Tales From The Trenches
Trainers for the We Card program travel the country to train retail employees on how to avoid selling cigarettes to minors.
They teach the importance of checking ID's, how to prevent conflict while denying a sale and how to juggle all the tasks of a high-stress job.
The stakes are high. In many states an employee can be fined for selling cigarettes to underage customers and the store can lose its license.
Along the way, we've heard some entertaining stories, which can be used to add levity to what is otherwise a serious business.
Take the story of the man dressed as a bear, mask and all, who came into a store in Alabama on Halloween.
"Give me a pack of Marlboro's," the bear said.
The employee looked at the ID and handed him the pack without ever matching his face against the photo on the ID.
Lesson to retail employees: always check the customer against the photo ID – even when the customer is a bear.
Sometimes checking the ID against the customer at the counter can create confusion. Take this story from a store somewhere in the Midwest.
A woman dressed to the nines, in heels and evening wear, presents an ID for a man named "Sam."
"Is this your ID?" the employee asks. "Because it says 'Sam.'"
"Yes it is," the woman replies with a smile. "But at night, I go by Samantha."
Lesson to employees: tell Samantha to get herself a new ID.
This one comes from an enforcement officer in Alaska. The officer set up a compliance check with a 15-year-old and sent him into a store to buy cigarettes.
The employee asked to see the boy's ID, and when she saw he was only 15 she reached across the counter and slapped him.
"You little son of a ... ...," she said. "How dare you come in here."
That was more than the decoy and the enforcement officer were counting on.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm," the inspector told her. "But you're going to have to keep your hands to yourself."
Lesson to employees: a simple no is usually all it takes.
We Card often advises store managers to keep tabs on their front line employees by watching the store video.
Okay, so maybe it's not the best TV ever, unless you manage a store in Nebraska where one manager reported some R-rated video.
The associate had worked out a sweet deal with the teenage girls in the neighborhood. He'd sell them cigarettes for a peek.
Word must have gotten around town, because every teenage girl who came in the store during his shift would pull up her shirt in exchange for cigarettes.
When confronted by his manager, the employee said: "They offered so I figured it couldn't be a compliance check. What did I have to lose?"
Lesson to clerks: the customer isn't always right so follow the law - always.
Do you have a funny story or a tale from the trenches? Share it with We Card.
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