COVID-19 updates and discussions from the Board of Directors
Messages from our FOA Board President - March 20th
I am sending this message out to my Franchisee Family as promised. I understand we are facing a enormous amount of challenges that we have never before experienced in our personal or business life. We are placed under a ton of responsibility and stress on a daily and hourly basis, but I am confident that this will pass, and we will all get through this together. We are fortunate to live in America. We have been blessed to live in land that has abundant resources, and some of the most brilliant minds, in Business, Science, and the Medical Field. I believe we should have a spirit of FAITH and not fear! Our land and natural resources are so much that we can provide more than enough for our citizens and so many countries many times over. I believe we just need a little time, patience and trust in God. I ask that you pass this message to your friends and family, and anyone we encounter. We all should be deeply concerned, but when fear rules, people act irrationally and that’s what can put us in a worse position as we move forward. If we act calm, our employee’s will act calm, if our employee’s act calm, more than likely our customers will feel calm as well. So with that said here are is an update of information that has been going on for several days.
There has been Zone Leader & MM conference call daily since last week. I have been on most of those calls, with Happy, and other Franchisees that SEI has invited on that call. Most of the discussion has been SEI telling us about the supply pipeline through CoreMark and that they have been working closely with them to procure product and assure us that we will have most of the products we need. SEI said they were very confident of that. There were talks that delivery window may change and that deliveries could come during normal blackout times [ ie, our early morning coffee rush ]. They also said all ordering window that normally opened up once a week such as packaged food would be opening up for twice a week delivery. We talked about cleanliness and sanitizing on a regular basis [ hourly if possible ] I brought up that I have been sanitizing our gas pump handles but felt that it should be SEI’s responsibility to help us with that, since they make the majority of profit. Their response was that the customer could use the paper towels they provide on the island to cover the handles. I disagreed and suggested that they hire off-site personal and have them drive to each store and sanitize all gas stores pump handles hourly for us. That suggestion was rejected. Yesterdays call the said they were close to procuring hand sanitizer dispenser stands to place in the entry of our stores. The one concern is we may get them but have no sanitizer to put in them. All stores are supposed to get 2 automatic shipments of 1cs bacterial soap, 1bx Ecolab Sanitizer & 1bx of hand sanitizer. First shipment to come 3/30 and the other one, in mid April. This is the types of conversation on the first few conference calls.
Fast Forward to a few days ago. Our MM”s Mike Belanger & Lonny Thomas requested a conference call with Happy and I , right after Governor Sisolak's Address. We had that conference call immediately after the Address. There was one other Franchisee that requested to be on that conference call and that was Inder. The first thing that was asked of them by us was to immediately suspend our monthly gaming rent. We emphasized how much this would affect our Franchisees and the possibility of some not to survive. We explained that our GP% runs less than the average national store because of so much competition and that gaming income is vital and essential to all Nevada Franchisees. Their response was is that they would take the ask back to corporate. At the end of the call I emphatically told them that we just didn’t need answers, that we have to have SUPPORT from them. As we have heard they will prorate the rent for March and suspend rent until machines are turned back on.
Happy & I talked right after that conference call and Happy came up with a good idea that we need to get together with other Franchisees quickly and immediately for more ideas, brainstorming and putting our voice together as one. We organized 3 different conference call with groups of 6 or 7 Franchisees [ all did not have to be and were not members of our FOA, but most were ] we want those not in the FOA voice to be left out. They are hard working Franchisees and business people as well, and part of our Franchisee Family The next day we had our calls that were very productive, eye opening and had some phenomenal ideas. We are waiting to hear from SEI first of what type of relief package they may have for us, or may be working on. We will talk to them soon about our idea of what we need for support, but let’s hear from them first. We have a bullet point presentation that we will share later, but rest assure we thought outside the box and considered all factors that relate to our current situation. There were 2 request from my conference call that participating Franchisees wanted me to ask on that afternoons SEI’s 2:00 conference call. 1st ask for support for security or help us with contacting Law Enforcement, so we could get more frequent patrols to our stores and immediately stop promos as we will need a much higher GP% to help with our gaming losses. I did ask the questions, did not get solid confirmation that they could help much with Law enforcement. We were told that we would mainly need to do it ourselves. I have made a call to Aman Singh to have him and Ladi Dhillon reach to the law enforcement community since they have been able to speak to Sheriff Joe Lombardi and have supported him in the past. I asked SEI to suspend all promos, especially on $1 dollar coffee and $.69 cent Big Gulp if we could, I was a little frustrated when the response came back to me that, that could be considered price gouging.
There is more information that I need to get out but I have already made this message to long, and so much more information to get out. I will only address one more topic Night closures. As you should all know by know SEI has approved closures of stores from 12;00 midnight to 5am without penalty. It is for cleaning and restocking. You have to have a minimum of 1 person inside the store. They need to accept the night deliveries as well. I have been asked to recommend that all Franchisees close for employee safety. I feel that it is in the best interest of my stores and my employee’s safety and have been closing both my stores at night since yesterday. There are other’s that have done the same. I do not have a count on how many have so far. I will stop just short of recommending that you close, since you have to make the decision that you feel is best for you, your employee’s and your store. There are some who feel it is safer to have the door locked with an employee inside, and I have heard from others that they feel it is not as safe for them, since some individuals may be upset that we are closed and try to force their way in even if there is someone inside. As you probably all already know, you have to contact your FC to let them know and then MM must be notified by FC as well for confirmation.
I will finish tomorrow night, with an update on our National conference call we had today, there is a lot of info from that call, including the new law enacted the Family Medical Leave act and what it means to us.
Sorry for such a long piece of info, but I hope it is helpful and you all have a better understanding of what you local FOA and other Franchisees have hearing, working on and communicating with our Franchisor. WE ARE THE BRAND we will survive, we will succeed, but to do this we all need to be bold, speak your mind and above all stand together as one VOICE!
May GOD Bless us all and keep us all SAFE
I am passing along my 2nd major update for our Franchisees concerning our current situation with the
COVID-19 crisis. First I hope everyone, their Families and employees are doing well. There is still so much
information and it is coming fast, some we need to know right away and some we have a little time to digest. We had a National FOA conference call on Thursday afternoon. We had our National Lawyer Eric Carp and another Labor Law attorney the National has retained for us. One of the biggest subjects was the Families First Corona Virus Response Act, that was passed on Wednesday. This piece of legislation affects us directly and requires employers with less than 500 employees must pay employees up to 2 weeks paid leave, if they have to leave our employment for COVID-19 related matters. It doesn’t matter how long they have worked for you. Even if they have worked for you for a day and has to leave employment because of a COVID-19 related matter they are eligible. This law is extensive and can be complicated to navigate on our own. To provide assistance on understanding all our legal obligations to this law the National Coalition will be setting up several webinars that will be put on by our retained Labor Lawyer put on to help us all navigate through this. We will send the information on these webinars once they are scheduled. There are efforts underway to see if we can be exempt from this law.
If you have a sick employee you can require them to stay away for 24 hours or until they are symptom
free. You can ask for a Doctors note to provide medical documentation, before allowing them to return to work. If a employee tells you that they have contacted COVID-19 contact your FC and Market Manager first, before you do anything else. Do not take any further steps unless SEI instructs you to or a official From our State Agency contacts you with actual validation of an infection. There have been fraudulently reported cases to Franchisees locally already.
2nd topic, was the topic of price gouging and price gouging is a serious issue with the Federal Government
and we want to make sure that Franchisees understand that. There are huge fines if you are cited for price
gouging and possible jail times. There are still questions and we are reaching out to SEI and our National legal team for clarification on this. SEI is telling us just the perception of price gouging is dangerous. An example of price gouging that you may not be aware of [ if you are currently buying gallon water for $1 and selling it for $2 and cannot find that $1 cost water anymore and is in short supply, if you were to find it from another vendor and the cost is $3 and you sell it for $4 that will be considered price gouging. ] This will land you in a lot of trouble and create bad press for our Brand. I will be digging into this further as there are questions about CRP's already in place, 2 pack cigarettes and Gas pricing.
Next there are a lot of questions about our insurances and what do they cover depending whether you
are covered by John Barbot or AON. We do know that virus is not covered. We also know that Franchisee is 100% responsible to pay for full store sanitizing if a Franchisee or Employee is diagnosed with the Virus. First
estimates that we were told to do this, was about $10,000 for sanitizing and approx $4000 in lost product. We
have since learned that there are much cheaper prices of about $3000 dollars, but do not have any solid confirmation of that yet. Everyone should review their own policy, and familiarize yourself on your coverage. The National will contact Barbot & AON, to get us some more answers.
SEI is saying sales across the nation have been up approximately 3%. They were asked about how much the
suffered in Asia during this crises. The answer was that they dropped 50-60%, but are now up 10-20%
Happy & I will have a conference call with Mike Hadley for Gaming concerns early next week. We will be asking about our quarterly bonus’ if they will be prorated, and verifying that gaming license fees will be suspended during this time. We will share the feedback as soon as we get it. The National Coalition approach, is that they are soon going to send SEI requests and asks of how Franchisee are going to be compensated for this crisis.
I have opened a 1 on 1 dialogue with our Zone Leader Jasmeet Singh and we will work together to help our
situation, I know they are hearing concerns on the conference calls, but I am passing along all the concerns that I am hearing from Franchisees that he may not be hearing directly. I let him know that there are some Franchisees that want to close their stores, and some other Franchisees that support the idea of closing. Individual requests will have to be reviewed by SEI on a store by store basis. As our FOA President, I am not wanting to recommend that we have a total store closure here in the Valley at this time, but if you feel you have to close your store then you need to contact you MM and your FOA Leaders will provide you advise, and support. I have mentioned to Jas, and will continue to recommend that we reduce our hours significantly from like 6 or 7am to 7or 8 pm [ just like grocery & big box stores ] for the safety of our employees. The challenge here is, how do we protect our stores inventory from burglary or looting. I would like to hear other Franchisee thoughts on this before I continue to push for this measure. Jas assured me that the are hearing everything, and looking at every option, and decisions are being made for Franchisees. Joe Depinto and SEI brass are meeting everyday as I was told
I am going to leave you with. THIS TO SHALL PASS. REMAIN IN FAITH, LET US THINK AS MANY POSITIVE
THOUGHTS AS WE CAN, do not let negativity of fear overtake our mind and harm us. I saw some good news today. I was in Walmart, and Albertsons, the shelves were starting to be restocked and look full again and customers were not in panic or hoarding. From the reports I’ve seen the death rate of COVID-19 in the US is under 2%. Lets please all pray for each other and our stores. May God Bless and keep us all safe.