Salvation Army Thrift Store staff anything but compassionate

The Salvation Army is a well known entity to most Canadians, and bills itself as being able to meet the needs of others that need it most. In fact, a visit to their web site at http://www.salvationarmy.ca/  beings you the message ” We See what Most Don’t.” and ” Giving hope today.”

However, an incident at one of the Salvation Army Thrift stores recently left me so angered and shocked that I am still shaking my head two days later.

Friday afternoon I dropped into the Salvation Army thrift store at 7093 King George Highway in Surrey. A dicey neighbourhood at the best of times, the street beside the store is a stroll for the local hookers, and Friday was no exception. There was one very young girl outside trying to drum up some business from the men driving by. Shortly after my arrival, a commotion outside the front of the store started attracting people to the large glass window. The sounds of screams and angry shouting got my attention as well, and I ran over to see what was going on.

 It was very clear that some sort of assault was in progress. The young hooker who had just been on the corner outside was now on her back cowered up against the wall, crying and screaming for help. A completely nutty and violent looking guy was kicking at her legs, demanding money and threatening her, and the woman beside me said that he had just hit her across the face several times.He was obviously either her pimp or a dealer,looking for his cash, but regardless – this was too much to stomach. Banging on the window to get him to stop, I looked over to the staff  who were nonchalantly still ringing up other customers purchases. I hollered for someone to call the police, and another woman closer to the till asked the staff to call 911 because a woman was getting beat up outside the store.

The staff declined to do so, and continued to ring up purchases.

The woman told them again to call 911, and the woman at the till would not do so, and ignored her.

Shocked, the woman in the lineup then asked if she could use the phone to call 911, and she was yet again refused. The clerk told her they don’t let anyone use the phone, no exceptions. Completely and totally shocked by this, another woman quickly got through on her cell phone.

During this time, myself and a couple others were banging on the glass to keep this guy from hitting her again and getting the licence plate number of the vehicle running beside him, as well as a complete description of the him and the vehicle.  We quickly relayed this to the woman on the phone and onto dispatch.

Seeing that he had clearly been identified, the aggressor hopped into the car and drove off, but not before we both saw an infant in a car seat in the back, along with two other women. Again, I was shocked. What a lovely family outing, no? Taking your baby along to beat up hookers. Nice.

Immediately we went to check on the girl who had been beaten only to find that she had taken off. The other customer was still on the line with RCMP dispatch, relaying all the information, but was dismayed to find out that no one was going to attend since both the hooker and the assaulter were gone – despite the fact we had obtained an excellent description of both him and the car, and a licence plate number. She even mentioned that all of this had occurred with a baby in the car, and that didn’t seem to make a difference. She hung up, and clearly was very disheartened by all that had just occurred.

After exchanging quick introductions, we immediately addressed the shocking behavior of the Salvation Army store clerks. Dismal examples of compassionate humans, both of them. I can understand store policies of not letting people use the phone, but any rational human would think calling 911 would be a valid exception.

Even more shocking and disappointing than the failure to call 911, was the complete disregard and nonchalance both clerks displayed at the assault. The clerk ringing up purchases didn’t miss a beat and it didn’t seem to bother her at all that a young woman was being beaten outside her store. Was it because she was a hooker? Was it because this kind of thing happens all the time in this particular area of Surrey? I don’t know her  reasons for not wanting to get involved, but personally it made me want to vomit. I’m no fan of  the hookers around here either, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to stand by and do nothing while one gets beaten. It comes down to basic human compassion and the need to help another in the most crucial of moments.  I question even my own actions now, and feel like I failed this young girl. Perhaps I should have run outside and stopped him instead of just banging on the class and valuing my own safety. Perhaps I should have tried to find her afterwards. I did neither.

The Salvation Army website has a list on their website that give you ten good reasons why you should donate to them.

Number 4 reads: 

”  The Salvation Army, in its compassionate concern to exemplify the love of God for a broken world, seeks to reach out to those most in need in our society, and does so without discrimination except on the basis of need.”

Clearly, they failed sadly by all accounts in this instance.

15 Comments on “Salvation Army Thrift Store staff anything but compassionate

  1. Hi,

    I’m just getting started with my new blog. Would you want to exchange links on our blog-rolls?

    BTW – I’m up to about 100 visitors per day.

  2. Too bad the Salvation Army doesnt sell baseball bats you could have given the coward a lesson. When I was a teenager out shopping at a mall we came across a guy slapping a woman around and acting like an idiot. My old man tuned him on the spot. Sent him packing with a couple of smacks of his own and a kick in the ass as he left.

  3. What an awful example of disregard for humanity coming from an organization that has based its reputation on their compassion.
    Not that it is an excuse for their behaviour but I imagine those clerks see that type of thing a lot. What if that poor girl had died right there? What if other citizens got involved and were hurt?
    The dismissive attitude of the RCMP wasn’t helpful either and I would have thought an outreach centre for women could have helped in some way as well (perhaps in looking for / locating the young prostitute to see if she needed support).
    Curious … did you forward your story to the Salvation Army head office? If not … please do.

    • Yes Suzanne, I was planning to contact them first thing tomorrow morning. I have known the clerk in question for a few years and was completely dumbfounded when this occurred.It will certainly be interesting to hear whaat the response to this is. Calling 911 should be a valid exception to the ‘no phone use’ rule.
      I also agree that the girl was young enough that some support and may have thwarted off a what is more than likely the beginning of a very rough journey for her. That area is full of sex workers, most of which have been at it for a very long time and the requisite pimps and dealers to go with them.

      In an aside, I was recently going through some older posts, and saw a comment of yours that I somehow missed amidst all the others at the time. I was saddened to hear of your background, and agree that seeing our beautiful children is reward. Sisters by experience.

  4. Your posting has been brought to the attention of the Divisional Commander of The Salvation Army in British Columbia, in addition to the officers in Surrey. I have been asked to examine this situation with both the authorities and the Director of our provincial thrift stores. As the Public Affairs officer for the Army in BC, I want you and your readers to know that this challenges me just as it challenged those who witnessed the assault.

    One of the attributes of our organization is our acceptance of all, no matter their backgound or circumstances. Regardless of what has brought someone to us for help, we are there to do just that, without judgment. What this young girl needed at the time was someone to care for her, to love her and to help – that’s the plan anyway.

    Obvioulsy something went tragically wrong!

    Unfortunately, unless she returns we cannot help her but we can get to the bottom of this and get some answers to questions you and I both want!

    That is my pledge to you and the community. Please be aware that the police are involved and our correspondence will be governed by them.

    I humbly ask for your patience as we do our homework and make certain that everything possible is done to help those in our community, as we have in the past and want to be known for.

    Brian Venables
    Major
    Divisional Secretray for Public Relations
    and Development

    • Thank you for stopping by, Brian.

      Let me add that I have been a customer of this particular store for many years. Several of the long-term staff have been like family and have watched my two younger children grow from the time they were babies – I would consider them to be friends.
      The area that this store is located in has become very dangerous, even during the day. Prostitutes, junkies and petty criminals roam the streets adjacent to the mall area, and over the years it has gotten to the point where security is now required to ensure everyones safety. It really is not safe to walk in the area at all.
      That being said, this was a shocking reminder that sometimes we become so blind to the abject poverty and degradation around us that we lose our humanity and compassion. In doing so, we fail not only those that need our help the most, we fail ourselves. I do believe this is what led to the actions of the staff that particular day. Let us all learn from this.

      I’ve emailed you directly in the event that I can be of any help, and again, thank you for commenting.

      Laila

  5. Horrible Story , however I hate to see the errors of two
    employees tarnish the name of the Salvation Army in whole. The Salvation Army is an organization full of
    compassionate pastors and employees, please don’t
    lead people to think otherwise that is not fair either.

    • Deb, I hardly think I have lead anyone to that conclusion. If you read the entire story and the response of the Salvation Army in the followup to this, you will see that it was investigated by both the RCMP and Salvation Army, and as a result of my coverage on the story, crucial changes were made to how staff handle incidents like this in future.

      Im my eyes, it only improves their reputation to have responded in such a manner.

  6. I failed this young girl. Perhaps I should have run outside and stopped him instead of just banging on the class and valuing my own safety.
    —————————————
    No, you did the proper and safe thing , “from” inside the store, suppose you had gone out , got stabbed or severely beaten up. No Laila, your first obligations are your children, better a live mom, than a dead hero mom. The grave yard has enough dead heroes in it already.
    As for the Sally Ann, their just another religious outfit, out for the buck. I wouldn’t give them the time of day, but then, I don’t support, or believe in “any” religions.
    One does not require a relgion in-order to be a fair, honest, caring, person.

  7. Thank you Henri. You always know the right thing to say. I’m not a religious person either, having found putting my faith in myself, and those around me whom I love and care for, works best.

  8. The salvation army does a tremendous amount of good work especially in the downtown east side. You should be ashamed of yourself for dissing these caring people. Take a walk down there and check it out for yourself, if you dare.

    Out for a buck maybe, but where is it spent? No CEO holidays, huge Crystal cathedrals, vatican cities or fancy mosques. Just people working for a cause and helping the downtrodden.

  9. The planets are perfectly aligned: Sal and I are in 100% agreement about the Salvation Army, and the good it does.

  10. Did I say “they” didn’t do good work?
    The key word is religion, I don’t support relgion, any religions.
    Salvatore, Ive given you far to much credit in the past, Now I realize your no more intelligent than I.
    You really do see yourself in high esteem, don’t you?
    Up untill now Sal, I thought that it must be wonderful of you ,never having to purchase toilet paper.

  11. I guess the remark -just another religious outfit out for a buck- does not mean what it says? a pox on me for figuring it does. I will keep my crystal ball handy next time to get what you are saying. Like slamming people eh? My kid says to get a dictionary and look up ad hominem. apparantly you are guilty of it.

  12. Sal, just curious. Does your kid read my blog too, or do you just tell him what goes on here?