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Confront thieves, get fired: welcome to retail in America’s cities

Lululemon dismissed two employees who dared to stand up to repeat shoplifters.

The Spectator  – “Chill, bitch, shut your ass up,” graciously replied a shoplifter to former Lululemon assistant manager Jennifer Ferguson earlier this month, when she told him and two accomplices to stop robbing the suburban Atlanta store where she worked.

Ferguson and her colleague Rachel Rogers had good reason to be fed up. The same trio, which was arrested the following day after bystanders reported a separate robbery to the police, had allegedly burgled the same store a dozen times in recent weeks. When Ferguson told them “No, no, no, you can march back out,” the alleged thieves had already raided the store’s shelves yet again and were preparing for a second round, which they then carried out. According to Rogers, their scheme is to steal the brand’s expensive merchandise and then return it elsewhere for a cash refund. When they left the second time, she and Ferguson called 911.

Ferguson and Rogers captured the confrontation on video, complete with their trying to chase the men out of the store while verbally confronting them. Two weeks later, after a corporate review, Lululemon fired both employees over Zoom and without severance, purportedly for violating a “zero-tolerance” policy that forbids Lululemon staff from confronting shoplifters. Ferguson, who believes she and Rogers were fired for calling the police, says that the standard procedure pushed by corporate headquarters is to “clear a path” in the face of criminal activity, scan a QR quote to account for the missing merchandise, make no written notice that it was stolen, and generally keep their mouths shut for fear of inviting controversy. “We’re not supposed to call the police, not really supposed to talk about it,” she said.

Why would a corporate policy be so generous to shoplifters — to the point that they would hit the same establishment thirteen times before encountering any consequences — and so punitive to loyal staff trying to protect their employer’s assets?

After a few days of criticism, Lululemon tried to make its case in detail, telling Business Insider that Ferguson and Rogers “were terminated for knowingly violating our zero-tolerance policy related to physically engaging with the perpetrators which put their lives and the safety of our guests and other employees at risk.” There is no evidence, however, that either employee “physically engaged” the shoplifters. As their phone videos plainly reveal, their engagement was limited to verbal interaction and a non-tactile chase. There was no indication that either of them was ever at any risk greater than being told in a less than polite manner to “chill.”

A likelier explanation is that Lululemon has a certain image to protect, even if it is frequently accused of shaming customer body image. The high-end athleisure company is, after all, a preferred brand of lean suburban white women who buy into progressive ideology as haplessly as they acquire overpriced stretch pants to make their posteriors look firmer. They engage so fiercely in symbolic combat that when Lululemon founder and CEO Chip Wilson dared suggest his wares were not designed for ladies with fat thighs, he was forced to resign. In 2021, his successor Calvin McDonald announced that the company’s innovation team would be dissolved, and that the executive leading it would also resign, because his domain had been catastrophically named “Whitespace.” Lululemon has presented its public commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and the whole rest of the progressive package, with a compliance as abject and, at the risk of using an unpopular word, slavish as that of any company fearing backlash in post-George Floyd America.

It only stands to reason that a brand so obsessed with virtue-signaling would run as far as it could from any nexus with law enforcement or the now-politically incorrect suggestion that it has a right to protect its assets from common thieves. Even losing tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise to the Atlanta heist crew that Ferguson and Rogers engaged at the cost of their livelihoods is preferable to a corporate image tarnished by resort to the police, whom the progressive left regards as agents of violence and white supremacy. As Ferguson and Rogers painfully learned, employees who do not go along with this progressive utopian vision are expendable.

Downscale from Lululemon, major blue cities now refuse to prosecute theft up to around $900 in value. In April, when New York City Walgreens security guard and twenty-year NYPD veteran Salvatore Lopiccolo was struck in the head by a shoplifter whom he confronted about robbing his store for the second time in the same day, it was Lopiccolo who was arrested, criminally charged, and required to surrender his firearm, leaving him unable to do his job for the indefinite future.

Last July, New York bodega worker Jose Alba was charged with second-degree murder for defending himself against a workplace assailant who did not survive the encounter. Only a massive public outcry got Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg’s office to drop the charges.

Bragg, who also recently charged subway Samaritan Daniel Penny with second-degree manslaughter for what witnesses say was an attempt to protect himself and them from a mentally ill harasser threatening bodily harm, notoriously downgraded 52 percent of violent felony offenses to misdemeanors in 2022, his disastrous first year in office. During the same year, New York City’s rate of major crimes rose by over 30 percent.

Ferguson and Rogers should be reinstated with back pay, an apology, and heartfelt appreciation for attempting to spare their former employer victimization and loss. Until all Americans are as bold as they are, however, civil peace and justice will only be ensured by sullen mass acceptance of our own victimization.


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