Store employee fired for stopping shoplifter

Grenadier

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What is interesting, is that the store manager was the one who asked him to help stop the shoplifter in the first place.

http://www.mlive.com/news/annarbornews/index.ssf?/base/news-25/1198770066160770.xml&coll=2

Schultz said he was called to the store's office the next day, on Christmas Eve, and was fired because he violated a company policy prohibiting employees from having any physical contact with a customer.

Kate Klotz, a company spokeswoman, said the policy is clear and listed in a booklet that all employees have to acknowledge that they received before they can start work. "The fact that he touched him, period, is means for termination,'' said Klotz.

Schultz said he acted as a private citizen on property that isn't owned by Whole Foods, but Klotz said where the incident happened doesn't change the policy. "He is still considered an employee of Whole Foods Market regardless of where he was and what was happening,'' she said.

So... Did the store manager want to simply have more harsh words with the thief?
 

MJS

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Hmm...some clarification is needed on some parts of the story. It states that the manager was yelling for help and assistance in stopping the shoplifter. Ok..so what did he expect, that the suspect was going to stop and cooperate on words alone? If there is a 'hands off' policy, then it would have been best for someone to call the police, giving them a description, items taken, direction of travel, any suspect vehicle, make, model, etc. I mean, if you can't touch them, you have 2 options: 1) continue to run after them while talking on the phone to the police or 2) don't chase, but do your best to give the details I listed above.

When they finally caught up to the suspect, it states that someone grabbed the bag from his hand. I'm assuming no contact was made? So after all this, the suspect just let them grab the bag with ease? If there was contact made, then the person who made it is just as guilty as the off duty clerk.

Which brings be to another point. The clerk punched out. He was off the clock and therefore, not acting as a worker. With a good lawyer, he may be able to beat that.

As I said, if there is a hands off policy, then running and risking possible injury to yourself, is just not worth it. Get as much info. as possible, and call the police. If they get him, great. If not, then chalk up the incident as a loss and carry on with business.
 

exile

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This is one for Horror Stories, I think!
 

Kacey

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And people wonder why so few help others these days; it seems that involvement in public affairs is its own punishment. Several decades ago he would have been feted, praised, perhaps even given a bonus. When did fear of lawsuits making doing the "right thing" the wrong thing to do?

As far as the "no touching" policy goes - what about helping a person who has tripped? Or helping catch a runaway toddler? Someone who is suffering a medical emergency? I understand where the policy came from - it feeds into the same concern as discussions about touching students - but such things can be taken too far.

The employee was off the clock, and he did what he felt was appropriate - and by his own statement would have done the same for other companies as well. He should have been commended - not fired - and the suspect had been stopped, and was allowed to get away, in the name of this company policy.

My guess is, after the public outcry, they'll offer him his job back - but if I were him, I wouldn't take it; working for a company that would fire you for such an act, and then rehire you because of public outcry and to avoid a lawsuit doesn't sound like the optimum working environment. As consumers, we all pay for such policies, in increased costs to cover the theft. As little as I want the costs of such a lawsuit passed on to the customers of this company, I agree that this man has a beautiful lawsuit in the making, should he choose to sue - and I hope he wins big.
 

Jonathan

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Most retail stores tell employees to not get involved with a shoplifter as a CYA maneuver- stores don't want to get sued by employees who get hurt on shift. At least, this is how it was explained to me.

I wonder though- since the person is a shoplifter, are they still a 'customer'? I mean, if you wanted to go by the letter of the employee manual, the argument could be made that a customer is defined as one who means to do legitimate business with the store. Stealing pretty much circumvents that definition.
 

jks9199

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Hmm...some clarification is needed on some parts of the story. It states that the manager was yelling for help and assistance in stopping the shoplifter. Ok..so what did he expect, that the suspect was going to stop and cooperate on words alone? If there is a 'hands off' policy, then it would have been best for someone to call the police, giving them a description, items taken, direction of travel, any suspect vehicle, make, model, etc. I mean, if you can't touch them, you have 2 options: 1) continue to run after them while talking on the phone to the police or 2) don't chase, but do your best to give the details I listed above.

When they finally caught up to the suspect, it states that someone grabbed the bag from his hand. I'm assuming no contact was made? So after all this, the suspect just let them grab the bag with ease? If there was contact made, then the person who made it is just as guilty as the off duty clerk.

Which brings be to another point. The clerk punched out. He was off the clock and therefore, not acting as a worker. With a good lawyer, he may be able to beat that.

As I said, if there is a hands off policy, then running and risking possible injury to yourself, is just not worth it. Get as much info. as possible, and call the police. If they get him, great. If not, then chalk up the incident as a loss and carry on with business.
I agree. But I see Whole Foods point, too. Anyone want to bet that, had the clerk been injured, he'd have wanted workman's comp to cover it, arguing that when the manager called for help. the clerk was back on duty.

If you've got a no-contact policy, then you shouldn't do anything with a shoplifter outside the store, because even simply asking them to stop could lead to a fight. If the store is not going to back an employee, then they shouldn't be expected to get into situations that could lead to unauthorized contact.

And I agree with Kacey, too. "No touching" makes no sense; what about tapping a deaf person (or anyone else) on the shoulder to get their attention? Or grabbing someone before they step into a dangerous situation, like a shelf that's about to fall? Or... what if an employee just plain bumps into someone through human clumsiness?
 

MJS

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I agree. But I see Whole Foods point, too. Anyone want to bet that, had the clerk been injured, he'd have wanted workman's comp to cover it, arguing that when the manager called for help. the clerk was back on duty.

If you've got a no-contact policy, then you shouldn't do anything with a shoplifter outside the store, because even simply asking them to stop could lead to a fight. If the store is not going to back an employee, then they shouldn't be expected to get into situations that could lead to unauthorized contact.

I see your points. Of course, if it did come down to workers comp., it could possibly be argued that the employee was off duty, not acting in the capacity if an employee, but instead a civilian. IMO, if this is as strict a policy as it seems, then technically, the manager was in the wrong as well. I mean, why call for all this help and make a big scene? Did he think that his words alone would stop the bad guy or that when he finally had him cornered, that the guy would just hand over the bag? The manager should be under the same rules as the rest of the employees.

He'd have been better off getting a solid description and calling the police.
 

jks9199

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Most retail stores tell employees to not get involved with a shoplifter as a CYA maneuver- stores don't want to get sued by employees who get hurt on shift. At least, this is how it was explained to me.

I wonder though- since the person is a shoplifter, are they still a 'customer'? I mean, if you wanted to go by the letter of the employee manual, the argument could be made that a customer is defined as one who means to do legitimate business with the store. Stealing pretty much circumvents that definition.
There are a couple of reasons why stores tell employees, outside of management or security, not to confront shoplifters. Protecting the employee from physical attack (and the company from insurance claims stemming from that) is only one of them. They're also concerned, rightfully so, about false accusations and arrests (when the person didn't really steal something), slander charges, and other problems.
 

JadecloudAlchemist

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I know people who work for whole foods and they are strict on their guidelines. The problem is Whole foods just does not want to be sued and using the signed book policy as its refuge. In most retail stores they have 2 policy in their hand books 1. on or off the clock you represent the company and any thing that makes the company look bad is grounds for termination 2. If you see someone stealing do not touch them or run after them rather make a detail decription. I know of a case were 2 managers went after a guy for a toothbrush and the guy turned and stabbed both killing one manager and seriously wounding another. The guy may have done the right thing morally but morality does not pay the bills.
 

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When they finally caught up to the suspect, it states that someone grabbed the bag from his hand. I'm assuming no contact was made? So after all this, the suspect just let them grab the bag with ease? If there was contact made, then the person who made it is just as guilty as the off duty clerk.
In the State that I once worked as a "loss prevention" employee, getting the merchandise back was not the end of the "job." We were legally empowered to detain the shoplifter [to me they were "shoplifters" -- to those who didn't witness the event(s) they were alleged shoplifters], and required to hold them until the police arrived.

We were to use reasonable means to hold them. If they ran, we could tackle, apply holds and drag them to the office. If they fought, we could fight back. etc.

Several "regular" employees were available if I ever needed back-up. Although I probably should have availed myself of their help, the adreniline rush just made me loose sight of everything but the "bad guy."
 

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In the State that I once worked as a "loss prevention" employee, getting the merchandise back was not the end of the "job." We were legally empowered to detain the shoplifter [to me they were "shoplifters" -- to those who didn't witness the event(s) they were alleged shoplifters], and required to hold them until the police arrived.

We were to use reasonable means to hold them. If they ran, we could tackle, apply holds and drag them to the office. If they fought, we could fight back. etc.

Several "regular" employees were available if I ever needed back-up. Although I probably should have availed myself of their help, the adreniline rush just made me loose sight of everything but the "bad guy."

That's how it should be...There are a couple of larger stores up here that have a no touch policy and they are getting robbed blind and don't seem to care...The perps know nothing will happen and have a field day, the employees will at least call the police..
 

Ping898

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That's how it should be...There are a couple of larger stores up here that have a no touch policy and they are getting robbed blind and don't seem to care...The perps know nothing will happen and have a field day, the employees will at least call the police..


And sadly those of us who don't shoplift get to pay higher prices to make up the the fact that so much crap is stolen....wouldn't want anything bad to happen to the balance sheet.....
 

arnisador

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If they did this because it ultimately protects their employees by reinforcing a corporate policy not to physically engage potentially violent 'customers' (even if a local manager exceeds his or her authority by asking for such help) then I understand, though it's still pretty hard-hearted. If it's really because of a 'no-contact' rule then that's silly. They should just say what they mean.

Let's see a show of hands from people who would boycott Whole Foods because an employee 'touched' a fleeing thief. No, you in the handcuffs and bright orange jumpsuit, put your hands down. It's just ridicuolous on the face of it.
 

MA-Caver

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This is one for Horror Stories, I think!
Actually I think it belongs in the "How STUPID is that?!?" files.

The real blame has to go to the lawyers who'd want to glean every penny out of situations like this. Ok yeah, the employee grabs the shoplifter and the shoplifter (naturally NOT wanting to go to jail) puts up a fight and the employee gets hurt in the process, thus putting up a loss of time (and money) by getting workman's comp and lost time by not working.

Well sheesh! If the employer doesn't want to PAY for actual workman's comp they shouldn't offer it should they? Oh, it's for the employees who slip on the wet floor while mopping the asiles, or cuts themselves with the box cutter, or has a load of canned vegetables dropped on their foot, or smashes their fingers in-between shopping carts.... :rolleyes:

Billy was right... "first thing we gotta do is get rid of the lawyers!"

Then get rid of the damned Judges who support those Lawyers' arguments!
 

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Once when I got held up while working at Video Update on Thanksgiving (the highest rental day of the year! Who woulda thunk it?), I came to the realization that the robber's gun wasn't loaded (he pulled the slide back, for effect, TWICE with nothing being ejected). I looked at the gun & then looked him straight in the eye. They decided it was time to leave, with my drop envelope of $50, and the other employees register with $900 in it (he hadn't made a drop all night, sucks to be you).
When the cops found out, they were shocked that I didn't just beat the hell out of the guys. I told them that I wanted to, it was a hard decision, but 1) I like my job & don't want to get sued AND fired, and 2) we're insured for theft, it's not my problem. They said that unfortunately, that was the right answer.
 

morph4me

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I've heard similar stories in the past, once from a bouncer who was fired because he physically removed a troublemaker from a bar and the owner was afraid of repercussions and once from a security guard who was fired for physically restraining someone who walked passed the security counter without signing in. Makes me wonder why anyone would step up to stop criminal activity unless they were LEO's, and even then they have to worry about lawsuits.
 

Drac

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morph4me said:
I've heard similar stories in the past, once from a bouncer who was fired because he physically removed a troublemaker from a bar


I was lucky..Every club I ever bounced for back it's employees..
 

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-I have a friend back in NY work has worked retail security at various places, and he wishes a return to the old days of being able to nail the thieving bastards walking out the door with stolen merchandise. He lives for the chase, takedown, handcuffing, drag into the office, call the police, take a photo, etc, etc. But yeah, companies would rather take the lost in revenue, which at some places is a huge loss every year, than suffer a lawsuit. It should be stated policy that if you steal from this store, we will go after you. Letting people get away with stealing, not nailing them right at the store just encourages the bad behaviour to continue. Pathetic. Well, for my friend, he bounces at the goth club back home, he doesn't have anything holding him back there;-)

Andrew
 

Drac

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-I have a friend back in NY work has worked retail security at various places, and he wishes a return to the old days of being able to nail the thieving bastards walking out the door with stolen merchandise. He lives for the chase, takedown, handcuffing, drag into the office, call the police, take a photo, etc, etc. But yeah, companies would rather take the lost in revenue, which at some places is a huge loss every year, than suffer a lawsuit. It should be stated policy that if you steal from this store, we will go after you. Letting people get away with stealing, not nailing them right at the store just encourages the bad behaviour to continue. Pathetic. Well, for my friend, he bounces at the goth club back home, he doesn't have anything holding him back there;-)

Andrew..

Those days are gone for good my friend...A major building supply company up here got rid of the part time cops and brought in unarmed , untrained rent-a-cops to cut down on the physical altercations..They don't do **** but stand there...
 

jks9199

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-I have a friend back in NY work has worked retail security at various places, and he wishes a return to the old days of being able to nail the thieving bastards walking out the door with stolen merchandise. He lives for the chase, takedown, handcuffing, drag into the office, call the police, take a photo, etc, etc. But yeah, companies would rather take the lost in revenue, which at some places is a huge loss every year, than suffer a lawsuit. It should be stated policy that if you steal from this store, we will go after you. Letting people get away with stealing, not nailing them right at the store just encourages the bad behaviour to continue. Pathetic. Well, for my friend, he bounces at the goth club back home, he doesn't have anything holding him back there;-)

Andrew
The thing is that it doesn't take but a couple of lawsuits (even successfully defending a lawsuit when you did nothing wrong isn't cheap...) to do at least as much damage as shoplifters. And internal losses (both theft and error) often exceed external theft.

But I'm not really suggesting that stores should apprehend and prosecute shoplifters. I've got multiple, admittedly anectdotal, incidents where a store's known, aggressive, and effective policy of 100% prosecution of shoplifters when caught (including letting loss prevention associates chase and use some force to detain) deterred people from stealing there. You can write policies and train people to detain a shoplifter, while minimizing risk to both associates and suspects, and without making your store security staff a bunch of cop-wannabes.
 

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