C-Store Operators Need to Reach Out to Elected Officials

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C-Store Operators Need to Reach Out to Elected Officials

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 03/17/2011

WASHINGTON -- For many, making their voices heard in Washington, DC has always been about pulling the lever in the voting booths every November. But representatives in Congress all agree members of the convenience store industry need to take it a step further and reach out to their elected officials.

With hundreds of issues before them, members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives rely on their constituents to tell them what is working and what's not. And sometimes that takes more than writing a letter, according to Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). "Go to your district offices and talk to your representative," he told a group of editors, including CSNews Online at the NACS Industry Advocacy Briefing on Wednesday. "Face-to-face interaction is the key."

And proof may be in the pudding. According to Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations at NACS, the mobilization of retailers in the nation's capital last week got their message about swipe fee reform through to members of Congress. "Last week we had about 200 retailers in town. For the first time in six weeks it really stopped the hemorrhaging. Until then it was mostly banks, credit card companies and credit unions [lobbying]," he said. "Last week reminded members of Congress that this is really important to Main Street."

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the lead Republican sponsor of the Welch-Shuster HR 2382-Credit Card Interchange Fees Act, echoed this sentiment. Shuster became involved in the issue a few years ago when Sheetz, which is based in his district, called with concerns about the increasing cost on retailers by customers using debit cards. The fight is even more important today since two bills were introduced this week that seek to delay any movement on swipe fee reform. "We need to see the convenience store operators, the mom-and-pops and the merchants because the banks are here," he said. "NACS is great but it is nothing compared to an operator sitting in my office."

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), the lead Democratic sponsor of the Welch-Shuster HR 2382-Credit Card Interchange Fee Act, also urged retailers to be in touch with their representatives. "Contact local members of Congress. Tell them what this means [to retailers], how they have been on the receiving end of whatever arbitrary price increase Visa and MasterCard have imposed."

"Direct contact from local members of Congress is absolutely essential," he added.