Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stopping a Shoplifter - who was right? who was wrong?

Here is what happened the first time I almost got fired for stopping a shoplifter. The only reason I wasn't fired is because I took a 6 month long leave of absence to care for my sick father a week after this happened. The leave was planned.

I was walking through the store and I observed a boy (age 10 to 12) opening a toy phone and taking it from the box and putting it in his pocket. I knew this boy. He came in the store a couple of times a week to buy candy and such and he was generally alone.

I walked up to him and picked up the empty box (the phone was only $1.00). I asked him where the phone was that I saw him take out of the box. I told him he wouldn't be in any trouble if he just gave it back to me. At first he denied it and I repeated he wasn't in any trouble, I just wanted the phone back. He gave it back.

I thanked him for giving it back and I told him he would have to leave the store. My goal wasn't to get him in trouble it was just to scare him a little so he wouldn't shoplift again. He asked me if he could stay and I told him "no" and I followed him out of the store. Let me repeat that I had seen the boy in the store alone more times than I could count.

Bob was the cashier that day and he saw me walk the boy out. When he asked what was going on I told him. About a 1/2 hour later I was stalking and I asked Bob,"when I walked that boy out did he look like he was mad that I had caught him or did he look ashamed about being caught?"

Bob laughed and said,"he looked like he was ashamed for what he had done."

"Good," I said, "that's what I was hoping for. Maybe he won't do it again." We started to laugh.

Just about that time a woman walked up to me and asked me if I had seen her little boy. My stomach sunk. I asked her to describe him. She did. It was the boy. I told her that I had seen him and I told her exactly what happened.

She freaked out! She said I had put her son in danger of child molesters. She said some man had followed her around the store the whole time she had been in there. She generally went nuts. (by the way her son was in the car) She wanted me fired. It didn't matter that I was trying to do him a favor by not turning him into managment.

She denied he was shoplifting as MOST parents do I have learned. She was also furious that Bob and I had been laughing about it even though we were just laughing because it sounded like he had learned his lesson. It was also AT LEAST a 1/2 an hour (maybe longer) before she started to look for her son. Which shows she knew he was some place familiar and safe and she didn't have to watch him every second like you would in a bigger store. (we get that a lot in our store by the way)

I admit I was wrong when I didn't find out if his mother was in the store with him. But I knew the kid and I knew he was in the store all the time. I would much rather have handed him over to her to begin with but that was when I was younger and dumber and thought all parents were like my mom and would take appropriate action when their child was caught stealing.

Now, we just let them steal to their hearts content. Nobody wants to lose their job.

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