Security cameras positioned throughout the aisles of a local Jewel-Osco supermarket recently recorded shocking and disturbing acts of abuse.
This kind of news would prove devastating for any business, especially if that business was located in a city ranked by Money Magazine as one of the top 5 places to live in the U.S. — a reputation Naperville, IL proudly boasts.
Although the victims were defenseless, no one is rushing to notify the authorities. The only government officials who might express concern would be employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The vulnerable targets here were pinched fruits and bruised vegetables — some scarred for life. Shelf life, that is.
Thomas Michaels, 54, produce manager at the Jewel-Osco supermarket, was fired from the position he held for the past 37 years. “It was my first job when I was still in high school,” said Michaels. “I’ve been there longer than anyone else. I feel so ashamed.”
Michaels had been creating his own discounts by damaging fruits and vegetables that came into his store, then buying them at reduced prices. “I liked to get the organics but I didn’t start off that way. They’re more expensive,” he explained. “The pesticides in normal foods scared me and my customers all say they aren’t good for the planet. I guess in a way I wanted to do my part for the environment. But it was the wrong way. I spoiled everything.”
Michaels’ life of crime began about 8 years ago, according to his estimate. “First I would cut a few potatoes just out of the crate. Then I gave a cantaloupe a poke. I guess things got serious when I started punching avocados around 2008. The first time I put my fist through a honeydew, I felt a rush that went up into my head and then I couldn’t stop. My doctor called it a dopamine rush and I told him I felt like a real dope for doing those things and he laughed, but then he said it was really serious. I could tell he thought it was funny because all of a sudden he said he had to go tell the receptionist something important. Then I heard her laugh.”
Supermarket Manager Corey Kirkland began to notice a pattern. “Tommy was the last person you would ever think of doing anything wrong, but he broke store policy and I had to let him go. He racked up a lot of store discounts. One day he had a bandage wrapped around his knuckles, and I should have put 2 and 2 together — our pineapples were flying off the shelves like crazy that week.”
“I overdid it,” admitted Michaels. “One bag full of stuff isn’t going to seem like too much. That’s when we had paper bags, but we switched to plastic. My organic customers got really mad when that happened, so they started to bring in cloth bags.”
“I really hope I can be rehabilitated, says Michaels. “If I can be, then I want to ask for my job back. I really want to because now I have to do Meals-On-Wheels since they put a restraining order on me.”
Kirkland, when asked whether he would hire Michaels again said, “It’s not up to me, but he’s a nice guy and I’d put in a good word for him. I’d have to check all that legal stuff out with our regional manager anyway.”