I still got it. I walked up to our local IGA to get some groceries today, which is always fun. (I worked in an American IGA all through high school and the very sight of the checkout girls’ smocks gives me Nam-style flashbacks.) I was grabbing some cheese when I smelled cigarette smoke. I looked over to see this crazy lady I’d seen outside the store. She was wearing a big coat and looking around shiftily while she puffed on her cancer stick. (I don’t think she was homeless, more like just poor and mean.) She set down her empty shopping basket and then ducked down one of the aisles. On a hunch, I followed and peeked down in time to see her stuffing items into her coat pockets. I also noticed that the IGA girls were on to her and had already posted a sentry to keep watch. Satisfied, I went to pick up some conditioner. The crazy lady ended up coming down my aisle, and (this is the creepy part) she walked by me really close and really slow. I think she was hoping to pinch my wallet, which I had safely stashed away. I sauntered away and picked up the rest of my stuff, then headed for the checkouts. As I was paying I saw her trying to duck out the entrance. The head checkout girl headed her off though and asked her about the items in her pockets. I listened as this woman exclaimed, “Oh! How could I have forgotten? I can’t believe it!” She handed the stuff over and skulked off. Personally, I can’t believe they let her go. You’d never get away with something like that in Wolcottville, Indiana.

I wasn’t very good at spotting shoplifters when I started at the store. In fact, I was an easy mark because I was so trusting. We were the only store in a small town, so I got to know just about all the customers. One day a local lady came in and ended up at my register. She was poor and mostly bought alcohol, but she was friendly and I knew one of her grown-up kids. I’d even given her a lift home to her house once when it was raining out since she didn’t have a car. Anyway, she came through my aisle with a cart and bought a couple items. She had a brown grocery bag with some stuff in it already, but she told me she’d already bought it. I trusted her completely. She paid for her stuff and headed out the door. As soon as she hit the parking lot, the manager swooped down. She’d watched her take a 12-pack of beer off the shelf and put it in the bag on the security cameras. Then she killed time until she could be sure I’d be at the register, knowing I wouldn’t question her. They brought her in and called the cops. She was really upset and pleading that she wouldn’t do it again, but they busted her anyway. I felt horrible and stupid that I’d allowed myself to be duped. There are only so many nice people in the world, and every time an asshole takes advantage of one there’s one less. I was a lot more wary after that.

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  1. Did ya give her “the eye”? hehe

  2. Heh. I should’ve. (You made Rodd laugh with that.) 🙂

  3. I started out very trusting, much like yourself, but within a month of my year-long tenure in the Wal-Mart jewelry department, I became very jaded and disillusioned. Man, the shoplifting pissed me off like you wouldn’t believe! People’ll take anything, like Scooby Doo beanies, and pewter earrings, and rabbit’s foot keychains and whatnot. It’s stupid.

    I couldn’t work in retail again. I’ve decided that, in general, I hate people. They’re mean, they’re bitter, they’re petty, and they treat those of us in the service industry like dirt.

    For example (and I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this particular story): A middle-aged man comes in on a busy Saturday afternoon right before Christmas and hands me a gold watch. It’s a Rolex. A real, honest-to-gods, solid gold Rolex. He wants me to change the battery in this watch. “I’m sorry, sir,” I say politely. “We don’t carry this watch in our stores, nor do I currently have the tools to properly open this watch, so it is against store policy for me to change your watch battery. I would suggest you take it to a jeweler, who is better equipped to deal with a fine watch like this.” The man scowls at me. “Well, the WALDORF Wal-Mart people have changed the battery for me before.” he says sourly. I give him a rueful, apologetic smile. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry about that. But it’s recently become store policy that we no longer service watches that we don’t carry in this store. What would happen if I broke your watch? We couldn’t hope to replace it for you.” The man was insistent. “I don’t see why YOU PEOPLE can’t do this all of the sudden. The WALDORF store does it all the time. Don’t they train YOU PEOPLE? It was NEVER a problem before.” I am firm. “I’m sorry,” I repeat for what seems like the tenth time. “I can’t help you.” So the man goes on to say in a most agitated manner, “Give me your tools and I’ll do it my goddamned self!” I decline. He demands to see my manager. So then I have to go through the whole song and dance of calling a manager, waiting half an hour for the manager to arrive, and in the meantime have to worry about the fifty other customers that are lined up waiting for me to help them. Then when the manager finally arrives, the guy gets all pissed and points at me and says all sorts of stuff about how he’s never shopping at this particular Wal-Mart again, and how he can’t believe how ill-trained these associates are, and how rude I was. And so the MANAGER, who is NOT TRAINED like I am to service watches, changed the battery in the guy’s solid gold Rolex watch. It was farcical to watch, to say the least. This guy owned a solid gold Rolex, but he was too friggin’ cheap to pay a jeweler to change the battery, and thus wasted almost two hours of everyone’s time while the friggin’ MANAGER of the entire store struggled to get all the pieces of this man’s watch back together. Then I am later reprimanded by the manager for following store policy. !$&#!!

    Dude, I am STILL furious over that particular episode. And I have countless others I could share… You have no idea. I don’t have near the control I used to, man, and I know if I went back to jewelry like they want me to, I’d likely get fired or arrested for assaulting a customer who got on my bad side.

    So what is this with “the eye?” You have a trademark glare or something? 😉

  4. It’s more my Dad’s thing. Just this silly glare where he uses his finger to pull down his lower eyelid and then points at you. It’s sorta an “I’m watching you thing”, but it developed into a family running joke. 🙂

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