Does Best Buy tackle crime differently from Apple? I had to ask

A video shows an extraordinary defensive performance against a shoplifter from Best Buy employees. But is this company policy? I asked till I got an answer.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Lit up exterior sign of a local Best Buy store

Best defense?

sfe-co2 / Getty Images

Some things about it didn't feel quite right.

Other things about it felt very right indeed.

So I stared and stared again, wondering whether it was a setup or a skit even.

Here was a video emitted on Twitter. It showed three sprightly youths storming a Best Buy. They tried to rip some phones from a display.

It really wasn't going perfectly. Those security cords can be sturdy.

Meanwhile, seven Best Buy employees began to line up in the aisles as if they were an NFL defense in an attempt to block the shoplifters from leaving the store.

Sadly, the video stopped before viewers could see if any tackles were made or any penalties were called.

Millions, though, watched in wonder and wondered.

I was one, of course. So I immediately asked Best Buy whether its policy allowed-- or even encouraged -- employees to block and, perhaps, tackle.

Apple's policy, for example, is very clear: let them take what they can and don't intervene. However, at some Apple stores, there's uniformed security on hand to do the professional intervening.

I waited for Best Buy to get back to me. I felt sure it would. I've always found its customer service to be quite stellar. However, nothing came. Had the company been caught out of position? Had the matter gone to replay? How could I get some answers?

Naturally, I did the obvious. I showed the video to a Best Buy employee -- oddly, he hadn't yet seen it -- and asked him whether, perhaps, he'd had special NFL-type training as part of his store induction.

I asked in a relatively serious manner, you understand. In such shoplifting situations, violence could easily ensue.

This Best Buy employee -- let's call him Freddy -- watched the video twice.

Finally, he said: "Nooooo. That's not allowed."

"So you're specifically told not to engage with shoplifters?" I asked.

"Correct," Freddy said. "There's no way I'd even want to. What's the point?"

Many retailers will fire employees if they attempt to capture a shoplifter. Home Depot, for example, once fired four employees who thought they were doing the retailer a favor by chasing after a shoplifter.

Freddy explained that it's not as if the products belong to him but to a large corporation. But then he stopped to consider something.

"If I did try to stop a shoplifter, I wonder what the legal situation would be," he said. What if, he mused, he tackled a shoplifter and injured them? Would he then be liable? Would the shoplifter sue? (This is America. Of course, they would.)

I've not seen any Best Buy post uniformed security outside its stores, but the company does employ them at certain locations.

Best Buy's CEO, Corie Barry, sees shoplifting as a big problem. Last November, she told CNBC: "When we talk about why there are so many people looking for other jobs or switching careers, this... play[s] into my concerns for our people because, again, priority one is just human safety."

She specifically referenced San Francisco -- and California in general.

As I write, it's unknown what did -- or may -- happen to the Best Buy NFL-style defenders. It's hard to imagine this was a spontaneous action. It's easier to imagine that they'd prepared, at least a little.

I wonder what happened to the shoplifters too. The phones they ripped out are instantly useless.

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