When I was in college, I worked at two completely different stores. One was [at the time] some of the highest-end teen clothing you could buy. We worked on commission and although there were stores all across the nation, we acted as if we were the only one. We regulated ourselves and sometimes played by our own rules. The second store was micromanaged to a ridiculous level. Things like plan-o-grams filled my nightmares. And for those of you not familiar with retail jargon, basically our corporate told us exactly what shirt went where in the store, in the specific color with a specific shirt under it. Some days it made me want to gag.
But I digress.
While working at the second store one day, I was helping a young girl pick out a few tops. We had these 'sets' where a tank and half-shirt thing went over it. I pointed out that the tank top would look cute under this other shirt instead. And since the tank/half-shirt thingy was only $5, you could throw away the scary part and keep the tank and not be wasting money. (or something more 'retaily' and 'salesy' but to that effect) I let her into a room with two different sized half shirt sets and the other top. So technically 3 items, but 5 shirts. (Does that make sense?)
She emerged a couple minutes later, claiming that she would buy the top. I asked about the tank. "Nah, I don't need it." She claimed.
I walked by the table she had been shopping and saw a letter jacket. Since she was the only customer in the store, I knew it was hers.
I took it to her. She said thanks and kept shopping.
I went into the fitting room. There is one complete half-shirt/tank set, and one half-shirt. No tank. I lean down and check under the bench to see if the other tank was down there.
But, I do find a cell phone.
Without even thinking, I slip it into my back pocket and walk over to her. I smile sweetly and ask once again about the tank. Holding the evidence in my hand.
She shook her head and said she had something at home that would work.
I wondered if she was wearing the tank under her T-shirt or if she placed it somewhere else.
I walk in the back and call my manager (who was moments from arriving at the store), "This girl stole a tank top! She's out there now! And I bet she's wearing it!" I yell.
She asks me questions about how I know and I tell her the story, finishing triumphantly with, "And, I have her cell phone. And I'm not giving it back until she gives me that tank!"
My manager, though much more quiet than I agreed. I placed the phone on the back room table and walked back on to the floor.
Now, I know you're wondering, "Just ask her, did she steal it." Yeah, we aren't allowed. If I asked her that (even though I totally knew the truth), if I couldn't prove it, she could sue the store for slander and false accusations.
When I got back out there, her mom had joined her. I so wanted to tell her mom. But, again, I can't. The girl is showing her the top and they decide to buy the one shirt. I stare angrily at the pair of them. Arms crossed. Determined to get that tank top back.
The check out and leave. As they are walking out, they notice the girls phone is missing.
"Did you see her phone?" The mom asks me.
"No." I lie, "Give me back that tank!" I think. "You can check the room, if you like." I say, walking over, unlocking the door.
"Where did you find my jacket?" the girl asks.
"Over here on this table." I reply.
My manager clocks in and technically, it was time for me to take my break. So I go in the back.
I was pretending to be calm, but I was freaking out. I had the phone! What the hell was I supposed to do with it?
We stand in the back, talking, me with stolen phone in hand, my manager with a worried look on her face. The phone starts ringing in my hand. The screen says, 'Mom.'
"Oh shit! They're calling it! What do I do?" I start running, looking for a safe place to hide the phone. I spy our mini-fridge and cram it into the tiny freezer portion. The ringing is muted and eventually subsides. (Yes, I realize putting it on vibrate would have been a much better option.)
I look back at Dena. I had to get out of the store.
"Kelli?" The associate on duty who had been helping them look for the phone said, "They want to see you."
"Me? Why?" I was totally freaking out. "Tell them I'm on break."
She returns a moment later, "They don't care."
I calmed myself and walked out front. "Yes?" I smiled, pretending that I had no clue her little sony erricson was on ice in our back room.
"Give me her phone." The mother accused me angrily.
"I don't have it." I say, totally lying, but believing myself. See, they think I have it because I found her jacket. But I really had it because her daughter was a no-good, lying, thiefy thief. "I'm really sorry." I say. "Are you sure she had it with her? Maybe she laid it down in another store, I mean, she did just discard her jacket on a table and totally forget." I say as sweetly as I can manage.
After a few moments, they leave, angry, but they leave.
I go back and continue to freak out. I know they will be watching me. What the hell do I do with the phone?
I grin, grab my coincidentally identical blue Sony Erricson phone and call a friend who works next door. "I need you to do me a favor. You can't ask any questions. Come over. Bring your purse."
She agrees and walks over. "Take this phone to another store. Any store. Don't tell me which one. Just walk in, shop for a few minutes then take the phone to whoever works there and tell them you found it on the shelf."
And so she did. I don't know if the girl ever got her phone back. Chances are, she did. But I hope that somewhere in it all she got a lesson.
Karma is a Bitch.
Especially when Kelli is at the reins.