I’ve had my shop for about 10 1/2 years now. During that time, we’ve caught our fair share of shoplifters. Most are just people making a dumb decision as they see a brief opportunity. More often than not the items are inexpensive and the decision is an impulse action. It’s a dumb one and I’m not excusing it as it always angers me, but I don’t want to ruin someone over a bad decision that they didn’t think out properly. Unless they are an asshole about it, then it’s completely fair game. I believe in giving second chances and having them right the wrong.
When I do catch someone attempting the ol’ five finger discount, I pull them aside and explain that I saw it. Usually they feel mortified and I let them know that we are a small business and work hard to have this store. That it’s not cool to just take something and blah blah blah. It’s kind of a lecture now that I think about it but screw it. It’s basically the equivalent of your dog chewing your shoe up and you rubbing their nose it it while yelling NO!
I always say that I don’t want to ruin someone over this. That I don’t want to call the police and press charges but they are going to now do the right thing which is pay for the item in question. Be it a $6.00 blind bag keychain, or a $40.00 action figure. They always buy it as the thought of getting arrested is unappetizing...especially when in recent years we have cameras everywhere to record the funny business.
Once in a while I get a hardass. They pay for it but don’t seem to truly care. Those are the asslickers that I state are now banned from my shop. Being the only game in town, they are now in a pickle to get their product as the next closest shop...is absolutely horrendous.
Buuuuuuut, as I mentioned before, most people are remorseful and ashamed which I feel is a good thing. That tells me that they are genuinely sorry. Even if it’s only because they got caught. Those are the people that I say can come back in. I let them know that I’ll be watching them like a hawk until they earn my trust back but I enjoy giving them a second chance as I feel we all need one now and then in this unforgiving world. The latter here is the basis for a tale I’d like to tell you about.
About 8 or 9 years ago, we were in our original and much smaller location. We had no cameras at that point and were still a bit wet behind the ears, all things considered. This was our first experience dealing with this type of situation.
One day I’m working the shop. A regular named Greg that buys the occasional figure or statue, pops on in and we are shooting the shit. That type of banter happens at our shop daily which is one aspect I do love about my profession. My regulars come in and we discuss a range of topics and It’s a very natural feel. Anyway, Greg and I are discussing some nonsense including a new statue. The Bowen Designs Death Statue.
It was on the case directly next to the counter where I was standing and retsiled for just $100.00. At one point Greg was telling me about a jean jacket he airbrushed a skull on and wanted to show me. So he hops out to the car and brings it in. It was pretty cool. He’s pretty artistic and talented and I always appreciate that as I can’t draw a circle properly. They look like retarded 6’s. I dunno. Anyway, he then asked for something in which I had to get in the back so I had to step away for a moment. I came back, we finished up outlet banter, he bought an item, and left. Business as usual.
The next day my business partner is working and calls me up and asks if I sold the Death statue. I stated “no”, but that I was showing it to Greg. Maybe I put it back somewhere else instead of the spot it should be in?!? So I popped in and we searched to no avail. Then it all hit me. The jacket. He had it rolled up when he left. It was the only thing that made sense. It was a slow day and he showed interest in it. It had to be him! I had no rock solid proof but it had to be. I felt hurt as he was a regular, but I said to my partner that we will get it back and if figure out how to bring it up to Greg next time he pops in.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. My partner is manning the shop and I was running errands with my ex wife. We popped into the shop as I had to pack up a few items to ship out. So I’m in the back of the shop and would ya guess who walks in?!? Greg...holding a big Old Navy paper shopping bag which was odd since we are 20 minutes away from the closest Old Navy. I immediately tell my ex to keep an eye on him while I finished up the lady 2 packages. That he was the “statue guy” from a couple of weeks earlier. She goes out front and no lie, a minute later tells me that she saw him put an action figure in the bag. I thought she was kidding but she was dead serious. Fuck!
So I hop out and tell her to whisper to Pete what’s going on. I wanted to see what it was and bust him. I head out and say hi. He’s holding the bag in his right hand and I’m trying to sneak a peek, but every time I get close he turns the other way. It took me a good minute of juking and faking out like a star wide receiver just to catch a glimpse but she was right. It was the McFarlane Twisted Christmas Snowman figure. It had a sticker of $25.00.
I believe he knew that I saw so he immediately said his goodbye and exited the store quickly. I told my partner what he took and said I’ll handle it. In that few seconds of explaining to Pete what was going on before I headed outside to follow Greg, he was already at his car. Not sitting in it but leaning and fiddling. So I’m basically saying “dude, are we really gonna do this? I saw it in the bag. Stop the shit.” Things like that.
When I got up to him he stood up and showed me the empty bag and said he didn’t take anything. A slight lean provided me a glimpse of the figure he tried to bury under some random stuff in his car. So I got behind his car, took a picture of his license plate and said I was going to sit behind the car until the police came unless he gave it back. I think that’s when he lost hope in his situation.
He handed it to me and apologized like 20 times. He told me that he does stupid things sometimes and blah blah blah. So I told him not only was he going to make this situation right, but if he didn’t want me to call the cops...I wanted the Death Statue back as well. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point as all cards were on the table. At first he denied it but after a moment he just looked at the ground and said “ok”. I told him to never come back if he didn’t bring that statue back and that I’d press charges in a few days if it wasn’t returned. Humiliated, he left and I popped back in the store feeling slightly vindicated.
Pete was sure we would never see him again. To be honest I thought that would be the case as well but the next day he walked in as I was working...statue in hand. I was totally shocked. He brought it back and apologized a million times over. Then my favori...uhhh...second favorite part of this story took place. He handed me a bag with a Lobo Tradepaperback in it and told me he took that a month prior. We had no idea about that. It was only a $16.00 item but I respect that he had the stones to admit that and return it. I remember telling him that I obviously wouldn’t call the cops and that I’d allow him back in but I’d be on him like white on rice. He agreed, apologized once more, and made his exit.
I didn’t see Greg for a while after that. I kinda forgot about it and him. Then one day we’ll over a year later, he waltzes in looking like a million bucks. We causally chatted for a few before he dropped it. He came in to apologize once again which was unnecessary in my eyes, but seemed to be needed for him. He told me that he was in a dark place. He was drinking a ton and was a drunk. He was doing shitty things like stealing and just being a total lowlife. He said that he wanted to come in and thank us for giving him a second chance at a point where he wasn’t getting many do-overs.
He told us that he’s been clean and sober almost a year at that point and he had a great girlfriend. That he’s Been holding a good job. Things were going well. Greg was happy and healthy. That was awesome to see. It was also nice to see something work out. Usually we never see these people again. They just vanish and slink away most likely continuing to be human garbage. Greg turned things around and that was really nice to see.
I’m by no way taking credit for that in any way shape or form. That’s all Greg. All I’m saying is this story...this one I just told you of, makes us feel that we make the right choice in offering a second chance. We could all use it at some point in our lives. We have all done or said something that had a negative impact on someone else. Being able to own up to that and rise above takes a ton of courage and strength. Being able to forgive someone after being wronged is equally as important of an ingredient in this recipe. I’m glad that Greg and I are actual friends now. He’s a good solid dude and I’m thrilled that he’s well.
However, there are other times where you give a second chance...and a third...and are still disrespected by someone so stupid it is hard to comprehend. Stay tuned for part 2 in my 3 part story on Shoplifting this week.