Thursday, February 19, 2009

Am I Judgemental, Or Merely Naive?

It's not my habit to make less than 2 trips a week to a grocery store. Usually it's more like 3. I know it's wasteful of my time, money, and sanity, but I always always forget something the first time around.

This morning I headed back to the store for a few things I'd forgotten on Tuesday. Deodorant, razor blades, baby cereal (donuts). Just some necessary things that couldn't wait until the next big trip.

I remembered while I was there that I needed to get a birthday present, so I headed over to the toy section to have a look. There was a young couple there, pushing a cart with a baby's car-seat balanced on top. I might not have noticed them, but they were taking up most of the aisle and not moving out of my path when I got close enough. I just turned around and went the other way, hoping to find a toy in a different aisle.

When I came back to that first aisle, they were still there - and I noticed the mom quickly shoving something in her diaper bag. The dad was talking loudly to the baby, playing and making lots of noise. This time as I tried to pass them, they scooted away.

Maybe it was just my overactive imagination seeing something dramatic, but it looked like they had stolen a toy. The dad seemed like he was creating a distraction. The mom seemed very quiet and sneaky. The pair of them looked pretty downtrodden: sloppy and dirty. I started thinking that poor child, growing up with parents who'd steal, don't they know that she'd rather have responsible, loving parents than a shoplifted toy? However, since I couldn't be sure of what I'd seen (and I wouldn't have known what to do even if I was sure) I stopped my judgemental train of thoughts. Just because they looked like they couldn't afford a toy, didn't mean they were stealing it. Shame on me, I thought, for passing judgement.

I finished gathering my items and headed to the checkout, making small talk with a little old lady who gushed over Lauren's smile. I'd completely forgotten about the episode in the toy section. As I walked towards the exit, that same couple was coming through an empty checkout lane, having purchased nothing, with nothing in their cart but the baby's car seat and diaper bag.

I started thinking about how suspicious that looked, and wondered if my original assessment had been correct. They slowly made their way along-side and slightly behind me, joining me and several other customers heading for the exit.

When I walked through the security detectors at the doorway with the couple just beside me, the alarms started going off. The store greeter rushed over to stop me. I had walked through the door barely ahead of the other shopping cart, so it looked like I had tripped the alarm.

My face was burning as the other customers eyed me, and I met the gaze of the mom with the diaper bag. I quickly looked down, trying not to look accusatory.

It was no big deal, the security guard/greeter looking through my things, and I didn't say anything about what I thought had happened. Would you have? Not knowing for sure what you had seen? Even now, I doubt myself. Something inside tells me not to borrow trouble or throw stones in a glass house or jump to conclusions.

It's not like stealing a small toy is a huge deal, I know, but it makes me sad that it might've happened under my watch. It makes me feel used. Like I was in on the plan, and they're sitting somewhere laughing at the skinny girl with the red face who was their scapegoat.

What would you have done? Said something in the toy section? Told an employee about the possibility of a theft? Told the greeter to check the other cart instead? And if it turned out that you were wrong, how awful would you have felt? Worse than knowing a toy was stolen with your help?

What should I have done?


  1. Ok, first off a "hypothetical" is always more easy than the real thing. I preface this with the comment that I for sure WOULD have done the same thing you did through the beeping exit door.
    The thing I would have done differently (because I can be CRAZY like this sometimes, I get it from my nosy, opinionated Mother I swear)was that I REALLY think I would have said something in the isle when I saw her put something in her bag.
    I am guessing that you really knew what you saw but didn't want to know it because you were only 99% sure and did not want to judge. If I am wrong, then maybe I would have done exactly what you did.
    But... I would have said something like, "dude, are you going to pay for that or just put it in your bag?"Or... say something to my 11 month old (or 2 year old) in my cart like, "Gabe, I just want to let you know it is VERY wrong to steal things and it always comes back to get you in the end." (loud enough for them to hear)
    You must have been DYING!!! I would have called my husband and just went off to get all the "unfairness" out of my brain after a situation like that. I HATE seeing stuff like that. Like we wouldn't like to just take what we want!
    The right answer: Probably to go tell an associate that you saw something and let them deal with it if they want to. OR... do what you did and then just blog vent about it ;)

  2. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I was just not wanting to know what had happened. So I tried to ignore it. Then when I was telling Justin about it, I got to thinking, the car-seat was covered with a blanket over the upright handle. I never actually saw a baby. Heard no baby noises. Why would you cover up a "sleeping" baby and then talk/sing loudly to it? What a hoax.

  3. I doubt I would have said anything either. Although, I was reading the Parade magazine in the newspaper, and there was this exact question! It was a poll about our country's morality, and 84% of people said they would say something if they saw someone shoplift.

    I guess for me, it would depend on what the item was too. I mean a $10 toy, compared to something that's $50 or more...I don't know. It's unfortunate that it's people like this that are making our economy worse, and forcing prices higher!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?