Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


They must have thought they were doing the right thing.

There was, as far as they were concerned, a shoplifter stealing goods from their store, Home Depot, in Palm Coast, Florida.

Jeffrey Miller, 59; Jazmin Kelly, 27; Joe Spector, 29; and George Ippolito, 56, all allegedly played various roles in ensuring the police caught suspected shoplifter Brandon Charles Edward Mullins Lowe.

As the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports, Lowe allegedly admitted he stole almost $1,000 worth of tools from the store.

Kelly, according to the police report, wouldn't let Lowe leave the store unless he showed his receipt.

Each of the four has their own version of what happened next. Miller and Ippolito say that Lowe tried to ram Kelly with his shopping cart.

Miller says he went outside to capture Lowe's license plate. Ippolito says Lowe dropped his alleged stolen goods, so he went outside to pick them up.

Ultimately, the police caught up with Lowe at a nearby Chick-fil-A and charged him with various crimes. He remains charged with grand theft.

You might imagine that the four employees at least behaved instinctively, as many humans might have done.

Home Depot wasn't impressed. It fired them all.

Director of communications Stephen Holmes tells me: "Pursuing shoplifters is extremely dangerous, which is why we only allow trained security personnel to do so. Over the years, we've had serious injury and even fatalities in our stores."

You might think the employees behaved with a certain heart.

However, if you look at it from the company's side, there's a very different perspective.

At Home Depot, a cashier was recently punched by a shoplifter and now has permanent brain damage. Another employee was shot in the head.

Even if an employee just runs into the parking lot to get a license plate, that might encourage a car to speed away, which would endanger other people in the parking lot.

"We are very firm about this policy," says Holmes. "No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life."

He explains that employees know the policy. Sometimes, though, it's easy to forget when things feel personal, when you see someone behave in a criminal manner.

It's a simple truth, though, that retail employees are warned not to intervene. Look at footage from a recent robbery at a San Francisco Apple store. A gang comes into the store and rips gadgets from the tables. The staff watch. And that's all. It takes just 12 seconds to complete the robbery.

The policy makes sense. Unless, of course, employees are harassed by management because of so-called shrinkage -- the amount management might find tolerable for reduced revenue due to theft.

But is there any leeway for employees who at least behaved with good intentions?

Holmes tells me: "We don't make the decision to terminate anyone lightly. We thoroughly investigate and carefully consider the circumstances in each case."

Sometimes, what seems like the right thing to do just isn't the right thing to do.