Thursday nights were about preparing for the weekend, I wanted my store impeccable, and the biggest chore second to securing the Hookah count, was maintaining the massive inventory of Chinese Chi Balls. Each with its own unique designs ranging from basic silver, to ornate golden knots on green, to crimson red Chinese symbols on a deep blue. The pair, just small enough to fit in your palms, displayed on a felt interior of a simple pine box. These, second to hookahs were perhaps our largest shrinking item.
My strategy against theft was order, every placement had some method behind the madness, that made for easy counting and inventory maintenance. While cascading the boxes a group of young men, perhaps in their early twenties sauntered into the store. They were real men, with their baggy pants around their ankles and their oversized tees.
The way guys dressed in the mall always threw me. Much like the time two teenage boys approached the aroma oil table as I was carefully and systematically restocking it. “Look at that chick over their,” they whispered and giggled like a gaggle of tween girls.
Taking a glance up, the junior high teacher I acted by day took hold, “Oh, are you trying to attract girls with that T-Shirt?”
The boy turned to me, and then his face blushed to the shade that blended perfectly with the fiery dragon kite that was suspended from the ceiling just above him. He looked down at the black tee covered in the silhouettes of nude strippers, and then up at his bud in a look of complete shock. Had it really never occurred to him that this may discourage the fairer sex?
This particular Thursday the boys showed a bit more refined appearance with just the bold basic color of their gang. They walked up and down the aisles cutting up and enjoying their visit. I loved that about our store, the diverse range of customers that could find enjoyment from our vast array of products around the world. I made my way over to the hookahs next, setting them by color in rows of 3 X 3 when I noticed the entire gang leaving out the iron gate and a straggler stood behind distracted by the information plaque on the chi balls.
I kindly approached him to further expand on the education of their history and amazing health benefits. He showed a distant interest, which was common with customers, never wanting to seem too interested. I left him again to search as I made my way to the cash wrap to ring up another customer, but as I turned my head around I saw the back of his leaving through the gates. I took a sideways glance at the display finding my algorithm disturbed. Handing off the customer to another employee I followed down the hall and around the corner.
The rest of his posse awaited in Finish Line Sports and I continued to follow him just beyond the door. He high-fived his buds upon their reuniting as if they had not seen one another for weeks. The manager of Finish Line spotted me at the entrance, and as any other manager in our mall would, understood if I was there, there was a thief in their store. We made our quiet eye contact of understanding just before I made my approach. “Excuse me sir!!!”
The boy who had just left my shop spun around, and his face seemed uncertain how to read the situation. My kind smile was not the face expected of an assailant swooping in for the accusation. Before he could speak further I completed my sentence, “I believe you should hand over your balls.”
I gently hung out my hand, still with a kind smile, after all my grandpa always told me I’d catch more with honey than vinegar. His friends were now erupting in laughter, hollering out insults that were intended on his manhood. Rolling his eyes and letting out a sigh as he reached in his pocket he placed two blue balls in my palm. “Thank you,” I spoke softly. And then a little louder to the manager who stood at the back of the store, “Watch this one, he has a small case of sticky fingers.”
I exited the shop, the laughter and stream of brotherly insults echoed as I made my way around the corner and down the hall to return to my evening plans of anti-theft algorithms.