Convenience Store Compliance Risks

All businesses are subject to laws and regulations that they must comply with. Some regulations apply to all or many types of businesses, others are directed towards specific industries.

Being highly visible, attracting a large swath of the community and selling products that are considered health risks such as tobacco, alcohol and gasoline; convenience stores are subject to an increasing number of rules and regulations.

Failure to comply with regulations is a significant risk for c-store owners. Consequences can include fines, lawsuits, operating restrictions, loss of business and even jail time. At the very least getting tangled up in compliance issues will take a lot of time, create aggravation and cost money.

One of the difficulties facing c-store owners is the number of directions from which regulations can come. Federal agencies, state agencies, municipalities and business partners can all produce rules which you have to comply with.

The regulations your convenience stores are subject to will vary depending on your location and the types of products you sell. The only way to know for sure which regulations apply specifically to you is to contact sources of local information such as attorneys, local government officials.

Other local c-store operators can also be a good place to start. Be aware though that a store just down the street may be subject to different regulations if it’s in a different municipality. It’s also possible that other operators aren’t aware of all of the regulations, so you should certainly follow up with officials to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Following is a list of common regulations convenience stores are subject to. Once again, this is an incomplete list and you must check with local regulators to get a complete list.

Federal

Federal regulations that apply to convenience stores are for the most part the same rules that every business operates under. These include fair labor standards governing how you classify and pay your employees, hiring and termination practices, equal opportunity requirements, benefits and retirement, ADA access, posters and recordkeeping requirements. Your workers are also subject to OSHA safety requirements, though they are not as extensive as ones applied to industries such as construction.

Many convenience stores sell money orders. If you’re selling those in your own right and are considered a money services business you must register with and comply with FinCEN regulations. If your only money business is as an agent for someone like Western Union, you don’t need to register but must comply with their policies, which will usually include Anti-Money Laundering Training for your employees who sell money orders.

State

State laws regulating convenience are much more varied and specific than the federal regulations.

One of the biggest state driven risks for convenience stores is underage sales of alcohol and tobacco and other products. Every state prohibits such sales and often enforce the ban with spot checks. Penalties can be severe including prison terms and loss of business license. Strict and diligent adherence is the only option.

Many states are also eliminating or restricting certain product sales based on their use in the manufacture of illegal drugs.

A relatively new requirement is for operator training of underground storage tanks. The federal government required states to implement training requirements as a condition to receiving federal funds. Requirements do vary some by state and are separated depending on whether one is a clerk or owner/manager.

Local

Typical local convenience store regulations cover a huge range of possibilities such as hours of operation, signage, what products may be sold, required safety equipment and procedures, and health requirements for serving food.

Most any policy, rule or regulation is going to produce a training requirement for you. Sometimes that training requirement is explicit in the rule, saying something like “Employees must be trained in the operation of underground storage tanks.”

Other times training is only an implication. For example a state could have a regulation saying that “No retail establishment may sell tobacco products to any person under 18.” Even though it may not say that you have to train your employees in underage sales, to meet the requirement of the rule, you’re going to have to instruct your employees not to sell to minors and give them some guidelines and procedures to follow.

Whether required or not, a prudent convenience store operator will also document the training. That documentation should include what training was delivered and on what date. It should also include an employee acknowledgement, whether by signature or electronic login. For all but the simplest tasks you should also have a quiz or other evaluation to verify the learning.

Regardless of where the compliance requirements come from, the only way to address with them is to make sure you and your employees are following the mandates and be able to prove it.

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