Monday, August 20, 2007

Grocery Store Artifact: Eternal Love of God and Me

Where I work there are several customers that are known to us as serial shoplifters. Usually once they are identified we keep an eye on them whenever they come into the store. A thief will pretend to shop, knowing you are watching them, but they have all day to walk around so they play the odds that the clerk monitoring them will get distracted or called away. When that doesn't happen they leave. They will inevitably return but that's okay, because we stopped them that time. Those people we identified as serial shoplifters are also one's we refuse to do returns for under any circumstances. This is because they either "forgot the receipt", found a receipt in the trash and shoplifted a like item to return or have a valid receipt for something they actually bought but stole another item to return. Once their scam is recognized and shut down they mysteriously stop patronizing our store.

Other than the act of theft one of the things about petty thieves that annoy me is how they treat everyone around them like suckers. Shoplifters are the worst of the lot. We know that they are stealing us blind, they know we know it but they don't stop. They get caught often but get away with it often enough that they will keep trying.

One of the serial shoplifters that frequents the store I have descriptively nicknamed "Crazy Brown Haired Red Tank Top". About two months ago we caught her trying to hide $60 worth of crab legs and other expensive items under a jacket she kept piled in the bottom of a cart. The idea was she would go through the line and walk out the door if the cashier didn't notice the other items. When CBHRTT went through a line purchasing a small item the cashier had her remove her coat from the obvious pile of other items under it. The excuses were immediate: "Oh, I didn't know they were there. I found this cart in an aisle and just used it...".

Whatever. I took the items back as she stammered her way through excuses designed to distract us. Caught, she didn't return for nearly two months. When she did make her way back in the store in the two weeks ago the first thing she said to me was the unprompted, "The medication I take makes me shoplift." Sure it does.

So now every time CBHRTT is in the store she sucks up to everyone like we are her BFF's. The attempt to manipulate us is pathetic. Now that a clerk is watching CBHRTT every time she steps into the store she is always spinning one scenario or another. Playing clueless didn't work, claiming a medical reason for stealing didn't work. So now CBHRTT is trying our patience with the Lamb of God tactic.

Recently she was observed wandering the aisles for nearly a half hour under the dubious pretense of looking for her cell phone. As a way of getting her out of the store one of the clerks offered to call the phone so they might hear it ring. It didn't of course, so she left to look elsewhere. The next day this card is dropped off with us for the clerk who assisted her in the phone search. It was full of the usual suckerfish themes I recognized* from anyone who gets busted stealing and is a transparent attempt to co-opt the clerk that is the one who usually watches her when she is in the store.

Note the two differently colored inks on the card. The card was filled out in front of me at our service counter and I'm cynical enough to lay odds that CBHRTT shoplifted the card from our stationary section moments before she dropped it off .

The most ridiculous part of the whole affair is that it is obvious CBHRTT is fully aware that we know she is attempting to scam us. We have told her as much is as plain a language as we can manage, yet she keeps the facade going. A good grifter never gives up on a mark, knowing that sheer persistence will often let them achieve their goal. But I don't think even CBHRTT believes anyone will fall for her con, but rather anticipates that we would get annoyed enough to dismiss her as too bothersome to deal with, thereby freeing her up to rob us blind.

* The first being: "Why would I steal? I have all this money in my pocket!" with the second most popular being liberally sprinkling references to God over their verbal salad and imploring Jesus to help others see the truth of their innocence.



  1. I *hate* theives. What I don't understand is, if you know someone is a shoplifter, can't you ban them from your store? Then, whenever they showed up, you could call the cops and have them arrested. The other avenue (that I used in my father's store) is to tell that person they can shop there, but only with an employee escort. They didn't hang around long.

    You have so much more patience than I do. I'm so glad I can yell at morons in my job.

  2. You tell them not to come back, and after a few times they stop, but they just wait awhile and come back later. They will wait for a new manager or staff to be on who doesn't know them.

    Also, cops understandable prioritize. They take for ever to show up for a petty thief.

  3. Sounds to me like your problem could be solved with an aluminum baseball bat and a dark alley. It's harsh I know, but you'd only have to do it once. Word gets around.

  4. She is just mentally ill. And very annoying.

  5. See, I don't think superheroes would work well in the real world...except in situations like this.

    A big muscled Batman leaping from aisle to aisle and shadowing the shoplifter ought to help, because everyone knows shoplifters are a cowardly, superstitious lot.


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