Here is a situation where I was sympathetic to the employee who got fired, but agreed completely with the employer who fired him. No matter how poorly a customer behaves, an employer cannot tolerate its employees overreacting the way this employee did.
The Facts: Gavyn Edlinger, was a manager at a Family Dollar store in Michigan. He believed that some customers were stealing merchandise from the store.
Theft is a real problem in many retail establishments, and as a manager of this store, he was right to be concerned. But there are limits to how far store employees can go in trying to stop thefts.
Mr. Edlinger called 911—what Family Dollar’s policy instructed him to do, and a perfectly appropriate response to his suspicion. He then followed the alleged shoplifters out of his store to get their license plate number, as the 911 dispatcher requested.
Unfortunately, rather than backing away when the customer confronted him, Mr. Edlinger engaged in a heated exchange of words with one of the alleged shoplifters. It’s unclear who started it, but the argument was caught on a third party’s cell phone, was later posted to YouTube, and went viral.
It is indisputable in the video that Mr. Edlinger cursed at the customer and sprayed her with a can of Febreze (one of the items she allegedly pilfered).
He later admitted to a local new station, “I just lost it. In a bad way.”
The Moral: No matter what a customer does, nor how badly a customer treats them, store employees must remain professional or risk discipline or termination.
In this situation, the video shows the customer behaving as inappropriately as the store manager.
While the old adage that “the customer is always right” may not apply in this case, it is nevertheless true that a store’s image and reputation demand that its employees respond professionally—particularly its managers.
In this case, Family Dollar states that it has a policy that employees who suspect customers of shoplifting should call police. Mr. Edlinger did so, but didn’t leave it up to the police to respond. He says that the police seldom respond where this store is located. Regardless, he should not have gone ballistic the way he did.
Thankfully for Family Dollar, Mr. Edlinger admits his conduct was inappropriate. He told the local news station, “Can’t really blame [Family Dollar], I understand the liability aspect of it.”
And so should we all.
When have you observed retail employees behave unprofessionally?