The Pantry Joins Interchange Fight


In Vicksburg, Miss., nine Kangaroo stores owned and operated by The Pantry Inc. joined the fight against credit card interchange fees Dec. 18 by posting signs on each gas pump and placing petitions inside on counters.


A manager at one Kangaroo c-store told the Vicksburg Post that as of the morning of Dec. 28, 10 days after the petition campaign began, 396 signatures had been collected, meaning the store is already ahead of its goal.


The North Carolina-based Pantry’s campaign leader, Scot Knox, said the company wants to collect 1.8 million signatures at its 1,600 stores through 11 states across the South during a month-long campaign.


“We set that figure based on realistic goals per store,” he said. “That’s roughly 35 signatures a day per store.”


One convenience store owner in town decided not to join the petition still agreed credit card fees are affecting his business. “The fees are pretty high,” said Kenny Patel, who manages the counter at the Exxon on Halls Ferry Road. The stores are caught in the middle as Americans shift to a cash-less economy. “You have to have credit cards. It’s actually hurting us.”


Patel’s station has signs in front of the cash registers in each of the family’s 12 convenience stores in Mississippi, to inform customers of a $5 minimum on all card transactions because fees cancel out the profit on small purchases. “We’re still in a loss by selling customers $5 (in merchandise),” he said.


The Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, a Virginia-based nonprofit trade group is leading the petition drive. The association said credit card fees incurred by retailers have increased. For example, c-stores across the country paid $8.4 billion in fees in 2008, nearly triple what they paid in 2003.


The association wants Congress to take action, but the House and Senate already passed one credit card fee reform package to limit some industry practices. Instead, the legislation has resulted in higher interest charges and fees for consumers, plus higher fees charged to vendors who accept the cards.


Jeff Lenard, vice president of communications at the association, agreed that credit card companies face expenses of technology, fraud and nonpayment by customers. “This is a complex issue,” he said. “The goal is to show that this is a big deal that they need to address.”





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