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Publix manager retires; employees cry foul

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Publix, where shopping may be a pleasure, but trying to stop shoplifting can be hazardous to your career. Following a story about Publix store manager Mark Bryant stopping a Cuban sandwich thief, Bryant announced his retirement after serving the company for 40 years. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Bryant

The details of Publix store manager Mark Bryant and Publix employees tackling and sitting on a Cuban sandwich thief made national news.

Within days of The Islander reporting the May 26 incident, Bryant — a 40-year Publix employee — retired without providing any notice to his employees at the Publix, 3900 East Bay Drive, Holmes Beach.

The nature of Bryant’s quick departure has left the Island community abuzz with speculation and some Publix employees sad and angry.

Was he fired? Did he violate policy? Was he forced to retire or did he just simply decide it was time?

These questions and more are being asked by some Publix employees, who have sent comments to The Islander stating their support for Bryant and their disappointment that Publix maintains Bryant’s retirement was voluntary.

Some employees don’t believe the dedicated “shepherd of our flock,” as one employee wrote, would leave without saying goodbye — unless forced to do so.

Employees also told The Islander they question why they were being told not to discuss the matter, if Bryant chose to retire.

Bryant had stopped a 21-year-old man outside the door of Publix May 26 when the man apparently had failed to pay for a Cuban sandwich. Like so many other shoplifting attempts, Bryant escorted the man back into the store, at which time the suspect initiated a physical altercation.

Bryant found himself in a scuffle with the man, and was quickly aided by other Publix employees, who eventually subdued the suspect by sitting on him until police arrived.

“Mark has worked diligently, helping us to keep our needed jobs,” said one letter writer. “Then in reciprocation for an act of bravery, an honorable man, defending Publix is quietly dismissed.”

The letter was written in “hopes Publix corporate office will reconsider and re-evaluate their actions in this matter and offer to reinstate this very dedicated, honest and honorable man.”

At least one employee said the news of Bryant’s quick departure was “a distressing shock within our work family. The here-today and gone-tomorrow activity that just took place has considerably shaken many, and most of our associates and department managers.”

Those who spoke feared retribution and were provided anonymity, while others wished to go on record, stating they realized they were risking their jobs, but wanted to support Bryant. The Islander opted to protect their identities.

Whether Bryant violated corporate policy is unknown.

Publix media and community relations manager Shannon Patten told The Islander that policy on the handling of shoplifters “is considered proprietary information and not something I am able to share,” she said.

When asked if Bryant retired on his own accord, Patten said, “In all associate situations, including Mark’s, Publix thoroughly reviews the facts and strives to be fair and consistent. Out of respect for our associate’s privacy, Publix keeps personnel matters confidential. The details of this situation are between Mark and Publix.”

Patten said she understands there has been some concern over Bryant’s sudden departure, but “the fact is that Mark made the decision on his own to retire,” she said.

Attempts to contact Bryant for comment were unsuccessful, as of press time for The Islander.

8 Responses to Publix manager retires; employees cry foul

  1. Benjamin Preston says:

    Having spent 43 years in retail mamagement,I am quite familiar with incidents like this.From what has been reported it doesn’t appear to have cause any harm to the Publix’s name or immage.
    Of course I do not know what Publix’s policy is or what top mamagement relationship is with the store manager. The reaction of his employees tell me he was an above average manager.He should not have been fired or forced to retire,and as a betting man I believe this me be the case.

  2. Alan Janssens says:

    I take no issue with the letter above…but as a former police officer may I say that we all need be reminded, that anti-social behavior such a petty theft, may be driven by someone who can pose extreme danger to all of us. According to published reports, no one was in danger from the sandwich theft suspect and in fact he was outside the building when approached by one or more Publix employees. This is when we must call the police. Holmes Beach P.D. provides a fine service as does the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department. I am sure, no one would be happy if the suspect had pulled a knife and stabbed someone in the heart. This is America…a gun is an easy thing to get. Sadly, the most dangerous call an police officer gets is the ‘domestic problem’ call. One never knows what one is walking into. The same goes for the ‘Routine stop’ of a car. I’m sure Publix’s policy in this regard, is to protect the employees and customers above all costs. Certainly the cost of a sandwich. We all have to know when to walk away…and dial 911.

    • barry howarth says:

      All well and dandy…publix has a over eager vigilante loss officer that caused a suicide in deltona. The lady mother of 3, was distracted after returning from a memorial service for her dad, her kids were in the car ,she purchased some food for their dinner and pocketed some candles.Any one would have realized she neede help ,who would be threatened by a person who on counts was in a daze.They took her in the office degraded her, took pictures and had her handcuffed in the police car for over an hour .She had a clean record and never had issues.Not only did publix destroyed her life for 35 dollars in candles,she lost her job, her husband too. She took her life!!! Thank you publix for being xxxxxxxxx the public knew you were..I’ve seen drug addicts, DUI people treated better.

  3. Babby gibbs says:

    What a shame to loose such a dedicated manager, he was always so available during our annual stay please consider bringing back, enough has changed in that area.

  4. Robert says:

    Alan,

    When I steal your tennis shoes from your bedroom closet, and make it to your driveway… Don’t come after me. Just call the police…. Make much sense???? I guess being a former cop would mean you could come after me?? Or would you just make a phone call because you had to protect your family? I do not understand your comment what so ever. That store, its products, and its employees are his concern, he made a decision and I highly doubt he would have put HIS employees in danger over a sandwich. Other people besides cops can protect and serve.

  5. Ricardo says:

    The protocol at these stores if one were to catch a thief is to catch this person at the door or in the parking lot. When I say catch.. it doesn’t mean to put your hands on the suspect. You can persuade the person to come in, and sometimes they do, but if they don’t then you get the license plate number or a very good description of the person.

    Alan is right when saying it’s not worth the price of a sandwich to go after someone who may or may not have a weapon. Publix recoups the cost of stolen goods anyway. From the description of everything that went down, it seems as though the suspect put his hands on the manager, and at that point, you can protect yourself. That might have been the straw that broke the camels back for this manager. You encounter all kinds of crazies and/or desperate people willing to do stupid things for a sandwich. He may have felt that it’s not worth dealing with them anymore.

  6. Carole says:

    20/20 interviewed a woman who is now the whistleblower for these large companies. She was in an HR Department and states these large companies CREATE a LAYOFF LIST. This list is created by placing dirogatory information, a paper trail, so to speak; against an employee so that eventually they will be demoted, or quit or retire or get terminated/separated from their jobs. The list is created by Store Managers, Department Managers. These managers are not honest with their Regional Manager. And instead of the Regional Manager investigating the actual problem, which could be a personality conflict between these managers and the employee, the person is placed on this so-called Layoff list. So the real question here, is PUBLIX one those companies who established THE LAYOFF LIST and was Mr. Bryant a victim of that list.

  7. Ted says:

    This is our country today: Someone does a crime and the mass comes out looking for excuses for their actions. Theft is a crime! I’m sure that the lady who committed suicide didn’t do it because she got caught stealing. Even so, Publix employees didn’t know her situation when they detained her, which they should have done. Remember, when the honest folk go to Publix, we pay for our products in higher prices because of thefts. I sure the Police Dept. may have the best intentions about their work, but we know retail theft is not a high priority on their list so I doubt if they would have had a speedy response to that call. I personally saw a Public manager give food to a hungry person who was trying to steal it because he was hungry, so don’t demonized an employee or company for doing their job. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!!!

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