This evening I stopped by Office Depot to pick up some supplies. I arrived around 8:40 PM. Knowing the store was closing at 9 PM, I walked straight towards to my top priority—filing boxes for a storage project.
When I got back to the file boxes and starting comparing prices, about eight feet away from me I noticed a teen girl popping the plastic seal off a container of candy. It was rather noisy in a squeaky way as she was struggling to get it open, so it was hard not to notice what she was doing. I was sort of trying not to notice, but it was very obvious. This is exactly why they put these annoying plastic seals on packages, I thought.
She seemed to be moving rather slowly as if it might make it less noticeable to someone who worked in the store. After she finally popped the plastic seal and threw it on the floor, she opened the container and reached inside for one of the little packaged candies. By the time she proceeded to opening the wrapper, I couldn't stop myself from asking.
“Are you stealing that candy?”
I thought I might be doing a good deed by deterring a teen from making a bad decision. She was a sleek 80-pounds with an MP3 player in her hand and the ear phones stuck in her ears, but I’m fairly certain she heard me loud and clear because she looked straight at me, continuing to open the candy wrapper, as if in slow motion. The teen stared at me, completing her task, by now fully aware that I knew what she was doing.
About that time, a large woman about 6' tall stepped around the aisle. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “What do you say to my daughter?” She was much taller and wider than me.
“I asked her if she was stealing that candy.”
“She is NOT stealing anything. Why do you say that to her?”
“I just watched her.” I said, now beginning to wish that I had said nothing.
“I told my daughter she could pick out whatever candy she wanted. But that’s none of your business, is it lady?
I steered my cart in another direction, deciding that this probably wouldn’t turn into a pleasant conversation, but she followed after me.
“I told my daughter that she could get any candy she wanted, but that’s none of your f%)&!$^ business, is it? She’s my daughter and I tell her what she can do.”
I turned away from her, hoping she would go away.
“Just look away lady. Look at me! My daughter is none of your %&#@*&( business, is she?” Although her volume was going down, her rage was going up.
I didn’t have dinner yet, so my adrenaline triggered a low blood sugar moment and I started to feel shaky. I felt uncomfortable with her growing anger, so I decided I better wheel away quickly, and I did.
I suddenly started to feel terribly guilty about the times I’ve tasted grapes or cherries in a grocery store. I felt like I had done something very wrong—I judged someone else, when I was just as guilty. I thought that I had never shoplifted, but if everyone who went into a store did just a little bit of grazing, it ends up in quite a bit of shrinkage for retailers over time.
I thought I escaped from her and that the whole scene was over, but I was wrong. She found me and continued her verbal attack:
“Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t give a little b%*&) like you much notice. I told my daughter that she could get any candy she wanted, but I didn’t clear that with you because you aren’t her f%*#@^) mother.” She continued to mouth derogatory comments and threats. I turned away again, pushing my cart to another section of the store.
Wherever I went, she followed me, staring at me from the end of each aisle, mouthing to me with an angry eyes, “I’ll be waiting for you outside.”
Then in another aisle, “I’ll be waiting for you outside.”
I couldn’t find an item I was looking for and I could hardly think straight, so I found a sales clerk and asked for help.
The mother was standing at a distance with her daughter, both of them watching everything I was doing. She might have thought that I was asking for protection, but I simply couldn’t find the letter openers. I’ve been in this store before, so I knew that I was being assisted by the store manager. He walked me to the letter openers, and then asked me a question that I’ve always considered to be somewhat annoying, but today found it to be a magical retail question, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Yes, I’ll need someone to walk out with me after I check out. There’s a woman in the store who threatened me and said she would be waiting for me in the parking lot.”
He squinted his eyebrows together as if questioning what I just said, but then he replied, “yes ma’am, we’ll be sure that one of the men walk you to your car.”
“Thank you,” I said. I picked out a letter opener and then headed for the register.
She was still watching me as the cashier rang up my purchase. I turned away, again trying to ignore her.
The manager was near the exit talking with another employee, waiting to walk me out, and he did. As the automatic doors opened into the dark parking lot, I worried what might happen next. Did she have a big husband waiting in a truck outside? Would she watch me get into my car and follow me?
Kudos to the manager who walked me out. I didn't see the mother or the young girl in the parking lot, but I won't forget this experience anytime soon. And I won't be tasting cherries or grapes in grocery stores anymore.