By their nature, ag retail outlets are gathering places. In many towns, these facilities are local fixtures, with grower-customers and other visitors coming and going at all hours of the day. According to Garry Rasmussen, supervisor for Simplot Grower Solutions, Berea, NE, this makes for some complicated procedures when its comes to tracking all guests, both invited and uninvited.
“You have to walk a fine line at times,” says Rasmussen. “On one hand, you want to be as open and friendly as you can with your trusted customers and their friends, but you have to be cautious whenever someone shows up at your facility that is unknown to you.”
Here we look at how retailers cope with visitors to their outlets.
1. Keep Tight Tabs On Strangers
Perhaps the most potentially dangerous visitor to a retail facility is someone new. While grower-customers tend to be well-known, delivery truck drivers or other strangers are not. In most cases, retailers have established guidelines for escorting these individuals around their facilities or provided them with clear visitor badges so they can be more easily tracked.
“It’s a standing policy that all visitors to our facility must sign in at the main office before they are allowed onto the grounds,” says Jeff Black, area manager for The McGregor Co. in Oakesdale, WA. “We have signs posted all around our outlet that instruct all visitors to do so. This way, we don’t have anyone just wandering around our place without our office personnel knowing about it .”
2. Treat Grower-Customers Like Members Of The Team
When it comes to grower-customers, retailers normally have long-standing relationships, so tracking procedures don’t need to be as strict. Still, most retailers like their customers to sign in when visiting.
In addition, some retailers take extra steps to make grower-customers feel like part of their extended family of employees. According to Brian Herr, manager for Daylight Farm Supply, Inc., Evansville, IN, his company regularly holds customer training days at its outlet, such as a wheat drill calibration clinic held during the summer of 2006.
3. Establish Working Relationships With Law Enforcement/Safety Personnel
Besides grower-customers, perhaps the most important visitors to any retail outlet are the local law enforcement and safety personnel such as firefighters. For a number of safety and security reasons, retailers need to provide these individuals with detailed emergency plans and keys to locked gates. Emergency contact information should be kept up to date and given to police dispatchers.
“We even go the extra mile with our town firefighters,” says Tom Zornes, office manager for Oakesdale McGregor. “A couple of our employees serve as volunteer firefighters for the town’s fire department. One employee even helped build the cabinets used in the new fire house.”
4. Reach Out To Neighbors Within The Community
Finally, many ag retailers rely heavily on their immediate neighbors for help. In many cases, these individuals can monitor the facility during off-hours and report any strangers on the grounds to local police.
“As a way of thanking these neighbors for their help during the year, we hold an annual open house,” says Stephanie Galland, safety and compliance director for Western Consolidated Cooperative, Twin Brooks, SD. “Last year, we had hundreds of people turn out for the event.”