Fun fact: Polar bears have clear fur. Not white.
It was a Sunday night, like any other night. The foot traffic had been slow in the store. I was going about my business folding clothes and putting things in neat piles for my coworkers to put away. I heard customers talking and perusing the clearance section right outside of the fitting room. I walked out to straighten a few things and my manager rushed up to me and said in a quiet voice, You see those two ladies over there? The one has a large black purse that has nothing in it. I think they are going to steal something. Keep an eye on them.” Then, my manager walked away. I kept straightening up the clothes. I was trying not be all shifty eyed and obvious but it’s hard to not be shifty eyed and obvious when you are keeping an eye on someone. I then gave up all pretense of NOT paying attention to these ladies and went over and just started chatting them up. Because as an extrovert, it’s a skill I am quite comfortable with.
The ladies and I exchanged some pleasantries. I commented on her scarf and sense of style. She accepted the compliment and marveled at the clearance selection of shoes. Then, she and her friend made her way over to another part of the store. I exhaled a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. Then, went back to straightening the clearance section and watching the ladies move thru the store. I noticed another associate also chatting up the ladies. Our associate was pretending to shop alongside these women in case she could actually see them put something in one of their large purses. As I walked back to the fitting room, I wondered about these women who were potentially stealing. Why would they do that? Is a stack of onesies and a pair of shoes really worth time in jail? What brings a person to such a desperate place? Is there something so broken inside that this seems like their only option?
I saw the two customers head up to the front of our store at a rapid pace. One of them had a walkie talkie and had heard the manager call mall security. The one with the walkie talkie was also a mall employee who had been working. She and her friend had gone to several stores. Stealing merchandise and hustling out of the stores when they heard the call for the security guard.
It just depressed me. Now this woman who was stealing clothes doesn’t have a job. Her kids are gonna be affected by this. Her ability to find honest employment is going to be almost non-existent. I know it was her choice to steal. And it was obvious that this wasn’t a whim. There was a plan in place. But I go back to my earlier questions. What brings a person to this place? Is it learned? Is it narcissism? Is it really out of need? I don’t mean these accusingly. I honestly wish I knew so that I could help.