Home Depot Apologizes to Pencil ‘Thief’

Home Depot Apologizes to Pencil Thief: Home Depot Inc. apologized to a carpenter who was banned by the chain worldwide after he absent-mindedly pocketed a pencil he had used up to do some quick math.

From reading the article it appears that Home Depot is apologizing for overreacting to an actual case of theft. An accidental theft of a $.20 item that many of us remember as being given away for free by our local lumber yards until Home Depot ran them all out of business. Was a Home Depot employee out of line when they handed him a pre-printed form letter banning him from all Home Depot stores? The fact that the employee had at his ready disposal a form letter for this very purpose indicates to me that he was just following an already in place store procedure. I’d even bet that Home Depot had, at least at the time, a zero tolerance policy for theft and that they only reason they apologized was the bad press.

What I would like to see is Home Depot apologizing for treating all customers like thieves. I’m sure you know what I mean: the demeaning walk through the exit where the security guard asks to see your receipt so he/she can mark it with a pink or yellow marker. It it is illegal in most states to require a customer at a non-membership store to show a receipt, but it isn’t illegal to ask. Home Depot has been, in my experience, the most aggressive when it comes to asking to see my receipts. I have personally chosen to never shop at Home Depot again because of these two incidents:

  1. As I was exiting a Home Depot and the guard asked to see my receipt. As is my usual, I said “Have a nice day.” and kept walking. The guard said something to me that was semi-polite, but then turned to the other guard on duty and called me an asshole. This is unacceptable behavior given my having politely refused to submit to their demeaning receipt check.
  2. I was leaving the Davis Street Home Depot in San Leandro California. As I walked by the overall wearing employee, not a guard, at the door he asked to see my receipt. I said “No thank you, but have a nice day.” He started to follow me into the parking lot, and asked to see my receipt again. I repeated “Have a nice day.” At this point he started to yell at me that I had to show him my receipt. People started staring. I turned to him and explained that under California law I was not required to show him my receipt. He said “OK, but I can ask you to never return to this store.” I replied “Fair enough” and I walked away.

The way I figure it though, since Home Depot as a corporation allows this kind of behavior in their stores, the entire chain is guilty of treating their customers like thieves. Why should I limit my Home Depot restriction to one store? I have chosen to take that one employee’s request that I not return to that Home Depot and apply it in a more global context: I won’t shop at any Home Depot again.

There are other alternatives. They may not be as convenient now that Home Depot has run most mom and pop hardware stores out of existence. I’ll happily buy my dignity with a little inconvenience, and I hope Home Depot suffers from their ‘everyone is a thief’ mentality.

Home Depot apologized to one man after he did (accidentally) steal a pencil. The least they can do is apologize to every honest customer who submitted to their demeaning receipt check because they didn’t know they had the option to just keep walking.

I won’t shop in another Home Depot until they apologize to the customers who actually deserve it.

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