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Practicing Sound Store Security (Part 2)

Areas hidden from view, even in part, can invite trouble

CHICAGO — Most store owners and operators make inspecting or checking their self-service laundry for safety or security risks a common practice. This makes perfect sense because a customer will choose a store in which they feel safe over a store where they don’t. Plus, the owner wants to make certain any cash flowing into the business is kept secure.

But as we take a look at store security, where are the danger areas? American Coin-Op polled a handful of store owners, both new and veteran, about their approaches to store security and the tools they use.

In Part 1, we introduced the owners who were interviewed and briefly summarized their approaches to store security. Let’s continue now by pointing out some areas of safety emphasis and how having attendants impacts security.

AREAS OF EMPHASIS

Common areas to focus on regarding security include doors/locks, windows and exterior areas such as the parking lot or adjacent sidewalks.

“We try not to have any hidden or visually blocked areas,” says New York state multi-store owner Tim Kerstetter. “The ATM and changer area is open and very bright with these lights remaining on 24 hours a day for security.”

“The bathrooms are the biggest area of concern for us,” says new store owner Steve Andrews from Nashville, Tennessee. “For some reason, people with bad habits seem to think our store could be a good place to practice that habit. We have had to add smoke detectors and smart locks to them in order to keep this from happening.”

“There isn’t an area of our stores that we haven’t thought about, and invested in the best security,” says Dave Menz, a multi-store owner in Cincinnati. “High-security locks and rear-load changers deter thieves or troublemakers, alarm systems tell us and law enforcement when something is happening, and high-definition video surveillance systems tell us what happened once it’s over.”

Colorado’s John Giambrone has specific measures in place at his store’s bathrooms, changers, coin boxes, ATMs, and the rear exterior of the store by the garbage bin.

“Due to our location in an area lower than the surrounding streets and backing up to a grassy area, we deal with homeless vagrants and overnight stays in the parking lot on a regular basis,” Giambrone says. “We are constantly working with the landlord and police to address this problem.”

“We have one seating area outside of our mat for customers and that can be an issue for homeless people,” says Memphis store owner Elizabeth Wilson, “but our staff know to either ask them to leave or contact the police if they feel unsafe to talk with them directly.”

BEING ATTENDED ENHANCES SECURITY

Apart from the tools commonly put in place to keep things secure, do you believe having an attendant on-site enhances security for a store?

“Absolutely!” Menz exclaims. “At one point, all of our stores were open 24 hours except one. Additionally, all of our stores were either unattended or minimally attended when we acquired them. Our goal has always been to provide the cleanest and safest stores in Cincinnati with all of the modern amenities. Part of this mindset has been that we’ve greatly increased the number of hours per day that all of the stores are attended. Having well-trained attendants on duty greatly (relieves) any real security concerns.”

“Definitely,” Giambrone adds. “Although this is the only store I own at present (and I have no intention to add additional locations), I will not ever run an unattended store again. I find it decreases the number of headaches I deal with on a daily basis. It is worth every penny of labor, and my sales are considerably higher than nearby stores because my customers know they will receive quality service at my location and that they are safer.”

“I believe it helps tremendously,” Andrews says. “I have had many customers ask for the specific hours when there is an attendant on duty so that they can come during those hours. It gives them a sense of security knowing someone is there watching over everything.

“It also helps if the attendant is trained to look for certain activity. For example, we allow our bathrooms to be unlocked when we have an attendant on-site. The attendants are always on the lookout for non-customers coming in and trying to use the bathrooms. We have learned that most of these folks are up to no good.”

“Yes, just the presence of staff helps keep any mischief down to a minimum,” says Kerstetter.

“Definitely!” exclaims Wilson. “I can’t wait until we have our store staffed 24/7 with more than one attendant. They make sure that only customers are in the mat and are there in case anyone needs help or has problems.”

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion, including effective security tools/practices and arming one’s self!