Strange days are upon us for business owners. The recent spread of the COVID 19 virus has consumers panicked and merchants worried about the future of their business. Some brick and mortar businesses have chosen to close down completely until the coronavirus or COVID-19 has run its course. For many businesses, shutting their doors is not an option as it would mean a significant financial loss. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to keep the doors open during these uncertain times.
Keep it Sanitary
This may seem obvious, but there are many small ways business owners can protect themselves from the spread of germs in their establishment. Here’s just a few tips to keep in mind:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
- At the register, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer next to you and use it often.
- Equally as important and more difficult to do for some – avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Don’t shake hands. It’s a hard thing to do when you want to keep up the customer relations, but in these times most people will understand that you’re just trying to keep everyone healthy.
- Wipe down heavily trafficked areas more frequently using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. For retail this means counter-tops, registers, your terminals and all door handles. In addition to these areas, restaurants need to focus on POS screens, soda dispensers, beer taps menus and condiment bottles. Bars should cover drink garnishes and move them behind the counter, away from free floating germs and grabby customers.
Consider Contact-less Payment Technology
Coronavirus or COVID-19 gives you even more reason to move toward contact-less technology when making payments. Contact-less payments come in two main forms on a credit card – Mobile wallet (app payments) and contact-less technology embedded directly onto a credit card. Mobile payment technology like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay are on nearly every smartphone, with consumers already equipped with the tools they need to avoid touching a payment terminal. There are many terminal options available today that support contact-less payments with a near-field communication (NFC) capability. Contact-less card payments are wildly popular abroad and a bit slower to catch on in the U.S. However this is rapidly changing with the spread of NFC payment terminals and nearly every major U.S. bank issuing contact-less cards. Reach out to your authorized SignaPay Partner if you are interested in upgrading to an NFC capable terminal.
Change the Way You Do Business
Think out of the box about how you can continue to conduct business while minimizing your customers exposure to you as well as other customers. For restaurants, this may mean shutting down your dining room and moving to an online/pickup/delivery-based business for a while. Similarly, for retailers, if your customers can pre-pay online and have an in-store pickup, or be able to call-in orders for pickup this would greatly minimize the amount of time spent at the location and reduce the risk to coronavirus or COVID-19 exposure. Meet them at the front door or their car with their order to further mitigate contact.
Rationing and Price Gouging
Anti trust laws are aimed a preserving free and unfettered competition however an exception to this principal during times of natural disasters or crises – such as a virus epidemic. During these times basic necessities such as drinking water, food, gas and medical supplies become scarce and the imbalance in bargaining power leads to price gouging – raising prices to exorbitant levels on goods and services that are in high demand with limited quantity. Numerous states have statutes in place to protect consumers during disaster periods and have recently issued enactments and warnings against the practice. Merchants found to be price gouging can be fined up to $10,000 per violation so check with your state laws before marking up necessities. Another thing to consider is rationing your current stock of necessity items such as sanitizer and toilet paper to prevent hoarding situations and maintain a fair availability to all shoppers.
Watch for Online Coronavirus Scams
The amount of information about the epidemic and the array of conflicting claims has provided an opening for criminals. Recently emails have surfaced that claim to be from businesses such as health care facilities or employee remote work plans and solicit payment or personal information or release malware when opened. The BBB has recommended a number of safeguards against these emails including watching out for too-good-to-be-true claims like “miracle cure” or things not recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Always check the domain of the email sender – if it’s not from a reputable company domain, it’s probably a scammer.
At the end of the day, every business owner needs to make the best decision for the safety and well-being of their customers, employees and themselves. So continue to evaluate your situation as well as the local quarantine updates provided by your community news outlets to help you determine the next steps for your business.