Should Best Buy Have Fired Employee For Chasing Down A Shoplifter?

A three-year employee of Best Buy is now out of work, not for selling stolen TVs out the back door or taking returns without photo ID, but because he chased down a man attempting to pilfer a pair of laptops from the store.

According to the Billings Gazette, the Best Buy staffer — employed in sales, not loss-prevention — says he heard the manager announce over the PA system that someone in the store was trying to make off with a couple of computers.

The would-be thief apparently stumbled and fell near the door the employee was attempting to block. In what he describes as a “spontaneous thing,” the employee then pounced on the shoplifter until his manager arrived and told him to get off the man.

“Someone steals from you, you stop them,” he tells the Gazette. “That’s the way I was brought up. I felt like the guy was stealing from me, not just the company. I guess I took it a little personal when I saw the guy run out of the store with two computers.”

The employee also had a hunch that his days at Best Buy were numbered, as he was aware of the policy forbidding intervention in these sorts of incidents. And he was correct.

It took a month for Best Buy HQ to investigate, but the employee ultimately received his “involuntary separation notice,” which read that his actions were “a violation of Best Buy’s Inappropriate Conduct Policy which states that employees are prohibited from ‘pursuing shoplifters under any circumstance or using physical force to detain shoplifters’ and ground for termination.”

This isn’t the first time that we’ve written about a retail employee being dismissed for physically intervening when store policy forbids it. Most recently, there were the Walmart employees in Utah let go after stopping an armed robber.

The stores generally say that these policies are in place to protect employees so they don’t get hurt trying to play cops and robbers. A more cynical view would be that the stores have these policies in place to preempt litigation, whether from the employee or the wannabe shoplifter.

We want to get your opinion on the matter. Is a zero-tolerance policy the best way to keep employees from intervening? Or are there better ways to handle staffers who might just be acting on instinct?

Billings man loses job for stopping store theft [Billings Gazette]