Already, 7-Eleven Inc. has acquired between 1 million and 1.2 million signatures on its in-store petitions, which ask Congress to regulate interchange rates, Digital Transactions magazine reported Tuesday.
The company anticipates gaining 3 million customer signatures by the end of the petition drive on Aug. 10, according to an executive with 7-Eleven.
7-Eleven and its franchisees paid $160 million in discount fees last year, a fourfold increase from five years ago. This fee is the third-largest on the chain’s financial statement, behind rent and salaries. The original goal of the signature drive, which began at the end of June, was to collect 1 million signatures in support of interchange rate regulation, which the company quickly surpassed.
“To be honest, we’re a little surprised. We’ve touched a nerve,” said Keith Jones, director of government affairs at 7-Eleven. The company distributed about 9,500 petition booklets and bases the current signature-count estimate on “reports from folks in the field and anecdotal evidence,” Jones told Digital Transactions magazine.
And soon, 7-Eleven may not be alone in its fight against credit card fees. At least two other unnamed c-store chains are beginning efforts to rally customers in support of interchange regulation, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. “There are at least two talking about doing something-I’m not sure what,” a NACS spokesperson told Digital Transactions.
Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. responded to the 7-Eleven petition drive with statements charging that the chain is recruiting its customers to support regulation that will end up costing consumers more. “Unfortunately, 7-Eleven…is asking consumers to sign a petition that would ultimately shift 7-Eleven’s costs of doing business onto consumers while 7-Eleven enjoys all the benefits of accepting electronic payments,” said a statement from Visa. “7-Eleven is misleading its customers into thinking that a reduction in the store’s cost of acceptance would lead to lower pricing,” said the MasterCard statement.
Jones, however, said customers are signing the petition out of a sense of loyalty to their neighborhood store. “We get about a thousand customers a day at our stores, and a core of these are very loyal,” he said. “When asked to help out, they help out.”
The company plans to send the top gatherer of signatures to Washington, D.C., to present the petitions to Congress, and will pay the store’s acceptance costs for a year, Jones said.