It hasn't been a particularly good month for men of action in the business world.
First, there was the Key Bank teller out in Seattle who got fired for chasing down - and apprehending - a thief who attempted to rob the bank by coming up to the counter and shoving a back pack at Jim Nicholson, while saying:
"This is a ransom, fill the bag with money," Nicholson said.
Hearing the word "ransom," Nicholson stopped for a second and asked to see the man's gun.
The man said, "It's a verbal ransom." Nicholson then lunged over the counter at him.
Apparently, the would-be bank robber doesn't know the difference between "ransom" and "stick up". Nor was he aware that the term 'verbal ransom' makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This scene is, of course, reminiscent of the one in Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run, in which Woody hands a note to a teller that says "I have a gun," but the teller insists that it says "I have a gub."
Well, Nicholson was correct in assessing that his stick up guy wasn't packing either a gun or a gub. So he leapt over the counter and gave chase, eventually tackling the robber, who was arrested.
But, of course, the guy could have been armed and dangerous, and Nicholson's giving chase could have quite literally triggered something that resulted in mayhem. Not only could Nicholson have been killed or injured, so could the poor soul who was actually going into the bank for the first time since the advent of the ATM machine. So, while nobody got killed, Nicholson did get fired for violating bank policy.
Bank tellers are trained to get robbers out the door as quickly as possible and are advised against being a hero over money that's federally insured.
Federal taxpayers may salute Nicholson, but Key Bank wasn't amused.
Hot pursuit, by the way, was nothing new for Nicholson, who:
....said he has run after shoplifters while working at retail jobs in New York and California. On Tuesday, as well as in past cases, Nicholson said he felt confident he could catch the person.
This might have helped land him another job, if he'd just shut up right then and there. But, he also told the reporter:
"It's something I almost look forward to. It's a thrill and I'm an adrenaline-junkie person. It's the pursuit," he said.
This might limit the number of offers he gets, as I can think of any number of hiring managers who might see that "adrenaline-junkie person" thing and just take a pass. On the other hand, adrenaline-junkie-hood might be a valuable skill for certain professions. One of the Seattle cops did suggest that Nicholson might want to think about becoming a cop.
(Source for above story: Seattle Times.)
Then there were the two Best Buy clerks outside of Denver, who may have lost their jobs, but who have made the big-time. They got an article in yesterday's WSJ.
Unlike Jim Nicholson at Key Bank, Jared Bergstreser and Colin Trapp didn't get their man.
They did manage to grab hold of a guy who'd swept out of the store without bothering to hit the checkout lane with his stash of electronics. But the guy pulled a decidedly old-fashioned weapon on the duo - a pocket knife - and managed to make a getaway to his getaway car. He's still at large.
And Bergstreser and Trapp have joined the ranks of the unemployed.
Like most large retailers, Best Buy has a policy against this sort of action.
They claim that it's "first and foremost for the safety of our employees," but one has to believe that it's at least second and second-most to protect themselves from 'wrongful tackling in the parking lot' suits against the store in case someone gets hurt.
The "Best Buy Two" are getting the hero treatment by Denverites. And Best Buy's looking like the mega-retail version of a big old jerk.
Sure, the duo violated store policy, but maybe BB could have used this as a, sigh, teaching moment and kept them on the job.
Having been both a waitress and a clerk, I've had a tiny bit of experience with the role of person as anti-theft device.
At Durgin-Park, we occasionally gave chase to someone who 'walked' on a check. Alas, they had usually disappeared by the time we realized they weren't in the bathroom.
One time, a guy we recognized as a prior 'walker' had the nerve to show up during a quiet time. So, while he sat there eating his lunch, all of us waitresses hunkered down on the tables on either side of him and watched while he swallowed every bite. He paid, and that was the last of him. I can't remember if he left a tip - he wasn't one of mine - but at Durgin, we were also in the occasional habit of chasing after people who stiffed us. My friend Joyce once grabbed the doggie-bag out of a customer's hand - it contained a prime rib bone, I believe - and told him he could only get it back if he gave her a tip. Somewhat surprised, he gave her a buck.
Ah, the little triumphs that make up a waitress' day. (Anyone shocked by this is not familiar with the historic reputation of Durgin and its waitresses.)
When I worked retail, I had a couple of occasions on which I reported someone to security.
In one case, a couple of women tried to pull a change scam on me - one of those "I gave you a $10, now you give me back a $20" sort of deals that are easy to get tricked by if you're not paying attention. I held my ground, and they wandered over to another counter. I signaled the clerk there, and reported the scam artists to security, probably in the person of the woman who walked around dressed like a shopper, but was actually on the look out for shoplifters. I actually don't think she fooled many people, since, with her beehive, babushka, and ultra-clunky shoes, she didn't really look like the average Filene's patron.
Not that I really cared all that much if someone screwed Filene's out of $20. I was just pissed they'd tried to run their scam on me.
Similarly, at the stationery counter at Jordan's, a "customer" asked to look at some expensive pens - in the $100 range, which was a pretty pricey by early 1970's standards. Anyway, while I turned to get another pen out of the behind the counter display case, the bastard took off with the pen he'd been looking at.
I was completely furious, and speedily dialed security.
When the "house dick" showed up, he told me that he admired my loyalty to the company, but that I shouldn't be that upset.
Once again, however much I liked their blueberry muffins, loyalty to Jordan Marsh hadn't really factored in. I was just steamed that the guy had conned me.
And I absolutely know that I would not have gone after anyone for taking a five-fingered discount if there were even the most miniscule hint of danger.
The (stolen) pen is not mightier than the sword (or even the pocket knife). Let alone a gub.