Sunday, December 8, 2013


So there I was, walking down the street in Downtown Crossing, Boston Massachusetts. It's the holiday season and I'm heading to my store to help put things in people's shopping bags and put cash into my bank account.

As I'm about to walk in, someone walks out. It's a young guy in a grey sweatshirt. He looks to be about 17 years old. He's holding a winter hat in his hand. It's a Celtics hat with a big pom pom on top and it isn't in a plastic bag. He sort of runs by me looking as if he was trying to get out of there quickly. My internal scumbag detector began to go off and just to be safe I popped my head into the door and asked, "Hey, did you just sell a green Celtics hat with the pom pom on top just now?"

           Of course the answer was no. So the kid had stolen it and was still in my sites walking away.

Now when you work in retail inevitably someone is going to try to steal something and it is incredibly important that you and the people who work for you know how to deal with the situation when it happens.
There are many many pro's out there who do nothing but steal and just like  you may be excellent at cooking Shepherd's Pie or making the perfect Martini, these people are just as good as stealing things. You really wouldn't believe it. Here's a few examples of things I've had to deal with over the years:

  • Woman puts large shopping bag on ground and begins nonchalantly dropping merchandise into it with one hand while trying things on with another hand.
  • Man walks up puts on a baseball cap then takes another baseball hat and asks the price. Once he hears the price he attempts to put back hat number two and leave wearing hat number one.
  • Woman comes up with two small young kids asks a bunch of prices then continues to shop. The kids are hanging out by me. She loads a bag full of merchandise then leaves without the kids. I ask kids where their mom is and they say she is outside and leave. I then notice missing things and chase her down.
  • One guy runs up and steals one thing. Employee chases after him while another guy comes up and takes 10 things. They get away.
  • A man in a magicians cape tries to hypnotise me into giving him a 4 wheel swivel luggage set for free.

So as you can see people can be very creative in their ability to be pieces of crap.The biggest deterrent is to never give thieves the opportunity to steal and they can't but that's never going to be fool proof especially when the thief just doesn't care if you see. Some of them almost dare you to say something and others do it right in front of you and are so blatant and fast you have to ask yourself, "Did I just see what I just saw?"

So this kid is walking down the sidewalk and I am coming up behind him. He's a Hispanic looking male in his teens. He looks like any typical high school kid really. I catch up to him and ask him where he got the hat he was holding. Usually at this point they say, "I bought it." or "It's mine." 

It's amazing what the mentality is of a typical thief. They really believe that once they steal something "fair and square" it's theirs. Many of them think that once they are wearing it or it's in their possession it really is theirs now and EFF you if you think you're getting it back. That's why I patiently explain to them that stealing is a sin and they are probably going to hell if they don't give the item in question back.

And if you believe that then I have a beautiful beach in Revere that looks just like any beach in Hawaii that I would LOVE to sell you! (band aids and needles included free of charge)

NO actually you really need to startle a thief. Don't even give them time to consider their options. Many of them are drug addicts whose reflexes leave a bit to be desired. If you catch them right away usually you can come up quick and snag the item back before they see what's happening or just grab their bag and dump it taking your item back but if you're not 100% positive that they stole something you're taking a big risk.

Obviously you can't assault anyone. That would be ILLEGAL. Nine times out of ten I ask for the thing back and they say something like, "OH I was just looking for you! How much is this anyway?"  Sometimes they act like they have no idea how the stolen merchandise ended up on them. Like an evil sticky fingered fairy keeps putting things in their pockets and it isn't them at all. But usually they just give it back and act like,
"Whoops ya caught me this time. I'll get ya next time."

This kid tosses me the hat and says, "I took it."    (Really?) I say, "You took it?"  He says, "That's right."

I'm kind of shocked how arrogant he is and I say something like, "Well maybe next time someone will take your head and bang it off the sidewalk."

My plan is to basically just leave with the hat and go back but his reaction to my sort of displeasure with him absconding with my Celtics hat is somewhat surprising .

He turns suddenly towards me and says, "Yeah, why don't you do something about it then!"   This kid is not a big person. He's lanky and in decent shape like all kids who haven't discovered the fine art of riding a couch with a pizza in one hand and a case of beer in the other but there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that this child is going to walk away after stealing from me thinking that he just got some guy to back down to him.

So I gently ask him earnestly, "Well I got the hat back from you but NOW you want me to also come over there and kick the crap out of you too in front of all these people?"

Yes at this point I kind of peripherally noticed a few bystanders watching this unfold. It's Christmas time in the shopping district of Downtown Crossing and there were lots of people walking by. In retrospect it should have occurred to me that some of these people could have been his friends and in fact I very well could have been surrounded but the fact is it never did occur to me. 

His reaction was to take a few steps toward me and say , "If you want to start some shit I will stab the fuck out of you."

Now I was angry. I don't about the rest of you but with me, when I get into a situation like this my mind kind of goes on autopilot. He was far enough away from me that he couldn't pull out a knife and stab me. I wasn't very concerned about this getting violent because like I said, we had a small audience. BUT you never want to get too cocky when someone is threatening to kill you so I did what anyone would do.

"You have a knife huh?" "Let's see what you got."  "Take it out junior." Let's see your toothpick."
"You're a lousy thief. I bet you're a lousy tough guy too." "Let's see it." "Because I got something too."

ok maybe not what any smart person would do....

Now I didn't have anything. I had a cell phone, some keys, a wallet, a  Hershey's bar which was sort of shaped like a knife so I could try to stab him with. It was the kind with almonds so I could probably get an almond in his eye if I aimed right.

"I ain't pulling it out here in front of all these people."  he said. He looked a little nervous like maybe he thought he bit off more than he could chew. I was hoping that would be his reaction.

"Yeah that's what I thought punk." Did I really call him a punk? Yes I did. I've been watching way too many crime dramas on TV but the scary moment was passing and the "Punk" was starting to leave and leave quickly.

I yelled a few choice compliments about his mom and his inability to steal a winter hat properly and he was gone. 

Just another day in paradise. I ate my Hershey's bar staring after him as he turned a corner and was gone. 

WTF is wrong with kids today? 

 I went back to work knowing he wouldn't be the last thief we would have to deal with.
My last thought about it was wishing I actually had a Crocodile Dundee knife that I could pull out and say,

or Maybe pull out my .38 caliber gun and say, "NEVER BRING A KNIFE TO A GUN FIGHT!"

But reality was calling and since I don't own a gun or a knife and I'm not Clint eastwood or Crocodile Dundee I probably ought to focus on selling merchandise to people who don't want to kill me.

yeah, I think I'll do that.