Alcohol and Tobacco Compliance for C-Store Brands in 2018
Brands that stock and sell alcohol and tobacco products have a responsibility to their community to ensure they remain compliant with federal and local regulations. The repercussions for failing to comply will fall on both the larger brand and the individual locations, meaning that both parties are responsible for maintaining this level of compliance. As a result, it is extremely important for brand leadership to implement compliance audit programs that consistently measure whether or not individual locations are following the rules.
Some of the potential repercussions of brands that are unable to remain compliant can go beyond fiscal punishments. While there is a financial aspect depending on how many penalties specific locations accrue, too many of these mistakes will eventually lead to the removal of your brand’s legal right to sell these products, per information provided by the FDA. Specifically, in addition to a $5,591 fine, a location that is flagged a total of five times within a 36-month period will be sent a no-tobacco-sale order (NTSO), prohibiting them from selling regulated tobacco products for different periods depending on the extent of the penalties. Properly designed and managed compliance audits will help to ensure that your organization does not pile up these penalties and helps to routinely monitor the behavior and performance of every location within your brand structure.
The selling of alcohol products is another lucrative yet tricky channel, due to similar penalties placed on brands with documented levels of non-compliance. Depending on the state, a brand can still receive punitive action even if the individual was using a Fake ID to make the purchase. Ultimately, if individual locations are caught with multiple infractions, it will lead to a loss of their liquor license, which can serve as a detrimental blow to a c-store’s profitability. The sales of alcohol and tobacco products can be the main value proposition provided by these c-stores, and compliance audit programs can mitigate the inherent risk involved in this industry so that operations can stay intact.
While it is important to monitor individual locations and their compliance statistics, in reality it can be challenging to find a third-party vendor that is able to accumulate evaluators of a certain age to complete these assignments. Because there is a strict age attached to these projects, it is important that before entering into an agreement, your brand makes sure that the vendor you work with has specific methods for recruiting this exact evaluator demographic, and that they have a documented history of completing these kinds of projects. The common rule across the United States is that anyone that looks under the age of forty needs to be carded at the point-of-sale, and local municipalities are not afraid to test individual locations under your brand to make sure they are following that rule, especially if there are already documented cases of non-compliance. Even if the person is clearly of-age, ensure that your employees are still completing an id-check by instituting compliance audit programs across your different locations.
Ultimately, there is a lot of profit to be gained by selling alcohol and tobacco products within your c-store brand. However, this profit-potential can backfire if your employees are not properly trained to remain compliant with local and federal regulations. Implement compliance audits before any major problems occur to make sure that your organization does not have to deal with putting out these kinds of fires.
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