Topic Tuesday: Employees fired for buying Zhu Zhu Pets

David Lawrinowicz of Lancaster had worked at Target for nearly eight years before the company fired him Wednesday — for buying two Zhu Zhu Pets.
Not stealing them, buying them. Lawrinowicz, who worked the overnight at the Cheektowaga location on Walden Avenue, helped unload a shipment of the hot holiday toy at the start of his shift around 11 p.m. Before leaving for the day at 5 a.m. the next morning, he and six other employees lined up to buy a few of the plush hamsters each. Overnight employees are allowed to make purchases during the company’s off hours.
None of the workers bought more than the limit of four Zhu Zhu Pets per customer. In fact, Lawrinowicz bought just two of them for his daughter Jessica. There were more hanging on the store’s racks when the employees cashed out.
A few days later, Lawrinowicz said he was called into the human resources office and told employees were not allowed to purchase “popular items” until the store opens at 8 a.m. There was no write-up, and he went back to finish his work.
Two weeks later, he and the other co-workers including his team leader were called in and fired by a choked-up, apologetic store manager. They were told the company’s policy about buying “two-day ad items” had been clearly posted in a sign over the employee time clock.
“There was no such thing. I look in that spot every day when I punch out and there was nothing there,” said Lawrinowicz.
Target said the company has certain guidelines in place regarding employees shopping during their shifts.
“These guidelines are in place to provide our guests with the same purchasing opportunities as our team members. We are committed to making the items our guests want as available as possible to ensure a positive guest experience,” said Target representatives in a statement.
Target said the policy is made clear in its employee handbook, and that reminders of it “are often communicated” through postings, newsletters and verbal “huddles.” Policy violations are punishable by action up to and including termination.
Lawrinowicz said, though it was hard physical work, he enjoyed working for Target and bears no animosity toward the company. But he can’t help feeling his termination and that of his colleagues is overly harsh, especially right before the holidays.
“I told them I would bring the things back. It’s not worth losing my job over. It’s an $8 toy,” he said. “But they said there was nothing they could do.” [Source]

Here's my opinion. I could see if the employees stole the items, then that obviously would be grounds for termination. But they bought them, and to me, money is money regardless of whether it's the customer buying it or the employee. Another thing that I don't get is if the company's policy about buying "two day ad items" was posted above the timeclock for all to see, why didn't the employee ringing them up remind them that they couldn't purchase those particular items? I have so many questions, but I'd like to know what you think. Discuss.


Tira said...

It's all about personal responsibility. If everyone knows the rules, then they have to be disciplined. People go crazy when it comes to their kids during Christmas time. Shoot, I would have at least had someone else purchase them for me. Bottom line...hopefully Target was clear in their policy. If not they will have a few lawsuits Im sure. My little sis works for Target and told me of 2 more occasions HR (reluctantly) fired team members because of these Zhu zhu pets.

Giselle said...

I think this is terrible. Like you said yourself, money is money and although they are employees, they are also customers. I work in a popular retail store and i'm a part of the shipment team...so I do get to see the new/hot products before the shoppers and I myself have purchased on off-hours for something I knew would sell out quick. I was never scolded or written up for anything like that. As far as I know, there is no restriction for it. Actually from my experience, even the managers will try to buy items before the customers get to them! What a shame it had to happen to those people during the holidays.

Loridee said...

All employees of the "big box" stores like Target use their discount card or other employee ID when purchasing items. Target could simply have blocked purchase of their "popular items" to anyone using such a card/ID. I think Target is probably not getting the holiday dollars it expected. Dumping employees who have worked long enough (say 8 years) to garner vacation time, bonuses, etc is a great way to lower expenses. Part time hirees are much cheaper for the company. Bah, humbug on Target!

Anonymous said...

this is just the saddest thing. not even a write-up of some kind? come on! maybe target had other reasons to fire these guys and was just using this as an excuse? i dunno.

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