“There’s been an armed robbery!” The phone call every store owner dreads came last Monday afternoon. The employee who called assured us that everyone was safe, and that the police were on their way. Fortunately we live only a couple of blocks from our shop, so we got there within minutes.

The police were already on site, talking to the staff member who had been threatened with a weapon if she didn’t hand over the cash. She did the right thing and complied immediately, so the incident was over quickly. We are very grateful that no one was hurt, and our losses weren’t huge. But this was a wakeup call for us regarding staff safety training, and we have a crime prevention officer coming to talk with us – and our fellow merchants – in a couple of weeks.

We already knew that it is ideal to never have an employee working alone. But in this case there were at least 5 other staff members in the store, plus customers.  We realize that security cameras are a good idea, however these don’t serve as a deterrent to someone desperate for cash (they do, of course, help the detectives assigned to the case).

While we don’t think we could have done anything to prevent this incident, we did learn a few things. The first is that we need to make sure our staff know that if there is an armed robbery, they should:

1. Stay calm
2. Obey the robber’s commands
3. Give whatever is demanded
4. Pay attention to the appearance of the robber
5. Not leave the premises with him/her if possible
6. Lock all the doors and call 9-1-1 after the incident is over

We also learned that it’s important to help employees process what has happened. One of our staff members suggested a gift of a massage for the staff member impacted, which I thought was a great idea. The police have followed up to see how she is doing, and I know that her friends and family have shown their concern in many ways. We feel well supported by our fellow businesses – a chiropractor offered free services to anyone on the staff needing them, and a nearby restaurant bought everyone lunch the next day. The merchants in other parts of town reached out to express their concern, and we received two cheery bouquets of flowers.

Many of our customers have expressed their shock over what happened. The robbery was in the news, which meant that the public was aware of the crime. We decided to talk about the incident on Facebook in order to reassure everyone that we were OK, but without going into great detail.  We don’t want shoppers and diners to avoid our shopping area because of one individual’s criminal actions, causing our business district to lose more to the thief than what was already taken.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder