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Giving spare coupons to customers may seem like a nice thing for a cashier to do. But one man has learned the hard way that it can get you fired. And his former employer is learning that it can get you sued.

A Texas man dismissed from his job at Sears for a coupon-related incident has filed a federal lawsuit against the company. 73-year-old John Ng-A-Mann worked at a suburban Houston Sears for 13 years. But his tenure came to an abrupt end in June 2013, when he says he was accused of committing “coupon fraud”.

His crime? He gave some coupons to his customers.

The case is reminiscent of the Meijer cashier in Michigan, who was fired after taking Catalina coupons that customers didn’t want. But Ng-A-Mann didn’t keep the unwanted coupons that printed at the checkout, or use them himself – he simply offered them to other customers.

“This was a widespread practice, and in fact commissioned salespeople from different departments would sometimes trade coupons” to offer to customers, his lawsuit reads. Management “was aware of this practice,” and “no one ever told Mr. Ng-A-Mann that this was against company policy or that he should not do it.”

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Sears did not respond to a request for comment about its policy, though corporate cousin Kmart has a checkout coupon policy that states “it is a violation of Kmart policy to take them for yourself or give them to any other person.” It’s the same policy that most stores have when it comes to “personalized” coupons that print when a customer checks out – they’re meant for that customer only.

After one occasion in which Ng-A-Mann offered an unused coupon to a customer, his lawsuit says he was informed by a Sears investigator that he had been “caught committing coupon fraud” and was told to sign a statement admitting wrongdoing. He did, hoping to avoid trouble, and was promptly fired.

And then the septuagenarian’s position was “filled by a younger employee.”

So Ng-A-Mann is suing for age discrimination, claiming that was the real reason he was dismissed. About a year prior to the coupon incident, his lawsuit says management “began to make comments about” his age, including asking him directly, “isn’t it time for you to retire?” He claims his hours were then cut, he was made to perform manual labor, was forced to stay after closing, and suffered other forms of “harassment and discrimination,” before his eventual dismissal. “Sears used this commonplace policy (of offering unused coupons to customers) as a pretext for firing Mr. Ng-A-Mann,” the lawsuit concludes.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, lost wages and, notably, “reinstatement” – admirable for a 73-year-old man who says he wants to keep on working.

So no hard feelings, Sears. Ng-A-Mann is ready to come back to work. And this time, he’ll even make his customers pay full price.

photo by: JeepersMedia

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Sears - Getting FIred Over Coupons? That's Crazy!

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