Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Suspiciously Suspicious

There are plenty of thieves out there who hit retail locations on a routine basis. Most of them are pretty good at what they do - they hit us and are gone long before we even suspect anything. However, there are those that aren't all that great at being sneaky. They may get away with things, but they could be compared to the bumbling crooks from Home Alone.

Today I was walking through the pen aisle when I noticed that two packages of Waterman pens (expensive pens) were opened. And, of course, they were empty. I took the boxes back to the warehouse and left them on the table for our inventory control guy to cycle out of the system. I then headed toward the front to find him so I could let him know why his recently cleaned counter was now cluttered with empty boxes.

As I walked back toward the front of the store, I noticed that the big ladder in the last aisle was being moved by a customer.

Is there any store out there that allows its customers to climb large ladders to remove items from overstock? I don't know of any. Not Bed Bath and Beyond, not Home Depot, not Best Buy, not Staples, not Office Depot, not Borders, not Barnes & Noble, not anywhere. It would be a security and legal issue to allow customers to climb ladders, and for this reason we place signs each of our ladders stating that they are for employee use only. So WHY OH WHY do so many customers still take it upon themselves to use these giant rolling ladders on their own?

So I headed over to let him know that the ladder was not for his use and to point out the giant sign on the ladder that stated so. As I got closer, he walks away, around the back into the next aisle and then back toward the front of the store. He never looked at me once, but he could've certainly seen me in his peripheral vision. I waited by the ladder for a minute to see if he was going to come back or check on my location, but he didn't look back. Whatever. I moved the ladder back to where it was and headed back to find our inventory guy.

I barely get two aisles over and the ladder is moving again. Very quickly. I head back over and there's the guy, running up the ladder. "Sir!" I yelled in a not so pleasant tone. The other two customers in the aisle looked up when I called, but this guy of course acted as though he didn't hear a thing. He pulls an expensive toner cartridge down from the overstock and climbs down as I get to him. "Sir, the ladders are for employee use only. That's why we post those signs on them saying so. If you need assistance, please ask one of us. Don't climb the ladders to just pull stuff down."

The guy glances at me and at the ladder, takes a step to walk away, then sidesteps back toward the ladder, then takes off in a brisk walk toward the front without saying a word to me. I follow him up and across the front of the store, and to my surprise he heads right back to the section of the pens where I had just found the two empty boxes. His behavior identified him as the thief, but we don't have legal right to search or even detain people. The most we can do is say, "Please don't steal that." Anyway, he started rummaging through the pens on the shelf, but at that point another customer asked for my help. I called one of our other associates over and told him to watch the suspicious guy until he left the store. When I finished with my customer, I came back up front to find the guy being checked out. I asked the associate what had happened when help was offered, and he told me that the guy pretty much ignored him and shrugged him off as though trying to get rid of him. Our associate stuck with him until he finally went to the register to pay for the toner. After a few minutes, he was gone.

I have little doubt that he's the one who took the pens. He may have had mental problems, but then, I could say that about a lot of customers.

Shopping tip of the day for 9/15/09: If you say something to me, and I say, "I'm sorry?" or "Excuse me?" and I lean forward with an ear turned toward you, that means you need to speak at a volume which can be heard by more than just dogs. In other words, SPEAK UP. If you repeat what you said at the same near-silent level then I'm going to keep asking over and over.

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