Yesterday evening, something happened that I feel I must share with you, my faithful readers. I was (wrongly) accused of shoplifting yesterday in a Dollarama… of shoplifting chocolate bars.
I hadn’t, naturally. There are better things I can think of attempting shoplifting on for the first time than a Peanut Butter Oh Henry and a Reese Peanut Butter Cup.
But here’s the story.
I went into Dollarama after a trip to Costco with a friend. I can’t remember even 24 hours later what I went in for, it couldn’t have been that important, but I went in because I obviously thought I needed something. I go into this Dollarama all. the. time. It’s maybe a minute from my house, and teaching means Dollarama is a girl’s best friend. No joke. At least once a week.
While I was in the candy aisle, texting a friend, I was kind of pacing back and forth. My hands were in and out of my pockets because that’s where my phone was, and I kept picking up chocolate bars and putting them back down because a) I couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted, and b) I was trying to remember what I went in for, and c) my friend and I were making plans for tonight. While I was pacing, I caught sight of this woman who appeared to have just paid for her purchase, standing just by the cash register counters. She was staring at me, and not discreetly. When I caught her stare, I looked back at her with a “what?!” kind of look, and when she continued to stare, making me uncomfortable, I put the chocolate bars down and turned to leave the aisle.
See, my first thought was that she was fat-shaming me. I don’t know why I assumed this, because she was about the same size as me, but my own insecurity played out and my inner voice saying “you don’t need this” led me to jump to the absurd conclusion that this woman was judging me for buying candy.
Somewhat thankfully, she was not fat-shaming me. Instead though, she was assuming that when I put the chocolate bars down, I didn’t put them back on the shelf but in my purse. She alerted a cashier of her assumption. I can’t fault her for this, I guess. I suppose as I look back at this incident that if I was sure I saw someone shoplifting, I’d probably tell someone as well. After all, when things get stolen, prices go up because the store isn’t making their projected profit. Also, on the level of my inner Junior Kindergarten student, it isn’t fair that I have to pay for things when other people don’t. Yup, I’m petty like that. What I hope I wouldn’t do is stare awkwardly, even after alerting staff to the situation.
This woman did that.
Over the PA system came the alert “Security scan all aisles.” I didn’t think anything of it. I hadn’t done anything unseemly. A cashier I was familiar with (like I said, I’m in there all the time) came down the aisle I was in, and I turned and said hi. She walked up behind me, and the conversation went like this:
“It’s been reported to us that you were seen putting chocolate bars into your purse.”
“I didn’t, I put two down, back in their box, cuz that lady at the cash counter is staring at me and making me uncomfortable.”
“Would you mind showing me your purse?”
“Sure, I don’t have anything to hide.”
I took my purse apart, showed her the various pockets, and then rifled through the collection of tampons, pepto bismol, advil, lip gloss, hair brushes, bobby pins, and elastics that collect at the bottom. Satisfied with what I’d shown her, she apologized and thanked me for cooperating.
That should be the end, because like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong, but as I rounded a corner, this woman was still staring at me. I still couldn’t remember what I was there for, so now I’d taken to wandering up and down the aisles, looking for whatever it was I went in for.
Down to the heart of this…. I feel like I need to share what’s bugging me about it.
Just minutes before all of this went down, and then again just a minute or two later, I had run into one of our grade 8 students from my school. As a teacher, we’re cautioned very strongly about our reputation, and even more strongly about the perception of our reputation. I don’t think this grade 8 student saw me being searched in the middle of the store, right in front of the toy section, but I know that it wouldn’t be good if he did. He’s a lovely student, and so I’d hope he’d be able to see the truth and not spread rumours, but rumours are all it takes before parents don’t trust their child’s teacher because they heard she steals. I run our school’s book fair, I collect student money on occasion…. if my students’ parents hear that I was accused of shoplifting at Dollarama, why would they have any reason to trust me with their money?
What I would like to have seen is a discreet cashier who gave me the opportunity to show her the contents of my purse in private. I didn’t think it through in the moment, I just wanted to show very quickly that I wasn’t a thief. It was embarrassing, though, to have to do that with complete strangers standing watching, and I spent a good deal of time last night fretting about what was going to happen at school today if the student saw anything or said anything…. and I sincerely feel that that was unnecessary. It was unnecessary worry in the first place, and I know that, and I should have known better, but it isn’t a situation that should have happened, in my opinion. I sincerely believe that there’s a more dignified way to prove you’re not a thief.
I don’t know what it is, because I imagine if I HAD tried to sneak the chocolate bars into my purse, asking to speak to me in private wouldn’t have helped, because the crowd of witnesses would have been helpful while I refused to open my purse based on the privacy act and blah blah blah…..
I just think there has to be a better way.
Am I the only one?
Has this happened to you before?
What do you think?
After Stares-a-lot left the store and I regained my composure, though I never did remember what I went in for, I finally decided on at least a Toblerone and went and stood in line to pay for it. The cashier that had searched my purse in the first place came over to me to apologize, explaining that as soon as she saw who they’d accused, she thought it couldn’t possibly be true, because “you’re in here all the time and you always pay for your stuff.” To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disconcerting. I mean, I’m glad I’m trustworthy and all, but that might mean I’m in Dollarama FAR too often. She said she hoped I wasn’t offended, and apologized sincerely again. I was not upset with her in the least, she was just doing her job.
I paid for my Toblerone and went on my way, but while leaving the store to go to my car, I saw the lady who’d reported me leaning against the wall outside the store with her friends, still staring at me. All I can say is I think she’s lucky I wasn’t in the mood for a fight and that Gotham was about to start, because I had half a mind to go encourage her to be a bit more certain next time she accuses someone of shoplifting. But, I guess on the good side for all of us, Gotham was about to start, and I had a Toblerone to eat.