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Opinion: Join a Battle Worth Fighting (MAG Quarterly- Volume Four, Issue One)

By Peter Tedeschi, Midwest Retail Group

March 3, 2016

The recent sale of our family business has proven to be a very reflective process for me. Looking back and taking stock of my successes and mistakes and the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, I am proud of all we accomplished at Tedeschi Food Shops, but I also regret the many things I never had the opportunity to do.

When I left the financial-services industry to become CEO of Tedeschi Food Shops in 2008, I was concerned about how an industry outsider would be received within our longtime family-owned and -operated business, and within the convenience industry itself.

I was, however, comforted by the belief that our industry wouldn’t suffer under the onerous regulatory environment that had brought so many financial-services companies to their knees.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.

As I grew acclimated to the industry, my growing involvement in NACS not only introduced me to many folks who have become lifelong friends, but it also alerted me to the ever-growing threat posed by often misguided legislation. It was at that point that I felt a sense of responsibility to help ensure that our industry’s message was being heard on Capitol Hill.

I became acutely aware that our business fortunes rested on a balance of not only how we operated and executed, but also how far-reaching regulations—on the local, state or federal level—could crush even well-run businesses.

Concerning Trends

This is why I decided to write this column. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all of we decision makers to be politically engaged, to talk to our legislators and help educate them on the contribution you deliver to your local communities, from jobs to taxes and charities.

Without these efforts, our industry becomes an easy target. Take the sale of candy and soda. Candy has been around for more than 4,000 years and sweetened carbonated soda has been around since at least the mid-1700s—so why is the obesity epidemic of the past 30 years suddenly our fault? It isn’t our fault, but the unchecked narrative of certain legislators and special interest groups has allowed it to become our problem.

Meanwhile, some of these lawmakers who want to blame us are sponsoring legislation that often results in the elimination of physical education and after-school sports programs.

News flash: The more calories kid’s burn participating in physical education and sports, the less likely they are to become obese.

Issues such as raising the minimum wage, the Affordable Care Act and onerous employee scheduling rules do nothing to encourage companies to hire additional employees. It sometimes seems that state and federal legislators are eager to introduce legislation intended to put employers and employees at odds.

As much as we may focus our attention on the national level, I believe the biggest concerns are at the local and state levels. Just look at the tobacco taxation in Minnesota, or how one community in my home state of Massachusetts wanted to essentially ban the sale of cigarettes in our stores. This trend concerns me, and it should be a wakeup call for you.

Get Involved

You’ve undoubtedly noticed that the banks and credit-card companies are putting out new credit cards with EMV-compliant chips. This is less about protecting you and your customers, and all about protecting their profits.

Transactions processed with a PIN for authentication are less profitable to the banks and credit-card companies than those processed using the chip or a signature instead—and retailers absorb most of the additional costs. Stolen credit cards with chips are fairly easy to use to make unauthorized transactions, whereas it would be rather difficult to make a purchase with a stolen credit card that requires a PIN.

Ever used an ATM that accepted anything other than a PIN for authorization? Why should retailers have to settle for anything less?

There are more issues on the table that deserve your attention: online lottery sales, renewable-fuels standards and unreasonable minimum wages, to name a few. Our industry is composed of good people doing great things in all the districts of our great country. If you are not already involved, I encourage you to work with NACS or your local industry organization to make your voice heard.

Our industry is worth fighting for, and I hope that you will join me and others in making a difference for our industry, our employees and the communities that we serve.

Peter Tedeschi was president of Tedeschi Food Shops and is now chief strategic officer of the Midwest Retail Group LLC (MRG).

Note:  This article originally was printed in CSP Magazine (January 2016) and has been reprinted with permission of the author.