Home Depot Fires Another Employee For Stopping A Thief

Attention Home Depot Employees: They really will fire you if you attempt to stop a crime in progress. That’s what happened to 24-year-old Dustin Chester. He worked at a Home Depot in Murfreesboro, Tennessee until he caught and restrained a thief who he caught prying open a soda machine with a crowbar. Now he’s unemployed.

From the Tennessean:

“When he ran, I ran after him,” he said. Chester caught the thief and restrained him in the parking lot until police arrived.

Chester was shocked to find out that for managers and most employees, catching and detaining thieves is against company policy.

“The district manager told me that we are supposed to let thieves walk away; it blew my mind,” said Chester, a one-time employee of the year.

Chester said there was no loss prevention officer on duty during the Aug. 20 incident and that in his seven years, he’d never heard of the company’s policy.

But even if he had known how the company wanted him to act, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“He had a crowbar, and what if he had come inside and gone after customers or the employees working at the registers?” Chester asked. “I’d rather have him coming at me than going after any of the customers.”

Home Depot’s spokesperson responded that “Safety was the primary focus of our company,” when asked why Chester was fired.

Poor guy. The Murfreesboro police spokesman Kyle Evans told the Tennessean that citizens should concentrate on identifying criminals rather than tackling them in parking lots.

“Property isn’t worth getting hurt over — merchandise can be replaced and people can’t,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Home Depot has fired workers for trying to stop a crime. If you work there, you really should just let people steal. Stopping them will cost you your job.

Home Depot employee looking for job after stopping alleged thief [Tennessean]

Comments

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  1. cedarpointfan says:

    Booooo. Are there any other companies with a policy like HD’s?

  2. not_seth_brundle says:

    Well, this is awesome news for thieves.

  3. flintstone03 says:

    On my way to Home Depot right now to take my share of all the free shit they are aparently just giving away!

  4. Youthier says:

    I would feel bad for this guy but I’m sure another store near him that needs a good PR boost will hire him and pay him more shortly.

  5. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    BTW this story is on the frontpage twice right now.

  6. MiltyKiss says:

    Most companies have policies like this where only the LP personnel (or security guards) can touch thieves. You can call a guard/LP person and follow the thief around though.

  7. davebg5 says:

    @flintstone03: HA! You beat me to it. I’ll tell you what…you go left and I’ll go right…that way they can send nobody to catch us in both directions.

  8. supra606 says:

    This is an interesting contrast from the intellectual property cartels who violate their own customers’ rights a little more each day to allegedly combat theft. Home Depot is rolling out the red carpet for it’s potential thieves – and they probably aren’t even buying anything!

  9. catnapped says:

    @flintstone03: Make sure you stop at China-Mart on your way (up to $25 free to every customer)

  10. Elviswasntmyhero says:

    MEMO TO DUSTIN (a.k.a. HICK-IN-TRAINING):

    If some ignorant red-neck with a crowbar really needs a drink that bad, let him have it. Vending machines can be replaced. Human life and limb, not so much.

  11. ellmar says:

    A friend of mine had her purse stolen while she was shopping at HD and had a hell of a time trying to get any of the HD employees to help her. They refused to call the police or allow her to use their phone to contact her credit card companies. (A sympathetic customer let her borrow a cell phone.) Once the police arrived HD even refused to give them access to the security cameras! Guess who shops at Lowe’s now?

  12. Buran says:

    Hah, and they wonder why so much stuff disappears?

  13. bedofnails says:

    No way I’m showing my receipt at Home Depot, such as I am a US American of the United States.

  14. bnosach says:

    Good avice for shopping at HD next time. I’ll take it into consideration. Why pay when you can steal and not face justice system?

  15. frowelishnu says:

    This really should be titled “Home Depot Fires another Employee for DETAINING a Thief”.

    It’s not about letting theives walk a way with stuff, it’s about not physically confronting them.

  16. tcm22 says:

    This is also in sharp contrast to the recent article about the individual that was “detained” by an employee at TigerDirect when he refused to show a receipt. So which is it — should employees detain suspected thieves or not?

  17. brodog2525 says:

    OfficeMax has this same exact policy. (I worked there for 2 years in high school)

  18. warf0x0r says:

    If someone hasn’t said it, that thief could have tripped and fallen while being chased and could have sued home depot for $$$. Technically even a LP employee shouldn’t touch the shoplifter even though they usually do and most shop lifters don’t do anything about it. Sucks for that guy though, seemed like he just wanted to do the right thing.

  19. Alexander says:

    That sucks for that guy, he shouldn’t have lost his job. Hard to say how one would react in a situation like that, but the company I work for has a similar policy of not getting physically involved if you see a crime. They tell you to call your supervisor and security but to not “be a hero”. It probably has to do with liability. What would happen if the guy gets beaten with the crowbar by the thief? Would HD be responsible for his medical bills? What if the employee gets hurt and then turns around and sues HD for not having proper security?

  20. KernelPanic says:

    He would have got away with it too…

    If it wasn’t for that darn kid and his talking dog.

    kp

  21. gibsonic says:

    doh! what happened to the other post with all the comments?

  22. GrantGannon says:

    I understand the policy. I walked in to a 7-11 in Dallas a few weeks as four men were just wrapping up stealing about 200 packs of smokes. The 7-11 employees were just standing there and then called the cops. They pretty much said that it’s not worth getting killed over $400 worth of smokes.

    If HD says that employees aren’t to stop people from stealing that’s their prerogative. But, firing them seems a bit extreme.

  23. KIRZEN2007 says:

    I wonder what the policy is on yelling “Stop! Thief!”

    I’ll be willing to wager another customer in some stores would haul him to the ground for you, absolving you of your responsibility, then you can mock him from the sidelines or do paperwork while the customers keep him on the floor…

  24. scoopy says:

    If anything, Home Depot should offer the thief a job for the inconvenience that bastard ex-employee caused.

  25. gatopeligroso says:

    @bedofnails: WTF does this have to do with the post? Why would not being an American mean that they CAN check your receipt.

  26. CamilleR says:

    I work in retail selling clothing and our policy is to not directly confront thieves. If we suspect someone, we’re supposed to stick to her like glue under the guise of excellent customer service until the person hopefully drops the goods and leaves. In part, the company doesn’t want to get sued by someone if we falsely accuse her. It’s also a safety issue since a confronted thief could turn violent.
    I feel bad for this guy for getting fired, but common sense should have told him you don’t confront someone with a crowbar. Besides, if he’s worked in retail for seven years, he should know that shrink is expected and factored into the company’s costs.

  27. scoopy says:

    @CamilleR: If you’ve worked in retail at all, you’d know that retailers like to minimize “shrink”. On the other hand, if you’ve watched Seinfeld at all, you’d know that the episode about “significant shrinkage” is really funny.

  28. Most stores have similar policies but loads of employees have no idea about them.

    Here is a bit of what Target has to say about Employee Theft, from their Target AP Directives 2006, the entire text can be found at:

    [targetfiling.blogspot.com]

    =================================

    C. Five Steps for Apprehension
    Certified AP team members must observe all five steps prior to making a shoplifter apprehension.

    NOTE: If local law enforcement takes independent action and makes an apprehension before all five steps are met, the details must be documented in the CIRS report.

    1. Initiation of Observation – The subject must enter the store/area without possession of Target merchandise.
    2. Selection – The subject must be observed selecting Target merchandise from the display location.
    3. Concealment – The subject must be observed concealing the merchandise, or the AP team member must have NO reasonable doubt based on observations that the merchandise has been concealed by the subject.
    NOTE: If the merchandise is not actually concealed, it must be exposed as the subject exits or attempts to exit the store.
    4. Maintain Observation – The AP team member must maintain sufficient surveillance of the subject in order to know the location of the merchandise and ensure the subject does not discard the merchandise.

    NOTE: A Productive Merchandise Recovery (PMR) shall be attempted if surveillance is broken for any reason, or the AP team member can not maintain sufficient surveillance. (See PMR Directive).

    5. Failure to Pay for Merchandise/Exiting the Store -AP team member(s) must observe the subject attempt to exit the store without paying for the merchandise.

    NOTE: Some jurisdictions allow variances from the exiting requirement to allow apprehensions of concealed merchandise before an individual reaches the building’s exit. In these cases, the requirements must be documented and approved by the Director or Vice President of Assets Protection using the “Variance from Exiting Form” (found on the AP Zone).

    —————–
    D. Restroom / Fitting Room Apprehensions
    AP team members are not allowed to conduct surveillance or make apprehensions in restroom and/or fitting rooms.
    1. AP team members are not allowed to follow subject’s into a restroom or fitting room to conduct surveillance.
    2. AP team members shall not ask another team member to enter a fitting room or restroom to conduct surveillance.
    —————
    B. Searches of Private Residence or Motor Vehicles
    1. AP team members will NOT participate in a search of a private residence or motor vehicle.
    ————–
    1. Fleeing Shoplifter
    a. If a shoplifter attempts to flee after being confronted, do not give chase in any manner (running, driving, etc.).
    b. Store based AP team members shall not use any vehicle to follow or pursue a subject for any reason.
    c. AP team members shall not encourage, condone, suggest or ask another Target team member or anyone else to chase a fleeing shoplifter.
    —————-
    2. AP shall refer for prosecution all individuals apprehended for retail theft when the value of the merchandise is $20.00 or greater and the case meets local prosecution requirements.

    NOTE: If a case meets/exceeds the $20.00 referral guideline, but is NOT referred, the reason for non-referral must be included in the CIRS narrative. (Example: Local jurisdiction limits require merchandise in excess of $75.00 in order for prosecution.)

    3. A team member witness, of the same gender of the suspected shoplifter , must be present in the room at all times during the detention.

    ————–

    A. Photographing Shoplifters
    1. Adult shoplifters – AP shall photograph all adult shoplifters unless prohibited by local statutes or ordinances.
    2. Team Member Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any team member apprehended for shoplifting during working or non-working hours.
    3. Juvenile Shoplifters – AP will not photograph any juveniles apprehended for shoplifting, unless required by local statutes or ordinances.

    ========================

    and you can look at:
    [targetstoressecurity.blogspot.com]

  29. scoopy says:

    @Felix the Cat: And the most wasted space at the end of a post award goes to: Felix the Cat.

  30. sp3nc3 says:

    Prospective New Employer: So, Dustin. Have you ever been fired?

    Dustin: (Grinning) Why yes.

    Prospective New Employer: Oh? And may I ask why you were fired?

    Dustin: (Still smiling) Funny you should ask…

  31. Usermanual says:

    Having sat here, read the entire article, all the comments up ’till now, and formed an opinion. I can honsetly say that America, as a whole, has lost it’s freaking mind.

    I fully support what Dustin Chester did and personally wish that the laws protected him and his rare case of HAVING A PAIR. It makes me a little sick to hear stoies like this were men, who are looking out for the good of society, are punnished simply becuase they decided that it was in the best interest of the planet to act. It’s every individuals personal decision how to handle their actions, he chose to put himself aside and make an effort to stop a crime, that was detrimental to his employer, and the customers his employer needs.

    It’s outrageous that companies will simply tack on another dollar to my purchase, rather than let men who choose to be proactive and correct situations like this get the job done. If Dustin didn’t feel like acting he could have walked away. He chose to step up and it sucks he can be treated this way.

  32. Melov says:

    Look on the bright side. You no longer are going to need another job because you’re set for life!

  33. bmwloco says:

    One more reason to pass on Home Depot.

    I’ll keep going to Lowes.

  34. robertseaton says:

    As someone who has been suspended from work for a similiar policy let me put this out there….much cheaper for the retailer to simply not chase and suffer the product loss then to have to pay out a major medical claim because an employee is injured during an chase/aprehension. As the chaser, you have NO way to know what awaits you once you run after the shoplifter. We had a grocery store employee that was run over by the shoplifter’s buddies (and yes they did back over him again just to make sure they had done a good job). In another instance an employee was chasing a shoplifter and run into an elderly lady at the front door, knocking her down. She suffered a broken hip and later died from her injuries. Best just to let them go…the liability is to high.

  35. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    I am so disappointed in the state of accountablity in this country. Let everybody get away with everything because we might be sued? Why is everybody in this country afraid to DO THE RIGHT THING?

  36. mac-phisto says:

    i support this guy too. it sucks that he was trying to protect the company’s interests & gets canned for it.

    that said, i worked for campus security while i was in college. we were a division of the university police department (we looked like cops), but even we weren’t authorized to detain people. our only course of action was to ask a person for ID. if they refused, we could not force them or even stand in their way. detaining a person would not only get us canned, but could land us in jail.

    i don’t agree with HD, but i understand their position. dustin was acting outside of the law & continuing to retain his services could expose them to financial liability.

    dustin, good luck in the future & kudos for doing the right thing – even if it cost you your job. being righteous isn’t always easy, but it’s people like you that make this world a better place to live in. thanks.

  37. taylorich says:

    This is a policy at Best Buy too. Not even the loss prevention personnel can pursue a shoplifter. The reason, as it was explained to me, is that if this policy were not in place, and the shoplifter is harmed in any way, they could sue the store and have a very good case. Also, the person who is confronting the shoplifter can be hurt, which creates insurance issues for the company, and can also result in a lawsuit by the employee. With surveillance technology in place at all these types of places, management wants their employees safe, and to let the police do their job. Imagine if Mr. Crowbar had a gun and shot poor Dustin?

    That however does not excuse Home Depot for not letting all employees know that they are not to chase/detain a shoplifter. I would have not known about the policy at Best Buy had I not overheard a loss prevention person talking about it with a manager. The same thing had happened at another store and the LP employee was terminated.

    For those who think they can walk in and steal with impunity since no one is supposed to forcibly detain you, remember Big Brother is watching. Crime doesn’t pay! Just say no!

  38. Smashville says:

    Can I ask how on one hand, this website can get all up in arms about a
    guy getting fired for detaining a suspected thief, but on the other
    hand confront management at TigerDirect for doing the exact same thing?

    What bothers me more…how does this guy know he was a thief?

    He had a crowbar.
    He had a wad of cash.

    Well…that’s great.

    Home Depot sells crowbars.
    Crowbars are purchased with cash.

    He noticed that a guy was standing outside with money and a crowbar and
    tried to detain him? How is this any different than detaining a guy who
    doesn’t show a receipt?

  39. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    Well why in the ham sandwich do they have guards checking your bags/receipts at the exit?!?!

  40. chrispiss says:

    This is policy for every retailer. It’s too much liability for them to have employees going after thieves. He was just unlucky to not know about it.

  41. FromThisSoil says:

    I worked at Home Depot about 6 years ago, I used to stop people all the time.

    One guy tried to roll out with 5 air conditioners on a lumber cart. “Excuse me sir, may I check your receipt?” “Oh…yea…I just pulled up my car to load these up and left it in the car – hold on, I’ll go get it.” “OK.” Needless to say, he didn’t come back.

    I knew it was company policy to never follow a [suspected] thief outside of the building and it was a definite no-no to tackle anyone.

    The store manager eventually got “moved to another store” because of such a horrible shrink rate (I heard 8.5%). For every $100 of merchandise sold, $8.50 was stolen – awesome!

  42. =============================================
    Someone above suggested that the guy have a customer help him as the customer would not get in trouble.

    Here a nice bystander goes to help out a Target AP Thug and gets stabbed by the shoplifter.

    Does Target want to compensate the person? Well read on folks. But in summary it was sent back to the Ok. District Court so the case goes forward.

    ====================================

    UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
    FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

    ————————————————–

    TIMOTHY S. THERRIEN, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,

    v.

    TARGET CORPORATION, a Minnesota corporation,
    Defendant-Appellee.

    No. 06-5110
    (D.C. No. 06-CV-217-JHP-FHM)
    (N.D. Okla.)

    ——————————————————–

    ORDER AND JUDGMENT(*)

    ——————————————————-

    Before HOLMES, McKAY, and BRORBY, Circuit Judges.

    ——————————————————-

    Timothy S. Therrien was shopping at a Target store when a Target loss-prevention employee confronted a suspected shoplifter. The Target employee and the suspect became involved in a physical confrontation. When the suspect began to overwhelm the employee, the employee called out to bystanders for help, and Mr. Therrien responded. During the ensuing struggle, the suspect stabbed and injured Mr. Therrien. Alleging various theories of negligence, Mr. Therrien filed suit against Target Corporation in Oklahoma state court. Target removed the case to federal district court and moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for dismissal of the complaint.

    The district court granted Target’s motion, and Mr. Therrien appeals. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we REVERSE and REMAND for further proceedings.

    I. Standard of Review
    We review de novo a district court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim for relief. Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1181 (10th Cir. 2002). We take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. “[A] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). “The issue in reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint is not whether the plaintiff will prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support [his] claims.” Ruiz, 299 F.3d at 1181. Because this is a diversity case, we apply federal law to procedural questions, but state law to the analysis of the underlying claims. Haberman v. The Hartford Ins. Group, 443 F.3d 1257, 1264 (10th Cir. 2006).

    II. Analysis
    Mr. Therrien argues that he set forth at least five distinct claims: (1) negligent provision of store security; (2) negligent training and supervision; (3) negligent handling of the situation with the suspect leading to the physical altercation; (4) negligently requesting assistance and directing such assistance from bystanders; and (5) liability under the rescue doctrine. To proceed with a claim of negligence under Oklahoma law, Mr. Therrien must establish that (1) Target owed him a duty to protect him from injury; (2) Target failed properly to perform its duty; and (3) he suffered injuries that were proximately caused by Target’s breach of its duty. See Jackson v. Jones, 907 P.2d 1067, 1071-72 (Okla. 1995).

    A. Oklahoma Landowner Liability for Criminal Attacks
    The primary issue is whether Target owed Mr. Therrien a duty to protect him from injury from a criminal attack by a third party. Mr. Therrien contends that, under Oklahoma law, Target has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent a criminal attack when it knows that the attack is occurring or is about to occur. See Taylor v. Hynson, 856 P.2d 278, 281 (Okla. 1993).

    Oklahoma premises liability law classifies Mr. Therrien as an invitee. See id. (“It is well established that a person who goes on land to conduct business is a business invitee for the purposes of establishing liability.”). A business generally does not have a duty to protect an invitee from criminal attacks by third persons. Id. Oklahoma, however, has recognized such a duty in “unique circumstances.” Id. An invitor’s knowledge “that the acts of the third person are occurring, or are about to occur” may constitute such circumstances. Id. at 281-82 (quotation omitted). Thus, Oklahoma law recognizes that, “[w]hen an invitor has knowledge that an invitee is in imminent danger, the invitor must act reasonably to prevent injury.” Id. at 281.

    In Morgan v. Southland Associates, 883 P.2d 205, 206 (Okla. Civ. App. 1994), a case involving a criminal attack on plaintiff at a mall food court, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s petitions. After describing Taylor’s teachings, the court stated that because plaintiff had pleaded defendant’s knowledge of the attack, which would give rise to a duty on defendant’s part, as well as breach of the duty and damages, the trial court had erred in dismissing the petitions for failure to state a claim. Id. at 207. “To hold otherwise would be to find that the rule a business invitor has no duty to protect invitees from criminal acts of third parties is absolute.” Id. at 206-07.

    Similarly, Mr. Therrien pleaded that Target was aware that a criminal act was imminent or occurring, so that Target had a duty to use reasonable care to prevent the suspect from harming Mr. Therrien; that Target breached its duty; and that Mr. Therrien suffered harm as a “direct and proximate result” of Target’s breach. Aplt. App. at 7-9. As in Morgan, these allegations are sufficient to state a claim under Taylor.

    Target urges us to decide that the fight between the Target employee and the suspect was an open and obvious condition and that Mr. Therrien had knowledge equal to Target of the unsafe condition, so that Target owed Mr. Therrien no duty of care. See, e.g., Dover v. W.H. Braum, Inc., 111 P.3d 243, 245 (Okla. 2005) (“There is no duty to warn the invitee of any defect or danger which is as well-known to the invitee as to the owner or occupant or which is obvious or which should be observed by the invitee in the exercise of ordinary care.”); Pickens v. Tulsa Metro. Ministry, 951 P.2d 1079, 1084 (Okla. 1997) (“Even vis-a-vis an invitee, to whom a landowner owes the highest duty . . ., the law does not require that the landowner protect the invitee against dangers which are so apparent and readily observable that one would reasonably expect them to be discovered.”).

    But since Taylor, Oklahoma’s premises liability cases involving criminal attacks focus on the invitor’s knowledge of criminal activity; they do not appear to incorporate the “open and obvious danger” analysis found in physical-defects cases. See, e.g., Taylor, 856 P.2d at 281-82; Rogers v. Burger King Corp., 82 P.3d 116, 122-23 (Okla. Civ. App. 2003); Young v. Bob Howard Auto., Inc., 52 P.3d 1045, 1048-49 (Okla. Civ. App. 2002); McClure v. Group K Enters., Inc., 977 P.2d 1148, 1150-51 (Okla. Civ. App. 1999); Folmar v. Marriott, Inc., 918 P.2d 86, 87-89 (Okla. Civ. App. 1996); Edington v. A & P Enters., Inc., 900 P.2d 453, 455 (Okla. Civ. App. 1994); Morgan, 883 P.2d at 206-07; see also Wells v. Boston Ave. Realty, 125 F.3d 1335, 1340 (10th Cir. 1997) (“Plaintiff has cited no cases that support treating a criminal assault as a ‘defect’ creating premises liability.”). In any event, whether or not a particular condition is open and obvious generally requires an examination of all of the circumstances. Zagal v. Truckstops Corp. of Am., 948 P.2d 273, 275 (Okla. 1997). Thus, we decline to hold, at this initial stage of the proceedings, that the “open and obvious danger” rule necessarily bars Mr. Therrien’s claim as a matter of law.

    Target also argues that Mr. Therrien’s “attempt to create five distinct claims is contrary to law.” Aplee. Br. at 9. We agree that four of Mr. Therrien’s five claims (the exception being the negligent training and supervision claim) appear to stem from Taylor, rather than stating separate bases for recovery. But in light of the limited record before this court, we will let the district court evaluate each of Mr. Therrien’s claims in the first instance to determine whether each should proceed separately.

    B. Negligent Training and Supervision
    Mr. Therrien also alleges that Target was negligent in its training and supervision of the loss prevention employee. This claim invokes a recognized basis for recovery in Oklahoma: “[e]mployers may be held liable for negligence in hiring, supervising or retaining an employee.” N.H. v. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 998 P.2d 592, 600 (Okla. 1999); see also Morgan, 883 P.2d at 206-07 (reversing dismissal of petition that included claims of negligent training). Negligent hiring and supervision is a separate theory of recovery based on the employer’s direct negligence, rather than liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. N.H., 998 P.2d at 600. In Oklahoma, this claim is only available if an employer’s vicarious liability is not established. Id. Consequently, while Mr. Therrien has stated a claim sufficient to withstand a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on this issue, how far this claim can proceed will depend on the evidence before the district court during further proceedings.

    III.
    The judgment of the district court is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings in the district court.

    Entered for the Court

    Monroe G. McKay Circuit Judge
    —-

    [targetfiling.blogspot.com]

  43. spinachdip says:

    @taylorich: That however does not excuse Home Depot for not letting all employees know that they are not to chase/detain a shoplifter.

    Seriously, shouldn’t that be one of the first things mentioned during training for any floor staff, and posted prominently in the employee lounge?

  44. overbysara says:

    sweet. everybody get your crow bars and let’s go to home depot! FREE COKES!

  45. bedofnails says:

    @gatopeligroso:

    I guess you don’t know Miss Teen South Carolina…

    ..sigh, what happened to humor in this world.

  46. CelticFrog says:

    I can understand the need for such policies. My best friend was nearly paralyzed for life by a thief who was running from an in-mall store employee. He hit the door running, broke the hydraulic door mechanism in the process, and crushed her spine between the door handle and the payphone she was on.

    What did she get out of the entire experience? Nothing but chronic back problems, surgeries, and a load of medical bills that weren’t even partially paid off by a settlement until more than eight years after the incident.

    In short, there’s reasons for these policies, even if they’re not readily apparent. The store that the thief was stealing from (and using a stolen credit card at) had such a policy. She could have been much healthier and been able to finish nursing school at that time had the employee followed it.

  47. EtherealStrife says:

    This guy’s an idiot, and deserved to lose his job. He’s lucky he didn’t lose his life. Stores have these policies to protect the employees, the customers, and the store. Not only did he ignore company policy, he ignored commonsense! As others have said, anything could’ve been waiting for him around the bend. It’s a shame the thief didn’t fight back. Maybe then this guy and hicks like him would think twice. Never go into a situation blind.

  48. EtherealStrife says:

    @EtherealStrife: Sorry, rednecks. My bad.

  49. Scazza says:

    Dunno how exactly it is in the states, but in Canada, when I worked in a retail giant, we were not allowed to lay a hand on a thief, inside or outside the store. We could detain them by locking the door if we were fast enough and ask them to turn over the goods. Also pursuit is a no-no. Once they leave the store, you call the police, take down a license if you can and shrug it off…

  50. stjlaw says:

    Lowe’s has the exact same policy, not only that, but they discuss it at length with you during the training. Most large retail chains have that policy, which is why the earlier TigerDirect post was so bizarre. I mean, lay off the kid though, I would hope most people’s reaction to witnessing a theft is to do something about it, and part of these policies is to tell the LP manager immediately.

  51. HaxRomana says:

    Every retail outlet that I’ve worked in, and for that matter just about every retail outlet I know the policy of, has rules against or at least strongly discourages people from chasing shoplifters.

    However, I don’t think most places would actually FIRE someone, especially an employee in good standing. I “chased” a shoplifter outside once, but it was a very different situation. She was running as fast as she could back to her car, and I only followed her onto the sidewalk to get her license plate number. My job doesn’t pay me enough to even consider for a second chasing an armed shoplifter. If someone comes in acting suspiciously, I follow them and provide “excellent customer service” until they leaved. If an armed robber were to come into my store, my only question would be “would you like those stolen goods in a paper bag or a plastic one?”

  52. HaxRomana says:

    Er, until they leave, that is.

  53. d0x says:

    @cedarpointfan: Target is the same way. The security guards you see at the door are not allowed to touch you. They have to call the AP Executive for the apprehension and if they arent there then there isnt anything they can do about you stealing except call the police and hope they arrive before you leave.

    One time at target i watched a guy put a very expensive cd player in a big mall bag. i told TPS (security) about it, and poof they let him walk out the door with it.

  54. FLConsumer says:

    Actually, the HD employee did screw up by not using appropriate force — such as a crowbar, riding mower, machete, firearm, circular saw, etc. “Officer, I’m not sure what happened, but somehow his hand met the circular saw after he was trying to break into the Coke machine with a crowbar. Funny how karma works, isn’t it?”

  55. Esquire99 says:

    Just because Dustin claims he was unaware of the policy does not mean they did not cover it with him. It’s probably in an employee handbook that he was supposed to read (and he likely signed something saying he did). There have been all kinds of policies at places I’ve worked that I’m sure I’d forgotten, or in the heat of the moment would not remember. I find it hard to believe that he did not know, or at least did not have reason to know (the handbook he should have read) that this was the policy. Again, heat of the moment people don’t always think “What’s the policy on this again?”, but that doesn’t excuse the violation of it. I think it sucks that he got fired for “doing the right thing” as far as many people are concerned, but the kind of liability this opens the company up to is too much for them to bear. What if they kept him on, and he did this again, but with a customer that was mis-identified as a thief, and he injured them? Unfortunately, this is just one of those situations where the result sucks, but it makes sense and HD is not in the wrong.

  56. coldfruit says:

    I work for Lowe’s and they have the same policy. Essentially, if you see someone steal, tell a manager so they can call the police while you stand there and watch the thief get walk out the door.

    Essentially a thief can walk in pick up a $200 power tool set and skip out the door merrily. If they refuse to show a receipt we have to let them walk. I recently transfered over to Tool World. Everyday I find torn packaging and missing items. I find it amazing that we can even make any profit with how things are.

  57. nardo218 says:

    Every retail company I’ve worked for said that you’re supposed to watch them and call the police. You’re not supposed to engage the thief at all, you’re a clerk (a civilian), not a security officer. What if the thief pulled a weapon? Companies can’t have vigilantes getting themselves and others hurt.

  58. war59312 says:

    Yeah I know how this goes. I worked at a Kohls department store for over a year.

    I “had to” let over 100 thiefs walk away. Yeah over 100!! All of them where kids and young adults. They all knew we could do nothing. It spread like wild fire! Pretty darn stupid!!

  59. Charles Duffy says:

    @KIRZEN2007: Heck, this is Texas. A good chunk of the customers have guns and concealed-carry licenses.

  60. thepounder says:

    Dustin should be running the store right now & making a commensurate wage as well… and the sissy-Mary manager who didn’t bother to do anything on Dustin’s behalf is the schmuck who should have been sacked.
    Well Dustin, good people like you are always welcome in the US Military.

    You kick ass.

    oh yeah, eff Home Depot.

  61. thepounder says:

    Oh… and Dustin wasn’t remotely attempting to be a vigilante as far as I’m concerned (but I’m from Texas, and we handle bad people a bit more suitably)

    So here’s a blurb about Citizen’s Arrest –
    “Citizens and police may detain any person who they have probable cause to believe committed in their presence a felony, breach of the peace, physical injury to another person, or theft or destruction of property. The key distinction between an arrest and a detainment is that the detainee may not be transported without their consent.”

    If Dustin were to “detain” said crowbar-wielding dingbat he’s perfectly within the law to do so… why must Ho Depot take it upon themselves to make employee policies that are the exact opposite of the law?
    (I know, I know, to not get people hurt and all that good stuff. Remember that I’m from the Lone Star State and we have nice ways of dealing with this sort of thing. If you disagree, that’s cool and all… I’m just saying…)

  62. nardo218 says:

    If he doesn’t have a police badge, he’s a vigilante. He didn’t detain, he restrained, as in physically held him.

  63. spinachdip says:

    @thepounder: I wouldn’t take much stock into what Wikipedia says, especially poorly sourced and written articles like Citizen’s Arrest.

    And while it’s easy to say “he should have read the employee manual”, it seems HD didn’t do a good job of stressing the importance of the policy, considering it was grounds for immediate termination.

  64. thepounder says:

    I’m sorry… I still say bah. He’d be applauded where I’m from. No matter really, it’s of no consequence at this point seeing as he was fired, right?
    Too bad though.

  65. thepounder says:

    @spinachdip: People always say that when they disagree with Wiki articles. Just like I say it’s bupkiss when Colbert mentions some Wiki entry and suddenly there’s a thousand changes to it. I understand what you mean though.
    In TX, the Citizen’s Arrest thingy works fine, if I recall correctly… too tired to go look it up at the moment.

  66. spinachdip says:

    @thepounder: I don’t mind Wikipedia articles that have been properly sourced and peer reviewed, and they’re useful when for providing overviews. Neither is the case here.

    I’m not so much disputing the article’s veracity as much as its relevance to this discussion. And given the murkiness of probable cause, the potential liabilities, and the fact that the guy is an agent of a store that specifically doesn’t want to chase shoplifters, the right to make a citizen’s arrest, if such a thing exists, means very little in this case.

  67. acasto says:

    Well, at my family’s company, both my little brothers have their concealed carry permits, and usually have a 9mm, .45, .22, .308, and compound bow on hand. I guess you could say our policy on criminals is “Don’t Miss”. As for this case, the only thing this “don’t be a hero” policy does is create a prey society where the criminals can simply picks whatever victims they want. Now if every time someone broke into a car or grabbed a womans purse they were tackled and had their teeth kicked in, perhaps people would think twice.

  68. cde says:

    @nardo218: The law makes no distinction between detained and restrained in Citizen’s Arrest situation. The common marker of measure is that you can only stop them for felonies, not misdemeanors or that third type of crime (name escapes me, like moving violations)

  69. nctrnlboy says:

    So its a big free-for-all at Home Depot then?

    HOT DIGGITY!!!

  70. Property isn’t worth getting hurt over — merchandise can be replaced and people can’t,” he said.

    Apparently, people can be replaced. This guy was.

  71. GuruSteve says:

    The fault is not Dustin’s or the Home Depot policy. The fault is management for not adequately training there employees on what to do in this critical situation. I’m sorry, but reading an employee handbook once a year (if he was even required to do that) does not excuse management from training there employees properly, especially on life-and-death situations like fires, criminals, and emergencies.

  72. Ben Popken says:

    @eslaydog: You’ve got to stop pasting that over and over again in the comments.

  73. xamarshahx says:

    home depot is right, if that idiot got hurt stopping the thief, he would have sued home depot. he should have just called the cops, when i worked at best buy and we saw people stealing, they would confront them, but never would the try to restrain or chase them, thats the cops job. merchandise is never worth getting hurt.

    Also, if you remember from the TigerDirect article, stores cannot restrain people. While it is fun bashing Home Depot, I have to admit, they are right on this one.

  74. mbrutsch says:

    This old news. If Home Depot chooses to give away their property to thieves, then that’s their right. If they tell employees not to stop them, and the employee does, then the employee should be fired. If the employee didn’t know any better, then they should have read Consumerist! :)

  75. silverlining says:

    @mbrutsch: Ummm, sure, it’s Home Depot’s right to accept loss… but I’m sure that they’re insured to a certain point. I wonder what their insurance company thinks of this policy?

    It makes sense to encourage employees not to engage a thief–only a trained professional, like a contracted security company or law enforcement, should. What if the employee got hurt? Then HD could be both liable for the injury and responsible for workman’s comp.

  76. revmatty says:

    I’ll tell you why stores have this policy: insurance companies require it. I ran a retail store for a chain for 4 years during and after college. If we didn’t have an explicit policy prohibiting any sort of restraint or pursuit of shoplifters we could not get insurance period. No insurance, no lease. No lease, no business.

    And risking getting injured or killed because some lowlife is stealing a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand or however much merchandise is just plain stupid. Product is replaceable.

  77. revmatty says:

    @silverlining: The insurance companies love this policy. Paying out $10,000 for stolen goods is a lot cheaper than paying out hundreds of thousands or even millions in personal injury claims.


    Keep in mind first and foremost that any successful retail business builds an expected shrink cost into their pricing. Our store expected to lose about 3-4% of sales to shrink each year and our prices were adjusted to pass that cost along to the consumer.

  78. iloveinternet says:

    I am not so surprised about this. My mother works for Ann Taylor (clothing company), and they pretty much have this same policy. My mother has watched thousands of dollars worth of clothing getting stolen, and she could do nothing about it. And then to make matters worse, as a manager of the store she gets criticized for not preventing theft from occurring. Ridiculous! How can they prevent loss of merchandise when they can’t actually prevent it?!?!?!

  79. @tcm22: I guess the Tiger Direct employee was lucky the customer wasn’t carrying a crowbar.

    @Smashville: Maybe the drink machine was still open. Someone who says they’re Dustin’s dad, vchester, says that the cashier yelled for Dustin when she saw the guy at the drink machine. It’s unclear whether he already had the crowbar out or pulled it out after Dustin showed up.

    From the comments on the newspaper’s web site:

    One other thing is that no one has mentioned that another associate was on the to be fired list for being involved…HE CALLED THE POLICE. They were going to fire him for that. I want to know why there is only one Loss Prevention Associate thats right ONE for all 168 hours per week.

    See, I was on the company’s side for having the policy about not chasing thieves (although firing
    Dustin was too harsh). Particularly in this case since the suspect had a weapon on him.

    But firing someone for calling the police? Are you serious? Do they not let their employees do anything to stop theft?

  80. killavanilla says:

    The wussification of America continues…
    Now with 100% more corporate sponsorship!
    Goooooo criminals!

  81. Jerim says:

    You should never confront a thief. You already know they are criminals, but you don’t know just how crazy they are. By confronting them on something as small as theft of property, you could help escalate it into an assault case. The thief could panic and pull out a weapon.

    Police are trained to handle criminals, the general public is not. I for one feel safer that some employee isn’t going to escalate a situation that results mine or anyone else’s injury.You can still get a description and observe the criminal as you wait for police to arrive. It is important that he is caught, not that you stop him. Don’t play hero with other people’s lives.

  82. Havok154 says:

    @overbysara:
    Screw that. Why should I use MY crowbar and possibly scratch it when I can just use of Home Depots and then keep it as a souvenir.

  83. @cedarpointfan:

    if you’re a fanbois of a certain comany’s [numerous] storefront(s), the answer is NO

    same with MANY places. I’m sure Dustin’s intentions were genuine and honest, but in the world we live in, the thief could have easily turned it around 180 degrees and had a true payday with the theft.

    I worked LP (loss prevention) at UConn’s computer/bookstore while I went there, and the main rule to follow was that we should NEVER physically obtain anyone…generally the people we caught did everything we asked them to. Chances are if they ran we could ID them from PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) high-powered cameras-really sick and fun technology

  84. @cedarpointfan:

    Correction to your first question (read it wrong):

    YES; and it’s quite an incredible majority to be precise

  85. BugMeNot2 says:

    I’d say firing him was a bit over-the-top but the policy is as about as customer oriented as you can get. Why all the outrage… I guess you just can’t win with some people. Good work on the part of Home Depot to me to discourage their employees from carrying out vigilante justice. I don’t know much about retail, but I’m assuming they have some sort of theft insurance so they don’t need their employees risking their own safety and that of others. How many employees does Home Depot have? This one guy is no doubt pretty annoyed to have been fired (and again, I think he should have disciplined instead of outright fired) but he is STILL ALIVE, and his coworkers should feel relieved that they are not expected to risk being stabbed, shot or mistakenly responsible for hurting their customers, during the course of what is probably a minimum wage job. I must say, I am puzzled that you at the Consumerist are being so negative. Firing him was excessive, but the policy protects customers from getting a beat-down by accident, and protects employees from physical harm.

  86. perfectly_cromulent says:

    i’m sure it’s been said, but i think just about all of corporate america has policies like this one. it’s all about safety and liability. and yes, it sucks, but the rules are there to protect the employees.

    i do find it hard to believe that after 7 years, he’d never heard of the policy. it’s one of the first things i’m always taught at any business. also, most people i know who work retail are always shocked at how we can never physically detain shoplifters, and if they refuse to stay based on a “could you please empty your pockets” request, must let them go.

  87. AlexG32 says:

    @EtherealStrife:
    You actually want people to be hurt for trying to do the right thing? It might not have been smart for Dustin to try to stop the thief, but saying you wish he was hurt for trying to prevent crime is just absurd. Remember, the thief was the one who committed the crime, not the guy who tried to stop him.

  88. thewiseman says:

    People get fired for stopping shop lifters, either physically or accusing them of stealing, to prevent lawsuits.

    Its horrible to say but if “crowbar bandit” sued HD because an employee “assualted” him, he would probably win the case.

    When I worked at Circuit City, it was same policy. I had to stand and watch as two guys came in with a drill and steal every iPod on the floor. We got their license plate and their faces on camera, but I was still pissed cause Honestly a “Hey what the fuck do you think you are doing” prolly would have stopped the huge loss to the store.

  89. Canadian Impostor says:

    Every retail store has this policy. As a retail worker, why bother? Is your minimum wage job worth getting punched in the head for? Is your job worth getting stabbed for or shot for?

    Someone up above said to yell stop thief so that a customer could tackle him. I don’t care about Home Depot’s problems. Why would I help out, so I could get stabbed instead?

    Some guy breaking a Coke machine isn’t worth getting riled up unless it’s your personal coke machine. This guy is some big manly man who wanted to be a hero by protecting the honor of a Coke machine.

    I’m not saying you should never help out, but there’s no point doing anything unless a human being is in danger. Won’t anyone think of the Coke machine?

  90. RvLeshrac says:

    @tcm22:

    He didn’t detain a SUSPECTED thief, he detained a KNOWN thief.

    Not showing your receipt isn’t even probable-cause for suspecting a theft. Prying open a drink machine with a crowbar is pretty obvious.

  91. boandmichele says:

    @Elviswasntmyhero: So, is he a hick-in-training because he is from TN, or because he is wearing a ballcap, you ignorant dolt?

  92. CSR says:

    Here’s an interesting article regarding the whole “citizen’s arrest” legality. Particularly the part about the ninth amendment: [www.constitution.org]

    On a humorous note, my partner made a citizen’s arrest when we both worked at a bookstore. There was a music section, and she was in charge of it. The crook had taken so many CDs and stuffed them in his pants that he could barely walk. He tried to get on a bus, but she yelled out to the driver that the guy was a thief, so he just closed the doors and drove off.

    She chased the guy behind the store, in front of a daycare center, all the while yelling that she was making a citizen’s arrest. He finally gave up, and she realized that though he couldn’t get away, she’d have a hard time restraining him. So she told him that if he gave the CDs back, she’d let him go. He had to pull off his pants to do so, to the great amusement of the parents who were waiting for their kids to get out of daycare.

    Meanwhile, I’m in the breakroom, eating my lunch. She kicks the door open, arms full of CDs (several hundred dollars worth), and yells, “I caught that son of a bitch! I caught him and made him drop his drawers!” LOL.

    So, even though I wasn’t happy she risked herself, I couldn’t help but laugh at the story. It would be even more funny if you saw her, because she does *not* look like the type taht would chase down a crook.