Wednesday, October 06, 2004

No (Long John) Silver Lining Here

I don't know if this story has made the news outside of here in Dallas, but it certainly should have: Back on September 18, in the neighboring suburb of Richardson, two men--one wearing a mask and at least appearing to carry a gun, attempted to rob a Long John Silver's restaurant. They took the money--about $500--from the register, forced the teenage employees to get down on the floor, and the masked one made the manager go with him to the back of the store, hoping to get more cash from the safe. (The manager is not being identified because one of the suspects is still at large.)

While on the way back, the manager (who, 25 years earlier, had been robbed on the street, cooperating with the robber in the process but getting shot anyway) saw a hammer lying around. He picked up the hammer and whacked the masked assailant, who fell to the ground. The pair of would-be robbers dropped the money and left the restaurant; no employees were harmed.

So you might think that the company would give the manager a commendation--maybe even a raise--for his heroics. But you would think wrong. After suspending him for two days, the company fired him. The official word was that he endangered the lives of his employees and violated company policy, which prohibits trying to disarm a robber. Read the whole story here.

So the first thing that comes to my mind is...are those corporate "suits" just nuts? I'd like to see what some of them would do in the same situation. Don't get me wrong--I may have a bit of a rebel streak in me at times, but I understand the importance of rules in a civilized society. However, every rule has an exception, and if ever there were an exception to the rule, this situation fits the bill. Yet the powers that be were unwavering in the support of the rule over the person, and as a result, a 46-year-old man who'd been with the company for ten years is now out of a job, his corporate "reward" for saving the lives of three teenagers.

So this begs a fundamental question: Are we a nation of rules, or a nation of people? I know of plenty of people who would support the first position, but as far as I'm concerned, that's the lazy way to go. One-size-fits-all regulations need to at least be able to be bent enough to accommodate a situation where the one size does not in fact fit all. It just requires some flexibility, as well as...get ready...some thinking on the part of those in charge. The teenagers who were working with him at the time of the robbery have already testified in his support. Even the grandmother of the jailed suspect has come forward in support of reinstating the manager.

So come on, LJS, and do right by this guy. The official word is that they're "discussing" the matter. Sure, your rule was put in place to help people, but this time it's actually hurting someone. Let's put the person before the rule this time so this story can have a happy ending.

(UPDATE: The second suspect has been there's only one piece of this puzzle left to go.)


Anonymous said...

I sent ljs an email and got this one back from them. didn't totally change my mind, but made me wonder.

Thank you for your thoughts on the recent events in our Richardson, Texas location. We always want to hear feedback from our customers.

Unfortunately, the media coverage of the event has been one-sided. In order to respect the employee's privacy, we have not been able to reveal all the facts of the situation. However, I can tell you the following:

Our top priority is the safety of our employees and our customers. We are fortunate that the employee's spur-of-the-moment decision turned out the way it did, but we need to set the facts straight on what happened. The employee told us that during the robbery, he realized the first thief did not appear to have a gun: "When I seen he only had his hand as a gun, I got mad." At that point, he said he grabbed a hammer and hit the suspect in the head. This is in the employee's signed statement.

Although the media has portrayed this employee as a person fearing he was about to be killed, his own statement indicates he took action because he believed the robber was unarmed and that he was "mad" about it. His actions escalated the violence during a situation that was already potentially violent, and put his life and the lives of his employees at risk.

Recently, Terrie Dort, the Executive Director of the National Food Service Security Council, issued a statement in support of Long John Silver's policy: "The vast majority of retail robberies result in lost money, but not lost lives. Responding to an attempted robbery in a violent manner dramatically increases the risk of harm to employees and customers."

In a serious situation such as this, we appreciate that there may be differences in opinion. While we respect your perspective, we must stand by the decision we made because it supports our first priority of keeping our employees and customers safe. The decision was made after a careful evaluation of all the facts, many of which are not currently public.

We appreciate your interest in this situation, and we hope now that you know more of the facts, we’ll see you again soon in one of our restaurants.

Kev said...

Hmm, that's interesting; thanks for the inquiry, whomever you might be (wish you would've signed your entry).