October 13, 2004

LJS Responds

In the comments to this post Gus Mcrae left the following:

"This is the e-mail I got back from long john silvers:

'Thank you for your thoughts on the recent events in our Richardson, Texas location. We always want to hear feedback from our customers.

Unfortunately, the media coverage of the event has been one-sided. In order to respect the employee's privacy, we have not been able to reveal all the facts of the situation. However, I can tell you the following:

Our top priority is the safety of our employees and our customers. We are fortunate that the employee's spur-of-the-moment decision turned out the way it did, but we need to set the facts straight on what happened. The employee told us that during the robbery, he realized the first thief did not appear to have a gun: "When I seen he only had his hand as a gun, I got mad." At that point, he said he grabbed a hammer and hit the suspect in the head. This is in the employee's signed statement.

Although the media has portrayed this employee as a person fearing he was about to be killed, his own statement indicates he took action because he believed the robber was unarmed and that he was "mad" about it. His actions escalated the violence during a situation that was already potentially violent, and put his life and the lives of his employees at risk.

Recently, Terrie Dort, the Executive Director of the National Food Service Security Council, issued a statement in support of Long John Silver's policy: "The vast majority of retail robberies result in lost money, but not lost lives. Responding to an attempted robbery in a violent manner dramatically increases the risk of harm to employees and customers."

In a serious situation such as this, we appreciate that there may be differences in opinion. While we respect your perspective, we must stand by the decision we made because it supports our first priority of keeping our employees and customers safe. The decision was made after a careful evaluation of all the facts, many of which are not currently public.

We appreciate your interest in this situation, and we hope now that you know more of the facts, we’ll see you again soon in one of our restaurants."

Many thanks to Gus for posting the e-mail he received. Now let's pick this thing apart.

Their top priority is not the safety of the employees. Their top priority is running a business. & this is as it should be. But employee safety should be a very important priority as it's essential to achieving their top priority. You can't run a succesful business if no one will work for you for fear of death. So employee safety should be a priority, just not the top one. Ranking it second would be a good thing. However it doesn't even rank second. Wherever employee safety falls in the scheme of LJS it takes a backseat to liability concerns. I discussed some of the reasons for anti-self defense policies in the previous post on LJS so I won't repeat them here. Suffice it to say LJS values the assessment of their insurance agents & attorneys more than employee safety.

Now, as to the "employee" striking out of anger rather than fear of life - I'd like for one of LJS' corporate mouthpieces to even claim he/she knows the difference from experience. Anger is a natural emotion when confronted with a life threatening situation. Hell, you threaten me & I will be angry. This does not mean I'm not scared, it just means that complex emotional responses are part of the human experience.

Have you ever known someone who lost a loved one? Did they ever tell you they were angry about it? Did their anger over their loss mean they couldn't actually e grieving? If you follow LJS' logic then a person who is angry at God or the deceased cannot be mourning them, as anger denotes a lack of any other emotions.

If someone threatens your life odds are you're gonna feel several different emotions provided you have time. Fear, anger, confusion, sadness & any number of others will be rushing through your system. Odds are you'll pick one & try to concentrate on that. It doesn't mean the others aren't there, just that you've decided to prioritize them.

So the anger angle just doesn't work as a justification for them firing the "employee".

The unarmed angle you say? Does that make things different? Not a damned bit.

First of all, if they were in fact unarmed that does not mean they were not dangerous or that the "employee" lacked justifiable fear for his & his fellow employees safety. If robbery was all they had planned then why tell the employee to go to the back of the store? Why not just haul ass out of there? They already had the cash, so I assume that the cash was not the only reason they were there, or rather decided to hang around after they got the cash.

A restaurant has a number of objects that can be used as weapons. The first thing that comes to mind is knives. Various cylindrical objects are employed in the course of business at most restaurants & usually there are hand tools laying about which could serve as weapons. Hell, the "employee" used a hand tool (hammer) to drive the miscreants off. Wouldn't that demonstrate that a lack of firearms would not equate to a lack of danger?

So the "employee" still had reason to be fearful even if he believed they did not possess a firearm.

& for me personally - if you ever try to rob me under threat of physical harm the very first opportunity I get I am going to meet you with as disproportional force as I am able. If that means shooting you while you only have a knife, so be it. If that means taking a hammer to the back of your neck as you try to walk away, so be it. If that means firing a mountain howitzer at your vehicle as you try to drive off, so be it. You've threatened my safety & I have no guarantee that you will not act out on that threat in the next 2 seconds or the next two days or the next two years. Some jurisdictions will prosecute you unless there is a clear & immediate threat, but the way I see it morally it's justifiable as long as there was & could be a threat to your safety. In other words if you don't have the gun in my face they'll charge me for breaking your arm. Fine. I'd much rather risk jail time while your arm mends than have you show up in the middle of the night two days later to act on your threat. But as I said, that's just me.

The "employee" was threatened with physical harm. The robbers implied they had a firearm. The "employee" at some point thought that they didn't.

Suddam Hussein threatened to use (& did in fact use) chemical weapons. He implied he still had them. At some point certain people thought that he didn't have them.

Be consistent. If you don't blame the U.S. for going into Iraq then don't fault the "employee" for taking action against a robber. Whether the "employee" thought the robbers were really armed as they claimed or not doesn't matter. What matters is the robbers at minimum implied they were armed with a firearm. It's no different than a person waving a cap gun around & getting tackled for it, even if the person doing the tackling knew it was merely a cap gun. The robber made the decision to pretend he was armed (assuming he was in fact just pretending) & he should face consequences that someone who was actually armed would. Don't like the rules? Then don't pretend to be armed. Better yet, don't threaten people during a crime. Even better still, don't commit crimes against individuals.

The "employee" thought at one point the robbers did not have a gun. This did not reduce their danger nor should it have altered his reaction to them. In fact if the robbers had to be carried out on stretchers I'd still back up the "employee's" actions. They. Were. Threatened.

Terrie Dort. I did a search to find out what context her comments were in (though I'm sure they were not taken far out of context if at all). I did find a few interesting things.

Holdups account for most workplace homicides. An article from 2000 where Ms. Dort is quoted a bit.

"Over the past several years, members of her [Dort's] trade association have increased spending on security, some by 60% to 70%, Dort said. Money has gone for training and security devices, as well as to community groups that aim to reduce crime."

Training would be employee meetings telling the employees to do any damn thing they're asked during a confrontational crime, as well as not going out back doors at night, depositing cash in the safe regularly, etc... But what of the groups that aim to reduce crime? Perhaps the following sheds some light on that.

"The National Crime Prevention Council's Copple… stressed the connection between individual crimes and the larger society. 'Communities still need to struggle with issues of access to guns, drugs and alcohol,' he said."

Now I'll grant Copple belongs to a different organization than Dort, & this is merely speculation, but I would not be surprised if the community groups Dort referenced had some of the same goals which Copple mentioned, namely reducing access to guns.

Here's an NFSSC press release

"That’s a problem with no easy solution,' Ms. Dort continued. 'Millions are spent by the industry developing the most up-to-date and proven security education procedures. They have honed in on what is effective. Despite all the effort, the time and the expense, most of the incidents occur when a policy or procedure has been broken or not followed to the letter,' Ms. Dort added."

So they have spent a lot of money & know what's effective, therefore any thing bad that happens is the result of an employee screwing up their million dollar grovel? I wonder if the French ever blamed a massacre on the troops not surrendering right?

Human nature is what it is. No set formula will bring about the best results in every situation. Some things can help steer things towards the best result, but not universally.

That being said I'll point out three posts by Kevin of The Smallest Minority that you should read:

"(I)t's most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can"

"Violence and the Social Contract"

"Governments, Criminals, and Dangerous Victims"

The idea that anything can be 100% effective is unrealistic. That's not to say we shouldn't try to make evry situation as safe as possible. But I much prefer Kevin's ideas on the matter rather than Dort's.

I never did find the source of the quote the LJS e-mail claims she made. Not saying they made it up as it sounds very plausible given the other statements of hers that I found. It'd just be nice to see it in its entirety.

My opinion of LJS hasn't changed: their policy is wrong & dangerous & their actions in firing the "employee" are morally reprehensible. Which reminds me, I need to go to the store & pick up some catfish & cornmeal.

Posted by Publicola at October 13, 2004 04:35 AM
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