Employee safety requires a strong training program and commitment from everyone in the company.
Store security is an issue that we all take extremely seriously. There must be procedures in place for all employees and managers to follow, and they must be followed to the letter. No exceptions.
A couple of stories illustrate and reinforce my belief that employee safety is paramount over all other aspects of the business.
The first one stems back to January of this year and involves a $5,000 robbery. A tall, heavy set male, replete with dark clothes, a ski mask and brandishing a pistol entered a convenience store right off a major interstate. He headed for the sales counter, reached underneath and pulled out a paper bag containing more than $5,000 in cash.
While trying to make off with the cash, he was tackled by the diminutive female storeowner. Believing this was some kind of an inside job, she attempted to pull his mask off, but his upper body strength was too much for her. He was able to push her off in a pretty vicious manner before escaping into the woods behind the store to a nearby waiting car. The thief was never identified.
While we would all admire her tremendous tenacity and understand the anguish she had to be feeling knowing that this robbery was 100% avoidable, she was extremely fortunate to only end up with some painful bumps and bruises. We also know the money should never have been out of the safe, much less in a paper bag right under the counter.
Take a few minutes to review security procedures and use this story to make sure your employees are following safety protocol. And I’m talking about some of the very basics here. Keep the money in a safe until it’s time to take it to the bank. Do not be predictable as to the time you make the deposit or the route you take. Observe your surroundings. Watch to see if you are being followed, make sure your car is locked at all times and always take that deposit directly to the bank. Don’t stop for lunch or to talk to friend.
Years ago, back in the mid-1980s, we had a dealer, located out in the country in upstate New York. She had a small, but viable store that was a destination for the rural community she served. Miss Helen, as she was known, was in her early 70s. She had repeated robbery problems—mostly petty theft, but a few armed robberies as well. To protect herself, Miss Helen decided to buy a pistol.
The next robbery occurred several weeks later and Miss Helen pulled out her pistol and proceeded to shoot the cash register, the ceiling and the plate glass window. Legend has it that the three young men are still running. The local police asked if she wanted to go home and rest for a few hours. Feisty as always, she said, “Hell no, I’ve got three more bullets left.”
This remains one of my all-time favorite convenience store stories, but the obvious lesson, once again, is Miss Helen was flat out wrong. The robberies were part of a much bigger problem and Helen putting herself in harm’s way was dangerous and irresponsible.
That is the lesson our employees need to learn. Don’t do something that could get you or a co-worker hurt. Give up the money. Put your personal safety first and think about the loved ones waiting for you. With all of the strides the industry has made and all the security equipment we have at our disposal, we know the likelihood of an armed robbery is very slim. In fact, c-stores have a great safety record. But working in retail we have to accept that robberies are part of the risk we take. Money and products can be replaced. Lives cannot, so let’s keep everyone safe.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].