Good riddance to 2020. It was the most challenging year for all of us personally and professionally. But as I’ve said so many times, the convenience store industry served as an example of the very best this country has to offer from Day 1 of the deadly coronavirus.
In the face of this expanding pandemic, our doors were always open, food was always served, and employees always showed up for work despite the risk of this heinous virus. Furthermore, customers had their needs met with the same speed and care we’ve come to expect from this special industry.
This is a testament to you and your people, and we must celebrate that exceptional effort in extraordinary times. As we begin a new year, our hearts and thoughts go out to those who have been affected by this pandemic, and we appreciate the incredibly difficult job retail employees have working on the front line to help all Americans get through this crisis.
This isn’t some high-stakes poker game store employees are playing. The stakes in this game are deadly. Literally. But so many of the industry’s great employees remain undeterred.
Unfortunately, I got to experience what front-line employees are risking. I tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 29, and it caused immediate concerns. The body aches, headaches and breathing issues were just the beginning. They were followed by fever, chills and sweating that I’d never experienced before. As I write this just 12 days after the onset of symptoms, I still feel awful but headed in the right direction. I really do appreciate all the well wishes I received from my friends in the industry. But my point here is I caught the virus at a holiday party. I had a choice, took the right steps to protect myself, but still caught the virus. My pain was self-inflicted.
Employees don’t have the choice I did. They show up at work to earn a paycheck to feed themselves and their families, pay bills and keep a roof over their heads. They take the risk to serve the public to survive. This irony isn’t lost on me, and we need to recognize their bravery and hard work.
During a time when everyone needs a boost of positivity, don’t underestimate the power of saying thank you to each and every one of your front-line people. It can do amazing things for morale and make your team unstoppable, even in a pandemic. And saying thank you feels good. It rewards the giver as much as it rewards the recipient. Express it freely, and you will keep the gratitude. So let me be the first to say “thank you” for being a beacon of hope these past 11 months amid a global darkness no one ever thought possible.
I have been encouraged by how quickly stores have adapted to create safer environments to protect employees and customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), businesses and employers can prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 by instituting a series of best practices. Employers should continue to improve and refine these plans as new information on how this disease is spread becomes available. It will save lives and countless sick days.
But more important than coming up with a viable retail safety plan, such as the Safe Shop Assured program, is making sure the blueprint is properly implemented. Continue to be relentless in providing a safe environment, and always err on the side of caution when it comes to the well-being of your employees.
I took the virus seriously but still let my guard down and paid a high price. Let’s continue to protect those on the front lines who don’t have the choice I had and keep our people and our industry safe. Happy New Year to my c-store family.
For any questions about this issue or suggestions for future issues, please contact me at [email protected].