Picture it, NYC, 2012. It’s a fairly warm afternoon, right around that elusive time we used to call “spring”, but now is just that week of “not snow” and “not hell” outdoors.

The lunchtime rush is starting to ramp up, and I’m busily recording some sales in the notebook when I notice a gentleman walking in the front doors. Nothing too unusual, but it was, again, fairly warm and this man has on a puffer jacket like it’s 30 below out.

Meh, to each his own, so I go back to work as the man darts downstairs.

I then hear the elevator doors open, and I see the man coming out. He looks around. I stop and look up, thinking he may need help. Before I can ask, he turns to beeline for the door, and some formula drops out the back of his coat.

Sigh.

Listen, y’all. I’ll be the first to admit times have been hard for everybody as of late. Folks do come into the store to steal makeup and, like, 5 hour energy and such (that’s a story for another day), but you do have those folks who have to steal food to survive. I don’t blame the folks put in that position. I blame the system that puts the folks in that position. What makes me feel doubly bad is if I see them taking food, I’m supposed to stop them.

Even if it’s obvious they’re hungry. Even if they’re just grabbing a $1 bag of chips. I’m supposed to stop them. It’s heartbreaking, and more often than not, I’ll just buy the item for them, cause folks have to eat, right? For the most part, I don’t see it as much anymore. I don’t know if it’s a sign that things are getting better economically or that the thieves are getting savvier, but I try not to think about it too much.

Anyway.

I see this formula drop out the back of his coat and immediately think this man is likely taking this for his child at home. Because I’m big-hearted like that.

He drops this formula and instead of leaving it (because there are cameras that may see him), he picks it up and decides to try and take it out of the store (in full view!) in his hands. Now, I have to stop him.

Me: “You, in the coat! Put it down.”

Customers are now staring at him, and since they don’t have the same vantage point I do, they don’t notice the canister in his hand. One woman goes: “Why is she screaming at him? He doesn’t have anything!”

Him: *stares* *puts formula in basket near door*

As he turns to walk out, another canister drops out of his coat. Well, damn.

Listen. You’re a parent, and you have a hungry baby that needs food that you are unable to afford? You steal ONE canister of formula. I shake my head. Now I know he’s likely got the whole shelf in that coat, and…

I walk up to the front door. “Give me the rest of it. Now.”

Him: “That’s all I got, man.”

He tries to walk out the store again, and TWO MORE canisters drop out. If you’ve been counting, we’re up to four now.

Me: “One more time, give me all of it. Now.”

At this point, one of the (HUGE) stock guys comes out and stands next to me. “Did you hear her? Give it back!”

He’s scared now. “I don’t have any more, man!” And tries to run.

At which point THREE more canisters drop out the coat. Passerby on the street brought them in to me (one guy had been watching the whole thing from outside, and he told me he was ready to tackle if the thief had tried to come at me. That made me smile, cause most folks don’t care.)

So, grand total of formula the guy tried to swipe? Seven canisters at about $27 a pop. Sigh.

Moral of the story? If you MUST steal…be wise about it.

Happy Monday, y’all!

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