It was my first Black Friday as store manager and I strolled into the shop around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I noticed a 17 year old pimple faced boy with a sideways cap cross my path as I made my way to the back room. He was holding in one hand a mini hookah, and in his other hand three boxes of shisha (a flavored tobacco & molasses mixture you smoke in a hookah, ours was tobacco free) as he made his way from the gifts side of the store over to the jewelry side of the store.
I wadded up my purse and jacket in my cubby in the back room and excitedly made my way to the sales floor to take on some serious sales. I didn’t make it two steps out the stockroom door before receiving the opportunity to help a customer with an aroma lantern, I carried the lantern to the register and rang up the customer. After the customer happily stepped away with their fantastic new gift for their aunt the pimple faced 17 year old placed the hookah on the register, but the shisha was magically missing. “May I see your I.D.?” This was standard protocol as he had to be 18 to purchase any sort of smoking paraphernalia.
“You have to be 18 to purchase this.”
“Oh, man I’m only 17.” He sighs and passes the hookah onto me as he begins to step away.
“Excuse me, before you go, could you kindly return my shisha as well?”
He looks at me with shock. “Shisha, I don’t have shisha.”
“Yes sir, I passed you walking across my path with one box of double apple, one box of strawberry, and a box of fruit punch, and you haven’t left the jewelry side of the store since. He looks at me blankly, as if he is trying to figure out what his next move should be. I decide to be kind and give him an out, “perhaps you accidentally placed it down somewhere?”
Suddenly he looks alleviated as he nods eagerly, “yes, I remember now, let me go grab it right over here…” I watch as he makes his way around behind a table of earring carousels. He thinks I cannot see him through the transparent acrylic as he empties his pockets onto the table, and then brings the shisha to me.
“Thank you, I say, I would hate for this to fall into the wrong hands.” He nods and as he makes his way out the door, a group of girls follow him with pockets bulging with cheap-o two dollar rings.
I give the point to two of my boys (one being the infamous Trevor from the Free Hugs Encounter) and without a word the boys follow them out. The girls begin to run as one of my employees recruits two security guards to check the girls’ pockets. They run into Forever 21 (at the time our Forever 21 resembled a 14 year old girl’s bedroom with more clothes on the floor than on hangers). When the girls came out the other side the boys were waiting, but their pockets were empty. Security and my employees searched the store but could not find the ring in the gigantic piles of miniskirts and fuzzy sweaters that you practically had to swim through.
Returning empty handed I thanked them for their dedication to the cause and reminded them how utterly important it was to remain observant of all your customers in your zone all the time. I had learned this the hard way…