7-ELEVEN: Outspoken 7-11 Franchisee Hashim Syed Gets “Retaliatory” Visit and Warning

by Sean Kelly  7-Eleven franchise owner Hashim Syed shared his experience as a franchisee on National Public Radio.  One week later, Syed received a surprise visit from two corporate senior VPs from Dallas and an ominous “letter of notification” from the franchisor.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com)   According to a follow-up report by WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell (see 7-Eleven warns Chicago franchisee who criticized company), 7-Eleven spokesperson Margaret Chabris claims that Chicago franchisee Hashim Syed has the right to speak out about his experiences and views.

“It’s freedom of speech,” Chabris is quoted as saying. “That’s fine.”

However, when asked whether a surprise inspection of Syed’s North Side Chicago franchise and subsequent “letter of notification” by two Dallas-based senior vice presidents was prompted by his interview with WBEZ, Chabris would not answer.

Jas Dhillon, vice chair of the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees, was more direct, stating:

“This is nothing but retaliation.”

“Nothing but retaliation” by 7-Eleven, Inc. Claims Franchisee

Hashim Syed is one of a growing number of respected7-Eleven franchise owners who are speaking out publicly against the practices of 7-Eleven, Inc.

UnhappyFranchisee.Com is reporting on numerous protests and lawsuits waged by 7-Eleven franchisees throughout the U.S. who claim the Dallas-based, Japanese-owned franchisor has reduced them to “glorified managers” (Syed’s words) and takes away their valuable stores at will. (See links to the stories of Dev Patel, Karamjeet Sodhi, Tyrone Carr and others at  Has 7-ELEVEN Declared War on its Franchisees? (Index) )

According to the WBEZ story, Hashim Syed invited two WBEZ reporters to his Rogers Park store for an interview last month.

Syed told the reporters how the 7-Eleven, Inc., a subsidiary of Japan-based Seven & I Holdings Co., had “tightened rules for its franchisees over the years,” and was increasingly “dumping its employment responsibilities on the franchisees.”

The story was broadcast April 8, 2014 (NPR Reports on Franchising & Franchise Problems).

It didn’t take long for the company to send a clear and unsympathetic message to Syed.  According to the WBEZ:

One week later, 7-Eleven officials inspected his store. Syed said the inspection took place without notice. He identified the officials as Bill Engen and Ena Williams, both senior vice presidents based at the Dallas headquarters.

The next day, a 7-Eleven “letter of notification” accused Syed of violating his franchise agreement because some products were out of stock and because he allegedly was not using one of his hot-dog grills as required. The letter was accompanied by 17 photos showing spots on Syed’s shelves where products were sold out. The letter did not mention his statements to WBEZ.

Warning letters from franchisors are not uncommon. The franchisees usually have a chance to fix the problems. But a letter could also lead to trouble, even a 7-Eleven takeover of the store.

7-Eleven Franchisees Refuse to be Silenced

While it’s likely that 7-Eleven, Inc. intends to send a non-reconciliatory message (threat?) to would-be franchisee whistleblowers, it doesn’t seem to be working all that well.

7-Eleven franchisee Jas Dhillon publicly spoke in support of his fellow franchisee, claiming that 7-Eleven was trying to silence a franchisee who won a national award from the company for running “the best store in the country.”

And Hashim Syed does not show signs of going silent anytime soon.  This week, he is reportedly flying to Japan “where he will meet with other 7-Eleven franchisees. He said he is working to strengthen ties between 7-Eleven franchisees around the world so they have more power to stand up to the company.”

More and more franchisees are sharing their stories with UnhappyFranchisee.Com, and new lawsuits continue to be filed.

Dear 7-Eleven:  Here’s a Crazy Thought…

Dear 7-Eleven:  You no doubt have a venerable public relations team, and Ms. Chabris’ wields a “No comment” with deftness and aplomb, however…

One wonders whether the best response to criticism of heavy-handed bullying, intimidation and apparent disregard for the success of franchisees is, in fact, heavy-handed bullying, intimidation and apparent disregard for the success of franchisees.

If you wish to silence unhappy franchisees, perhaps you should give the Iron Fist approach a rest and try something new.

Something crazy.

Something unexpected.

Something like, maybe, acknowledging that 7-Eleven franchisees built your company and pay your paychecks.

Your franchisees have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and many have invested decades of their lives to make 7-Eleven the largest convenience store chain in the world.

Perhaps you could at least pretend that you respect their investments, that you regard them as adults, and that you are willing to listen to and consider their grievances without threatening to take away their livelihoods and family businesses?

If you’d like to silence franchisees, try that.

They’ll never see it coming and will be struck, at least temporarily, speechless.

Related reading:

NPR Reports on Franchising & Franchise Problems

UnhappyFranchisee.com featured on NPR’s Franchising: Behind the Burgers

7-ELEVEN Franchise Owners are Glorified Managers, Franchisee Tells NPR

7-ELEVEN on UnhappyFranchisee.Com [UPDATED]

7-ELEVEN Stole Our Store – Dev Patel’s Story

WHAT DO YOU THINK? ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE 7-ELEVEN FRANCHISE & 7-ELEVEN INC.?

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TAGS: 7-Eleven, 7-Eleven franchise, 7-Eleven protest, 7-Eleven lawsuit, 7-Eleven franchisee, 7-11 franchise, 7-11 Chicago, 7-Eleven NPR, 7-eleven franchise complaints, Hashim Syed, 7-Eleven WBEZ, Seven & I Holdings Co., Bill Engen, Ena Williams

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