A Mt. Juliet preacher is "shocked out of his mind" after a surprise Christmas gift he gave a Goodwill employee at the Mt. Juliet store on Friday ultimately caused her to quit her job so she could keep the gift. He said he thinks it's ironic his goodwill gift went "all wrong" at Goodwill "of all places."
Global Vision Bible Church Pastor Greg Locke's Friday random acts of kindness giving away $100 bills to strangers for an early Christmas present backfired in a bad way and has gone viral on social media.
After a firestorm and backlash online about the incident, in a blog on the Goodwill website the company explained the employee, named Liz, "had signed an honesty policy saying she would not accept gifts of cash or donated goods while on the job while on the clock."
The Goodwill statement also says, "the situation could have been handled much better," and the company has "reached out to the employee and offered to allow her to keep the gift and return to work."
Other businesses welcomed the gifts
"We had the great blessing of going all over town and randomly blessing different people with $100 as a Christmas bonus," Locke wrote in his church post.
"Walmart no problem, Kroger no problem, Dunkin' Donuts, no problem. Goodwill are you stinking kidding me?"
Locke said after "blessing" many people at different companies, even "with the help of management at some" they went to Goodwill and noticed an employee who was smiling and "obviously a great employee."
"We said we were from Global Vision and giving away money right before Christmas," said Locke Sunday. "She told me she had not been in church for years, and I said we didn't care. We wanted to bless her day. She was super excited. She threw her arms around me and give me the biggest hug of the day."
Locke said two hours later the woman called "not only to thank us in a big way, but to let us know that she had quit her job," Locke wrote in his post. "She told me management told her that she had three options; she could either give the money back to us, she could be fired, or she could donate her blessing to the Goodwill organization since she was on the clock when she received it. She decided to keep the money and walk away."
Pastor met with the management
Locke said after the phone call he went to the store and met with the manager.
"I let him know that I was less than happy about the situation," wrote Locke.
On Sunday Locke said he felt the manager seemed "super sarcastic and said the employee chose to quit."
Locke then called Goodwill's corporate headquarters and was "told anyone who works for Goodwill must give any gift over to the corporation."
"I told the lady I was so sorry, to keep my number, and I'd help her find another job," Locke.
Locke said he was so disenchanted with the incident he wrote about it on his church post and "it went viral right away" and "my phone lit up like a Christmas tree." He said one of the national news stations called to interview him about it.
"I wrote in the blog that I 'got' Goodwill," Locke said Sunday. "That they had their policies, but too bad they've lost sight of their people. It's Christmas folks."
Many of the responses to the blog were negative toward Goodwill.
"I felt we were not 'customers' and sometimes people should come before company policies," said Locke.
He said he "wondered why Goodwill would have such an error in judgment toward a random act of kindness."
Goodwill CEO contacts Locke
"Then Goodwill's CEO called me personally and was very cordial, but guarded and he basically let me know it was a poor judgment call," said Locke. "I told him I was not trying to destroy Goodwill's reputation in the least. I said I was taken aback by it all."
On Dec. 20 on Goodwill's website the company released an explanation entitled "A Christmas Gift."
"It was a Christmas gift, a joyful surprise, a random act of kindness," it says.
"When representatives of a Mt. Juliet Church walked unannounced into that town's Goodwill store on Friday, they chose an employee with a big smile and a sweet personality and handed her $100 in cash. She gratefully accepted.
"No one, not the employee, the church members or the store's unsuspecting management had anything but the best intentions in that moment. But there was a problem."
The post goes on to explain that there is a "good reason" for Goodwill's honesty policy and their employees "for many years have agreed to follow" it.
The post explains Goodwill is a not-for-profit that provides employment and training opportunities to thousands of Tennesseans through the sale of donated goods.
"It is of the utmost importance to Goodwill that we remain good stewards of the donations we receive and that we maintain the trust of our donors and shoppers," says the post. "Our unique business model demands that our employees follow a strict code of ethics, particularly with regard to the acceptance and stewardship of donations."
The post goes on to say what happened in the Mt. Juliet store Friday "was not the sort of scenario this policy was intended to prevent." It says if the management team had known in advance about the gift they "could have suggested that church members give it to the employees after hours." It says supervisors were "caught off guard" and reminded the employee of the policy. It says management gave the employee "her choice of returning the gift to the church or donating it to Goodwill.
"The situation could have been handled much better," says the blog. "...the employee chose to keep the gift and walk away from her job.
Pastor doesn't feel wrong for the gift
The post confirms Locke's revelation as Goodwill President and CEO Matthew Bourlakas called him. It says Bourlakas explained the importance of the policy and expressed regret "about its strict interpretation in this instance" and "every effort had been made to set the matter right with the employee."
The post says Locke's social media post and hundreds of comments voicing negative responses were still online.
"And so we wanted to tell you our story, how deeply we wish we had known about the church's gift in advance and had responded differently," says the blog.
Locke said he felt like Goodwill's response makes it seem "the church did something wrong."
"I don't feel like we did," he said. "We don't want to apologize for it. Something like this won't deter us from our outreaches. Of all people, Goodwill? If we are going to go down, we will go down giving."
Goodwill in their post says Liz would consider their offer to return to work.
However, Locke on Sunday said he's spoken with her, and it was his understanding if she goes back to work, it won't be in Mt. Juliet.
"She's already had five other job offers," said Locke.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.