Skip to main content

Today's Poll: Should Wal-Mart fire employees for eating a small piece of damaged inventory?

By Howard B. Owens
Dave Olsen

I voted no opinion, because Wal-Mart as a private enterprise can set their own policies. When a person agrees to work for them, they understand that they have to follow those policies or run the risk of termination. I understand why they would let someone go for eating part of a cake that's getting thrown out anyway, because it's a slippery slope; today, coffee cake, tomorrow it's a scratched television etc etc.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:17am Permalink
Mark Wiatrowski

This is not a new policy for retail establishments. Back in the late 70's I worked at a local family owned grocery store. There was an area in the back of the store where damaged and spoiled items were kept either for credit or to be disposed of at a later date. It was common knowledge that if you worked at this facility and you were caught taking these items, you were immediately fired, period, no questions, no arguments. Done.

It was a fair rule to me because if you start taking the damaged stuff, sooner or later you'll be tempted to take the good stuff.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:21am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Dave, I understand the policy because when you're a large multi-location retail outlet, you have to run your company by policy and not by people. You can't let managers have a mind of their own and make people-based decisions.

This is just another example of one of the disadvantage of letting our country get overrun by chain stores.

I forget the exact percentage and I can look it up if somebody wants me to, but Wal-Mart has a very high turn over rate. They herd people through like cattle, not valued employees. It's no big deal to fire somebody for the smallest infraction because there's always another calf waiting to get branded.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:24am Permalink
Bea McManis

You are right, it is a private enterprise and they do make policy for their store.
But, let's face it. If someone worked in the Electronics dept. and another came on shift and said they were hungry, the clerk wouldn't suggest they take a bite out of a scratched TV.
This isn't a case of someone walkng around the store to see what they could pilfer. It was coffee cake destined for the trash.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:25am Permalink
John Roach

I could understand Tim doing this if he had done it earlier, maybe in May.

I could understand Tim doing it if he hated people who break rules.

But, he said this was because he didn’t get to run for City Council. That was his main reason; he was getting even. That is what bothers me.

If he had run a primary election, I think he would have won one of the 3 slots. And I think he would have won one of the three seats in the general election.

Why he didn’t run a primary, I don’t know, or care. But I think this will end any hope he has of running a primary against Bob Bialkowski for City Council or running against Ed DeJannerio for County Legislature in two years. If he had not done this, I think he would have beaten either one of them.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:29am Permalink
Vicki Newton

So when is is appropriate to draw the line? I was taught never to take something that didn't belong to me, and I am sure everyone here was taught the same. I don't remember there being any exceptions.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:29am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Mark, I don't think a zero tolerance policy is as common in family owned businesses.

My parents owned a bakery, a very large one with many employees. I worked there myself for a few years. It was OK for employees to "sample" the products. My parents wanted employees to be familiar with what they were selling. They would sometimes send employees home with items for that reason, too. (Though, most of the time, if you were taking it home, you were expected to pay).

My parents were much more concerned about employees stealing from the register, which did happen, and was an immediate termination expense.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:30am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Vicki, as a policy matter I think you're right. That's why these big companies have zero tolerance policies.

But when a manager or owner has flexibility in decision making, one that allows them to look at context and people, and make a decision based on what he or she thinks is best for the store and his employees, rather than following blind policy, then he or she can decide where to draw the line.

We all know stealing is wrong, but we also all know that sometimes good people act impulsively and do things that might really be against their own nature. A manager who knows her employees and can look at the entire context has the freedom to draw an appropriate line rather.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:36am Permalink
George Richardson

If Mary goes to confession the priest will ask her to say a third of an Our Father and sin no more. Mary's bad will become Mary's good when the voters get in the booth and say: "Oh yeah, the coffee cake lady. Power to the people!" Boycott WalMart, it's good for you.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:36am Permalink
Anthony Timberlake

If you are fired for something like this, it just pushes the fact that many think you are just a number to these corporations. Instead of trying to see why you were taking the food, or if there is something going on, they would rather just let someone go and replace someone. I think it's a sad waste.

Oct 21, 2009, 10:39am Permalink
George Richardson

The moral of this story is: "Hell hath no fury like a man who thinks he was scorned." or "Eat, drink and be Rosemary for tomorrow your coworker will rat you out and WalMart will fire you." I've got a million of them. Don't ask, and I won't tell. Unless I do, the next time.

Oct 21, 2009, 4:58pm Permalink
Mary E DelPlato

I voted no they should not get fired because look how much Walmart is feeding China with its profits and taking jobs away from American manufactures. Plus the way Walmart treats its employees is inhumane. Let the working poor have the damaged goods.

Oct 21, 2009, 7:34pm Permalink
Jason Murray

ok i really dont see the problem with letting somebody eat a product that was getting thrown out. No harm No foul. now ther is an easy way to draw the line make a policy that states only food items may be consumed by employees that are in the area to be discarded. if people break that policy by eating other items or taking other products then terminate them. i have been a chef at several restaurants and i made a policy that if an item was returned for being a wrong order then rather then throw it away (once a costumer has an item and returns it regardless if it was eaten or not it must be discarded) i would let the servers or bus people have the option to eat it. by making that policy it completely eliminated food being taken by employees with out paying. especially desserts that were returned uneaten, the staff would have mini contests for it.

Oct 21, 2009, 8:11pm Permalink
John Roach

The thing is that this incident took place years ago, 2006 or 2007. She didn't lie about it, or try to hide it. This was and still is about Mr. Paine being mad at Rose Mary for what he thinks was her keeping him from running for office.

As Councilman Cox and others have pointed out, he could have run a primary if he really wanted to. He had a good chance of winning a spot back then. Now I would guess his political future is a bit dark. This was just a nasty "I'll get even" stunt.

Even then, he waited until almost election time to do this, not when he was alleged to have been passed over. I believe nominations were in June, a good four months ago. Why didn't he do it then? Why now?

Oct 21, 2009, 8:36pm Permalink
Bob Harker

If retailers allowed employees to purchase at a discout or consume damaged goods, all of a sudden they have a lot more damages. Unethical employees see deliberately damaging an item they want as an opportunity to save some money. And in the end we consumers pay for the lost profit.

Oct 22, 2009, 7:53am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

My parents used to donate all of their damaged goods and day-old products to the homeless shelter.

There's no need for this stuff to go to waste. While I understand the policy of big chains, there's also the natural human response by an employee of seeing something go to waste and thinking, "why let it go to waste?"

If I were CEO of Wal-Mart, I'd have the same policy, for the very reasons discussed, but that's also just further proof of what's wrong with Wal-Mart, not a justification of the policy.

Oct 22, 2009, 8:17am Permalink

Authentically Local