The day I was accused of shoplifting from the Dollar Store.
Photo used with Creative Commons license from https://www.flickr.com/photos/44124466731@N01/27687364/
Well, it was today actually.
Not last weekend, when I was sick and hadn’t showered or changed my clothes in three days.
Not in December when I was dragging two screaming children through the store in a last ditch effort to have them shop for gifts for each other.
Not even when I was a teenager, quite possibly planning on shoplifting.
I’m not saying I think I should have been accused of shoplifting on those occasions, but I wouldn’t have been as caught off guard as I was today.
I was shopping for a Dr. Seuss celebration at my library. I went into the grocery store and bought the snacks we needed then ran into the Dollar Store to see if they had any last minute craft supplies I should hoard in true librarian fashion. I decided I could resist the temptation and was attempting to leave the Dollar Store empty handed, until a booming voice stopped me when I tried to walk through the door.
It was an instance where I knew someone was talking to me, but I couldn’t make any sense of it in my mind. Why would someone be so upset with me? Why would they be yelling so loud? What could possibly be this intense inside the Dollar Store?
“Did you want to pay for that stuff you’re trying to leave with?”
Her words started to resonate and my stalled feet began to fumble as I turned to face her direction. She stood behind the cash register, 20 feet away, with a line of customers waiting to be helped. I followed her glare and realized she was staring at the bag of groceries I brought in with me from the store next door.
“I did pay for my stuff,” I replied, “at the store where I bought it.”
She marched over from her stand and waved at my bag wanting to see the contents. I tipped my bag open, now the entire store watching, and let her glance at the gigantic box of fruit snacks and goldfish crackers that clearly cost more than $1.00.
“Well,” she huffed, “I have to at least ask.”
I left completely bewildered. Was I just accused of shoplifting at the Dollar Store? Her last words echoed through my mind until I had glared holes through the front of my windshield.
I have to at least ask. But really, did she? Did she have to stop what she was doing, hold up a line of people waiting, and make some crazy allegations just because I had a bag with me?
Let’s pretend I really was shoplifting. Let’s pretend I was a perfect teenager and didn’t have experience in this arena, so I actually thought I should just walk out the door with a visible bag full of stuff.
How much merchandise could I really have fit in my bag? $4.00? $5.00 max?
I realize I’m talking about a store that literally makes a profit $1.00 at a time, but at what point do you have to say there is more to the situation than a profit?
I have never felt so fortunate for where I work. I am surrounded by a culture of trust. Radical trust. At my library we trust people. If someone says they returned something, then they returned it. It doesn’t matter if it is missing from the shelf, if we have no record of it being turned in, or if the item is in high demand. They returned it. It is one example of a culture that is so much greater than specific examples can illustrate, but so much better than the climate I feel in so many establishments.
Because the real loss in these situations isn’t the dollars that might walk out the door, it is the people that will surely walk out the door if you don’t trust them.
It isn’t that different from anything in life, really. You wouldn’t stay in a relationship where you weren’t trusted. You wouldn’t obey your parents if you weren’t trusted. You wouldn’t ever, ever, ever go back in a store where you weren’t trusted.
At least I won’t. And while this particular store might not need my business, they do need someone’s. That someone should be respected, valued, and trusted to the full extent of the word.
Unless the customer is my teenage self. Nobody should have trusted that girl. But the ones who did, would have won me over for life.