Black Friday turned out to be an atypical day at the St. Paul Wal-Mart, and not just because of the increased volume in shoppers.
A Salvation Army bell ringer was cited for shoplifting after he allegedly stole a $20 watch from Wal-Mart while on a break from his bell-ringing duties, police said.
The bell ringer, who was being paid $8 an hour by the Salvation Army, was fired, said Annette Bauer, a spokeswoman for the organization.
"Obviously we want people that we've hired to be honest," Bauer said. "We want to protect the stores where we're bell ringing; we want to protect the funds that are being raised."
Bauer said many of the bell ringers the Salvation Army hires each year are people who have had trouble keeping a job or finding work and are looking for seasonal employment. She said the Salvation Army usually doesn't have time to do complete background checks for bell ringers.
There have been a few similar incidents in the past, and Salvation Army officials try to recruit as many volunteer bell ringers as possible to avoid having to hire people.
"The situation is that we just don't get enough volunteers, particularly at the early part of the season and during the weekday," Bauer said.
The Salvation Army has 400 kettle sites in the Twin Cities area this year. The organization has taken several security measures, including locking the kettles so that only their finance department is able to open them, Bauer said. But officials also rely on the public and store personnel to report any bell ringers behaving suspiciously, she said.
"The public really looks at these kettles like a community effort," Bauer said. "It matters to people when somebody is being dishonest because it's stealing from those in desperate need."