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Let's discuss that Seven-Eleven that was forced to stay open in a blizzard

This week’s featured article

KYODO

The owner of a Seven-Eleven convenience store in Fukui Prefecture was allegedly forced to work for about 50 hours without sleep in February after the chain rejected his requests to suspend business amid the heaviest snowfall in decades, a labor union has said.

That month the prefecture saw its heaviest snowfall since 1981, with accumulations reaching 147 centimeters on Feb. 7. Twelve people died as a result of the snow, which also crushed over 1,000 greenhouses and left at one point some 1,500 vehicles stranded on Route 8, a major artery that connects the Hokuriku and Kansai regions.

That prompted the prefecture to ask for the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces for help.

The labor union of franchise owners said the store owner, who is in his 50s, began shoveling snow in the store’s parking lot from early on Feb. 6 and ended up working at the store until Feb. 8.

He repeatedly asked the company if he could suspend operations, fearing snow on the store’s roof could fall onto customers. But the union said the head office told him to keep the store open, saying any injuries to customers would be covered by insurance.

His wife, who is in her 40s and also works at the store, had been removing snow with him and fell ill from exhaustion by the end of the first day. The head office later sent people to assist at the store, but they left after just a few hours, according to the union.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co. said its rules state that franchise store owners have the discretion to continue operations in times of disaster, adding it is investigating what happened.

First published in The Japan Times on April 18.

Warm up

Have a one-minute chat about how tough your work is.

Game

Collect words related to convenience stores, e.g., 24-hour, part-time job, overtime.

New words

1) allegedly: something that isn’t proven, e.g., The politician will go on trial for allegedly stealing money.

2) artery: a major road, e.g., Traffic on the arteries is at a stand still.

3) discretion: the freedom to decide what to do in a certain situation, e.g., Her parents used their discretion in deciding what movie to let the children watch.

Guess the headline

Seven-Eleven store chain f _ _ _ _ _ owner to stay o _ _ _ during Fukui blizzard, union says

Questions

1) What was happening in Fukui on the day of this event?

2) What did the store owner request?

3) What was the response from the head office?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Are convenience stores convenient?

2) What do you think about what the store owner had to go through?

Reference

コンビニの愛称ですっかり私たちの生活の一部となったコンビニエンスストアは、その名の通り便利さを前提とされ、いつ行っても開いていて必要なものが一通り揃っていることが当然とされています。しかし、それは簡単なことではなく、 “便利さ”を実現するための裏側が垣間見える出来事が起きました。

身近にあるコンビニに、私達はどこまでコンビニエンスを求めればよいのでしょうか。

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