Investigative Producer: Dan Telvock
Photographer: Michael Mombrea
Jennifer Weinstein and Dwight Spencer feel they’re victims of a bad policy.
In November, they were both fired from the Nike Factory Store at the Fashion Outlets in Niagara Falls.
According to a termination letter, the employees broke company policy by leaving the store after a suspected shoplifting incident. Weinstein and Spencer told News 4 they left the store in the hands of other sales associates, to go outside and wait for police.
“I had worked at that company for nine years. I started in their flagship store. Like, working for them was my entire life,” Weinstein said.
When she was handed a termination letter just days after the inicdent — she felt blindsided.
Surveillance video obtained by News 4 shows the two suspected shoplifters leaving the store with several articles of clothing. According to a police report on the incident, they took around $250 worth of merchandise.
“I tried to grab merchandise from them leaving the store I kinda got pushed in the back and they ran out of the store,” Spencer said.
It’s against Nike policy for employees to follow suspected shoplifters out of the store; it’s a common retail practice, designed to keep employees safe and deter vigilante justice.
But Spencer and Weinstein said they never intended to follow the suspects, and only went outside to flag down law enforcement; something they thought was in the best interest of the store.
“I walked out after we called the police to see if anyone was out there because normally the police circle the mall,” Spencer said.
“Once we got out there we actually got the opportunity to see the vehicle that the suspects were in to get their license plate number and we waited for the police there.”
Two days after the incident both Weinstein and Spencer, who had been with the company for nine and ten years respectively, were fired.
“No warning. No write up. No retraining. Nothing, just have a conversation, two days later, you can go now,” Weistein told News 4.
“I was like a walking ad for Nike. They see bleed orange; the day I was fired I bled orange,” she said.
Nike would not grant us an interview, but did release the following statement:
“The safety of our employees and consumers is our highest priority. While we know our employees share our desire to create a great environment for consumers in our stores, it is equally important that we work together to ensure a safe environment for both employees and consumers. We do this in part through policies that reflect industry best practices, and we provide ongoing training and support for our employees on these policies. With their safety in mind, we expect that employees abide by all policies.”
News 4 asked Nike to clarify its procedures when it comes to discimplariy actions; whether there are written warnings, verbal warnings, or retraining opportunites before employees are terminated.
Nike spokesperson Kristen Gefre issued the following response:
“We expect that employees abide by all policies. When it comes to safety policies, we take violations of these standards extremely seriously.”
The company’s response when Weinstein and Spencer inquired as to why they were terminated they said, was vague.
“It just basically says that we violated code of conduct which led the store and the company to unsafe practices,” said Weinstein.
The employees argue a vague policy put them at risk, when shoplifters regualrly target their store.
“We are verbally, physically threatened. It’s to the point where it makes you feel like as if by working there you’re doing something wrong. And they can do whatever they want. They can just come in and take whatever they want because we can’t do anything to them,” Weistein said of shoplifters.
Theft at the store she said, is an ongoing problem.
“The store itself loses about $125,000 a year,” said Weinstein.
We asked Nike to confirm how much merchandise the outlet store loses annually compared to other locations, but the company denied that request, stating that information is confidential.
In this case, the suspected shoplifters got away with around $250. If each shoplifting incident accounted for a similiar amount, that would mean the outlet location is shoplifted 500 times a year; more than once a day.