Each day, thousands of Californians walk into one of my six 7-Eleven stores or one of my other small retail stores for their morning coffee, an emergency trip for diapers, or a sandwich at lunch.
I immigrated to the United States as a teenager and worked through high school at a Modesto car wash, working all the way up to manager. I knew then my dream was to be my own boss.
In 2000, I became a 7-Eleven franchisee and today have six stores and a number of independent convenience and liquor stores with about 120 employees. I’ve been able to put my kids through college and give back to our community.
Every election cycle we hear so much blustery talk from politicians about helping small businesses, but we rarely see results. On one issue, 7-Eleven franchisees like me mobilized. Then Republicans and Democrats came together to put small business owners first.
Most of my customers pay with debit cards. Banks charge retailers a processing fee for each debit-card transaction. Before reform, those fees we paid to banks for every debit card transactions had ballooned to become one of our highest expenses. Especially on small purchases of drinks and snacks – 7-Eleven’s specialty – the biggest banks were making more off the sales than we were.
7-Eleven franchisees gathered over 3 million signatures – one of the largest petition drives in history – and presented them to our representatives to tell them how these out-of-control swipe fees hurt our businesses.
In response, Congress passed the Durbin Amendment with bipartisan support as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill. It empowered the Federal Reserve to cap debit card swipe fees charged by banks so they are “reasonable and proportional” to the actual cost of the transaction.
Since reform has gone into effect, the average swipe fee for each debit card transaction has fallen from 43 cents to 24 cents.
Across the country, retailers saved $8.5 billion just in the first year of reforms – of which, $5.8 billion was passed back to consumers. Putting these savings back into the economy has supported 37,000 jobs and helped 7-Eleven franchisees keep prices low and hire and retain employees.
Swipe-fee reform saved my business $14,400 a year, which has allowed me to retain my 120 employees.
Now, some in Congress – though a provision in the CHOICE Act – want to put the 100 largest banks in the world ahead of thousands of small business retailers and repeal swipe-fee reform. This would take 7-Eleven franchisees and other small business owners back to a time when the biggest banks could charge whatever rate they wished on every debit card transaction.
Soon, Congressman Jeff Denham, Jim Costa and Jerry McNerney, who represent the districts my stores are in, will vote on the CHOICE Act, which would repeal debit card swipe fee reform. Thousands of small business owners need Costa, Denham and McNerney to put us first, ahead of big bankers.
Debit card swipe-fee reform puts real savings back in the hands of retailers and consumers. We must protect it.
We are the small-business owners you see when you walk into our stores. I am asking Congress to support Main Street businesses. Swipe fee reform isn’t just about 7-Eleven franchisees, but every small business that hires from within our neighborhoods and supports our communities.
Sukhi Sandhu owns and operates six 7-Eleven stores and several other independent convenience and liquor stores in Modesto, Manteca and Stockton.