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Petco has become the target of some social media shaming, after calling the cops on an autistic employee who mistakenly accepted competitors’ coupons. For that “crime of the century,” his parents say, 18-year-old Jared Segal was charged with embezzlement and grand larceny, fired, and hauled off to jail.

It took nearly two months before the charges were dropped last week. But his parents weren’t about to let it end there. They posted Jared’s story on Facebook, where it quickly went viral – and left Petco with some explaining to do.

The story began last December, a week before Christmas. Segal, who has high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, was working at a Petco store in Jupiter, Florida, when he was confronted by corporate investigators. Segal had been accepting invalid competitors’ coupons and improperly discounting items, they said, so they had him arrested.

Segal’s parents say he was taught that he was allowed to accept expired competitors’ coupons. If they were more than two weeks past their expiration date, acceptance required a manager’s approval. But any time he asked for approval, they say he was told, “just do it, we are busy.” On top of that, Segal was trained to give a 30% discount on any damaged products.

But Petco apparently believed Segal was going overboard with the discounts and being too lenient about accepting competitors’ coupons. Corporate investigators said his errors cost the store about $1,000. And it’s corporate policy to call the authorities after discovering any loss of more than $100.

So Segal was arrested at work, taken to jail, and his parents only found out after he didn’t come home. He spent the night behind bars before they were able to bail him out.

“Today he was cleared of all charges,” his mother Denise Digiovanni-Segal wrote in a Facebook post last Monday, “so now we can let loose and ask for your help.” Her lengthy post explained the whole story, and ended with a plea to “send Petco a message and shop elsewhere. A corporation that does this to a kid with his first job that did not benefit one penny from his so-called theft, is not where we as a community should spend our money.”

The post quickly earned hundreds of shares, and critical messages began showing up on Petco’s own Facebook page. “I will no longer shop at your establishment due to this horrible injustice that’s been done to this poor young man and his family!” one commenter wrote. “You have lost my business and anyone else I meet, if I can help it!” added another. “You don’t care about your human employees, so why would I believe you care about animals,” wrote a third.

In a statement, Petco denied even knowing that Segal had any special needs. Employees merely “followed protocol,” the statement said, by alerting local police “after the employee admitted to improperly discounting merchandise.” Once the police got involved, it was up to them how to proceed and was out of Petco’s hands, the company claimed.

Of course, Segal’s parents are not particularly happy with the Jupiter police department, either. They “did not use any common sense,” his mother wrote in her Facebook post, even though he “is listed at this police department as having autism.”

Now that the charges have been dropped and the ordeal is over, Segal’s parents say they’re still not satisfied. They hope their story shames Petco into admitting wrongdoing. In its statement, Petco said it was “troubled to hear of this story and are continuing our investigation to determine the full details of the incident.”

As they investigate, though, they’re already apparently losing some customers, based on some of the posts on Petco’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, those who are still shopping at Petco just might want to be careful about trying to use any expired competitors’ coupons there – or the Segals’ story of an unjust arrest might not be the only one that goes viral.

9 Comments

  1. I’d love to know all the details. Did one manager, not privy to knowing this boy had special needs take matters into his own hands? Boycott Petco? Why, we don’t even have all the facts. Too many questions to judge. As the story unfolds, time will tell who is at fault.

  2. I don’t shop PetCo now. I shop PetValu, however, it does hit me that this story is telling one side of the story. The side that gets clicks… I would be interested to know the whole story. Particularly if PetCo HAS now investigated the situation and charges are being reinstated. If that is the case there is clearly way more to this than is in this story.

    • Hi Amy,

      I think the article does tell both sides of the story, to the extent that Petco and the police are offering their input – Petco has no new statement to offer, and police aren’t saying anything (and keep in mind also that this story was written several weeks ago).

      There was some confusion earlier this week about whether the case was still active. Segal’s parents now say the charges have been dropped, though as of today, Petco says their investigation into the incident is continuing.

  3. Concerned Dad says:

    Jared was already registered with the Jupiter police department as being autistic? And they still arrested him? His mother has obviously taken precautionary steps for his well being but it seems to have been completely ignored by the police department. Why??
    I’m also a resident here in Jupiter with an autistic son. Maybe our neighbors and general society aren’t aware of the extreme difficulties these families face on a daily basis, but we would certainly hope that our police department would have some compassion and understanding. Especially if we already registered our kids as having the disability!!
    JPD has fallen short of their motto, “Setting the Benchmark for Excellence”.

  4. Kelly Dowell says:

    I will NEVER I repeat NEVER shop @ Petco again. Shame on them for traumatizing this young man. This just makes me wonder what the management inside this store was trying to hide. They knew full well this young man has Asperger’s Syndrome and I’ll bet money they were participating in a program that compensated Petco for employing a person with a disability. I am also wondering WTH the DA’s office was actually thinking when they decided to go forward with pressing Felony Criminal charges against him? Did the Police Dept or the DA’s office actually do a complete investigation? I hope Jared’s family sue’s the hell out of them for Defamation and Slander.

  5. Yes, charges HAVE been reinstated. Make this go even MORE viral!
    Share everywhere!

  6. Stacey champion says:

    parents have reported that the charges are being reinstated…seriously?

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  8. I will never shop there again. I have a boy I babysit who has autism. The way the store & police acted is a shame!

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