Target - Where America Steals
If you're a 17 year old planning an underage drinking party anywhere near Lake Geneva, the local Target store is apparently the spot to go for the booze. What's more, if you show up at the right time, you don't even have to worry about producing a fake i.d. Instead, just steal the booze - Target doesn't seem to care.
Upon retiring after 30 years in law enforcement, Dean Babock took a job as a security guard at the Target store in Lake Geneva. On March 1 of this year, he verified that a 16 year old girl had shoplifted a bottle of Captain Morgan rum. After the same girl came back into the store a week later, Babcock logically decided to watch her closely.
Babcock observed the 16 year old put a bottle of tequila in her shopping basket. When he approached her as she wandered through the store, he noticed that the alcohol was no longer in her cart. At that point, Babcock asked her if the booze was in her bag. She admitted it was. She also admitted that she had stolen the bottle of rum a week earlier.
Babcock then retrieved the liquor, took identifying information from the girl, telephoned her father - and let her go.
In a rational world with a rational employer, this would be the end of the story. Babcock would be applauded for doing his job and the girl's parents would be alerted to the fact that their daughter was both an underage drinker and a thief.
Alas, we do not live in a rational world - and Target is anything but a rational employer.
Under Target policy, only a very small number of people per store have the authority to stop shoplifters. Therefore even if someone steals an item in the presence of a security guard like Babcock, Target does not authorize the guard to stop the shoplifter. As such, when Target found out that Babcock had confronted the would-be shoplifter, he was fired for violating store policy.
According to Babcock, nobody with authority to detain shoplifters was available when he observed the girl stealing the alcohol.
Obviously, Target has made a policy decision that they would rather tolerate retail theft than expose themselves to potential false imprisonment lawsuits should an employee wrongfully accuse someone of stealing. That's fine - but some rules are made to be broken under some circumstances. This case is definitely one of those circumstances.
If Target management doesn't care whether someone steals a television set under the noses of their security guards, that's Target's business. In this case though, the minor wasn't stealing a television - she was stealing booze.
Presumably, it was the intent of the girl to drink the alcohol she was pilfering. Imagine if she had slammed back the tequila, gotten behind the wheel of daddy's car, drunkenly crossed the center lane of the highway and killed a bus full of young kids headed home from school. Further imagine that it subsequently came out that "security guards" at Target had knowingly allowed the girl to walk out of the store with the booze.
I'm not one to condone excessive jury awards but - under these facts - it would be tough to criticize a multimillion dollar punitive damage award against Target.
In this case, Dean Babcock should have been reminded of store policy regarding shoplifting - and then commended for exercising initiative and discretion. Target should have also imediately arranged to make certain that people with the authority to stop shoplifters are always on store premises - to prevent employees like Babcock from being put in situations like this in the first place.
Moving forward, at a minimum, I would hope the authorities in Lake Geneva are seriously examining whether or not Target should be allowed to continue selling liquor. The effect of Target's "soft on shoplifting" policy is to allow minors to walk away with alcohol with little fear of apprehension and the full knowledge of security personnel. While this may be customer friendly (or at least "thief-friendly"), it's not very responsible when it comes to stopping underage drinking. If Target is not going to be a responsible corporate citizen in this regard, the answer is simply to not allow them to sell liquor in Lake Geneva any longer.
As to Mr. Babcock, I'm sorry that he lost his job. On the other hand, he's probably lucky to not be working at Target any more. A store as obsessed with political correctness as Target ( remember this is the same company that banned Salvation Army bell ringers) is probably just not a good match for an old school law-and-order guy.
I've got their new slogan though: "Target - Where America Steals"!