Telling Our Story

It’s one that Capitol Hill needs to hear.

Telling Our Story

May 2020   minute read

By: Margaret Hardin

The convenience store industry has an incredible story to tell. It’s a story about meeting communities’ needs in time of crisis, about serving half of the population every single day and about fueling America, first responders and health-care workers, among others. And it’s a story that our lawmakers need to hear as they make decisions that impact our ability to operate and serve our customers.

In early March, 174 members of the industry traveled to Washington, D.C., to tell their story at NACS Day on the Hill. This one-and-a-half-day event gave retailers and suppliers the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the convenience and fuel retailing industry on Capitol Hill. This year, we had record-breaking attendance, including 58 first time attendees.

Ahead of congressional meetings, NACS spent time preparing attendees for the issues they will discuss. To kick off our time together, Legislative Committee Chairman Don Rhoads, president and CEO of The Convenience Group, discussed the importance of building relationships with members of Congress and attending Day on the Hill each year. The decisions these legislators make directly affect retail operations and our ability to serve communities. By showing up each year, lawmakers get to know you and your business. He reminded the audience that the convenience retailing industry plays a crucial role in the American economy—employing 2.4 million Americans, generating more than $654 billion in sales and serving 165 million Americans every day. Rhoads concluded by emphasizing, “Our industry’s story is one that Washington desperately needs to hear.”

Attendees went to Capitol Hill to discuss three policy issues: electric vehicle charging infrastructure, consumer data privacy and payments security.

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

Convenience and fuel retailers should be a part of the solution in moving transportation energy toward electrification. Our industry is in a unique position to provide consumers the ability to charge their electric vehicles at our stores since we are in every city, county and state across the U.S., with more than 122,000 stations. The conversation was timely. Congress is working on legislation that would reduce the use of fossil fuels and promote electric vehicles and alternative transportation technologies. As Congress legislates on transportation energy, the priority of NACS is to ensure that the private market can sell any transportation energy in a competitive market with a level playing field. Allowing the private sector to compete is the best way to spur investment in, and development of, electric vehicle charging infrastructure. NACS Day on the Hill teams educated members of Congress on how the convenience and fuel retailing industry is well suited to offer EV drivers the ability to charge their vehicles.

Consumer Data Privacy

In response to advances in technology, numerous media reports about privacy abuses and the proliferation of state legislation on consumer data privacy, Congress is working on legislation to create a federal privacy law and grant consumer rights about use of their information. NACS believes any federal privacy legislation should apply to all industry sectors, rather than shifting the requirements onto the retail sector of the economy. Any exemptions or carve-outs, including for the banking or telecommunications industries, would leave consumers without protection and would be unfair to the other industries that would be burdened with additional responsibilities. During NACS Day on the Hill, attendees asked their lawmakers to support privacy legislation that applies to all industry sectors without exemptions and not make our businesses responsible for the privacy policies of other businesses and industries.

In times like these, it is critical that we make our voice heard on Capitol Hill.

Payments Security

The United States leads the world in payment fraud and lags far behind in security, competition and innovation. This largely is due to how payment security standards are set. While current law requires standard-setting bodies to have open membership and proceedings, the main payment standard bodies ignore these requirements. Today, the major card networks set payment security standards through standard-setting bodies like EMVCo without giving a voting voice to merchants, smaller networks, banks or consumers. As a result, these standards benefit the companies that set them at the expense of security, competition and innovation. NACS believes payment standard-setting bodies should follow the same rules as those in every other sector.

Keep ‘em Alive

After an update on the issues, attendees were prepped and ready to tell their story on the Hill. But before that, they were entertained by a show from the Capitol Steps. The Steps are a satirical comedy singing group that digs into the headlines of the day, and there was no shortage of content available in early March. Crowd favorites included songs such as “The Sound of Sanders” to the tune of “The Sound of Silence,” and “Keep ‘em Alive” to the tune of “Staying Alive” (a song about the aging members of the Supreme Court). The Steps didn’t pull any punches, and both sides of the political aisle were fair game.

A Story to Remember

For this year’s Day on the Hill, 52 teams of retailers and suppliers told their stories to 270 members of Congress and their staff covering 48 states, all but Alaska and Hawaii. Talk about leaving an impression!

Day on the Hill took place before the widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in the United States. Since meeting in early March, these retailers have been able to go back to members of Congress and their staff to talk about how the virus is affecting their workforce and business operations. They have been able to explain the critical role convenience stores play as essential businesses and why they should remain open during a national emergency. As Congress passes relief packages, they’ve been able to follow up and express what they’re seeing on the frontlines and what would be helpful to their businesses.

The convenience store industry is made up of passionate, resilient members who touch every community and congressional district in the United States. In times like these, it is critical that we make our voice heard on Capitol Hill, and we are grateful to our advocates for telling their story.

NACS Day on the Hill isn’t the only way you can tell your story. If you would like to get involved in our grassroots efforts, please contact Margaret Hardin at [email protected]

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