Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Case Study, Dark Shadows: We’ve talked about cleanliness, now let’s discuss “safe.” For several years, while in the gasoline/convenience store business, I tried to work one shift per month in each of my 10 or 12 stores. Often it was a mid-shift, 2PM to 10PM, occasionally a third shift, and it was often an adventure. One night, on a third shift, at a store in Petaluma, California, I think it was around 3:00AM, a women rushed into the store, but paused as soon as the door closed behind her. I said, “Good morning, can I help you find something?”
She stuttered, sounding as though she was out of breath, “F ffflavored coffee creamer.”
I pointed to the dairy doors, “We have Irish Cream and French Vanilla, quart size.”
She grabbed one, came up to the register, and as I handed her the change from her 20-dollar bill, she asked, in a timid, shaky voice, “Would you mind watching for me to get to my car?”
I said, “Sure, come on, I’ll walk you out.” I had no idea, until that moment, how un-safe, un-inviting our store was in the middle of the night. The parking area was, per the Fire Marshall’s direction, away from the front door and the surrounding fire-lane, and by default the closest spots were in a rather dimly lit part of the lot. It was a combination of things, first the store windows on that side of the building were blocked so no light was shining out, the lot lights were shrouded in fog (like so many other nights), so when I first stepped out I couldn’t see the woman’s car. I walked her over and waited for her to start the car and pull away. It was painfully obvious that she had been truly afraid to walk to and from her car. The next day, we moved two parking spots closer to the door and installed flood lights on the side of the building to light up all of the parking spots.
Later, I spoke to the manager and the other night-shift employees and was disappointed to hear that they’d had several comments about how dark the lot was—so, here’s the lesson for the entrepreneur: know your facility, inside out, in daylight and dark, in fair weather and foul. Make it safe and inviting.