local police department. Support any community events they may have, invite them to take their coffee breaks at your store, and foster a relationship with them. Let your local police know you’re there for them as much as they’re there for you.

Until this crime wave abates, we must do all we can to keep our stores safe. Take care, and be careful.