Ways to Keep Your Store—and Employees—Safe

Training is key, and it must include realistic role-playing exercises.

November 11, 2022

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Loss prevention and security at convenience stores have always been top of mind, but over the past few years, there has been increased concern over these issues.

“We've seen it through research, and experts have talked about the fact that coming out of a pandemic, … everyone's stress level has just been to the max for a long period of time,” said Amber Bradley, founder and owner of Calibration Group, and this week’s guest on the NACS Convenience Matters podcast. “Everybody's got a little less patience these days.”

Bradley has spent the past decade-plus involved in loss prevention, and contrary to the old adage, in certain circumstances, the customer isn’t always right, she said.

“Sometimes the customer needs to be escorted out of the store,” Bradley said.

According to Bradley, because negative customer behavior has escalated, so should employee training on how to handle hostile customers. Every employee should not only be trained on how to deescalate a situation with customers, but they should also be taken through realistic role-playing exercises.

“If you're not training [with] some sort of role play, you're doing your employees a disservice,” she said. “They need that muscle memory when someone comes in irate—what steps to take to keep yourself safe, of course, but also how to deescalate the situation.”

Moving to loss prevention, Bradley said that a type of crime that is picking up is organized retail crime, and for c-stores specifically, fuel theft.

“You have trucks pulling up, they're manipulating the fuel pump in some manner, and they have huge cells in those cars, taking in all of this fuel. They have tripped the meter to say that it's one gallon versus 1,500 gallons,” said Bradley, adding that another important piece to employee training is informing workers to not try and stop these instances from happening and call the police instead.

Don’t miss this week’s episode “Store Security: What Retailers Need to Know,” to learn more about how convenience retailers can take action on keeping their stores—and their employees—safe. And read “Security Check” in the September issue of NACS Magazine for tips from the pros for deterring crime.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at scounihan@convenience.org.