ATLANTA (CN) – An accounts manager claims The Rental Store forced its workers to commit credit-card fraud against black customers. She says she was fired for refusing to “pop a card” on a black customer – to make “an unauthorized charge on a customer’s credit card so the Location could ‘make its numbers.'”
“‘Popping a card’ is nothing less than theft,” Angela H. Davis says in her federal complaint. “It is stealing from a customer. It is illegal. Unfortunately, it is the way TRS has chosen to do business in Georgia.”
Davis says she was fired after she refused to “pop cards,” and because she participated in racial and sexual discrimination claims against the company.
Another former employee filed a similar complaint against The Rental Store, in the same court.
Davis says she worked for the story at its outlet in Gwinnett County, Ga.
The Rental Store, or TRS, is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and sells and leases furniture, appliances and computers. It operates stand-alone stores under the name of TRS Home Furnishings, but “most of TRS’s business operations take the form of ‘TRS Financing Department’ located in furniture stores which are not owned by TRS. These TRS Financing Departments are staffed by TRS employees, but they are located inside, and often in a back corner of, other furniture stores such as Underpriced Furniture and Bargain Depot,” according to the complaint.
Davis, an account manager, worked at an Underpriced Furniture location that used TRS financing. She claims that Matt Machalek, a white district manager for TRS, ordered her and other employees to “pop cards.”
She says that “Mr. Machalek used the term ‘pop a card’ to describe TRS making an unauthorized charge on a customer’s credit card so the location could ‘make its numbers.'”
Davis says that nonblack employees were not forced to “pop cards.”
The only named defendant in the complaint is The Rental Store Inc.
Davis says that Machalek was able to pop cards by recording the credit card security codes of black customers when they paid in person, and keeping them in the customer’s file.
“On many occasions, Mr. Machalek would discuss and joke about ‘popping cards’ of black customers in the presence of black TRS employees, including plaintiff,” the complaint states. “He would frequently thumb through customer lists and say aloud, ‘Let’s pop that ho’s card.’ He would laugh about it.”
Davis adds, “TRS policy prevents a customer from giving – and TRS from accepting –
blanket approval for TRS to charge the customer’s credit card whenever a payment
to TRS is due. Instead, TRS is required to seek and obtain permission from the customer each time TRS intends to charge an amount to the credit card, and that
permission must be sought and obtained in advance of the charges being placed upon the card.”
She says Machalek also forced black employees to “shift cash” from black customers: Sometimes when black customers made payments in cash, black employees entered lesser amounts in the company computer system, though customers received receipts for the correct amounts.
“The ‘remainder’ was the difference between the cash received and the lesser
amount entered into the customer’s account on the computer. Sometimes the
remainder would be applied (i.e., ‘shifted’) to an account of a completely different
customer. That way, the first and the second customer’s accounts would be
‘active,’ and it would increase the bonus paid to plaintiff’s supervisors – the
regional and district managers,” according to the complaint.
An employee filed an EEOC complaint against The Rental Store in 2009, alleging racial and sexual discrimination, and Davis says she was a witness in the EEOC investigation. Her participation in the investigation was revealed to The Rental Store by the employee’s lawyer.
During 2009 and 2010, another former employee was wrongly accused of “shifting cash” by The Rental Store and a police investigation resulted, according to the complaint. Davis says Machalek asked her and another employee to lie to the police and implicate the employee.
She says that when Machalek learned that neither she nor the other employee had lied to the police, he fired them both “within 5 minutes of each other.”
She adds: “In the spring of 2010, after plaintiff could take no more, she complained to TRS the above activities. TRS did nothing because it profited handsomely from the activities of its managers. In fact, Regional Manager Mark Denman told plaintiff, ‘We are not going to change anything because Matt Machalek has done well for the company.'”
Davis seeks punitive damages for discrimination, hostile work environment, wrongful firing, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is represented by Matthew Harman.