Everyone has a wild story. They still have to think about it over and over to feel like it happened. Even when they tell other people about it it still seems like maybe the universe just glitched for a second. It could be from a party at a friend’s house, or maybe a wild night on vacation. It could happen anywhere at any time, and then you have a great story to tell at the next party or on the next vacation. So really, it’s a blessing in disguise.
"Abby" felt this way after a crazy shift at work one night. It was one of those nights. It would stick with her and make her wonder what the heck is wrong with people?
Abby works as a “service manager at a pretty popular midwestern grocery store.” She had recently been promoted after three years of employment. Things seemed to be finally falling into place. All her hard work was paying off. However, with this new position came more responsibilities and for some reason, it also came with a bunch of stories. This one in particular baffled everyone in the store and still does. One crazy man changed the store’s whole dynamic. And of course, gave Abby a great tale to tell.
Anytime an employee moves up the food chain, there is a shift in the workplace. Abby quickly learned her new duties as service manager. She had been looking forward to this promotion for so long now. If only it could be all smooth sailing. With her new position, she had two shift options. The first was the opening shift of 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, and the second was the closing shift of 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm. She had to “help watch over the cashiers, customer service, self check-outs, do overrides and of course either open or close the store.” She had it all under control.
Similar to other grocery stores, different departments had their own schedules and hours. This is important because if a department is closed before the store is, a customer is usually unable to get to a section of the store, or they have to get an employee to let them in. In her store, the adult beverage section specifically closes at 10:00 pm, while hot food closes at 9:00 pm and the store closes at 11:00 pm. At this location, the beverage part of the store was located within the store itself and did not have its own separate building. Apparently, this could get confusing for some people and drive them to the point of insanity. And of course, on this crazy night, Abby was working the closing shift. Her last one.
Since the beverage section closes before the rest of the store, there is a “gate, keeping customers locked out of the department until the store is fully closed.” Obviously, there had been previous occurrences warranting a gate being put in, or they just assumed someone was going to act a fool and it’s better safe than sorry. Well, until someone slips past the gate.
This night it was 10 minutes to close. Abby was fulfilling her manager duties and checked in with one of the closing cashiers, “Stella.” Since it was so close to the end of the shift, Abby went ahead and locked up one entrance. There were still a couple of lingering customers, so Abby planned to go back and help after locking one of the two entrances. It is important to know at this point in the shift, “there are only about a handful of employees in the store.” There’s Abby, Stella, the “other service manager who is running the backroom, David,” the “night stock manager, Caleb, and about five stockers.”
Right as Abby was locking up, “in walks an older guy who is wearing a construction shirt and is looking as if he is in a rush.”
Most people would probably have gotten upset at someone walking in so close to the end of the shift. But Abby handled it well and she just caught up to him before he went too far.
She said, “Sir, just so you know we are closing in about eight minutes."
Abby was considerate and knew the store was technically still open for those eight minutes, but also wanted to let him know so he could be considerate towards the staff. Sometimes people come in right before closing and take their sweet time, roaming from aisle to aisle, while the staff have worked long hours and really want to get home. It is understandable to be frustrated, but Abby cared about her job and the customers.
The man responded with, “Of course, I just need one thing I'll be quick."
Abby was familiar with this response and gave him the benefit of the doubt seeing as he did technically have a few minutes. Abby was hoping he would be like most people who come in, grab the one thing they are looking for, pay, then leave. If you guessed he wouldn’t be this type of customer, you guessed right.
Abby went back to “the registers to help Stella bag the last few orders going through her line.” The end of the night was so close. We all know the feeling when we are about to get off the clock. Well, then she saw Caleb walking up to the front of the store. Oh no. What now?
“Hey, do you have the vino and spirits key? I left my keys in my car on accident and a customer wants to grab something from over there,” he said.
Okay, it wasn’t too bad, someone just wanted to grab an adult beverage, probably after a long, hard day at work. Abby handed over her keys for the section of the store. Caleb thanked her and went off to help the customer, while Abby helped one of the last customers with her groceries.
This customer was using one of the electric carts, so Abby made sure the woman got to her car, okay, and then Abby got the electric cart back inside the store.
She was putting the cart back at the second entrance, which had not been locked yet and it was 10:59 pm. Little did she know, while she had been out of the store for a minute, there had been a turn of events in the store.
She looked up from the electric cart area to see “the man who came in just minutes ago walking out with a weird limp.”
However, he wasn’t alone. “Caleb, David, and two other stockers [were] following him.”
There was some obvious tension, and although he wasn’t shouting, Abby could tell Caleb was frustrated when he said, “Hey come on, just give us the bottle. We know it’s in your pants! We won’t call the police just hand it over and you won't get in trouble!"
What? Is this why he had a limp? Why was there a bottle in his pants? This was a lot to process. But the man was barely getting words out, “mumbling about how he put it back on the shelf, he wasn't stealing [stuff] and [they] were accusing him of stealing.”
It all happened so quickly.
No one had the ability to stop the man from leaving. All they could do was try to rationalize with him. Caleb had even said he wouldn’t report the guy for stealing but it did not do anything to stop this crazy guy.
He just walked out, got in his car, and sped off.
Abby looked to Caleb, “in utter confusion,” for an explanation of what just happened. Since the store was most definitely closed now, they locked the doors and Caleb told the story.
Caleb said he had gotten her keys and went back to help the man get into the beverage section. Plenty of customers came in too late for this department, and it would be locked, so this wasn’t strange. The man went right for Jack Daniels and started to leave the section. Here’s where it started to get fishy.
The man said, “Thanks,” to Caleb as he passed him locking the gate back up. Then he took a turn down another aisle. Hadn’t he said he only came for one thing? Was he just taking the long way back to the registers?
When Caleb looked up from the gate again “he noticed the guy come back out from the aisle, [but] this time walking weirdly and without the bottle.”
Caleb could clearly tell what was going on, but it did not make it any less of a surprise. He started following the crazy thief, “telling him to stop.” Since the store had thus far had a quiet night, this startled David and a couple of stockers who joined Caleb, following the man through the store.
It was obvious this crazy man had shoved a bottle down his pants and was trying to make a break for it.
It was surreal. A mob of employees following behind a man, telling him they know what he has done and he refuses to stop or admit it. And then they got to the front and Abby saw the rest of the event. Everyone was so confused. Abby wondered why did he grab the Jack Daniels bottle out of all his choices? The man had picked one of the cheaper bottles when he could have gone for the pricier ones and gotten more bang for his theft.
The managers checked the security footage and it was clear as day, the man had shoved the bottle in his pants. They gave a heads up to the “store director, got his photo from the cameras, and sent the tape to the police.”
Unfortunately, there was no justice. Abby and her coworkers never saw the crazy thief again. They did everything they could to find him. There were pictures posted and everyone was aware he was banned from the store. However, because of this lunatic’s actions, there were some changes in the store. First off, no customers were allowed to go into the beverage department alone after the gate was locked and if they needed something after closing time an employee was to bring the bottle to the register. Even though it had only been a cheap bottle this time, they were not going to take the chance this man or another person would attempt anything similar again.
Secondly, Abby did not work a closing shift long after this happened. Fortunately, she was enrolled in school and was able to work the open shift instead of the weird closing shifts.
Obviously stealing is wrong, everyone knows this. But in the moment how could this have gone any other way? If you were an employee at this grocery store, would you have handled this situation differently?