Long before I 'met' any of you, I had another life. Before I sold poetically to the masses, I sold to the not-so-masses via a heavily teen-influenced clothing store. I hated it. I hated the size of the chip on my shoulder brought on by a combination of my MBA, my young looking round face and the general meanness of customers. But some days, I look back and laugh. It was fun. In a 'if you don't think about it too hard' way kind of look back on an old boyfriend. Where you only remember the laughter and gifts and not the ridiculous lies and general jack-assery. [I don't have one specific person in mind there, can't you tell! :) ]
Things like chasing down shoplifters. Yes, I thought that was fun. Or pissing off customers. Even when I didn't mean to. Or the general energetic buzz that comes from random Christmas music being piped into stores too loud and squeezing between strangers just to help someone who would rather you go away. Of working so fast and laughing so hard and finding a way to let the craziness roll right off your back in a way that wouldn't fly if it were February.
One year, it was close to the end of my shift, I was in the back organizing stock. The manager came back and told me that she thought a group who just came in had stolen some stuff a few days ago. I was wearing the mandatory "Gifts under $20!" t-shirt over a white long sleeve. I ripped it off and grabbed my jacket. I made my way to the front of the store and pretended to be a customer. I tried on hoodies and even talked to the woman. I saw them open bags and shove, I mean SHOVE tons of clothes into bags. I snuck out, and asked a neighboring store to call security. I came back and started 'shopping' the front table, watching them. They finally recognized me as an employee. (Maybe I wasn't as incognito as I thought.) Two of them slipped out while the other tried to distract me. I watched them go down the escalator and out of my sight. The other two were still in the store. They started to walk out and I followed at a safe distance. Then I spotted security. I yelled and pointed them out.
The chase began.
The women ran, bags in hand through the mall, pushing people and running for the parking lot. Out the door, one ran into a cop who cuffed her. The other threw the bags down and started yelling something to the effect of, 'I didn't take nothing' with her hands up. She turned on her heel and headed back into the mall.
An officer yelled, "Follow her!" I looked around. There was nobody else. So I started running. Back through the mall. People at Auntie Anne's stood and stared, cinnamon pretzels in hand. And in the most authoritative voice I could muster, I yelled, "Stop! Ma'am! You must stop!" I caught her in front of Bakers shoes, where I grabbed her sleeve and more calmly than I felt told her she had to stand here and wait for the police. After a few seconds I realized, "Fuck! I caught her, now what?"
She began to squirm and thrash her hands into the air screaming "Get off me! Get off me!" I looked into Bakers, a girl I knew began walking towards me to help. And then before I even knew what happened, she slapped me. Hard. And took off running. I stumbled backwards, hand on my stinging cheek. I was flustered. And. Really. Really. Pissed. I took off after her, my grey peacoat flapping behind me. Crowds of people were watching, but nobody helped. She ran right into the arms of a back-up officer. He cuffed her and told me I needed to come with him.
Still in shock and out of breath, "She slapped me." I panted, somewhat to the officer, somewhat to myself.
On the step below me on the escalator, the shoplifter says, "You shouldn't have pulled my hair."
"I didn't pull your hair!" I yelled back.
"I don't even shop in that store. I don't wear that crap." She claimed as her defense for being caught red-handed.
"You're wearing all our stuff right now." I said. "I bet you stole it Thursday."
I was able to recover $500 worth of merchandise from the two bags we got back. I got half of the women involved, but the other two got away.
They were arrested. I didn't press charges for hitting me, although if I had, instead of being charged with shoplifting it would have been robbery (since she used force). Although our store had an alarm system, it was acting up and we had turned it off. Obviously, they had figured this out and were taking things without removing the sensors. And yes, you can take a sensor off without ruining the clothes. I can do it very easily. But I'm not posting on here how to do it, because I'm not teaching everyone how to be shoplifters!
Maybe I don't miss it all that much, now that I think about it.