Contrary to popular belief, shoplifters come in all shapes, sizes and races
The difficult decision I made when police arrested someone accusing ME of stealing
I was headed toward the door of the souvenir shop when I heard a co-worker yell out from halfway across the store, “Hey, you have to pay for that first.”
Empty-handed and without a purse, I was initially confused. I turned back around to look at him, thinking he was talking to someone else. And he repeated the statement again while looking at me.
Then, the cashier looked in my direction. The co-worker busted out laughing. I never cracked a smile. The cashier was still looking at me. I walked over to her and told her she could search me if she wanted to. She looked from me to my co-worker and waved me out of the store, looking irritated.
Unfortunately, a sizeable amount of black folks know that focused glare and the need for employees to stand way too close while we shop. We will often avoid standing in the corner aisles and avoid putting our hands too close to our purses or pockets, so as not to appear suspicious. We just want to shop in peace — with employees who will give us pandemic-level distance.
Because of the co-worker’s background and racial ambiguity, no one would’ve ever followed him. He thought his joke was harmless. I never went into a retail store with him again — ever.
When people like Donald Trump make comments about how shoplifters should be shot, we know exactly who would be on the receiving end of those bullets. (And no, I’m not talking about women who look like Winona Ryder.)
As someone who formerly worked in retail — as a cashier for Walgreens and then Border’s Books, Music & Cafe, then as a photo technician for Walmart — I get why stores are paranoid about who is stealing. I’ve been the employee accused of helping someone steal (not even slightly true). I’ve also been the customer who watched two white men clearly stealing, and employees looked everywhere but at him. Theft is a conundrum in any for-profit business with the public, but sometimes the need to get ahead of theft goes way too far.