Apple store controversy: Should employees stop thieves?
The Best Buy experience that makes me unsure
I was at the Customer Service desk of Best Buy when she told me, “Be careful.”
I raised an eyebrow, wondering what in my purchasing request warranted that response. I noticed she was looking behind me occasionally, but I wasn’t interested enough to figure out why. I finished my transaction, put my receipt in my purse and headed toward the door.
Two flashes of clothing flew by me, several feet away, and then all I saw was blue shirts running out of the automated store door entranceway. I slowed my pace, unsure if someone else would start running in the store. (I’m from the South Side of Chicago. If I hear gunshots, I run first, discuss later. But I heard absolutely nothing and saw nothing besides moving fabric, so I’m not chasing anything that’s not bothering me.) Still, why was everybody running?
By the time I got outside, I saw at least six white, male employees sitting or laying on top of a customer from the store. Something else caught my eye, and I looked up to see another person fleeing at full speed, damn near running into cars in the parking lot to get away. With a book bag on his back, he only looked back once before he kept going. I looked from the book bag-carrying teenager to Best Buy employees piled on the ground, blocking the body of a teenager. That’s when it clicked. The Customer Service lady was telling me to be careful because the employees in the store had already started preparing to chase these two.
I shook my head, looking down at a few electronic appliances and CDs sprawled on the ground. From a customer’s perspective who has to deal with the excessive security measures (and being followed around the store) because of a high-theft rate, I felt no sympathy for these two. But I made eye contact with the teenager on the ground. He was a young, black boy. His facial expression looked somewhere between irritated and worried. His friend who got away was a white boy. While that normally wouldn’t phase me because both of them were stealing, it was the smile on one of the Best Buy employee’s faces — while sitting on the boy’s shoulders — that didn’t sit right with me.
There was something unsettling to me about how happy a couple of this pile of Best Buy employees were to have caught this boy and how no one chased after the white friend, who clearly had stolen items in his bag too.
That experience made me also understand why Apple employees held customers back and did nothing during this incident below.
Employees have a list of tasks to do when they’re hired, and none of them involve being unpaid security guards or police officers. Retail employees should not have to be in charge of this. During my time working for Border’s Books, Music and Cafe, I lost count of the number of black undercover security guards who grew tired of white employees (mainly booksellers) constantly reporting suspicious behavior—always black customers, mainly male.