Grocery worker fired for stopping shoplifter
by Dave Gershman | The Ann Arbor News December 27, 2007
"The fact that I worked at the store at (the time of the robbery) is coincidental. If I had went over to the book store on my break and they were being ripped off, I would have helped them." - fired worker John Schultz
BY DAVE GERSHMAN
The Ann Arbor News
John Schultz says he lost his job at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor after he tried to stop a shoplifter from making a getaway. But the company says he went too far and violated a policy that prohibits employees from physically touching a customer - even if that person is carrying a bag of stolen goods.
Schultz says he had just punched out for a break at 7 p.m. on Sunday when he heard a commotion at the front door of the store, 3135 Washtenaw Ave. He said he came to the aid of the manager who yelled for help in stopping a shoplifter. Schultz, the manager and another employee cornered the shoplifter between two cars in the parking lot.
Schultz said he told the shoplifter he was making a citizens arrest and to wait for the police to arrive, but the shoplifter broke away from the group and ran across Washtenaw Avenue and toward a gas station at the corner of Huron Parkway.
Before the man could cross Huron Parkway, Schultz caught up and grabbed the man's jacket and put his leg behind the man's legs. When the manager arrived at the intersection, Schultz said, the manager told him to release the shoplifter, and he complied, and the shoplifter got away.
Schultz said he was called to the store's office the next day, on Christmas Eve, and was fired because he violated a company policy prohibiting employees from having any physical contact with a customer.
Kate Klotz, a company spokesperson, said the policy is clear and listed in a booklet that all employees have to acknowledge that they received before they can start work.
"The fact that he touched him, period, is means for termination," said Klotz.
Schultz said he acted as a private citizen on property that isn't owned by Whole Foods, but Klotz said where the incident happened doesn't change the policy.
"He is still considered an employee of Whole Foods Market regardless of where he was and what was happening," she said.
The police report of the incident doesn't mention Schultz's involvement. It says police responded to the call of retail fraud at 7:09 p.m. and could not locate the shoplifter.
The thief was described as a thin white male, 5-foot-10, in his mid-20s, wearing a black jacket, tan pants and carrying a backpack.
The report says store employees were suspicious when the man walked into the store and they watched as he filled up a basket and then took it into a bathroom. When he came out, his basket was empty, but his backpack looked full. Then he filled up a canvas store tote bag with groceries, and walked out the door.
The manager and the other employee told police they caught up to the shoplifter at the corner of Washtenaw and Huron Parkway. It says one of them grabbed the tote bag away from the shoplifter, and the suspect walked away. The bag contained $346 worth of food and other products.
Schultz, 35, of Ypsilanti Township, had worked at the store for five years, most recently as a fishmonger. He wants his job back."The fact that I worked at the store at (the time of the robbery) is coincidental," he said. "If I had went over to the book store on my break and they were being ripped off, I would have helped them."