Would You Have Said Something?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Kevin Wolf

“Dear PoPville,

A couple of nights ago I was at the pharmacy in my neighborhood buying milk because of the snowcalypse that was coming :). Grabbed the milk and noticed 2 young men in the aisle, One of them put a couple of bottles in his overall, I thought he wanted to have his hands free to carry more stuff to the counter. I went around the aisle and when I was on the other side I saw the guy with the bottles leaving the store, no alarm sound or anything. The store guard usually stands between the milk/juice aisle and the entrance but he/she wasn’t there, and then I saw the guard walking and talking to the other young man in the back of the store as if they were looking for something. I assume, this guy was distracting the guard while the other one was leaving.

Due to some life experiences, I didn’t mention this to anybody. I don’t know the guys, but there’s no reason for me to put my life in potential risk just to save the cost of a couple of bottles to a pharmacy chain. I wonder what PoPville thinks about it?”

64 Comment

  • Should you have said something? Yes.

    Would I have done exactly what you did? Yes.

    There is too high a likelihood that nothing will happen to the person you call out and that the only negative consequence will be to you if you have to face that person in the future.

  • I’d agree that it’s not worth the potential injury or whatever to yourself, especially over a few bottles. But what I would do is mention it to your cashier after they’ve gone. Something like “hey, I don’t know if you noticed, but I think those guys just walked out with a bunch of ___.” Puts the ball in their court, soothes your conscience, and avoids the actual confrontation.

  • justinbc

    “Due to some life experiences, I didn’t mention this to anybody.”
    That’s kind of an open ended cliffhanger there for someone posting a relatively tame story anonymously. As for the question, yes if I actually saw him stealing I would have pointed it out to someone in the store, although if you wait until they’ve already walked out the door there’s not much they can do other than report it to the police and hopefully they caught it on camera.

  • Your gut and your eyes are in conflict with your notion of civil behavior. Slippery slope

  • You can always be discreet about telling the cashier or some other employee, even if that means waiting til the shop lifters are gone if you’re afraid of potential backlash. If the establishment has cameras at least they can be aware of the issue and possibly recognize the guys next time.

  • binpetworth

    I can understand not wanting to jeopardize your own safety. However, if it was possible to wait until you were no longer endangered or identifiable by the thieves, you should have stuck around and said something to the manager.

    • Pablo Raw

      Maybe I have watched too many detective tv series but, what if the manager or cashier knows the thieves?

      • that would make staff a coconspirator and subject to job related discipline and/or criminal charge. More likely the employees don’t want a confrontation that could otherwise be avoided, which makes them no different than poster above.

  • Were the bottles milk? I’d be a lot less likely to call out someone stealing milk (as opposed to say, liquor) because of the strong possibility that it’s to feed his family. Maybe I’m too much of a Les Miz fan.

    • I agree – I’m not going to help get someone thrown in jail for stealing milk. If we had a sane criminal justice system? Maybe. But we definitely don’t.

      • If we had a sane criminal justice system and an economy in which people could get jobs that paid them enough to support their families.

      • so why didnt you offer to pay for them? or are you just generous with other peoples money?

      • Can you explain how the justice system is unfair here? wouldnt they get convicted for committing a crime (maybe) that they actually committed? isnt the justice system not functioning when individuals decide some should be able to get away with breaking laws?

    • Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?
      Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?
      Bart: No.
      Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?
      Bart: Uh uh.
      Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?
      Bart: I guess that’s okay.
      Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?
      Bart: Hell, no.

  • “…to save the cost of a couple of bottles to a pharmacy chain.” I’ll give you one guess how the company covers the cost of theft.

  • Worth noting to cashier after fact because witness isn’t responsible for securing a store from theft and only responsibility is paying for one’s own items. Witness did nothing to enable or abet theft. Mentioning it on the way out notifies empoloyees that they failed to secure inventory and should be more alert if those theives if they return. They’ll likely return if it was that simple to walk out the door without paying. Staff can also review security footage if it’s a repeat problem to document a pattern of theft.

  • Depends on their coupon policy. Stores like Target who do not accept Internet printed coupons, I look the other way when people steal. I call it justice since they would rather loose money due to their lack of security than on having someone process Internet printed coupons. It is easier to find someone stealing at Target than it is to find a store employee.

    • So… if a store doesn’t accept a coupon for a product, shoplifting is ok? WHAT?

      • Shoplifting is never OK. I’m disabled and survive on Food Stamp and coupons for basic necessities. For me, risking my safety to help a store’s bottom line depends on my loyalty to that store. Customer Service at Target sucks – to the point of having 2 security guards stand next to me while a cashier went to ask the Manager if they should accept my Internet printed coupon. Customer Service at CVS is much better.

    • justinbc

      LOL, wow. Someone’s got an ax to grind.

      • +1. I can understand “I don’t like Store X’s coupon policy,” but to say that it justifies shoplifting?? Really??

    • I think a number of commenters are missing zandunga’s point. S/he’s not saying that a bad coupon policy justifies shoplifting, s/he’s saying it affects whether to go the extra mile (with a little risk) to bring shoplifting to the store’s attention. It’s perfectly possible to think that shoplifting is not justified but still not want to stick your neck out for the store. (See, for example, the very first comment.)

      • It made more sense once she provided the background — that she felt that the store had given her a hard time as a customer, and therefore she didn’t feel inclined to go the extra mile to help them out.

  • Agree with most others saying that doing nothing was your best course of action. I witnessed a group of teenagers shoplifting at the corner market near the Petworth Metro – no way was I going to say anything since there were 4 or 5 of them.

  • Bottles of what? Milk? No, don’t report. Liquor? Yes, report.

  • This is CVS’s problem and not yours. You don’t owe it to them to protect their profits. Besides, who’s got time for this? Buy your milk and be on your way. If I felt obligated to report a petty theft, I’d be more annoyed at CVS than anything for not being able to police their own stores. It really shouldn’t matter whether you’re facing injury. Here’s a thought experiment: if it were a little old lady, would you have said something?

    • clevelanddave

      This attitude is just WRONG. Living in a civil society means when people are stealing, or tagging a building or hurting someone else and you decide to turn your back and rationalize your behavior it degrades all of us. Finding a way to help stop that is important. It may not be an obligation of the OP to confront the criminals who are stealing, because it may put them in some kind of danger or confrontation, but to say it is ok to ignore a crime because it is someone else’s duty/fault is abandoning your responsibility to your community. If you saw a young woman hit from behind and her cellphone was stolen would you say it was her fault for talking on the cell phone and walk away from her? Maybe she shouldn’t have been on the phone, but that is not really the issue at that moment, nor is it an excuse for walking away. As Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Shame.

      • I assume you call the police every time you see someone jaywalk, then? Calling petty victimless theft “evil” seems a little exaggerated to me, as does suggesting a maligned national chain like CVS is somehow a part of my “community”.

      • No, violent crimes are much, much different. You’re arguing with a straw man. This idea that I’m victim blaming because I don’t feel obligated to report milk being stolen from CVS is preposterous. Of course I’d help someone who’s the victim of a violent crime. I don’t, however, think I need to take the time out of my day to right the world for $5 of stolen milk.

    • I can’t wait until I’m a little old lady so I can steal whatever I like and know no one will say a word.

      • Have you seen the first Jackass movie? There’s a scene in it where Johnny Knoxville puts on the old man makeup and blatantly shoplifts from a convenience store.

  • We have a huge epidemic of homeless kids in DC. A lot of them stay at the shelters for children who have been abused. They befriend each other and hang out together. They look like any other kid on the street with normal clothes. These kids have already had to overcome a lifetime of pain and it is a flawed system to say the least. Not saying the kids you saw were homeless but that is one possibility.

  • not your problem

  • Wings-of-Pastrami

    Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? -the Milk Baron

  • epric002

    i don’t think that quietly saying something to someone who works at CVS potentially puts your life at risk. but whether i’d say something over stolen milk v., as others have pointed out- liquor, is perhaps another story.

  • I would have offered to buy it for him. And maybe other groceries they needed.

  • houseintherear

    I tattled on a guy at Target in Wheaton a few weeks ago. He loaded up a backpack with sweaters (after grabbing at my purse while I was walking through the clothing displays). He was already out of the store but glanced back just as I was tattling and pointing his way… great. Even greater was the lack of caring by the “loss prevention” security guard (as his badge proclaimed). I shopped and checked out, and as I was leaving the thief was standing across the lobby watching me. I took some pics of him on my phone, with him watching, then ended up having a mall guard walk me to my car.
    Anyway I am surely the biggest stickler for the rules on the planet, but I don’t think I’ll tattle again. This scared the poop out of me. :/

    • Not to downplay your comment, but the whole “scared the poop out of me” and your username just made me chuckle. Sorry to hear about your Target ordeal.

  • CVS’ security isn’t your responsibility.

  • Given the level of customer service at my local pharmacy, if I reported a theft to the cashier I’d expect the response to be somewhere between a blank stare and being told to mind my own business.

  • ewww… CVS milk? gross!

  • I keep thinking of the secne in the movie “Super” where The Crimson Bolt beats a guy in the jaw with a monkey wrench for cutting in line at the movies.

  • Tell the cashier. They call the cops. Then get out of there.

  • In this situation I’d write to corporate – it’s their ultimate responsibility to deal with security issues. This was definitely a two man operation . I once fell victim to this on the job once. A man came to alert me of the theft (his wife was NOT pleased ).

  • I think I would have gone home and called back and asked to speak to the manager. I’m sure the store has hidden cameras everywhere. I would have told him what I saw and to check the store’s cameras to see the theft in action. You said that the other guy was talking to the security guard as a distraction. Sometimes the guard and the crooks are in on the crime together so I don’t think I would have notified the guard. Going directly to the manager would be my suggestion.

  • I managed a clothing store in DC (with no cameras – largely the reason I left as I felt employees weren’t protected) and we had pretty regular theft/evidence of theft such as tags on the floor. I was always very appreciative of customers who would give a heads up about suspicious activity or theft they witnessed. Even if I couldn’t confront the person right then because myself or my staff didn’t witness it (and had no camera proof…) most people were repeat offenders, and at least getting the initial recognition of the person would help catch them in the future. On no occasion did the thieves ever know that a customer ratted them out. Of course customers aren’t under any obligation to speak up or intervene in any way. But it made me feel a lot better at times that I was discouraged by theft that there were good people there and that appreciated the business enough to say something.

  • I hate to say but I ran into something the other day that I have been holding in. Similar but not the same. I was at a stop light in shaw in my car and a grirl was walking across the cross walk one way and a man the other, they met 3/4’s of the way past me. This was at night but not late. As he passed her, he grabbed ahold of her hair and pulled. He pulled so hard he almost pulled her to the ground. He let got then kept walking. She ran across to get away. I did not know what to do. Get out and make sure she was ok? Ask her if she wanted to get in my car so I could get her away? Call the cops? Cops would have done nothing. She started crying, and looked at me, the light turned green and I drove off. I can’t stop replaying it in my head and questioning what I did.

  • If you’re really looking to have impact on theft, if/if that’s what you’d really like to do, I offer you’d do better to assist the store with checking the bags of its employees each and every night. As any business owner will tell you (that includes restaurants) internal theft is far worse a problem. That said, if you really, really think that what those kids were doing was wrong, you should have said something to them. Takes courage I know, but most things do.

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