After lotto snafu, RF White Hen back in corporate hands

? Company seeks new franchisee after revoking agreement with former operator.

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Financial shortages in the operation of the Illinois Lottery machines at a White Hen Pantry in River Forest were among the reasons the store's franchise owner has turned the Lake Street store back to its corporate owners.

Courtney Hill, spokesperson for the Illinois Lottery, said Gregorio Vidal, the former franchisee, had defaulted twice on his mandatory payment to the lottery. Typically, retailers keep 5 percent of the revenue from lottery ticket sales with the rest going to the lottery on a short timetable.

Hill said the lottery had to temporarily halt the operation of the vending machine after Vidal missed the payment twice. The machine was not removed but the tickets were taken out of the machine, he said.

However, Vidal said it was initially his decision to stop selling lottery tickets, not the Illinois Lottery's.

"They did an inventory check. I let them. I had nothing to hide but when they found [revenue] shortage, I couldn't understand where it came from," said Vidal. "As soon as it happened, I called up White Hen corporate and told them to talk to the Illinois Lottery to have the machine stopped."

Vidal has been operating the store at 7971 Lake St. for four years.

"Retailers are very important to us, but at the same time, they must uphold the agreements ? in this case, we had to take the appropriate measures," Hill said.

Upon notification of the shortage by Vidal, White Hen corporate suggested that Vidal resign from the franchise.

Vidal agreed.

"It was a half-and-half decision. They suggested that I resign and I did," he said.

Vidal said despite the incident, he is still working at the same store as an employee.

"I still work at the store. If White Hen thought there were problems with me, they wouldn't let me work there," he said.

Complaints about the store being poorly stocked for a short while last month, were the result of the change in ownership, said an employee at White Hen corporate. Such stock depletions can arise momentarily during an administrative transition and the customers should not be concerned, the White Hen employee said. Lottery ticket sales have also resumed.

Tony Montgomery, the current store manager, said the business will continue to offer excellent products and service. He added that before a new franchisee takes over, that White Hen corporate will inspect and fix the store "from top to bottom."

To ensure the quality of service, any prospective franchisee will go through a strict procedure of background check, interview and training.

Montgomery had no comments regarding how soon or who will franchise the store.

According to White Hen, the store has no franchise application at the moment.

In business for nearly 40 years, White Hen operates 275 stores, predominantly franchisee-operated, in Illinois, northern Indiana, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

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