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Clark Howard: Best Buy wrong in firing of brave employees

  • Story Highlights
  • Howard says there are times we wait for help to arrive when we're the help we seek
  • Best Buy employees tackle shoplifter and get fired as a result
  • Howard says incident is not unusual but sends a terrible message
By Clark Howard
HLN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- One of the things I find frustrating about modern American life is we wait for someone else -- anybody else -- to solve whatever problem it is that's out there.

Clark Howard says Best Buy should have lauded employees who ran after a shoplifter, not fired them.

Clark Howard says Best Buy should have lauded employees who ran after a shoplifter, not fired them.

We see something and feel like it's not our job. It's the "not in my silo" mentality found in corporate America. But there are times we wait for help to arrive when we're the help we seek.

Unfortunately, this mentality has seeped beyond corporate America into normal earthlings. Have you heard the story about Jared Bergstreser and Colin Trapp?

These two Best Buy employees tackled a shoplifter they saw busting out of their Denver, Colorado-area store with stolen electronics. They wrestled the suspect to the ground at great personal risk. The perpetrator pulled out a knife and cut a manager before ultimately escaping, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Bergstreser had been a three-year employee, while Trapp was on the job for less than a year. What did Best Buy do for these employees who showed such extreme loyalty? They fired them.

A spokeswoman for Best Buy said the company won't comment on the terminations. However, she said the company's employees are aware of a policy of not pursuing shoplifters. Best Buy says the policy is in place for the safety of its employees. Video Watch Clark reveal a Vegas vacation scam »

This case is not unusual. I am privy to a story about a separate incident that happened with a discount retailer. Again, a couple of guys I know who were employees tackled a shoplifter. The suspect then pulled out a gun and tried to shoot them. They managed to disarm the shoplifter after he fired and he was taken into custody.

Did they get a reward or bonus from their employer? No, they were canned.

I got some interesting reactions when I discussed these two stories in a pre-show meeting with my team. Somebody immediately piped up saying, "Of course they have to fire them because of liability."

Liability?!

One of my producers even called me a vigilante. After all, I'm the guy who chased down my own mugger on a Madrid subway train during a staff trip to Spain. In retrospect, what I did was really stupid because I could have gotten injured or worse. But my natural instinct just took over and I successfully recovered my wallet.

The idea that we're supposed to stand by idly and allow people to steal from us or steal from an employer is something that I just cannot support. I think we have a responsibility to get involved. Otherwise, if you let a small number of lawbreakers get away with it whenever, then they get away with it over and over and over again.

I could understand if Best Buy were so cowardly and afraid of a lawsuit that they felt these two employees should be sent to "Best Buy re-education camp." Fine. But to fire them for trying to stop a brazen criminal who was armed and dangerous and busting out of the store with electronics?

I just don't get it.

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And remember, when Bergstreser and Trapp went after this person, there was no benefit for them, unlike my experience being mugged in Madrid. They were putting themselves in danger to protect their employer. You should be, if not rewarded for that, then at least not punished!

I believe Best Buy is sending a terrible message by firing them. What do you think?

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