Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The law is an ass ? No; don't insult the ass

There’s something very wrong when common sense is completely thrown out of the window. We all know that law can be an ass and lawyers an unbelievable pain in the aforesaid part of the anatomy, but this story takes the cake for the ultimate in nonsense. Only in the United States would something like this be even remotely comprehensible.

Two Sprint employees who worked in their store in Denver were fired. Their crime ?? They were on their lunch break in the mall where their store was, when they saw a shoplifter from the neighbouring store being chased. They lent a hand and caught the shoplifter. This was their crime.

Wait a minute. Would you not expect them to be publicly felicitated for being such being good samaritans ? You would expect a reward to be more appropriate than the sack. But sack is what they got. Why ? They violated company policy that prohibited store employees from chasing shoplifters outside the store. Wow !!

My first and immediate conclusion was that Sprint was an ass. Surely this must be the most stupid policy you can think of. This must be an oddity – some policy writer in Sprint had gone nutters. But wait. No ; Sprint is not an exception. Most retailers have a similar policy.

Double wow. Is there a different brand of common sense amongst retailers in the US as distinct from the rest of the species called homo sapiens ?? Why would companies have such a policy. Companies are not fools. There must be something else to it.

It so happens that there IS something to it. The reason why retailers are having such a policy is that they are being sued by shoplifters !!!! In Texas apparently, a shoplifter who admits to his crime, is suing Walmart because he was tackled by an employee and dislocated his shoulder. Another shoplifter in that state died of a heart attack when he was caught ; the shock of being caught seems to have made his heart stop – the retailer had to settle damages of quarter a million dollars to his family !!! Faced with damages that could be in 6 digit amounts, retailers have instituted the policy that staff can’t chase shoplifters. If you violate that policy you can get sacked. Fantastic.

There is a twist in the tail to this. The media has, of course, gone to town with this story of how wacky things can get. They asked Sprint for its comments. Sprint declined, citing privacy concerns !!

The mind boggles.