It’s redemption, Wal-Mart style. In a move brokering criticism, protests, and an in-person appeal from a local assemblyman, Wal-Mart fired an employee for redeeming discarded bottles found on store property.
Thomas Smith was working extra hours on his shift that day, gathering carts from the parking lot and picking up bottles along the way. When it was discovered that he had redeemed the bottles for a total of $5.10, he was taken into a room, questioned by three security officers, then asked to sign a statement confessing his guilt though he could not read it properly without his glasses. Intimidated by the situation and concerned over making a fresh start after being released from prison earlier this year, Smith signed the statement and went on his way. Wal-Mart later commented that Smith was not fired over the bottles retrieved in the parking lot, but $2.00 worth of bottles left inside the store near the redemption counter, effectively stealing from customers. Smith, who hadn’t even been on the job for 90 days, said he was unaware of any policy regarding the bottles and agreed to pay back the $5.10. But instead of clarifying policy, taking the money back, or issuing any kind of disciplinary action or warning, Wal-Mart instructed Smith to hand in his badge; he was fired.
Bad move for them as backlash from the story has fueled those who love to hate the corporation and even those who just love the deals. In addition to online petitions, negative news coverage, and possible live protests, those that are sympathetic to Smith’s situation have donated thousands of dollars to him personally. Plus Smith is now being considered for employment at a nearby Target store. The Center for Law and Justice in Albany has taken up Smith’s case and The Action Network has started a petition to have him rehired by Wal-Mart.
There may be more to the story in this seemingly shameful and petty move. But it is clear that Smith is just one more casualty of the Wal-Mart giant and brings to light how human dignity and compassion are valued by certain facets of society.