Chasing a bank robber can be a bad career move

Life is complicated. You can do the right thing, and it can still be the wrong thing.

If you live in Seattle, you've probably heard this story. Jim Nicholson, 30, was working at a Key Bank as a teller when a skinny man, wearing a beanie cap, dark clothing and sunglasses, came in quietly and apprehensively. Nicholson had a bad feeling right away, and sure enough, after a few minutes, the man approached the counter and said, "This is a ransom. Fill the bag with money."

Since the word ransom is usually used in association with a kidnapping, Nicholson paused and then asked to see the man's gun.

"It's a verbal ransom," the man said, which still doesn't make much sense, when you think about it. Not that I expect bank robbers to be extremely educated, but you'd think they'd know the lingo in their chosen career.

In any case, Nicholson thew the bag to the floor and leapt over the counter. Stunned, the bank robber backed away and then fled for his life, sprinting out of the bank.

Nicholson ran after him.

It took several blocks, but with the help of a bystander, Nicholson tackled the robber and held him until police arrived.

Two days later, Nicholson was fired.

As you might be able to guess, it's against bank policy to go after robbers. Nicholson should have given away the money and then contacted the authorities.

It's a good rule for good reason. Not everyone is as athletic as Nicholson, and if every teller performed this way, we could have a lot of tellers and customers being killed at banks. Even Nicholson told The Seattle Times that he understands why he was terminated, although he doesn't fully agree with the decision to let him go.

At any rate, it's getting to be dangerous -- not just from a safety standpoint, but if you want job security -- to chase after bad guys.

Just last month, a guy who worked at a grocery store in Austin, Texas, was fired for chasing a purse snatcher. Troy Schafer, 36, was finishing his lunch in the parking lot when a 52-year-old woman, standing at the deli counter, screamed that her purse had been stolen.

Shafer and another customer gave chase, following what turned out to be a 15-year-old kid through a field and then an apartment complex. It was there that Schafer found the purse -- another quarter-mile and he caught up with the teenager and held him until police arrived.

The next day, Schafer was suspended without pay, and a few days later, officially canned.

Again, from a policy standpoint, the firings are understandable, and yet you'd think a business, whether a bank or a grocery store, would want to do everything they could to keep employees who demonstrate heroism and character.

Still, with any luck, Nicholson and Schafer, with the onslaught of goodwill and press in the aftermath of their good deeds, won't have too much difficulty in finding new employment, even in this economy.
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