Brenda Soussan

Venice FL Publix Manager Reinstatement

Brenda Soussan
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This is the article that got my interest.

By Tom Lyons

This should be a feel-good story about a grocery store employee who dove into action and saved the day when a customer became a crime victim.

It still could be, if Publix executives change their overly lawyered, rule-bound, corporate minds and choose not to royally screw up by severely punishing the hero, as their policies apparently urge.

Customer Chery Overholt is trying to convince them to be nice instead, and to realize how much a grocery manager’s crime-stopping good deed meant to her.

Overholt, 58, was shopping this past Tuesday at the Publix near Venice on Jacaranda and the Tamiami Trail, buying soup ingredients on her way back from a morning doctor's appointment.

She felt exhausted there in the checkout aisle. She’s had a tough year, unable to go to her nursing job for months because of ongoing lung problems that have required hospital stays and surgery. Money has been tight, too.

So when a guy grabbed her purse from her shopping cart that day and bolted for the door, Overholt could not chase him, much as she wanted to. But she yelled. Loudly.

“I screamed. Everyone in Publix heard me,” she told me afterward.

She had $140 in the purse, and she needed it.

Shocked as she was, Overholt still noticed a detail: The young guy sprinting away with her purse had an easily spotted and colorful pack. She says maybe some training kicked in from years ago when she was a search and rescue volunteer for a sheriff’s office in California.

“Red backpack!” she yelled.

According to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report, grocery manager James Caldwell gave chase. He left the building by a different exit and ran across the parking lot as the thief headed for the street.

The 6-foot-1 purse snatcher was crossing Tamiami Trail and in the median when the grocery department manager caught up and pulled him to the ground. Caldwell held him until deputies arrived.

The thief turned out to be 16, and is listed in his arrest report as a student at a Christian school that he was apparently not attending that day. The box for “Previous Arrest” is checked. The charge is grand theft.

Deputies handcuffed the teenager, called his mother, and took him to jail.

Overholt was so relieved and thankful. Her car keys got lost somewhere during the chase, but she got everything else back. That was huge for her.

But two days later she heard bad news through the grapevine: Caldwell, a long-time Publix employee who has been in his current job for years, was being demoted and given a major pay cut. Apparently, he had violated a policy about chasing thieves past the sidewalk.


It’s not like a thief took a steak or a box of cookies that Publix could write off and never feel the loss. This was a customer’s purse, a seriously upsetting thing for her if the thief got away with her money and her credit cards and driver license all the things in a purse that are so hard to replace.

That’s not supposed to be what people experience in the checkout aisle at the store where shopping is supposed to be a pleasure.

I confirmed the demotion and paycut story with a dismayed Publix employee who is not authorized to speak about this and who, if named, might well be in even worse trouble with management than Caldwell.

But my calls to the store resulted only in instructions to call corporate in Lakeland. And there I got the name of the person who could talk, a district manager. I left a message. I’ve heard nothing.

The purse snatching victim has been calling, too, to urge management to have a change of heart. Can’t they just give him, say, a week’s suspension, she asks?

If no heart is available at Lakeland HQ, how about some public relations savvy? The story is getting around on social media. Even the dullest executive can guess what people are saying about a company that so severely disciplines an employee for bravely helping a customer.

“He did the morally right thing,” Overholt said.

Unlike Caldwell, who acted fast and had no time to think, management can mull this over.

So we will see what doing the right thing for a customer is worth at Publix.

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