The first store I worked was in a town that was a hub for a plethora of tiny farming communities that surrounded it. When there was a school break, holiday, or just an extended weekend our mall was crowded with eager customers. These customers were people who a trip to a mall was a real destination and took quite the drive.
How do I know so well? Having grown up in one of those nearby farming communities I knew the routine: you spent all week counting down the days on the calendar that you would drive to the “big city” of Lubbock. When you arrived your family invested in a hotel room for the night on the big trips, and you made your first stop at the mall, considering that the town you came from of less than 10,000 people offered very little in the way of clothing and gift variety. Like many of these small town families, my family didn’t have allot of money so a trip like this to Lubbock was made after quite allot of saving, scrounging and careful financial planning. You arrived with enough to cover a grocery list of items you needed, eating out, and a little fluff for those things you never knew existed, but hey you were on the thrill of vacation.
It was Spring Break 2010 and the store was difficult to even step through as the customers piled in. I had been helping a mom with her two teenagers in picking out some nice little touches of canvas to the daughters room, and some really neat stones for the son. When I escorted them to the counter and began ringing up their transaction the boy became distracted by a display of stainless steel rings that lie on the adjacent POS counter. The mom pulled out her turquoise wallet, that was decorated with a large (only in west Texas style) bedazzled cross as I began to offer up her total.
The boy interrupted our discussion, “Mom they are 2 for 20, let’s get matching ones!” The mom agreed and with the daughter headed over to stand next to her son. They dug through all sorts of styles as I dug through the cabinets for more sizes and varieties that I thought would suit their personalities. Finally, everyone was fitted and perfect as I added the rings to the running total. By this point there was a line behind the register, but luckily everything was rung up, and I offered up the quite healthy sales total. But the mom began to dig in her purse and other shopping bags quite distraught, “where is my wallet!?”
An Aside: Lubbock was not only notorious for Buddy Holly, but also at this point was rated one of the 5 most dangerous places to live in the entire nation. Our crime rate was ridiculous. Police were more focused on breaking up parties at the local University and less interested in protecting the citizens from home break ins, rapes, and drug violence. I could write a book on the many times I was a victim to crime in only my short five years of living there.
I began looking behind the cash wrap frantically, this had happened to my husband not long before as he left his wallet in a cab in Austin while out partying with his buddies on new years. I came up and began dialing security as the wallet was obviously gone, and as the phone rang I calmly assured her everything would be okay and that she go ahead and immediately call and cancel all of her credit cards. “I didn’t have credit cards, I had our entire life savings in cash in that wallet, I was here to buy a car. That’s everything I own.” I felt for her, I understood the mentality, I understood the helplessness. I wanted to bust down and cry right there as I had another associate take over the other register to take on the customers who had been patiently waiting. We asked the customers in line, but they all claimed to have seen nothing.
Tweedle-Dee and Dum finally arrived after a long 20 minute wait and the woman suggested that she felt I had stolen her wallet, and complained that I wouldn’t let her search my register. I let Deputy McGruff search through my POS. I was greatly offended but at the same time I understood. Finally he turned to her and said “Sorry ma’am, the wallet is lost there is nothing we can do about it.”
Just then I had a flashback of the time my husband and I were robbed of everything we owned when we were away for our wedding in San Antonio. Our furniture was gone, our electronics were gone, our collectibles were gone, our wedding gifts and even the food and beer in the refrigerator was all gone. The officer that showed up called my husband a bullet sponge receptively, and went on to mock my finger prints I found on the blade of a knife that had been thrown in the trashcan by the criminals. “That’s what’s wrong with you kids in the “CSI” days. This isn’t like TV, we can’t really do anything with fingerprints or DNA, that’s not a real thing.” He went on to let us know, “When your robbed there is just nothing we can do about it. There were 156 break ins at The Centre Apartments alone over Christmas break, and that is just how it works, you leave your stuff over the holidays, and it will be gone when you get home.” That was it. That was all the help we were offered, and we were left having to start our new marriage with nothing.
So perhaps it was the PTSD from three years before, but I snapped. “Uhm no sir, I’m sorry but I have to step in. This is a patron of our mall, the mall that pays your pay check. This patron has been robbed in the mall you are paid to protect and patrol. This patron could be a return patron, this patron could have friends, this patron could tell her friends to not return to this mall, and over time the mall could be considered unsafe and eventually die off, and then you will have no pay check. Is that what you want?!” The woman looked at me with a face of gratitude and great surprise, it was all I could do, the wallet was left on my counter, on my watch.
His face was in shock. After two years of this dude bullying me I finally had a cause worth fighting back for. He promptly called the police, and they took a report, while I walked across the hall to Bealls and asked that poor manager to look back through his security footage (his store was the best escape for a thief from my store.)
Later that week the security footage was turned into the police, the wallet had been stolen by a woman who must have been standing in line behind my customer who had mistakenly and mindlessly left her wallet unattended on my counter while we browsed the rings. The woman had taken the wallet, and in the purse section of Bealls in front of the cameras opened the wallet and pocketed the cash. She had then placed the wallet on a shelf of wallets in the store and promptly left the mall.
Photo Courtesy of: http://h1s0ka.deviantart.com/art/Mask-of-Devotion-73628961