Staff training: It’s not just about customer service – it’s about enforcing the law

StrasGlobal Staff training: Enforcing the law

Our cashiers and customer service representatives are our first line of defense in regard to the sale of restricted products.

I am usually a pretty easy-going guy. I like to think that I get along well with others and that others can get along well with me. I don’t get rattled often.

About a month ago, I was in a convenience store and bought a bottle of wine. When I took it to the counter to pay for it the cashier asked to see my identification. Now, although in my mind I am always 25 years old, in reality I am well into middle age. I had a small existentialist crisis trying to decide whether I should be insulted (don’t I look old enough to buy alcohol?) or flattered (don’t I look old enough to buy alcohol?). I produced my identification and made my purchase.

I was reminded by this event that our cashiers and customer service representatives are our first line of defense in regard to the sale of restricted products. Most of the time, we talk about employee training in terms of customer service and store operations. More important is training our team members to understand, respect, and obey the numerous laws and regulations that control the convenience store industry

We have restrictions on tobacco, alcohol, e-cigarettes, lottery, and SNAP purchases. As the owner of a store we must have confidence that the person working the midnight shift will not sell cigarettes to an underage person or alcohol to an intoxicated person.

There are industry and state training programs that provide the education programs that are needed. It is up to us, as owners and managers, to reinforce the lessons and learnings from these training programs on a regular basis. An employee getting a one time, or once a year, training program is not sufficient, and we must continually reinforce the compliance requirements and expectations.

Part of the challenge is that the rules and regulations are changing all of the time. For example the situation with vaping and electronic cigarettes. First of all, the rules are different not only from state to state but, in some cases, from city to city. There is a lot of discussion in the media about cause, effect, and prohibition but these are often national stories that don’t relate to the local community. And then we have restrictions on different things based upon the location. It may vary between banning flavored products to raising the legal age of buying vape products to the prohibition selling vaping products at all. The rules are constantly changing.

By operating stores around the country, we have found that a crucial factor in the training process to get employees to retain the information and act upon it is for them to understand the importance of the regulations. We sometimes have employees who have either just become of legal age – and may have memories of wanting to buy restricted products illegally – or, in some states, underage employees legally selling age-restricted products who may have the desire or the experience of buying products illegally. We don’t want these individuals to be sympathetic to our under-aged customers.

The factors that influence behavior are not what the employee themselves would like to do or the imposition of fines and penalties if the rules are violated. More important is the realization that by selling restricted products inappropriately, people can be harmed and, in some cases, killed. And it’s not only about the person that the restricted product is sold to – such as a smoker getting lung cancer. It can be innocent people randomly involved in a situation. For example, a drunk driver who hits another car killing its occupants. Does our cashier want to be responsible for those types of consequences?

We can’t watch every employee every moment to guarantee compliance and conformity with the law. The best that we can do is to convey the reasons for the restrictions, the consequences for the violations and our expectations. Their individual performance is not selling restricted products to inappropriate individuals – it is about providing benefit to society as a whole and doing our best to limit harm to others.

Published in: Fuel Market News Winter 2020

Roy Strasburger is the President of StrasGlobal. For 35 years StrasGlobal has been the choice of global oil brands, distressed assets managers, real estate lenders and private investors seeking a complete, turn-key retail management solution from the most experienced team in the industry.

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