Fired for Eating, But Not Paying For, Potato Chips

Carolyn writes:
I had a great job at Wal-Mart. I made a very stupid choice and ate a bag of
potato chips without paying for them. I was fired immediately. I had worked
for the company for a little over a year and had always gotten excellent evaluations
from my supervisors. I like that kind of work and I’m applying for other stock positions.
Should I leave Wal-Mart off my applications? If I include it what do I put on an
application as my reason for leaving? Is it true that Wal-Mart can’t tell them why I left?

The Career Doctor responds:
You’ve learned one of the hardest lessons for an employee and while Wal-Mart’s
reaction seems a bit harsh for a first-time offense I totally understand the company’s stance because employee theft cuts directly into profits — and most studies show employee
theft as a much bigger issue than shoplifting.
I don’t believe you should leave your Wal-Mart experience off your resume
especially since you seemed to do well there and get high reviews. The risk
of course is that a potential employer could contact the manager of the Wal-Mart
and ask about you. Can Wal-Mart say the reason you were fired? Yes. How likely
is it to happen? Because we’ve become such a litigious society my sense is
fewer and fewer employers are willing to say too much for fear of a lawsuit.
So what do you say in a job interview when the interviewer inevitably gets to
the “why did you leave your last job” question? Be very careful here. Not being
at least partially honest may come back to haunt you if the employer calls
Wal-Mart but being too honest could end the interview. So I suggest you
state that you had made a thoughtless mistake that you now realize was in
error — and that you’ve learned from the experience. Don’t say anything more
even if pushed to do so.
Try to strengthen your chances by having a set of strong references — former
coworkers and associates — who can speak of your great retail acumen.
Read more tips and advice in my article Getting Fired: An
Opportunity for Change and Growth
Best of luck. You will face an uphill struggle but once you get your
next job things should be better for you.


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