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Terminated and frustrated

Published: Sat, May 19, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

Retailer’s policy on handling shoplifters leaves ex-employee ‘at a loss for words’

By Ashley Luthern



Jean Torres is out of a job one week after he called police about a shoplifter at his workplace, Home Depot in Boardman.

Torres, 31, of Youngstown, was fired Thursday for violating the company’s policy about pursuing shoplifters.

Torres said he was hired in January to be a pro paint specialist. He left his job as a manager at a local Auto Zone to take the position.

Torres said he was working May 10 when he saw a man leave a tool aisle and walk out through the doors, and he heard the sensor beep.

“I asked him, ‘Sir, could I check your bag?’ and I see that he has stolen merchandise underneath his jacket and under his armpit,” Torres said.

The suspect then walked out to the parking lot, placed merchandise in his car and sped off, Torres said. He acknowledges that he followed the man outside but maintains that he had no physical contact with the suspect and was no closer than 25 feet to him. When Torres went back inside the store, he called police.

“I had the best descriptions, and they were able to catch him,” Torres said.

Torres said he later was reprimanded by a manager about following the suspect and calling officers, and subsequently was fired for his actions.

Stephen Holmes, Home Depot senior manager for corporate communications in Atlanta, confirmed Friday that Torres had been “terminated.”

“I can’t publicly specify why. Again, I would stress if you look across retailers in the United States, you’ll see Home Depot is one of the most active and aggressive retailers in working with local, state and federal law enforcement to deter retail crime, including shoplifting,” Holmes said, adding policies are in place for safety of workers and customers.

Lisa LaBruno, vice president of loss prevention and legal affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said retailers have loss-prevention policies in place primarily for safety. RILA is a trade association that represents U.S. retailers such as Home Depot, Walmart, Gap Inc. and Target, among others.

In general, retailers train loss-prevention associates on how to detect a shoplifter, how to safely approach a shoplifter and how to disengage a shoplifter when an apprehension has escalated. Employees who are not loss-prevention associates generally don’t receive the same level of training, she said.

“There have been plenty of instances where shoplifters have been found to be armed, whether it’s a gun, knife or brass knuckles. Some might be high on drugs. Some might be on probation or parole and will do anything they need to do to not get arrested again,” she said.

“Retailers put safety ahead of a $20 widget, which is what they should do,” she added.

Another advantage of loss-prevention training is observing shoplifting tendencies so that actual customers are not accused.

“[Retailers] don’t want to take the chance that they will stop an honest customer, because honest customers don’t like that and it can be very bad for the brand and for customer loyalty,” she said.

Torres, who moved from Philadelphia to Youngstown about 18 months ago, said as a specialist who worked directly with contractors, he was unfamiliar with the store’s policy.

Holmes said that this is a “very well-known policy.”

“It’s common knowledge across our associate base that that’s our policy,” he said.

Torres said he found that out when he returned to work Monday, as some co-workers suggested he quit before being fired.

“I did my best every day even though all my co-workers were asking me, ‘Why are you here? Why don’t you quit?’ I had faith that I wouldn’t get fired,” Torres said.

To him, his action’s were natural: “I helped the cops apprehend a suspect.”

Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols said that since the incident, a Home Depot customer-service representative called him, but not much can be done now. Last week, police released the suspect and let him keep the stolen property, per the instructions of a store manager, the chief said.

“In the future, I’ve told our officers that we’ll arrest and then subpoena everyone so that they have to testify — whether they want to or not,” he said.

Torres said this was his first offense at Home Depot. He said he enjoyed working there and the pay was good. He and his wife have four children and had purchased a home and car recently.

“I’ve been in marketing and business for the past 15 or 16 years. I’m left at a loss for words. ... Any other employer that wants a good, loyal customer-service representative, please reach out to me,” he said.


1bobhogue(102 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

What's next? Are employees supposed to help shoplifters carry their stuff to their car?? Mr. Torres, I hope that other employers contact you ASAP. You deserve much better than this.

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2unhappyvoter1(87 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

omg this is getting ridiculous! Do you see what happens to people that are dedicated and try to do their job correctly? The criminal walks free and gets to keep the articles he stole from Home Depot. I hope this tells workers to turn your head thee other way from now on and let people take what ever they want, because we must let criminals do whatever they want because they have more rights then the victim who reported it , lost his job, quit a good job to take the job at Home Depot and then gets screwed. The man has four children and a wife and even if he didn't he didn't do anything that required firing him. It is getting almost impossible to be a good person today because you end up with an impossible situation no matter what you do. I think I WILL NO LONGER GIVE HOME DEPOT OUR BUSINESS UNTIL THEY REHIRE THIS MAN. SHAME ON YOU HOME DEPOT!!!!!

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3AtownAugie(850 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Sounds like Home Depot should change the descriptor for their employees from "associate" to "silent accomplice." Yeesh.

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4441mb(1 comment)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

After reading this I will NEVER step into another Home Depot!! Because of this treatment and the fact that they have many employees hanging around and NO ONE to help you find anything!

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5MLC75(650 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr Torres deserves his job back,this was a bad call by home depot.I no longer will shop at Home Depot.

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6Photoman(1179 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

"It's commonly known across our associate base that that's our policy". That tends to make me believe that Mr. Torres wasn't even given a decent orientation before starting his job.
Great approach, Chief Nichols. Hopefully the employees will have to be paid while responding to the subpoenas.

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7futureboy111(3 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

At worst they should have reprimanded him and given him training on the shoplifting policies. It is outrageous that they fired him! And they let the thief keep the stuff? Wow.

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8dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

can you spell unemployment benefits? lawsuit? this is the biggest bunch of bs i ever heard. i will never go to home depot again. and please do not take your job back if offered. you have a clear case now, but if you go back they can find another way to get rid of you and that time it may be legit. collect what you can from them.

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9Education_Voter(1033 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I used to love Home Depot.
Not so much now.
Go to local growers for plants, like Chuck's Greenhouse.

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10300(573 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to see some kind of investigation into how much big-box stores claim as "business expense deductions" when it comes to theft.

You know, a policy like this that claims to be about non-confrontation for fear of a lawsuit might actually be masking its real intent; tax write-offs.

Someone walks off with a $20 hose, but it becomes a $200 business expense in which they add all sorts of transaction costs, internal filing costs, etc. That $1000 worth of wiring, becomes $10,000 total business expense when it's filed.

Maybe I'm just being conspiratorial, but I think these types of stores actually want a certain amount of theft.

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11magstr(8 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Since Home Depot has a "no pay don't tell" policy why not remove the cash registers and just have a donation jar as shop lifters leave the store they can leave a free will donation? With the registers gone there will be more room to carry merchandise that can be carried out the door?

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12joebag09(330 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Let Home Depot know how you feel! It's about the best he can hope for. Being an "at will" employee in Ohio means you are screwed! No unemployment, no nothing. He was fired. I've have recently been down this road and there is very little to be done. To all of you "anti-union" folks...it's like this...when you have bad management/ supervision, a little union goes a long way. I went through 18 months of hell. Good luck to you Mr. Torres!

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13gingerspice(139 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

BOYCOTT HOME DEPOT until they give Mr. Torres his job back!!!

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14gingerspice(139 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Torres, Hold on and keep the FAITH!!
Something better is coming your way! I am as disgusted and frustrated by this whole ordeal as you are; but, I know from experience, when adversity happens, victory is right behind. Stay strong!! I will keep you in my prayers!

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15DontBanThisDrone(925 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

If you look at other retailers, particularly larger ones such as Home Depot, Lowes, Target, et al, you'll find that they ALL have a similar policy regarding confronting shoplifters.

If Mr. Torres was informed of this store policy upon his employment, and he violated said policy, he has absolutely no case whatsoever; his firing is Just; and he probably isn't even eligible for unemployment benefits.

Totally wrong, I agree, but unfortunately, our opinions are just that, and do not apply.


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16blkpride(186 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

GIVE HIM HIS JOB BACK! Hey, there is always Lowes to shop at! Bad form Home Depot!

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17dawn421(265 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

@joebag no he is not screwed. just because it is an at will stte doesne mean you can fire hi for bs. i went through this and got y unemployent. people think they can fire u for nothing. read the uneployent law dude. he will get it

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18ytowhoh330(89 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I work for a retail chain, I got news for you folks. They blame 60% of the thieft in stores on the employees, NOT the shop lifters. It's total BS!!

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19jeepers(127 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Sure wish I could shop at Stambaugh-Thompson's. So the policy is let them steal and keep the merchandise? Even when they are caught.What is Lowe's policy? I seem to shop a lot at Home Depot as I live very close-2 days after the 1st article I was there and several employees were looking for a lawn mower that had gonemissing from outside. No wonder the employees werent getting overly-concerned. Hell, you get fired for reporting stealing. No wonder this society continues a downward spiral morally. Fired for wanting to catch a thief-another policy that makes no sense and reinforces negative behavior. Where are these people educated that make such rules? [law school]

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20Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago


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21ickyOhio(4 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I worked at Home Depot and there are NOO loss prevention associates. The cashiers are taught to look in everything from tool boxes to toilets to prevent theft but it still is hard. Criminals are getting smart, I once chased a guy out of the store, I got his license number and turned out he stole the plate from another car. They want us to "prevent" but it is a very wishy washy policy. There is no reason Mr. Torres should have been fired, maybe trained better???

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22AryanAres(2 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I refuse to shop at Home Depot and have pleaded with friends and family to do the same until Home Depot hires Mr. Jean Torres back with a promotion and they change their policy on shoplifting. No wonder I have to pay double for items that I purchase.... It's because store like Home Depot incentivize bad behavior and encourage theft by not perusing or prosecuting thieves. Whatever store hires Mr. Torres and promotes a strict policy toward perusing and prosecuting thieves will get my business. Would somebody please set up a picket protest at Home Depot in Boardman. I may just show up on my own during the next few days. Somebody needs to stand up for Jean Torres and what's right. I hope to see you there with your sign. Thanks, Anthony B

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23praxis95(51 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago


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24frogger724(1 comment)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

I may be fired tomorrow for a similar situation.

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