Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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               Pat Guider was in retail for more than 40 years. Twenty-plus at the old Chase-Pitkin and then, until last week, almost another 20 at Big Lots.


               Almost, because they fired him.


               And therein lies our story.


               There’s been a lot of stealing lately, it’s the new entitlement of urban America. People just walk in, gather up armfuls or bagsful of merchandise, and walk out the door. The employees won’t stop them, the police won’t arrest them, the laws won’t hold them accountable.


               Especially in New York.


               In New York, retail theft – which is what they call shoplifting now – gets an appearance ticket. It’s part of the state’s pro-criminal “reforms.” Apparently, people don’t get arrested because they’re crooks, people get arrested because the society and the government and the laws are racist and oppressive and part of some big pipeline to prison or something.


               Turns out, the way things are seen now, when you get arrested it’s not because you did something wrong, it’s because the cop and the society did something wrong.


               Or at least that’s what the politicians say.


               So shoplifting has exploded. Individual stores can lose millions of dollars in merchandise in a year.


               Which gets us back to Pat Guider and Big Lots.


               The policy there, handed down from corporate, is to let them go. Don’t touch them, don’t touch the stolen merchandise, don’t grab the cart full of stolen merchandise, just fill out some form and send it in with your daily sales report.


               And especially don’t call the police.


               No police are to be called without the permission of the district manager or the Asset Protection people at corporate.


               Anyway, at Big Lots, the thieves rule. And the thieves know that. And that’s been hard for Pat Guider. Since he was transferred up to run the Irondequoit store, it’s been non-stop stealing. One specific guy has walked right past Pat Guider with all the stolen merchandise he could carry on three separate occasions. All Pat could do was look him in the face and say, “Are you kidding me?” as the thief walked out the door.


               But that’s the way it is, and Pat can live with that. He’s a good employee and he can follow rules.


               Even when they don’t make sense.


               But one day a couple of weeks ago, something different happened.


               It was one more grab-and-strut, with one more thief loaded up with Big Lots merchandise headed toward the door. Pat saw him, and – as he typically does – gestured toward the cash registers and said, “We can help you over here, sir,” knowing full well the guy wasn’t headed to a cash register. As the thief instead continued toward the door, a female employee, apparently not recognizing what was going on, walked inadvertently near the thief.


               That’s when the thief doubled up his fist and swung at her face.


               In something approaching a miracle, she moved her head the slightest bit and was only struck a glancing blow, sparing herself potentially significant injury.


               Before we go further, there’s something you ought to know about Pat Guider. He’s a dad and a man and a good boss. He has always cared for his employees and looked after them. People who worked for him years ago speak highly of him, remembering fondly how he helped them become better workers and better people, treating them with kindness and respect.


               And somebody just punched one of his people in the face.


               And that shit don’t fly.


               He immediately went to his employee, made sure she was OK, and directed her to call 911 as he went out the door to follow her assailant.


               He didn’t fill out the corporate paperwork, he didn’t leave a voicemail for the district manager, he didn’t flip through the employee handbook to figure out exactly how he was supposed to kiss Asset Protection’s ass, he went out the door to follow a violent criminal until the police got there.


               Because that’s what good citizens do.


               Because when a law is broken, it is the duty of a citizen to alert the authorities. When you witness a violent crime, you call the cops, to protect others from the possibility of more violent crime.


               No matter what the Big Lots corporate policy is.


               So Pat Guider went out the door. Not trying to accost the assailant or confront the criminal, but to tail him, to have eyes on for when the police arrive.


               Sadly, that didn’t work out. The police took a while to get there and the thief apparently had some experience at evasion and Pat Guider lost him.


               It was about two weeks later he lost his job.


               Because of the incident.


               They had him write it up and sign his name and calling the cops was against policy and he told the lady who got punched to call 911 so he broke the policy and 20 years don’t count for anything, especially if you’re an old guy who has had a few raises, and so he was fired. Grab your stuff and get the hell out.


               And, no, you don’t get your vacation time.


               Two kids in college, a couple more at home, and two-thirds of the family’s income disappeared, as well as its health insurance, and at 62 Pat Guider is going to play merry hell finding another job, especially one that pays more than minimum wage.


               Because he called the cops.


               Because he cared about his employee.


               Because he wanted to protect his community.


               And because Big Lots has its head up its corporate ass.


               Which brings us to the court of public opinion. Who’s right in this matter? The store manager who protected his employee or the corporate folks who ruined his life?


               When a coworker is the victim of a violent crime in the workplace, should you call the cops or should you cower before corporate policy?


               In a company whose CEO is a West Point graduate and combat Infantry officer, it’s hard to imagine cowering is the right answer. In a company whose CEO has taken men to war, it’s hard to believe you’re not supposed to take care of your battle buddy.


               Which is why I think we should raise some hell.


               The big boss at Big Lots is Bruce K. Thorn. His office number isn’t published. But the general switchboard at Big Lots corporate headquarters is (614) 278-6800. The public relations office is (614) 278-6776. The website is and emails can be sent through the “Contact Us” feature on the website.


               Don’t be rude, don’t be angry, but ask them to do the right thing.


               For more than 40 years, Pat Guider has asked people, “May I help you?”


               It turns out, right now, he needs us to help him.

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