The new guy working the register at The Hub convenience store on Monday took a few customers by surprise.
Rep. Kevin Cramer said this wasn’t his first time working at a gas station — he ran a bulk fuel truck at a co-op in Kindred for one summer during his college years — and the North Dakota Republican took to the challenge just fine.
“He actually caught on really well,” said Melanie Stradling, The Hub’s new assistant general manager.
Cramer spent about an hour and a half touring The Hub, located off 40th Street West and Highway 22 in north Dickinson, hearing regulation concerns from its leadership that trace back to Congressional legislation and even taking putting on a personalized nametag to work the register alongside Stradling and other employees for about a half-hour. He also took time to visit with about a dozen South Heart High School speech class students who came to visit with him and eat lunch.
The visit was part of a national program by NACS, the association for convenience and fuel retailing, that puts members of Congress in the shoes of everyday convenience store workers. Caroline Quat, the political engagement manager for NACS, said Cramer is the 38th member of Congress to participate in the event since August 2014.
Cramer and Jared Scheeler, general manager of The Hub, said convenience stores are quietly but largely impacted by decisions made at national levels, from fuel and food regulations to cybersecurity.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to show the congressman, an elected offi cial, exactly what we do on a day-to-day basis and how the legislation in Washington really affects our business,” said Scheeler, a member of the NACS board of directors. “We could go there to his offi ce and talk about it all day long. But until you see how it affects us in real life, (Cramer’s visit) should be a little bit more memorable for him.”
Stradling, who starts in her new position today, spent her fi nal day as The Hub’s customer experience manager giving North Dakota’s only member of the U.S. House of Representatives a quick feel for what it’s like to be a convenience store employee. She said it was her fi rst interaction with one of the state’s elected offi cials.
“He got to see how all of our till is ran, where all of our product is and where the bar codes are,” she said. “He’s like, ‘I didn’t know that it was actually that much work just to scan an item.’”
Cramer said three talking points arose during the visit: The Environmental Protection Agency’s renewable fuel standard and how it affects fueling stations, the issue of maintaining cybersecurity at a small business and how new legislation in Congress regarding nutritional information may affect convenience stores.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 is currently in U.S. House subcommittee, but if passed, it could require the disclosure of nutritional items on nearly every food product purchased anywhere — something Cramer said convenience stores are afraid they’re ill equipped to handle. He pointed to personal pizzas and packaged, on-the-go sandwiches made at The Hub as food items the store could be in danger of discontinuing if the legislation isn’t well-defined.
“How does a convenience store remain convenient and at the same deal with the rule that’s as complex as that rule,” he said.
Above all, however, Cramer said he walked away most impressed by the amount of technology that goes into running a convenience store.
“Somebody really smart has made something really sophisticated really easy so even a member of Congress can handle it,” he said with a laugh.