Sunday, January 3, 2010

Saving Lives at the Convenience Store

Because there have been so many ambushes of police officers, many of the blogs I follow are giving tips for traffic stops, how to approach buildings with glass fronts and a robbery-in-progress. At The Things Worth Believing, the author says "watch people's hands" and other extremely good advice.

He posted this video of a police officer walking in on the tail end of a robbery and not realizing it. It's just as true a warning for the clerks out there--and the customers. What if you scare somebody with a gun trained on somebody else? What are you going to do if he aims it at you? What if you brought little Elmer and Betty Sue for a candy bar?

A Good Clerk is a Safe Clerk
I noticed that the convenience store clerk was damned smart. I think he was the one who saved the police officer that time. He did this by  following the rules of convenience store robbery for clerks who make minimum wage. Your low-paid employee is not out for glory, and generally that's a good thing.

Since I have made a career out of being underemployed, I am going to tell you what those rules are, based upon training and experience:

1. There are two kinds of robbers: the professionals are the kind who want the money and not to kill you, and the nuts are the kind that have mixed goals/unpredictable reactions. You want a professional. That way you can follow his rules and live. The nutcases are afraid, out for thrills, or will escalate unpredictably.

The best, most militant stance a good clerk has is prevention. He or she will campaign for that every moment of every shift.
A store that has been robbed once will most likely be be robbed again. It either has favorable circumstances for robbery (close to a highway, for instance) or a reputation for good pickings.

2.  Keep your money in the time-release safe where it belongs. You can work all night with $35.00 and a time safe, even if you sell gas. I have done it night after night.

3. Do not accept anything higher than a twenty dollar bill. If you make change for a $100, that means a robber can get their hundred back, plus the $35 in your register, plus the eighty dollars you popped out of the safe. (If you are a customer who screams at clerks that won't take your hundred, shame on you).

3. Keep your windows clear. If they have signs on them, take them down. If the windows have rain or steam on them, squeegee them immediately.

4. When you are not actively cashiering, move around the store, always in sight of the register but not sitting like a duck behind it.  You will throw their timing off and they will be less likely to approach.

5. Greet people when they come in. Know what they look like.
6. Go to the front door often and look around. Know who is in your parking lot.
7. If you think you have lurkers at the sides of the building, do that front door thing more often. You can also ask your customers. When a customer drives up, that may be the time to go outside and check for sure.

8. Keep your coffee fresh and give it to law enforcement and to cab drivers. If your company has a stupid policy against this, just be extra nice when they come in. It's not about graft--it's about making your store a magnet for the right people. I have never had this policy abused.

9. Attractive displays at the front are all very well, BUT do not keep stacked beer close to a doorway. Convince your manager that it is better elsewhere. People who stop in to steal a case will give you that bad theft rep you don't want. They will also eventually cause your outlet to lose your beer license. And then you lose your job.

If you are robbed by a pro:
Open the drawer and give them the money. Keep your face down and your hand steady. You can still get a description by using your peripheral vision.
 Do not make any sudden movements that can be interpreted as reaching for a gun or an alarm.

If you are robbed by a nutcase:
Here is where the advice breaks down. You do the same things as above, except the instructions may be more varied. This is where character reading comes in, and mental preparation. I told myself and visualized myself giving away the thirty-five bucks. I also knew that I was not laying down on the floor to get shot by anyone. If I was going to be dead, it was on my feet. Fortunately I was never asked to do that.

I do know someone who was asked to lie down, and instead of lying on his stomach as instructed, he lay down on his back. He didn't think he could dodge the bullet--he thought it would take more stones to kill somebody who was looking at you. I had no such confidence and I expected to take that shot while leaping over the counter in a single bound. If I had been killed, it would not have been for dollars, but because I refused to completely give up my pride.

It's not worth dying for thirty-five dollars. Best to get a good description and live. I was always very lucky.

The Cowardly Boss
The Blockbuster down my street was robbed. The manager ran out and left his clerk to handle the armed robbery alone. That boss didn't deserve to run a dog-poop squad at the park. When I am running things, I don't leave if I have people there. I hope that boss rots in hell. I hate him more than the crook.

If you are a parent, you also need to think how you will save those entrusted to you. If you are a teacher, you need to know how to keep order/protect your students from whoever is after them in a classroom situation. All I can say is that it's good to have your prevention and your principles figured out, and practice visualizing how you will save the most precious first. That's others first, your life second, and the money last . . . .


Texas Ghostrider said...

This is very good advice that you have written. The chain sores follow this more then the mom and pops. I wish we can convince the mom and pops that are more at risk because of their locations how to be less of a target. it is called crime prevention through enviromental design. as you said just moving things around and clearing windows will go a long way. I hope you have a wonderful year, TGR.

Ann T. said...

Dear TGR,
Thank you! A lot of this did come from working at a chain stores, plus things that happened afterward.

I think the mom-and-pops are also less likely to have good windows. After going through all that, I would be very leery of working for a store that did not have good visibility.

Thanks TGR for verifying this information.
Ann T.

Books of the World said...

Wonderful advice, some of which never even occured to me. I was in a Circle K store in Phoenix, Az years ago, getting a cup of coffee when it was robbed. An off duty cop pulled me down and behind an end cap display and then went for the robber who never even saw the cop. It was the scare of a life time. Now, I carry my already made coffee in a thermos when I travel and only stop for gas at big, busy service stations. Thanks for the advice. I will pass it on.

Ann T. said...

Dear MBB,
How frightening! Thank goodness you were taken care of!
Ann T.