Walmart Hostage Situation

A tagline on a story this week was designed to provoke. I even talked about the tagline and said it was to provoke. Yet it still brought complaints and “disagreement” — even though it’s impossible to agree or disagree with my thoughts, since the tag didn’t reveal my thoughts.

But I Still Made a Huge Mistake!

The mistake was, I included the discussion in the free edition, but forgot to leave the story in when I whittled the issue down to four stories, so no one knew what I was talking about!

D’oh! That’s one of the hazards of putting the issue together on deadline after a tiring 12-hour day. But at least I have the chance to “fix it” by posting this!

So it’s all gathered together here to clear up the confusion created when I explained something that no one could see, and to give a place for readers to comment.

Let’s start with the story, from True’s 10 March 2013 issue:

Note the Charges Don’t Mention
Dangerous Weapons

Employees at the Walmart store in Glendale, Ariz., saw a man allegedly pocket a pack of cigarettes. When confronted, the man allegedly walked out, but then came back and threw his keys at an employee. He then, witnesses say, grabbed a bottle of booze from a shelf and hurled it through the front window, smashing it. Then it gets weird: the man allegedly took 12 employees hostage in the store’s break room, telling them to lock the door and sit on the floor. When told the door didn’t have a lock, he started pacing back and forth. Police arrived and learned the weapon the man was using to hold the hostages was a fire extinguisher. When the suspect raised it in a “threatening manner,” an officer shot him with a Taser. Ryan Herman, 23, was charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault, shoplifting, and aggravated assault on a police officer. (RC/Arizona Republic) …A dozen employees held captive with a mere fire extinguisher? That’s what happens when Walmart doesn’t pay employees enough to afford the guns Walmart sells.

The Discussion

Last week when talking at a gathering of friends about the industrialization of the U.S., someone commented that part of Henry Ford’s genius was that he paid his assembly line workers enough that they could afford to buy the cars they were building. Someone else pointed out that according to studies*, Walmart employees are paid so little that a significant portion of them are on medicaid, welfare and/or food stamps, which amounts to a taxpayer “subsidy” of Walmart’s payroll.

*One such:

The two ideas stewed for a few days, and came together as I wrote the rather provocative tag for the “Note the Charges” story above. Just a little insight into my writing process….

That Ain’t No Viewpoint

Several Premium-edition subscribers read that story and the above paragraph and took issue with my “viewpoint” on the subject, decried that the tag “suggests” that a higher level of violence was the “solution” (i.e., that “guns solve everything”), or that I “buy into” the “union propaganda.”

I pointed them back to the above paragraph that even states that the tagline was meant to be provocative. How does a commentator get readers to laugh, or to think? By pushing readers a little bit off kilter, to look at things in an unexpected way.

Nor do I “endorse” the “one such” “study” about Walmart and welfare; the link is merely for your convenience if you don’t know what this refers to. It’s all about what other people said, and I melded it together into something new to provoke a laugh (and/or thought!) Just another example of the value of thinking first, and reacting second (if at all)!

But the “best” comment came from Dave in Florida, who thought the tagline should have been, “This is what happens when you are taught from the cradle that you shouldn’t protect yourself, that you should wait for your government to protect you.” See, that’s having your thought provoked after being pushed a little bit off kilter!

Just Sit There and Take It

Bag o' stuff from WalmartDave Wasn’t the Only Premium subscriber who was pushed to think about it and came up with a great response. Karl in New Jersey was another: “A dozen employees held captive with a mere fire extinguisher? That’s what happens when kids grow up under Zero Tolerance policies. They take fake weapons too seriously.”

Just so: both point at the lack of self-sufficiency that’s being ingrained in our children — to their (and society’s) very great peril.

Oh, and the graphic to the right? That’s meant to provoke too. (Yes, Walmart really does sell guns, if you’ve never noticed.)

So think instead of reacting: what does it say about society that a dozen people could be held hostage by one guy …armed with a fire extinguisher?

Because that’s the bottom line here.

And if it takes shocking people a little to get them to think, then so be it.

But it’s a little sad that they react rather than think even when you tell them that you’re doing it on purpose.

– – –

Bad link? Broken image? Other problem on this page? Use the Help button lower right, and thanks.

This page is an example of my style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the minimum rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.


37 Comments on “Walmart Hostage Situation

  1. Dave from Florida has it right.

    My personal thought is that the stores pay and treat the employees so badly, they would willingly sit around as “hostages” even if the guy was unarmed.

  2. They don’t sell guns here, but then I’m Canadian….

    As to the “big mistake”, I figured when I read my free copy that that’s exactly what you did. I also figured a) Randy will catch on, b) lots of others will too, maybe before Randy does, c) he’ll get lots of email on the topic, and d) because of the above, it’ll be rectified. I didn’t think I should clog up his email and be the 475th person to tell him “Hey, didn’t you forget to include the story?”

    There you go again, thinking! -rc

  3. We do have a culture of not ‘allowing’ people to be FREE to do much of anything, including defending themselves. In MOST big box chains, the person who tackled the ‘customer’ would be fired. I’ve known people who were fired for stopping a shoplifter from caving in the skull of the ‘loss prevention’ specialist with a steel pipe! Or who refused to give the money to a thug with a bat and got beaten for it until they gave up the cash register!

    Not all Walmart stores carry firearms and not all carry ammo, these days most aren’t selling it because they’re out!

  4. When a person applies for a job at Walmart they are shown how to apply for food stamps, day care, housing, etc.

    Can you provide a reference for this? I want it to be more than a “What I have heard is…” type of thing. -rc

  5. I think I agree with David from Oregon — the employees got a chance for an extra break and took it.

    What would have happened if they attacked the guy? They might have been hit by the extinguisher and they would have had to go back to work sooner.

    Instead, they got to sit down for awhile. What the heck!

    That’s like saying POWs “get to” lounge for a few months on full pay rather than have to fight in a war. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying I hope you’re wrong…. -rc

  6. Yeah, I figured you would probably rectify. It is strange though, not getting the full 14 stories. On a semi-related note, I got the job, starting in April. Hoping to get back on the premium list soon (and I urge everyone who is thinking about it — get the premium, well worth it!)

    Regarding the store story, I kind of get why they would not want to confront the attacker directly. It might be a store policy to do this as well, I know we had such when I part-timed in retail. On the other hand, there will be this one time when it will just not work. Most people on 9/11 thought they were getting a trip to Cuba, too.

    I say that we, not the US, but the whole civilization, or al least what is called Western civilization, need to strengthen the individual. Ideas like ZT, passive safety, etc. discard individual responsibility and individual activity.

    But there is one thing we seemed to forget. Heroes are individuals. Taking individual risks, above their individual responsibilities, to help someone in need, or to save them from risk. People like Lenny Skutnik, who decided he would not wait for the authorities to save Priscilla Tirado and jumped into the icy Potomac at great personal risk. These days he might have been scolded for not letting the rescue people do their job, I fear.

    Skutnik, who worked for the Congressional Budget Office, saved Tirado when she couldn’t manage to hold on to a rope dropped from a helicopter trying to save her after the airliner she was on, Air Florida Flight 90, crashed into the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C., in 1982, and dumped its passengers into the Potomac River. -rc

  7. Unfortunately, some of the other respondents are correct in their critique of some, not all, Walmart employees and their work ethics, or lack thereof. This past Christmas season, I was walking through my local Walmart when I overheard an employee complaining to another associate how she had “lost her Christmas spirit” because she “worked for Walmart.” I looked around the store quickly to see where the gun was that was being pointed at her, forcing her to continue to “work” there. They do a really good job of hiding them now days, I never did see one.

  8. Just to add something to what David in Canada said. When I noticed the mistake, I went to the error reporting page. Not seeing a correction, I composed a report. Was I the only one who did that? I don’t know. Regardless, Randy sent an email back simply saying, “Oops” and a link to this blog post.

    The point I’m making here is that while there may have been hundreds, even thousands, of people who saw the mistake, how many took the measures I did to let Randy know about it? It’s a minor issue in this case, but an important one.

    Let me give you a personal example. Years ago, I took the bus to and from work. One night, the bus stopped at the bus garage along the way. We switched to a different bus and got a new driver. When leaving the garage, the driver turned the wrong way and started going back the way we came.

    There were perhaps ten people between me and the driver. We all knew we were going the wrong way, but I was the one who got up to tell that to the driver. To this day I wonder how far we would have gotten before someone else spoke up.

    There may be something to do with the ‘bystander effect’, so that might be a difference between my story and just reporting a newsletter error. Ultimately, I chose to act and not just let things pass.

    Huh, I guess that related to the main story after all. 🙂

    P.S.: Always make sure the error you’re correcting isn’t already listed. Randy’s too busy as it is!

  9. @Greg in Illinois: Speaking as one who has been unemployed for 14 months, working at Walmart may have been the only job she could find. Contrary to what you are hearing on the news, there a darn few jobs available for unskilled labor. I was at my last job for 24 years until we were bought out and closed. Not having a college degree or other marketable skills I might end up at Walmart myself. And at 60 years of age I’m a lot older than most companies want to hire and it’s darn near impossible to prove age discrimination. I’ve run out of unemployment, I’m too young to draw Social Security or my retirement benefits, and I’m too damned proud to file for welfare.

    So yeah, there might have been a gun on her, one labeled Rent, Utilities, Groceries, Medical, etc.

  10. I was cognizant of the irony of 12 people willingly being held hostage by a fire extinguisher, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I’ve seen that kind of reaction for decades. People talk tough, but when it comes to defending themselves, most back down to a stranger’s force of will. (Hence, the existence of bullies.) One apocryphal story was popular in the New York newspapers in 1985 when a mugger brandished a knife in the subway, robbing passengers. One man, at only 5.4″, yelled at him, “What in the hell are you doing? Give me that knife! Give that money back to those people!” To which the mugger immediately complied. Nobody had every challenged him before and he didn’t know what else to do.

    However, many companies have a policy that, unless it is your very life at danger, no one is to confront an attacker under penalty of termination. It’s a feeble attempt to make themselves lawsuit-proof if an employee is injured in the process. And some companies don’t even accept imminent death as an excuse. You’re still fired. Walmart examines each case on an individual basis, depending upon circumstances AND outcome.

    And no national chain company shows employees how to file for government benefits. Unless the company offers benefits itself, it’s up to the government to provide such assistance. ONE person may have offered such advice, but not by company approval.

  11. I dunno, I think I’m with David from Oregon, too (there’s some some smart folks in that state! ;). I’ve worked in retail, and from some of my experiences in an upscale craft store I can’t imagine what those Walmart employees have to deal with. A crazy man with a fire extinguisher gifting you with a 12 hour (I assume paid) break might be a welcome distraction from the usual workday. Especially if you were indeed smart enough to know you could overpower him anytime and weren’t in any real danger.

  12. Responding to Greg in Illinois:

    Yeah, working in retail does that to you, you get to experience the shopping frenzy first-hand and without emotional attachment that comes with buying the gifts for someone specific.

    That is not to say that working in retail is good, or bad, or anything else. She might have had the figurative gun of not being to afford food and shelter aimed at her though. It is not like you can walk away from a job and have another within a week, especially not these days.

  13. There were two aspects to the story and tagline that got my mind off and going. Firstly was the use of the word “mere” to describe the potential of a fire extinguisher as a weapon. Depending on the size and type, a fire extinguisher can be used as a very effective weapon, as effective as box-cutter anyway, and look what can be accomplished with one of those!

    Secondly, I was curious as to why this story made it into the selection at all? “True” has featured many stories involving inept bank robbers over the years, however the fact that the tellers complied with and handed over the cash (and dye-packs) to clearly unarmed robbers has never, to my recollection, been the focus of the story. Why now? The staff were clearly following the standard employee handbook response of remain calm, comply, get them the hell out of there before they hurt someone. I must admit that I am a bit perplexed as to why this story made the cut.

    I am not a lawyer, but I can see that there would be a huge liability for an employer if they empowered their employees to use discretionary force against robbers or intruders (outside of companies specializing in security, of course). The potential compensation arising from lawsuits for injury, or worse, from employees or next of kin would be proportional only to the size of the company; deeper pockets and all of that.

    That being said; what would be the appropriate response of the Walmart staff if the robber had demanded the keys to the gun cabinets?

    I don’t think you’ll be finding too many large aircraft fire extinguishers in a Walmart break room. Indeed, inept bank robber stories are common; how many “many employees held captive by a man with a fire extinguisher” stories have you seen? -rc

  14. Dunno where Gary in Ohio is getting his information, but the application process for Walmart is done online (even when done in-store, there’s a special kiosk computer that connects to the hiring site). At no point in that process is there any sort of instructions for applying for public assistance of any kind.

    Nor is there any sort of public assistance instruction in the interview process or the orientation process.

    Given how little we make, perhaps we should be given such instructions. 😀

    As far as being held hostage with a fire extinguisher, it would take a physically imposing individual to keep me from nullifying the threat, and it doesn’t matter if I’m making seven figures or not being paid at all. I stand 6’2″ tall and am one of the physically strongest people at my store. There’s a manager who towers over me, and other individuals who would not hesitate to act as well. I certainly wouldn’t allow someone to terrorize my weaker coworkers just so that I could have a few more minutes of paid break time.

    And if it came down to it, the break room tables are light enough that I could just pick one up and throw it at him, or grab a chair and use that as a more effective weapon than his fire extinguisher.

  15. Randy…your coolness is amazing. Even in the remarkably few instances that you screw something up, you manage to make it a life’s lesson, and a humorous one at that. Thanks. You are a good example for all of us, at least in your public persona.

    Don’t worry, Steve: privately I’m a total bastard. 🙂 -rc

  16. I work on a cruise liner and one of the first thing they tell you when you join is that if there’s a fight and you participate in it, regardless if you started it or not, regardless if you were only defending yourself against an attack, your contract will be terminated.

    Still, when a 6ft Jamaican guy get into my face and started threatening, I calmly explained to him that there will be consequences if he tried anything and I might have mentioned how hard is to obtain a new kidney. He never even looked in my direction after that.

    Regardless how you look on the issue, here’s bottom line: if you were attacked, you SHOULD defend yourself. If not, you will be a victim. Be smart about it and don’t rush into fight, but please, stand up for yourself. Even on a minimum wage job.

    I like your calm response to the unruly passenger. -rc

  17. Another note on being forced to work for Walmart: the writer is apparently not familiar with Walmart’s history of predatory business practice, including forcing local employers to close and getting huge tax breaks. Walmart doesn’t need to hold the gun, they have politicians and police to do it for them!

  18. Most of your commenters are as good to read as your humor. You seem to have collected a pretty smart group of readers. Bet a lot of authors would like to have that talent.

    I’m not sure if it’s talent per se, or subject matter. I did choose that well. -rc

  19. Gary in Ohio, who said “When a person applies for a job at Walmart they are shown how to apply for food stamps, day care, housing, etc” was partly correct. I personally worked for Satan’s Retailer a few years back. While they don’t openly mention it during orientation, it is (or at least three years ago, WAS) part of the online training packets…as a “we care about you” packet aimed at single parents. As I said, he was at least half correct.

  20. Funny thing is, if you feed “fire extinguisher weapon” into a search engine, you’ll find a number of cases where often-successful robbers did just that. Fire extinguishers are also a weapon in a number of video games. Given that the hostages here were Walmart clerks and presumably fairly young, they might have seen a fire extinguisher as more threatening than it actually was.

    And depending on the fire extinguisher, a CO2 extinguisher could freeze someone’s eyes, a dry chemical extinguisher would at the very least be an irritant. There just might be possibilities for the use of a fire extinguisher as a weapon. No doubt the possession and carrying of a fire extinguisher is protected by one Constitutional amendment or another. I leave it to you to decide which one(s).

  21. A fire extinguisher could be used as a weapon in numerous ways. However, it may have been the actions of the man before this (throwing keys and a bottle), basically the fact that he already showed he had a propensity for seemingly random acts of violence, that caused the employees to refrain from taking any actions against the man. Also, they theoretically had no way of knowing if he had a more dangerous weapon on him.

  22. So some people who work at Walmart still qualify for aid programs. I much prefer that than to have us taxpayers paying even more to cover their entire medical expenses, food, or whatever. At least their Walmart pay is covering *part* of their expenses.

    I say this because if there were a better place to work that paid enough that the employee could no longer qualify for assistance, don’t you think they’d be working there?

    And on a related note, the people in our armed forces make so little that they and their families often qualify for assistance, too, and I don’t see studies screaming about it. Just sayin’.

  23. Randy, thank you — your response to Steve, Missouri about your dual nature — made my evening. I normally don’t read all the comments; tonight, I’m glad I did. I’m also glad that you keep your public and private personae separate. As always — great work, and thanks.

    Would you think I’m a bastard if I said that I was just kidding? What a conundrum! -rc

  24. A fire extinguisher may seem harmless to most people, but a typical dry chemical extinguisher is a powerful asphyxiant. It’s designed to block oxygen transfer in order to snuff a fire out. Works the same way on human lungs. In a small room, a 5 lb extinguisher can choke out a lot of people pretty quickly. Plus it can be used as a rather effective blunt force weapon.The man has already shown himself capable of violence. By myself, I would have considered ending his hostage situation more quickly. However, would I be willing to jeopardize the safety of the room’s other occupants? It’s impossible to say until you are in that kind of a situation.

    And by the way Randy, great work at making so many people think. Seems so many poeple are lacking that skill some days.

    I appreciate your adding to the process, Brian. -rc

  25. “When a person applies for a job at Walmart they are shown how to apply for food stamps, day care, housing, etc.”

    I used to work at a couple of Wal-Marts, and this is completely false. I have never spoken to anyone who is or has worked at a Wal-Mart who has had this experience. Wal-Mart doesn’t care enough about their employees to tell them there are benefits they can apply for to help them make it from paycheck to paycheck. Granted, an individual manager may have told an employee about applying for benefits, but it is not corporate policy to do so.

  26. If just one of those dozen employees had a concealed carry permit and was packing a pistol the hostage situation could have been nipped in the bud almost immediately…even if the perp’s weapon was an “assault” extinguisher.

    Concerning WallyWorld employees being on assistance, It isn’t the responsibility of the employer to see to it that the employee has the education and skills to be worth more than minimum wage. I recall one fellow wondering how a business could expect a man to support a family of seven on minimum wage and I wondered what a man was doing with a wife and five kids if he didn’t have the knowledge and skills to be worth more than minimum wage.

    People complain about WalMart putting the local mom and pop stores out of business as if it is the source of all evil on the planet. WalMart didn’t do it. WalMart gave them the option of buying cheaper or supporting the mom and pop and they voted with their dollars for WalMart.

    Before someone freaks out about the “escalation” in your first paragraph, I’ll just gently remind that in the vast majority of incidents, such situations resolve without ever firing that gun — the Bad Guy realizes that he has lost his advantage, and the childplay must stop “or else”.

    In your second paragraph: that’s probably the most succinct statement on that matter I’ve seen. I trust you’ve opened a few eyes.

    But in the last paragraph, if that’s all it was, I’d agree with you. Big Companies can and do move in, drop prices to below wholesale to drive the moms and pops out of business (since they have the resources available to do so), and when the competition is gone they can raise prices back to previous levels, but without providing the same service. Would Walmart do such a nasty thing? I wouldn’t bet against it. -rc

  27. A few things to comment on, here!

    I am a Walmart associate. I have been for 19 years. I was on assistance briefly once, when the new store manager cut our hours drastically and my now-ex-husband was unemployed. Even then it was hard to qualify for anything. And, I realized later that my problem was the ex, not Walmart! LOL I have always been able to live comfortably on my wages. I even have my own home and a nice Tundra, new off the lot. Both my fiance and I work for Walmart.

    Anyway, about the hostage situation. We are told to comply with whatever the person demands. And, we are also told to try and leave the building if possible. We are not to confront nor aggravate the perpetrator, and you can and probably will get fired for it, honestly.

    Also, someone complaining about Walmart ruining their Christmas spirit is no reason to expect them to quit their job. I do it every year when Black Friday rolls around. I am very shy and suffer from anxiety. I also have agoraphobia. Crowds are the worst thing for me. I have a panic attack almost every year on Black Friday. I also am incredibly withdrawn on that day. Someone asking for help usually gets that “deer in the headlights” look from me. I dread this day so much that even in the weeks leading up to it, my anxiety runs higher than normal. But, even though I wish I did not have to be there, I somehow make it through and carry on. The holidays in general are tough on those of us in retail. It can be hard to have the holiday spirit when you can’t spend days like Thanksgiving with your family every single year. We are required to work. There is no way out of it, except in rare cases. Even people who normally have Thursdays off have to work that day. So, of course we are bitter, but that doesn’t mean we want to quit our job. We make it through and move on, then complain again the next year! LOL (Oh, and I work 3rd shift, in case anyone was wondering.)

    Thanks, Jennifer: I was hoping a current employee would weigh in! -rc

  28. Reminds me of a great book about Wal-Mart, The Wal-Mart Effect – it explains a lot.

    Things are a bit different in Australia, I work at a big Hardware chain as a sale assistant (not a manager) and take home $47K with four weeks annual leave and 9% Superannuation. I work 30 to 46 hours a week and am contracted to 1976 hours (38 x 52) a year. I start on time and I leave on time. And when I leave work there’s no worries, MATE!

    Sorry to rub it in but you guys are getting shafted by big business eg Wal-Mart and your government. You are my best friend though, because your overfunded military is stopping China from taking over.

    Thank you from Australia.

  29. While slightly off-topic, I have to quickly point out that the minimum wage of $1.60 back in 1968 would be $10.56 now if adjusted for inflation, so certainly it’s a lot harder to support a family now on the national minimum wage of $7.25 that it used to be.

    (Note: I do agree that if one is planning a large family, one should have the ability to make more than minimum wage. However, stuff happens and someone who maybe could earn a lot of money when they had the large family may now be an situation where they can no longer earn above minimum wage. For example, a family where the breadwinner gets so ill they cannot work and the spouse, previously a stay-at-home spouse, has to go to work.)

    With our current unemployment rate, it’s not surprising that people are going for WalMart jobs even with the low pay because there may just not be any others available.

  30. I’ve often read about Walmart driving the “Mom & Pops” out of business by undercutting prices, but that same criticism has been leveled at Home Depot and Lowes, et al. The same might have been said about supermarkets in the 1950’s, 1960’s, that eventually drove the corner grocery markets out of business. Back then, though, it wasn’t so fashionable to bash a new business model that brought convenience and efficiency to the customer.

    However, in perspective, you’ll rarely find a Walmart sitting isolated all by itself, as a super conglomerate sucking up all commercial “oxygen” for itself. Mostly you’ll see entire shopping centers growing up wherever a Walmart is built, since it draws incredible foot traffic, and restaurants, athletic facilities, specialty shops, and innumerable other consumer stores will accrue to take advantage of the traffic. Even competitors will build near a new Walmart, simply because there WILL be competition, regardless of ranking (Target, Kroger, CVS, etc).

    Just to provide another perspective, while I do most of my shopping at Walmart, they do not carry everything I want. Yesterday I went to a Radio Shack in the same shopping center because I needed cable TV parts not sold by Walmart. Same with Petsmart, because what I needed was not carried by Walmart. I paid more, willingly because, as a specialty store, it was more likely to have the unusual item that I was looking for. The “Mom & Pops” will survive by supplying what the customer wants, not what the customer “owes” the small business.

    To insist on outdated business models for the sake of preservation is nothing more than lamenting the fast-paced buzz of modern airports compared to the more leisurely, time-consuming comfort of old propeller-driven airlines.

    I realize this has nothing to do with hostages and fire extinguishers, but it’s also become a forum for rehashing the same trendy, clichéd criticisms.

  31. Mr. Herman had already thrown a bottle of alcohol through a window. This indicates a level of craziness and I would think twice about confronting him unless he was about to do something else that would cause bodily harm. A fire extinguisher isn’t just a ranged fire suppression device; it’s a weighted blunt force trauma weapon if used that way.

    As it stands, the incident was resolved with minimal injury. Mr. Herman was tasered and taken away by the authorities. Hopefully he is charged with his crimes against persons and property and given an appropriate sentence, including restitution for the broken window and alcohol.

  32. Isn’t it important that the violence in this story fell below the line that would (in my view) morally require exceeding the employment contract?

    It would be helpful to hear something official from the employer, but it seems very likely that the employment agreement includes reference to company standards and practices, and those S&Ps include not resisting in this circumstance. If so, the employees were not being lazy (…although it’s funny to think of their response as being tied to the desire for a work break; humor need not be fair!!), but were merely following the agreement that for which they earn a paycheck (one that is probably too small, but that’s another matter…). A company may well create those S&Ps by looking at the Big Picture: while 9 out of 10 Fire Extinguisher Incidents might be ended by Brave Guy Me punching out the perp, in that 10th incident the perp pulls a gun and ooooooops! now the employer is more than 10 times worse off (…so is the employee.)

    There is of course a line, which I think most of us would agree is harm or real risk of harm to a person. At that point, the common duty of decent people (to be distinguished from legal duties or contractual duties) would be to act to preserve life. This may result in job termination because some employers have funny attitudes toward those things, and sometimes that’s just part of the cost of doing the right thing.

  33. I have not checked for a few years, but for a LLLLLLLOOOONNNNNG time, the largest redeemer of food stamps (meaning people spent their food stamps there), was Military Commissaries. The military paid soldiers, sailors, marines, and air force members so little they qualified for food stamps. I myself made $4 per month too much to get food stamps in 1981, as an E-6 in the Navy.

  34. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a mistake. I thought it was an attempt to get us to subscribe to the paid service, by suggesting the stories there were more exciting and controversail.

    Come to think of it, I still think so.

    There’s already a listing of “stories you missed” in the free edition every week. I also get way too much email as it is; I don’t need to generate hundreds of additional messages with false controversy. Your paranoia is silly. -rc

  35. To Robert in TX, who said “If just one of those dozen employees had a concealed carry permit and was packing a pistol the hostage situation could have been nipped in the bud almost immediately…even if the perp’s weapon was an ‘assault’ extinguisher.” Even if one of the employees held hostage had both a concealed carry permit and a gun, company policy states that they could not carry while on the clock, so isn’t that a bit of a moot point?

    As a former Walmart employee I would also like to add that not all stores are horrible places to work. In my time with the company I worked at two stores in different parts of the state. My first store always made sure the employees had decent hours and I did not need state assistance. The second store was hell. Hours were cut (by the time I quit I was getting 12-14 hours a week) and I had been on assistance for 6 months. I was lucky enough to find a better job before I quit and am now back to happy self sufficiency.

  36. I see that you’ve asked for documentation of the “Walmart trains its employees to apply for welfare” claim. There is an entire documentary about it available through Netflix: “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price”.

  37. Most companies tell anyone who handles money that if someone tries to rob you to hand over the money because money CAN be replaced but YOUR life cannot. With the litigiousness of American Society today (witness the stories we used to get in the now-defunct “True Stella Awards” that Randy once published) it does not surprise me that a company would have a ZT policy for employees who try to interfere with someone like the perp described in this story, especially Wal-Mart which is the largest retailer in the WORLD so you KNOW they have ‘deep pockets’ that plaintiff attorneys love so much.

    I also agree with the assessment of a fire extinguisher a a potential weapon in so many different ways, not the least of which is that even the smallest ones sold for home use are still HEAVY because, by necessity, they are made of STEEL instead of aluminum or plastic (both of which could melt in a fire and also might allow the chemicals to ‘leach’ out). If nothing else they could be thrown or used as a battering ram. Remember if the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

    Most of the people I have worked with in retail (I managed a convenience store for a year about 10 years ago) already knew how to get government assistance — they did not need their employer to tell them. I did have one clerk whose house was about to be foreclosed on and I told her how to file for Bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure, but that was not in my official role as store manager but as one person to another.


Leave a Comment