Thursday, 29 April 2010

The law is an ass ? No; don't insult the ass


There’s something very wrong when common sense is completely thrown out of the window. We all know that law can be an ass and lawyers an unbelievable pain in the aforesaid part of the anatomy, but this story takes the cake for the ultimate in nonsense. Only in the United States would something like this be even remotely comprehensible.

Two Sprint employees who worked in their store in Denver were fired. Their crime ?? They were on their lunch break in the mall where their store was, when they saw a shoplifter from the neighbouring store being chased. They lent a hand and caught the shoplifter. This was their crime.

Wait a minute. Would you not expect them to be publicly felicitated for being such being good samaritans ? You would expect a reward to be more appropriate than the sack. But sack is what they got. Why ? They violated company policy that prohibited store employees from chasing shoplifters outside the store. Wow !!

My first and immediate conclusion was that Sprint was an ass. Surely this must be the most stupid policy you can think of. This must be an oddity – some policy writer in Sprint had gone nutters. But wait. No ; Sprint is not an exception. Most retailers have a similar policy.

Double wow. Is there a different brand of common sense amongst retailers in the US as distinct from the rest of the species called homo sapiens ?? Why would companies have such a policy. Companies are not fools. There must be something else to it.

It so happens that there IS something to it. The reason why retailers are having such a policy is that they are being sued by shoplifters !!!! In Texas apparently, a shoplifter who admits to his crime, is suing Walmart because he was tackled by an employee and dislocated his shoulder. Another shoplifter in that state died of a heart attack when he was caught ; the shock of being caught seems to have made his heart stop – the retailer had to settle damages of quarter a million dollars to his family !!! Faced with damages that could be in 6 digit amounts, retailers have instituted the policy that staff can’t chase shoplifters. If you violate that policy you can get sacked. Fantastic.

There is a twist in the tail to this. The media has, of course, gone to town with this story of how wacky things can get. They asked Sprint for its comments. Sprint declined, citing privacy concerns !!

The mind boggles.

20 comments:

Chennai Vibes said...

This can happen only in the US of A. They have taken the concept of freedom (to sue) a bit too far. I have heard stories (horror) of children wanting to sue their parents for admonishing them. Little wonder that many of youth in the US are languishing with drug issues and crime.

Ramesh said...

Hey Sanjay - Nice to see you here. Can't understand your name though - Why Chennai ??

Well; its not so bad. There are a few crazy cases, but by and large the rule of law is more protected in the US than any other country. That's one of the most admirable things about that country. Still it doesn't stop us from poking fun when such absurdities happen.

Anonymous said...

sprint pannathu correctnu thaan thonuthu..antha second casela company maatikichi patheengala..inga traffic rulesum neria apdithaanay iruku...accident aana help panna poneenganna..unga melaye casea potruvanga..now only some amendment has come for that law.

ambulisamma said...

I go with gils,avane thirudina 5000 dollar nashtam,namba avana pidicha 500k dollar nashtam.na evan sack panna mattan.
But all these can happen only in US of A,something beyond our imagination and very weird too.

RamMmm said...

Indha maadhiri policy ellaam "Employee orientation PowerPoint"la podanum. ;-) ;-) (presentationuku 1 slide extra, pointukku power (or) powerukku point)

Deepa said...

I think it has something to do with the wiring of their brains! I mean its a great country, the true and original 'free country'. But I have seen the nuttiest people out here! In one day I have seen a guy wearing his T-shirt just over one shoulder, a gal wearing a blue sock on one foot and a purple on the other! There is an annual pillow fight festival, there is an annual 'No pants subway ride' in NYC (2010 - 3000 people). Its beyond your imagination as to how whacky they can get! (All in good humour though).

These crazy law suits probably are the manifestation of that odd wiring! :D

Srivats said...

thats really crazy to the limit! Shoplifters suing shop ? oh my can I call this height of human right ? haha very funny.

p.s: Loved reading ur posts after a long time

Your humble follower
Sri

Ramesh said...

@Gils - Your traffic example in India is really true. Human nature, when it comes to the possibility of some easy money, is truly appalling.

@ambulisamma - Yes, when petty economics overrules common sense and a sense of right and wrong, then the world has gone crazy. Just imagine if Sprint had publicly feted these two as great citizens, the publicity they got would be way much more valuable than the stupid penalty they be levied on being sued. Especially if they went to town on how stupid these lawsuits are.

@RamMmm - I'm sure they had a Power Point presentation on this. Trouble is that if they had policies like this, their presentation would have had 14365 slides.

@Deepa - Oh - they are an adorable lot aren't they. Any day them than "the youth are highly excited by Lee Hsien Loong's birthday" !!!

@Sri - Delighted to see you back. Trust its going great for you. We really missed you in the blogosphere. Warm welcome back.

Sandhya Sriram said...

now my turn to follow deepa

///Ramesh you are at your humorous best these days!///

wow!! what a narration.

whether rightly or wrongly wired, Its basic human mentality to be twice shy if once bitten!! - If we are driving on a highway and we see an overturned vehicle, how many times do we stop our vehicle. we fear that it could be a trap to do a highway robbery, we fear that it could land us in a police case (as GILs said)... rare cases that we stop.


But on the other side, I dont think there is anything wrong with the suit of the shoplifter - no one has any right to beat anyone up.


In a semi educated country, no one minds beating up the shoplifters (incl the shoplifter himself) and so no one bothers about any litigations on him.

but the completely educated country wants to read every line black and white.

maybe sprint will modify its employement contract as

"you can run and catch shoplifters provided

a > You have adequately ensured that your store is guarded and there is possibility of a damage whatsover to your store

b > You do not cause any damage physical or mental to the shoplifter

c > notwitstanding the above, the company hereby is absolved of any liability caused by whatsover activity of its employee stepping out of its premises for whatsover reason.

Maybe they can put up c as a visible board outside their stores as well :-)

J said...

Here's a uniquely American twist to the story. Apparently the two Sprint employees quickly set up Facebook accounts and have become celebrities in their own right with hundreds of instant friends on FB. Next they will have their own reality TV show :)

Ramesh said...

@ Sandhya - You are hereby appointed as the Chief Policy Officer of the company !

You really think there was nothing wrong with the suit of the shoplifter ?? Nobody bet him up - they just caught him while he was trying to escape. In the process he got injured. I am firmly of the opinion that when you commit a crime, you lose all the rights that you are entitled to.

Ramesh said...

@J - Now, why are we not in the least surprised that they did that !!!

kiwibloke said...

Interesting Case, and I guess this madness spread to Thalassa. Had a case some years back when a couple of drunk and drug crazed hoons got into to a farm up north, vandalizing the property and tried stealing a quad bike. The good ol' farmer chased them with a shotgun, in the process the Quad bike overturned and one of the hoons broke his back. The farmer was arrested and case registered "for threatening with a fire arm and for Occupation Safety & Health violations in using farm equipment" Needless to say common sense in public prevailed, a fund was set up to defend the farmer (who was rightfully defending his property) contributions flowed, lawyers argued for free (that's a story in itself!) and it was a real slap for the bleeding hearts, left of center,politically correct labor government of the day. Just shows that sometimes public opinion can change S*&% dished out to us

Ramesh said...

@kiwi - Just goes to show that Thalassans are eminently sensible people.

Hopfrog said...

As I was reading your entry, I began to feel like that kid in the classroom who has his hand raised and is screaming "me! me! me!". But alas, your last two paragraphs had already perfectly spelled out the answer.

I have had a personal experience with this, and in my opinion, this does show how crazy America has gotten and is proving what many of us here have been saying for years...... lawyers are going to destroy this country.

I work at a major casino here in Las Vegas and one day I witnessed a couple of *ahem* ladies of the night pickpocketing one of our patrons. I reported it in a timely manner and the two were arrested and the money returned. Our legal department had a fit! They claimed that since it was not a crime against the company it should not be pursued. How's that for caring about your customers? Also, how's that for a flaw in logic? That customer's money could have been used at our establishment, so transitive property and all, it was a crime against us.

Well I proceeded to let everyone know that I would be doing the right thing regardless, and that unlike our legal department, I was not going to behave cowardly. I would gladly take a sacking before I would turn a blind eye to something like that.

Its a shame what has happened to the modern American legal system. Despite how ridiculous it has gotten, I will say that it is nice to live in a country where the government and those with power just can't run roughshod over the citizenry as they do in most countries. The proliferation of lawyers has brought us to some ridiculous places, but overall, I guess I would still rather have it this way, than the way I observe it in so many other countries.

zeno said...

adada edhu imbuttu naal enakku theriyama poche ;)
Title pramadham!

Ramesh said...

@Hopfrog - Many a time, common sense flies out of the window and America is surely suffering from an overdose of lawyers. But as you say, its a far better alternative to places where the rule of law does not prevail. That's one of the things that makes the US a great nation. That doesn't obviate the need for legal reform - especially tort reform. The beauty of the US is that I can write a post like this and an American like you will take it sportingly and on merit. Imagine writing such a piece where I live !!

Ramesh said...

@Zeno - Now you know - Thou shall not chase a shoplifter !!!

Vishal said...

In deed the mind boggles! Absolute wacky and weird Policy. But wait, I think it is the judiciary system more than anything else that is causing companies to institute such policies. I really hope that sanity finds a place in such aghast legislations. Why would somebody be punished to prevent the crime and deter the criminals? Appalling!

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Very much so; its the law and especially tort law that is causing such behaviour. Its a barely legitimised form of robbing the rich; notice that such lawsuits are never filed against those who can't pay.

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