How AVIA used Roamler to check its Tobacco sales compliance?

In view of the upcoming ban on sales of smoking products in supermarkets as of July 1, 2024 in the Netherlands, a further increase in the number of tobacco transactions at gas stations is expected. This development presents service station operators with new challenges. For example, smoking sales are subject to an age limit because tobacco products cannot be sold to minors. Service station employees must therefore check the age of the buyer by asking for an official ID before purchase. The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) strictly enforces this by having underage mystery shoppers make test purchases. If proof of identity is not then asked for, or is not properly checked, hefty fines of up to €9,000 follow. A temporary ban on tobacco sales may also be imposed.

Since a gas station quickly performs about 250 transactions with smoking products per day and thus things can often go wrong, employee attention to age verification is essential. Despite tools such as electronic id-checkers, posters and attention to this by managers, things often go wrong: during the last known sample of the NVWA in 51% of the cases. When that happens, it is a very unpleasant event for both the entrepreneur and the employee.

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This was also experienced by members of the AVIA cooperative, where people felt caught off guard by the checks and subsequent fines. After the first stations were fined, they decided not only to put extra time and energy into training staff and informing customers, but also to implement a complete plan-do-check-act circle. First, all conceivable measures to reduce the likelihood of a violation were contained in a plan. Next, this plan was implemented on the shop floor, including focused attention by managers on the issue so that every employee was informed. For the third phase, the check, AVIA called on Roamler. This was already a well-known partner for AVIA, through checks on promotions and brand monitoring, among other things. When asked, Roamler was also able to deploy youthful-looking mystery shoppers within the legal framework, so that the effectiveness of the measures taken could be assessed.

The following results include only the participating stations. In the first round, age was found to be unchecked in 2/3 of the cases after which the act phase arrived. Where things did go well, the employee was appropriately rewarded and often highlighted in internal newsletters. Employees who did not do well were personally coached to achieve a better result. This had an effect: in the next round, the proportion of “positive outcomes” rose to 60%, and in the most recent round it was 70%.

In other words, AVIA members are not there yet but with this new approach there is at least visibility into where things are going well, and where they are not. The efforts to improve compliance also lead to concrete results and more importantly – nowadays one gets compliments from the NVWA, when AVIA employees act neatly according to the applicable legislation during inspections.

“Changing behavior is easier said than done. The recurring nature of the Roamlers’ mystery visits allows AVIA to be close to the target in terms of laws and regulations surrounding tobacco sales. We see that it is getting the necessary attention among AVIA affiliated members and stations. The results have and will continue to improve thanks to the insight this measurement gives us. actions.

Susan Kuijpers, General Manager of the AVIA cooperative

“With all the measures AVIA has taken to be compliant with regulations, the interaction between the employee and the customer ultimately remains ‘the moment of truth. Nice to see that we can make a positive contribution to this with our mystery shoppers!

Christiaan Rijnhout, Commercial lead at Roamler

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