Responsible retailing

Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2001

The opinion piece by John Creed that appeared in your paper last week did a disservice to responsible retailers in Alaska. In view of the current world environment, the article was overly sensational in its reference to terrorism. The article could have had its intended impact without being so inflammatory and exaggerated.

Phillip Morris was allowed into our Williams Alaska Express retail stores on a very limited basis. From August through the end of the year, we had given them permission to be in each of our 28 stores around Alaska only one time for a maximum of four hours at each store. Only customers of legal age who had purchased cigarettes were interviewed and only if they voluntarily agreed.

Williams Alaska is sympathetic to legitimate and professionally expressed concerns about the type of marketing carried out by Phillip Morris. Williams Alaska has immediately and permanently discontinued this type of marketing by Phillip Morris. Their market representatives will no longer be in our stores.

Mr. Creed did not contact my company or me about his opinion piece and he failed to tell the whole story. Phillip Morris has conducted this type of in store marketing not only at Williams outlets, but also at other gasoline outlets where cigarettes are sold throughout Alaska and the other 49 states. At Williams Express, we card all buyers of cigarettes and we have actually lost older customers because of this responsible policy. In fact, on Friday, Nov. 2, 2001, Channel 2 News in Anchorage conducted undercover stings at several of our retail outlets. They sent an underage buyer into the stores to purchase cigarettes. Channel 2 secretly filmed these attempted purchases. In every case, Williams employees checked the ID of the customer and turned him away.

Williams belongs to the Responsible Retailers of Alaska, a group that sets high marketing standards for members in the sale of both cigarettes and alcohol. Williams Alaska will continue to be responsive and sensitive to community concerns in all aspects of our business. We are proud of our record of community involvement and support. We will continue to be a responsible retailer and ask in return that John Creed and others be responsible journalists.

Jeff Cook

Vice President

Williams Alaska Petroleum

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