By TONY GALLO
Are you aware that an emergency action plan is required by the United States Department of Labor for all businesses?
U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards 29 CFR 1910.38 requires an emergency action plan be in writing, kept in the workplace and available to all employees for review.
For smaller organizations, an emergency action plan is still required but the plan doesn’t need to be written and may be communicated verbally.
The purpose of an emergency action plan is to organize actions during a workplace emergency. A well-developed emergency plan and proper employee training may result in fewer employee and customer injuries and also less structural damage to the business.
A poorly designed plan — or worse, no plan at all — could likely lead to disorganization and confusion during the emergency, which may lead to injuries and higher losses.
OSHA states at a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements:
1. Means of reporting emergencies.
2. Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route.
3. Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical operations before they evacuate.
4. Procedures to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed .
5. Names of persons who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the emergency plan.
Your plan should be constructed with the thoughts of employee and customer safety and how to reduce losses to your business.
The following three sections should be included in your plan:
2. Emergency Response
3. Disaster Recovery
Each business should have emergency supplies ready. These supplies should be stored in the manager’s office or a back area on a shelf off the ground.
Items for the Bag
The following are some but not all items that should be included in your emergency bag:
• Battery-Operated Flashlight
• Battery-Operated Radio
• Extra batteries sized to fit the flashlight and radio
• A Safety Whistle
• First Aid Kit
• Evacuation Diagram of Building Posted in the Manager’s Office
There are many different kinds of emergencies. Some strike without warning and some give us ample time to prepare.
You will need to develop a specific emergency action plan for all types of emergencies.
The emergencies that are most likely to impact your business are:
• Power Outages
• Winter Storm
• Civil Disturbance
Since we are now in hurricane season in the United States, let’s review what actions should be included in your hurricane emergency plan section.
Hurricanes generally provide some warning before striking. The store owner/manager should monitor the hurricane path via the news and also call local authorities for updates.
Your business should start minimizing the possible exposure of all merchandise to water and make sure all electrical devices are unplugged.
All electrical devices such as TVs, DVRs, small electronics, etc, should be moved to an area that would not be affected by any resulting water.
You should bring inside all merchandise that is being displayed outdoors.
If your business does not have a roll down door, the owner/manager will need to make a decision on whether to board up or tape the store’s glass front. This decision should be made well in advance of the hurricane to allow you to purchase the necessary supplies at the local hardware store to undertake either task.
All component terminals should be covered with a plastic bag to reduce water damage. All computer systems on the floor should be moved to the top of the counter before leaving.
If the store is closing, the manager should try and make a bank deposit of excessive funds if at all possible and check the alarm back-up system.
Use Your Safe
Important: If the store is to be closed due to any emergency situation, the safe should be filled with as many company assets as possible, i.e.: cash, jewelry, small general merchandise loans or inventory, before leaving.
Use your safe as your “lifeboat” during an emergency. Safes are designed to withstand long periods of attacks from thieves and most will not be able to get into a safe no matter how long they attack it.
So why is it so important to have a well-developed emergency action plan?
According to studies conducted by the Gartner Group in recent years, 60 percent of businesses are under-prepared for disasters and emergencies and 40 percent of companies that experience a disaster go out of business within five years.
Many large and small businesses don’t realize the need to prepare their store and employees for a disaster/emergency event.
Without a well-defined emergency plan your company will likely struggle or fail to remain in business after an emergency.
Be safe and be profitable.
Tony Gallo is the senior director of Sapphire Protection (www.sapphireprotection.com) with more than 30 years in the loss prevention, audit, safety, and risk/emergency management fields. For 17 years, Tony was the director of loss prevention and safety for EZCorp, which has more than 1,300 pawnshops and financial loan service locations. Tony is a licensed security consultant and has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from New Jersey City University. He is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security, Robbery Investigators of Texas and the Loss Prevention Foundation. Contact Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @SapphireProtect.
When I graduated from high school, we were the kings and queens of the campus. As I recall, we were royalty. We were the seniors.
Then I went to college. As a freshman in college, I was once again a pauper and at the bottom rung of the educational ladder, even though deep inside I still felt like I was a king, just temporarily dethroned.
My roommate in the college dormitory was a high school football all-star and an Ohio punt, pass and kick champion.
He thought he would star on the college football team (a Mid-American Conference team). He returned from try-outs with a very different perspective.
He was the top dog at his small town high school, but he was now competing with the top dogs from high schools all over the state and country – bigger fish from bigger ponds – and he was out of his league.
If you think I’m just reminiscing about days-gone-by, you are partially correct. However, the big-fish-little-pond effect was actually conceived about students in school, not business. However, its meaning still applies.
Small Fish – Big Fish
Although our average pawn transaction still falls within the industry average, we make thousand dollar (or one comma) transactions all the time. Upon occasions, we will make a pawn loan, sell or buy something in the five digit area. Five digits is a big transaction around here. Remember, I’m still a small fish.
My son, on the other hand, the director of acquisitions for a real estate investment fund, does two comma deals on a regular basis.
I received a text message from him last week. “Just sent out my first term sheet with three commas. Will see how it goes next week.”
Three commas? Let’s see, thousand, million, and then billion. I guess my transactions fall a little short. Kinda makes me feel like a minnow. Maybe even a guppy.
Still, I strive to be a top pawnshop in my area. I may not be the largest or the best in every aspect, but I’m always trying to improve myself and my pawnshop. Even though at times I feel as though I adhere to a quote attributed to Willie Nelson: “Don’t come to me for wisdom; come to me for experience.”
But whether you are a small pawnshop or a big pawnshop, when you stop moving forward and try to coast on your past successes, it’s probably time to …. go fishing.
Tip No. 216
Windows 8 is here. It’s even had a birthday. Windows 8.1 was released in October 2013, and the next update, Windows 8.2, is right around the corner.
Those in the know are spreading rumors of Windows 9 and speculating a release date of late 2014 to early 2015. And others say Windows 10 will be a “cloud OS.”
Various computers in my store are running Windows XP, 7 and 8. It can take a second or two, now and then, to remember which end of my cursor is up.
Similarly, I’m using version 2003, 2010 and 2013 of Microsoft Office, depending upon which computer I’m sitting in front of at the time.
Since I learned to use Windows Vista, the transition to Windows 7 was quite easy. And, maybe I was fortunate, but I never had any Vista issues.
Maybe this year I’ll get everything standardized. (Probably not.) If nothing else, it’s really time to upgrade the XP computers.
As I have said once before (Tip 195), I find Windows 8 to be more “touchy feely” and consumer oriented, rather than a solid business operating environment. Many of the new features of Windows 8 are designed for touchscreen hardware, like tablets.
Any power user wants to take his hands off the keyboard as little as possible which precludes even using the mouse unless absolutely necessary. This is why there are so many key functions to provide shortcuts and key combinations. For example, Ctrl+Z to Undo Typing and Ctrl+Y to Repeat or Redo Typing.
This saves me time (considering all the mistakes I make) from moving my mouse all the way to the upper left hand corner and clicking on those left and right circular arrows.
As many others agree, I find Windows 8 to be quite clumsy for business use, so I found a free download to regain some of my Windows 7 “feel” on the computer.
Classic Shell for Windows 8
This powerful free/donationware utility adds the features back to Windows 8 that, in my opinion, Microsoft should never have removed.
Classic Shell™ is free software that improves your productivity, enhances the usability of Windows and empowers you to use the computer the way you like it.
The main features are:
• Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
• Quick access to recent, frequently-used, or pinned programs
• Find programs, settings, files and documents
• Start button for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
• Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
• Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer
Classic Shell has been in active development for four years and has more than 10 million downloads. The latest version is 4.0.2. www.classicshell.net/
Bonus Tip No. 1
Also, while you’re at it, download a free copy of Gadwin PrintScreen.
Although the newer versions of Windows do allow for use of the PrtScn button, actually getting it from the screen to printer paper is a long, drawn out procedure (in relative computer terms). I like things fast and simple – push a key on the keyboard and out comes a piece of paper with the intended content.
The current versions of Windows, requires at least a four-step process: Alt + PrnScn, open Microsoft Windows Paint, click Paste (or Ctrl + V), then Print (or Ctrl + P).
Yes, in Paint you have a lot more options before printing; however, for 99 percent of my needs, I just want a hard copy of the information on the screen, not necessarily the whole 10-page document I may receive with Ctrl + P.
Gadwin PrintScreen is a flexible screen capture that is equipped with excellent screen capture apps that are free. It has sophisticated features, user-friendly interface and customizable settings for shortcut key associations; capture preferences and output. www.gadwin.com/printscreen/
Tip No. 217
Over the years, I have told you about many of our “in-house” designed and fabricated store display fixtures.
I have always been fond of coat hangers and PVC pipe. They can be manipulated into varying shapes in order to support and display many items. (You know that old saying, “If you can’t fix it with a hammer, a coat hanger or duct tape, it can’t be fixed.”)
One day, I noticed my hand-held video game systems were just lying flat on a shelf. Nothing was necessarily wrong with them, except for the fact that they were just lying there.
After a little thought, I designed a cardboard easel to hold them up and at an angle. This provided a much better appearance that was more visible to the buying public. But I still didn’t care for the look.
Next, out come the coat hangers. After a few cuts and bends with a pair of pliers and diagonal cutters, I had a wire easel which provided a less obtrusive view of the small hand-held game system than the cardboard.
As it happened, a catalog came in the mail a few days later from a supply house which specialized in retail store fixtures. While glancing through it before filing it away with other catalogs of like kind, I happened across a section: “Display Fixtures, Easels and Risers.”
Besides having an assortment of wire easels (not a good as mine), they had an even larger variety of clear acrylic easels which (I hate to admit) were sturdier and better looking than my custom designed coat hanger wire easels.
I purchased a dozen of their 3.5L x 3.5Wx 4H x 1 inch deep slot (to hold the hand-held video game systems) Acrylic Book Easels designed for displaying books, videos, software and other flat items. They only cost $2.59 each.
This style was also available in four other sizes and five additional varieties, each in multiple sizes.
Not only are these very attractive looking (since they are acrylic, they are practically invisible), they are sturdy and help display my product with a little class. I’m planning to buy additional shapes and sizes in the future for displaying other items in my store.
Sometimes, the use of professionally made fixtures will really enhance the presentation of your merchandise.
I purchased mine from Retail Resource (www.retailresource.com/), but a Google search for “acrylic book easel” yields different results in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles.
Tip No. 218
Do you (or your staff) carry firearms on your person? If so, do you carry openly or concealed?
While I’m not going to argue the logic for either choice; to carry or not to carry and open carry vs. concealed carry, I will just say my preference would be concealed carry.
Just because you may be familiar with firearms and accept them as commonplace, don’t expect that all of your customers share the same opinion. Not everyone loves firearms.
Some patrons may think if you need to wear a firearm in order to be safe in your pawnshop, maybe they shouldn’t stick around.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll defend your right to carry a firearm if you so choose. I would just prefer it to be concealed for this particular purpose. I think it presents a better appearance for you, your employees and your store.
I was in a pawnshop a while back and I noticed the proprietor was carrying a handgun, exposed, on his waist. A Glock Long Slide is hard to miss. When questioned, the pawnbroker told me the local constabulary suggested he carry a firearm.
I asked if any other employees were also carrying a firearm, and he started to point out those who had guns.
Another mistake. As I said previously, if you are going to carry a firearm, I believe it should be concealed. And next, it should be a secret.
You should show your W2, your medical history, talk about your most intimate fantasies and everything else before you tell people that you are carrying a (concealed) firearm.
It’s nobody’s business but your own (and maybe the guy who sold you the holster, if applicable).
Telling people that you carry a firearm is a security breach that may come back and bite you later.
Gun stores may be an exception. Everyone working in a gun store and usually pawnshops that specialize in firearms seems to be openly packing heat. Who would ever think of robbing a gun store with all the employees well-armed? (Well, there are stupid robbers.)
Anyway, in this case (a gun store environment) the openly exposed firearm and accompanying holster may also be viewed as an advertising tool.
I talked with the proprietor of the above mentioned pawnshop a few months later (think Willie Nelson here). He still carries a firearm, but now a smaller model and it is concealed.
Tip No. 219
I know I have most of you fooled into thinking I’m a nice person. Well, I am to a degree. I do also have my breaking point and this sometimes involves the not-so-very-well- behaved (or attended) children of my customers.
You know, the ones who should be wearing strait jackets, muzzles and leashes (all at the same time). Don’t tell me you have never had them in your pawnshop.
Children that venture behind your showcases and counters, turn up the volume on every television, play every guitar within reach, tear off price tags, try to climb on and ride the bicycles (usually knocking them over in the process) and run around the store like it is a roller derby rink. Worse yet, their parents pretty much ignore them!
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention they wipe their noses on the fronts of all the glass showcases.
Since it’s not usually a good policy to throw these little “future customers” out of the shop, we often reward them just prior to leaving. Yes, that’s right, we reward negative behavior.
I have a box of plastic slide whistles in my desk drawer at all times. I buy them from one of my musical instrument wholesalers.
We give these little demons a slide whistle and instructions on blowing it (loud) right before they leave with hopes that they will annoy the hell out of their parents on the way home in the car.
For less than $2, I now have my way of getting even. Money well spent in my mind. I have noticed, the next time their parents come in to see me, they are always alone.
Many of the tips I offer will be of more benefit to newer pawnbrokers, but some more experienced pawnbrokers may find something ‘new’ and interesting, also.
If you are new to this column, I share three or four tips per issue that you can use in your pawnshops to help sales, security, merchandising, or make life a little easier.
Since we all run our pawnshops differently, I try to cover a broad range of subject areas to appeal to a wide scope of interests.
Many of these tips come from personal experience (that translates into trial and error). Others come from fellow pawnbrokers kind enough to share something that has worked well for them.
You may even want to contribute a tip or two for future columns.
Ric Blum is a vice president of Ohio Loan Co. in Dayton. He has served as president of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Association, secretary/treasurer of the National Pawnbrokers Association and as a member of the board of directors and the board of governors of the National Pawnbrokers Association. Please feel free to e-mail your comments or tips that you would like to see included in this column to RicBlum@att.net or mail them to Ric Blum, Ohio Loan Co., 3028 Salem Ave., Dayton, OH 45406.
By RICHARD WEATHERINGTON
It is not easy to sue and win against an agency that oversees the very business a pawnbroker depends upon. Although the constitution protects from the illegal seizure of property and provides guarantees of due process, pawnbrokers often must fight tooth and nail to try to exercise those constitutional protections.
A Louisiana pawnshop filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against a local police chief under Unuted States Code Section 1983, alleging an illegal seizure of property and a deprivation of its rights to due process under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United State Constitution by the actions and policies of the chief of police and others.
The complaint alleged that the chief of police individually, at all times relevant, had been the chief of police and that as an individual, he had disregarded the clear and explicit statutes of the State of Louisiana and the Constitutions of the State of Louisiana and the United States.
The pawnshop claimed that the chief was liable in his individual capacity in the following ways:
1. Disregarding the applicable clear and explicit statutes of the state of Louisiana: the chief of police was directly responsible for the development, permitting the development of, and/or acquiescence in policies, procedures, practices, and customs permitting and encouraging members of the police department to seize private property unreasonably and without due process of law and making that the official policy of the city.
2. Disregarding the applicable clear and explicit statutes of the state of Louisiana: The chief of police had developed, permitted the development of, and/or acquiesced in policies, procedures, practices, and customs that encouraged and condoned the improper seizure, retention, and disposal of property by city personnel by the following acts and omissions:
a. Hiring officers who had no qualifications or inadequate qualifications in the matter of seizure and retention of property;
b. Failing to properly train persons hired by the police department in proper techniques of seizing and retaining property so as to avoid the unconstitutional deprivation of property interests without due process of law, and
c. Failure to properly develop proper policies relating to the seizure, retention, and disposal of property that addressed the rights of those having an interest in the property.
3. By engaging in such acts and omissions, the chief of police had thereby made the unreasonable and improper seizure of property without due process of law, the official policy of the police department.
4. In engaging in and following the policy of the city to permit or condone the improper seizure and disposal of private property by employees of its police department, the chief of police violated the civil rights of the pawnshop under the color of state law, giving rise to damages, while acting both in his individual and in his official capacity as chief of police, disregarding the applicable clear and explicit statutes of the state of Louisiana and the constitutions of the State of Louisiana and the United States.
5. Further, not only should the chief of police have known that his actions were in violation of clear and explicit state statutes and the constitutions of the State of Louisiana and the United States, but he or representatives of his department were expressly informed by the pawnshop’s counsel in a meeting before the lawsuit was filed. Despite that knowledge, the chief of police continued to violate the due process rights of the pawnshop.
The chief of police, who had been named as a defendant individually and in his official capacity as chief of police, filed a “Motion to Dismiss” the pawnshop’s claims against him in his individual capacity under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6). The pawnshop opposed the motion.
The District Court noted that Rule 12(b)(6) allows for dismissal of an action “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Although a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations to avoid dismissal, the plaintiff’s factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.
A plaintiff’s obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
The Supreme Court explained in 2009 that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must construe the complaint liberally and accept all of the plaintiff’s factual allegations in the complaint as true.
Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions, noted the court, will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss. In addition, the general rule that “a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”
Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, “will not survive a motion to dismiss.”
In this case, noted the District Court, the chief of police argued that he was entitled to qualified immunity because the pawnshop’s allegations were not made with adequate specificity.
More specifically, the chief contended that the allegations were not adequate to satisfy the heightened pleading burden applicable to a claim against a public official in his individual capacity.
The chief submitted that the pawnshop had simply added the word “individual” to general allegations and that such disguised official capacity allegations were not sufficient to escape a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.
The chief claimed that the allegations failed to sufficiently state “what in particular he did or failed to do, much less give the court enough information to ascertain whether his actions were objectively unreasonable and clearly established as such on the day that such actions occurred.”
More specifically, the chief sought dismissal because the pawnshop had not alleged he was personally involved in any constitutional deprivation and/or that any alleged wrongful action on his part was causally connected to the alleged constitutional deprivation.
The National Pawnbrokers Association, the leading trade association representing the pawn industry, is pleased to announce that Ric Blum of Ohio Loan Co. in Dayton, Ohio, is the recipient this year’s Pawnbroker of the Year Award. A member of the National Pawnbrokers Association since 1990, Ric Blum is a visionary leader whose tireless commitment and dedication have helped strengthen the pawn industry. He has served on the Board of Directors, the Board of Governors, and as Secretary/Treasurer, and he continues to offer support through contributions to industry publications, participation in fundraising events, and community outreach.
By CHARLENE KOMAR STOREY
Gold can make pawnbrokers a lot of money when it’s going for top dollar. But it isn’t necessarily a tragedy when prices slide, say both consultants and successful pawnbrokers.
“When the price of metals started dropping, a lot of pawnbrokers started wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth,” says Steve Krupnik, president of Cloud Ten pawnbroking consultants and a former long-time pawnbroker.
“It was almost silly to me.”
Both Krupnik and Jerry Whitehead, CEO of Pawnshop Consulting Group, point out positive sides to the decline in gold prices — not least the return of many pawn businesses to a concentration on core metrics.
“We preach core business metrics, being very aggressive with loan balances,” Whitehead says firmly. Pawnbrokers needs to pay attention to the basics, he says, adding that during the gold boom many pawnbrokers strayed away from the pawn business.
Similarly, Krupnik tells his clients that the gold business can always be there and always be profitable: The key is to treat it as simply another of your key metrics.
Krupnik recalls his past experience with the gold cycle, when he was running a pawn business. “During the last metals boom, I made a lot of money when it went up. I made more when it went down,” he says.
The key is to keep marketing, but change its focus, Krupnik says. “People will act to prevent loss.” Advertise that they should sell their gold before the price drops further, he advises.
Both consultants agree that pawnbrokers are benefitting from the disappearance of the fly-by-night operators.
“Most pawnbrokers operating in the United States are still dealing in metals — it’s 30 percent to 60 percent of their overall loan business,” Whitehead points out. In contrast, “Gold buyers are packing up and going away.”
“Pawnbrokers should be jumping for joy because all their competitors are going out of business,” Krunik says. “All those ‘We Buy Gold’ stores — gone. All those hotel gold buyers — gone.”
Tim Birkle, who owns four Vista Pawn outlets in Idaho, says the fly-by-nights are gone from his areas. “One guy is still here, who was here before,” Birkle says. “The smaller places pretty much closed up.” Besides the slump in prices, Brikle says that crackdowns by the authorities helped: The fly-by-nights didn’t like having to follow the same regulations pawnbrokers face.
Keeping gold in perspective regardless of price has paid off for Birkle. While he admits that the volume is down from a year-and-a-half ago, Birkle still takes quite a bit of gold in.
“We still have our foot on the metal in marketing,” he says.
That approach is echoed by industry leader David Schoeneman, owner of Shane’s The Pawn Shop in Chicago Heights, Ill. “We advertise aggressively and consistently on TV,” he says. “It’s less now than a year ago, but people come.”
Birkle emphases that he doesn’t confuse making a quick buck on gold with losing a lot more by alienating long-time customers.
Yes, says Birkle, if gold takes a real dip, he might have some conversations with casual pawners. “But if someone has been bringing in the same chain every month for a couple of years, I’m just going to give them the same money as I always did.”
That’s Krupnik’s advice, too. “Just because gold drops, don’t adjust your loan price with regular customers,” he says.
“That regular customer has no idea what that bracelet would melt for,” Krupnik points out. “If the customer has picked up the bracelet 15 times, there’s no reason she won’t pick it up the sixteenth time.