What Would You Have Done?

Ever feel like being heroic? Ever see something that’s not right, and know that you have the power to do something about it? Today I did, felt like being a hero, I mean. Instead, I was just a snitch. But should I have done it any differently?

I was at the local Target store this morning, picking up something for The Wife. (She’s been under the weather lately, so I was heading home from work to take care of her.) You know, going to shops in the morning is awesome. Seriously, I can’t tell you how nice it feels to be at a Barnes and Noble’s or even a Target at 9 and 10 AM. Heck, even the people look better! When I was walking in, right behind me there was this absolutely beautiful lady, about my age, with the blondest hair I’d ever seen. Tall, fit, blue eyes, flawless skin… and a bit aloof. I dunno, maybe she was a trophy wife or something, which could explain her rather humongous bag (which matched VERY well with her beige pants, by the way). There are a lot of those around here. Trophy wives, I mean. Anyway, so the lady and I parted ways after a few minutes in the store, but I digress.

So I walked in, wandered about for a bit, found the heating pad I came in to buy and then checked out some of the new books. Did you know Eric Clapton just wrote a biography? Is it me or have there been a lot of Hollywood biographies as of late? Barbara Walters, William Shatner, Eric Clapton… Anyway, I was about to pick it up, but decided not to. Of course, with the store looking so great at that magical 10am hour, I can’t tell you how tempted I was just to stand there and start reading.

But I didn’t. I had a wife to take care of. So instead, I went to the counter to pay for the heating pad. I talked for a minute to the lady with the gold capped teeth in front of the counter (I her case I doubt it was a fashion statement), then headed out.

As I near the door, I saw her again: the tall blond. She walked assertively past a grouping of employees, a few customers, and myself, then out the door.

Beep! Beep! Beep! The shoplifting alarm went off. (Don’t you just hate when that happens?) She didn’t miss a step, and continued out the door. For a split second she slowed and short of glanced at her purse, but continued as if nothing happened.

Here’s the rub: it didn’t beep when she walked in. I turned around, looking at all the Target employees, and there they stood, like nothing had happened, chatting among themselves. Was I the only one that heard the beeping, saw the lights flashing?

As she walked away, I considered heading up to talk to her, slow her down a bit. Maybe someone was on the way. Maybe someone other than me noticed. And, of course, it could likely have been a malfunction, I mean, these things beep all the time by accident, right?

There I stood, wondering what I could do. Should I report her? Should I stop her? My mind raced as she walked away, as the employees stood there, having their mid morning chat, not paying attention to anything around them. Well, if they’re not doing anything about it, why should I? I walked out of the store, then headed to my car.

But I was still bothered. I couldn’t understand why nothing had happened, why no one did or said anything. Was I just being paranoid? Maybe. Probably. Still, I had to do something about it. I went back into the store, and talked to the manager. Unfortunately, before I finally decided I needed to do something, the lady left. I didn’t see any cars pull away, but she was nowhere to be seen, so I couldn’t provide them with a license plate number. Nothing.

I tried to offer descriptions and any other assistance I could, but the manager said no, and that they’d take it from there. Maybe they have a more extensive camera network than I’ve noticed (and I tend to look out for these things). Maybe. Hopefully. Because I hate it when scum gets away.

So I’m still left wondering, what should I have done? I know that conservatively I did the right thing, but should I have followed her? I wasn’t about to try and stop her physically (I didn’t have any direct evidence of a crime), although I very likely could have: I have at least 100 lbs on her, and my fighting skills, while rusty, are by no means non-existent (thank you judo, jiu jitsu, tae kwon do, and t’ai ch’i classes). Mind, you, I wasn’t going to attack her, but if I confronted her and she tried to strike back… But I wasn’t about to play vigilante. I needed to get home to my sick wife.

What would you have done?

8 thoughts on “What Would You Have Done?

  1. I probably would have been one of those people who didn’t give it a second thought. Those sensors go off all the time, so employees are desensitized to the sound. However, anytime I’ve triggered one at Borders (happened after I had purchased a CD at Target and then walked into the bookstore), I’ve practically been frisked. Seems odd that bookstore employees would act so nonchalant about it, especially so early in the morning with few customers in the store. If I were them, I might have put up the effort to find out what’s going on.

    My husband worked for Eddie Bauer ages ago and said he felt like his job was deterring people from stealing the product. It’s a shame that people think they need to steal anyway.

    Hope your wife gets to feeling better. 🙂

  2. I’ve worked in a couple of different shops and the alarms go off all the time for all sorts of reasons, and that’s why the staff just ignored it. There’s a reasonable chance it wasn’t her.

    There’s certainly no reason to beat yourself up over it – you did more than most people would.

  3. @Melissa: Having worked at bookstores, I know how hawkeyeish they can be. Then again, I was usually the guy they put up for security.

    @Ben: You’re probably right.

  4. If you are talking about the Target behind Broward Mall, I’ve personally set off the alarm many times. Although, you are correct – it usually goes off both on the way in and the way out.

    Legally speaking, (in 49 out of 50 states) As a citizen you can’t detain someone unless you have personally witnessed them committing a felony. (shoplifting usually isn’t unless it’s over the dollar amount for a felony in your jurisdiction) In North Carolina, a citizen is not allowed to detain ever.

    In the case where a felony is committed, say for example a bank robbery you witnessed while depositing your paycheck, you can legally detain someone (commonly called a Citizen’s arrest). In that case, you should call the police immediately and not move the suspect. If that person was found not guilty of a felony you could be charged with kidnapping and transport if you tried to move them. Police officers would generally advise any citizen to steer clear of citizen’s arrests because of the risk of injury and risk of the incident turning into a vigilante case.

    Reporting your suspicions to the manager was the best course of action. Their security department can review the videos to see if the lady stole anything and they would be on the lookout the next time she comes in to “shop” or “lift”.

    Of course hindsight is 20/20, the only thing I would have done better if I was alert and in your shoes would be to yell “hey shoplifter!” as she walked out the door. If she didn’t take anything she would probably stop (and be slightly ticked off at you). If she was guilty she would probably book out of there, hopefully with store security chasing her. Incidentally, store security can’t legally detain anyone either – unless they stole item(s) that totaled over the amount for a felony. Which is why those stores like to keep a peace officer on hand.


  5. So, Nate, how’s that law degree going?

    Thanks for the explanation. I knew about the idea of the Citizen’s arrest, but I never understood under which conditions it was valid.

    I guess what made me suspicious is how it went off when she went out and not in. Usually, as you mention, it’s both. I think I would have been happy if I’d’a gotten her license plate. At least then I’d know not only that they could review the tapes and tag the person, but also track her down.

    And, again, I was probably being overtly suspicious. If I was a D&D character, I’d probably be aligned “Lawful Good” (Wait, is that even valid in 4th edition?)

  6. Gnorb, I think I applaud you not for being the “snitch” per se, but for following your gut. You just knew you couldn’t go home without feeling fair about the entire situation and so you alleviated that and did what you thought was right. 🙂

    I don’t know personally what I would’ve done. I used to carry a key card to my work garage in my purse, which set off alarms. (But you’re right – usually it would trigger it on when I walked in as well as walked out. Seriously, it was obnoxious. But not every. single. time. consistently.) So yeah, just one of those things. But again, I applaud you for going with your gut and not succumbing to not wanting to look like the bad guy. 🙂

  7. I would have stood there like a dumbass thinking about what move I should make. And then I would have driven off and blogged about it.

    I certainly would not have talked to the manager.

    You did more than most (using me as ‘most’ here) and I applaud you for it. Don’t worry. Scum gets by all the time (assuming that she did do it. And scum’ll receive just desserts sooner or later.

  8. Honestly I wouldn’t have bothered. It is not a question of indolence, but rather experience on the other side.

    When I worked in operations, they made one thing clear. Unless someone had constant visual of a customer/employee steal something and walk past the door, there is nothing you should do. In fact there is actually only a few feet between the register and the door (the red zone) which it is ok to act.

    Accusing someone of shoplifting when your visual of them broke between the time of the incident till they time they leave the store, even for only a moment, can have dire consequences.

    Especially since nothing can hold the person there, nor do they have to allow you to search their bag.

    Yet on the other hand, if we caught all the shoplifters, i wonder how much cheaper stuff would be to make up for the shrinkage…

    I guess the bottom line is though, don’t sweat the small stuff.

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