Let's say you manage a cookie store and you have a teenage boy working for you. A police officer, in uniform, comes through this boy's line and orders a cookie. The boy, wanting to thank the police officer for his service uses his own money to pay for the cop's cookie. Do you:
1. Tell your employee how proud you are of his generosity.
2. Ignore this. It's neither good nor bad.
3. Reprimand the employee for treating customers differently.
4. Suspend the employee and threaten to fire him until the story goes viral.
If you picked number 4, you just might be senior management at Great American Cookies Katy Mills.
According to his mom's account on Facebook, after he bought the cop a cookie, the next man in line became angry and threatened violence, even trying to come behind the counter. Thankfully, the threat didn't come to fruition, but the angry customer added another threat: "I will get you fired."
Apparently, the violent customer followed through, because upper management wanted to fire him, but his store manager stood up for him and only gave him a suspension.
"On behalf of Great American Cookies Katy Mills, we owe the employee an apology. It was never an issue that he purchased a brownie for a police officer, but rather the events that unfolded with another customer in line at the time. However, after further review, we realize that the employee was in fact in the right and we continue to reach out to him and his mom to issue an apology. The corrective action and suspension was reversed immediately and we hope to connect with him today."
So, if we believe this to be true, George, or his proxies, had a gut reaction: Employee does X, Customer complains about X, therefore we should fire the employee.
Please don't do this. While it's critical to give good customer service, not all customers are deserving. Any customer that threatens violence should be banned from your store, not rewarded by a gift card or discount, or in this case, punishing the employee. If the employee had been the rude or violent one, by all means, punish the employee. But, that is simply not the case here. (And if you had a policy against employees purchasing things while on shift, by all means, remind him that he can't do that, even to be nice, but it doesn't warrant a suspension.)
Always investigate before you act. If an employee has been a high performer up until the incident, then maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt. You want your employees to be kind to customers, so you should be kind to your employees.