A hot topic among affiliates is the question of whether to load purchases for customers who’ve made large purchases from the ReStore. At the forefront of the debate is the concern over potential for injury/liability, and how it should be handled from a customer service standpoint.
While the majority of instances where assistance is given result in a happy customer and nothing else to report, unfortunately, the risk of bodily injury, as well as damage to the customer’s vehicle, is present anytime a purchase is loaded.. In fact, over the years, the Habitat Affiliate Insurance Program has received several claims in this area..
Although you may not be able to totally eliminate all risk, your ReStore can minimize, or at least reduce, the chance of an incident occurring, while also fostering a safe environment and placing priority on the customer’s needs. your ReStore’s staff* is sufficiently trained on proper lifting and loading techniques for large items. In addition, ensure your employees have the proper safety equipment for the job, such as thick gloves and sturdy boots. When accomplished without incident, loading assistance can make a great impression from a customer service standpoint.
*Avoid using clerical staff for loading, as this may affect their Workers Comp. classification.
Alternatively, if your ReStore does not have staff available to assist with loading, train your existing team on how to politely decline the customer’s request with a thorough explanation. In addition, consider the following options:
- Hold the customer’s purchase for a few days AFTER the item has been paid for in full. This isn’t always the best option, especially if you have a very small ReStore with high donation intake, but it will help in reducing injury and liability risk.
- Have the names and numbers of vetted delivery companies to whom you could outsource the loading and delivery for your customers.
- Have the names and numbers of truck rental places if a customer needs a large vehicle to load their purchase correctly.
- Always have rope, straps, ties, red flags, etc. for customers to use (or purchase) if they need equipment to secure their purchase.
- Use cardboard or other packing material as a cushion to avoid damage.
Keep in mind that despite your best efforts or polite declination of assistance, there is still the possibility an incident may occur and a customer will make a claim against Habitat. In the event of such a scenario, please be aware you are required under your insurance policy to report the occurrence to your insurance carrier (ACE) in a timely manner. This generally means reporting as soon as you become aware of an incident – even if it initially appears that the individual involved is not injured or there is no significant property damage. Failure to do so could, at a minimum, have a detrimental effect on the investigation of the claim, and in some cases, result in a denial of coverage.
We appreciate your focus on safety at your ReStore, and in particular reducing the risk of injuries and/or property damage. For free training materials on the proper lifting and loading techniques, along with other safety related topics, see the Habitat affiliate website, www.hfhaffiliateinsurance.com.
Should you have any comments or questions regarding this topic or future ReStore topics of interest, we welcome your input. Please contact the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program – phone #888-553-9002/email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Eric Allen, HFHI ReStore Development Consultant – phone #1-800-HABITAT, ext. 5050/email: email@example.com.