Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good Samaritan 101

I caught a guy shoplifting today.

When you read that, what do you think of? Can you picture me chasing him through the aisles, a young dude with a gun in his hand? Do you see packages fall out the deep pockets of his long overcoat as I pursue him? Do I seem heroic when you imagine me tackling him and slapping handcuffs on him as I shout, "Citizens arrest!" Store security comes running, and bars come down over the doors as the store goes into lockdown...

Ok...ok...that's not exactly what happened...

Max took me on a hunt for ear buds at Stop and Shop. Clearly I was where I was supposed to be because Stop and Shop does not sell electronics or their accessories. I was trying to convince my son of this when I noticed a man parked next to the magazines in the seasonal aisle I had just been dragged into. He was busy going through a package in the top part of the shopping cart, where moms usually sit their smaller children. I didn't have a good view, and I was being pulled through pretty fast, so I thought he was the magazine rep, putting out the new issues and collecting the old.
Finally, my son realized that there were no electronics to be found, and I "shiny objected"(bribed him with fancy pens) him into looking for school supplies with me. As I sorted through binders and mechanical pencils, I noticed that the man hadn't moved from the spot he was in, and that he was not doing any type of magazine rep work that I was familiar with. My husband joined us a second later, and we passed the man on our way to the registers.

I could not believe what I saw when I looked at him and his cart.

He was eating an entire package of Hillshire Farms smoked sausage! The plastic casing was ripped open in front of him. He was pulling greasy, bite sized pieces off the link and popping them into his mouth.

My husband and I looked at each other, disgusted, and agreed immediately that we didn't think he was going to pay for his meal. I felt very torn. I hate to judge a situation without knowing the facts, and the only thing I knew at this moment was that this man had eaten an entire pound of meat in a very empty aisle in a supermarket. I wondered, was he poor? Was he crazy? Was he just really hungry, but still intending to purchase what he'd consumed?

My husband didn't wait for me to figure it out. He went to Customer Service and alerted the store. I think he was right to do that.

The man's behavior did not appear to be on the up and up. If he didn't intend to pay, he was stealing. When enough shrink (stealing) occurs in a store, the prices go up. Even if this guy couldn't afford groceries, he would contribute to prices that others may not be able pay either.

But I also couldn't help and think about the story I had just written. MOORE THAN MEETS THE EYE is all about what goes on behind the scenes in people's lives and the misconceptions we have about each other. My heart went out to this man because I thought of all of the times I had to roll change to buy milk for my kids when I was a single mom and times were tough. But then I remembered, stealing, in any form was never an option.

I was at the register, checking out and I saw him enter a line a few feet from me. I had to wait for the person in front of me to finish her transaction, so I was there for a few minutes waiting. I watched him, hoping to see the empty plastic package get rung up. In this instance, I would be thrilled to have to admit that I was wrong.

He never left the checkout area.

I wondered, were they holding him up to question him? Had he been caught? Was he suffering from indigestion after eating all of that meat?

After a bit of creative eavesdropping, my husband found out that he hadn't had enough money for the other groceries in the cart. There was no sign of the sausage package, and I'm thinking that there wasn't supposed to be.

So what do you think? Were his actions justified if he was that hungry? Would you have told the store or would you have ignored it because it didn't directly affect you?

Just as shoplifting comes in more than one form, so does looking out for your fellow man. I used to leave out bottles and cans for a man who went around collecting them. One day he rang my bell and asked if he could take them from my recycling bin. I was happy to let him have them...till I saw him driving around in a car that was nicer than I cash in my own stuff...time to find a new cause.

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