Friday, May 04, 2007

Confessions of an Accidental Shoplifter


I shop with my stroller. We go out walking in the neighborhood and stop into shops for our errands. That means I use the stroller basket and sometimes Hazel's lap to hold our things, rather than a cart or hand basket. And that means we've developed a history of accidental shoplifting.

The first time was in November of 2005. I remember because my friend Kat was visiting from Colorado and it was a rare occasion that we had gone into Manhattan. We spent a fun day at Chelsea Market and were wandering back to Union Square to catch the subway home. (See picture with sunglasses - same outing.) On the way we stopped into a children's store, and while we were looking at different toys I handed Hazel a cute rattle to keep her occupied; she was on my hip in a sling at the time. Later, on the subway back to Brooklyn, I loosened the sling to hold her on my lap and CLUNK, the rattle that we had not bought clattered onto the seat. I guess she'd dropped it into the sling and I had forgotten I'd even handed it to her. Tally mark #1. In cases like this many people are honest in the extreme and I admire them for it. Such people would return to the store with the rattle. Since moving to New York, or becoming a mother, or both since they were nearly simultaneous, I have adopted a new morality, complete with all shades of gray and the mantra "Do what you gotta do." In this particular case, halfway home with a very cranky baby and not even remembering where the store was, we kept the rattle and have quite enjoyed it actually. Guilt lasted about a day and then I got over it. It was accidental, after all.

There have been a handful of similar cases since then - a bag of peaches tucked into the stroller canopy while grocery shopping, an avocado the same dark color as the stroller basket, a toothbrush handed to Hazel in the stroller to entertain, and then tucked behind her back, all forgotten or not seen until it was too late. My life here relies on inertia, and once we're moving in one direction, like HOME, it's not an option to change that direction and return. Let me be more honest - it is an option of course. If I left my wallet at the store you bet I'd return. Rather, it's a gray area in which I weigh the cost-benefit of returning and "doing the right thing", and somehow what I "gotta do" always wins out.

The reason I write about it now is that it happened again last week. We were shopping at our local Rite Aid and I had the stroller pulled up next to the deodorants while I looked at toothpaste. It's a tough call at Rite Aid - I can either park the stroller in the middle of the aisle so Hazel can't reach anything, but also no one can pass; or, I can pull it up to one side so people can pass but Hazel can mess with stuff on the shelf. Rite Aid's a busy place around here so it's always the latter. While I was lost in the jungle of choosing a toothpaste there was a loud bang & clatter - Hazel had kicked about a dozen deodorants off the shelf. I grabbed the closest toothpaste, moved the stroller, put the deodorants back, and headed to check-out. Of course when we got home and I took Hazel out of the stroller I saw on the footrest a Brut deodorant. It barely even phased me. I had to get lunch for Hazel, change two diapers, and feed Ginger STAT.

I don't condone real shoplifting. And I don't feel bad about these things we've obtained without paying. I guess I find it interesting, noteworthy, almost in an objective way, that I've come to accept this, like so many other things, as part of life now. If something like this happens when the kids are old enough to understand, we'll certainly have to make a production about returning any little stick of gum taken without paying, and tack on a couple FHE lessons on honesty. But for now I'm just doing what I gotta do to survive. Too bad Brut's not our brand.

9 comments:

Blythe said...

I think this basically happens to anyone with kids. Fortunately, I have usually still been close to the stores when I discovered it, like the time we were walking down the mall with the one sneaker Finn had lifted from J.C. Penney.

The one time we got home with our un-purchase (a dog book from Walden), I paid for it the next time I was out there.

The single exception was this absolutely hideous Christmas ornament that Scarlett took from Mervyn's when she was one. It was some poorly painted, indiscriminate animal (Cat? Cougar? Badger?) playing a banjo. I'm sure it was the ugliest ornament Mervyn's had on hand. I never did return it, and we still hang it on our tree.

Shells said...

The funniest part about that story Blythe, is after you described it, you still hand it on your tree. Which leads to my tangent. After 7 years of marriage, Dave and I have probably never bought ornaments. Each year we decorate with ornaments that Dave got as a kid, hand me downs from his parents, things the kids have made, and ornaments people have given us over the years. Some of the ornaments are quite good, others are just trash. This last year when we got around to taking down the tree, we decided to thin out the ornaments. The funniest thing was the discussions we had on the ornaments in question. They went something like this:

M: Do you like this?
D: No
M: Me Neither
D: Does it have any sentimental value to you?
M: No, You (somewhat sarcastically)?
D: Are you kidding, it is a popsticle stick with some glitter on it, made by who knows who, who knows when? (look of disbelief that we kept it this long)
M: Toss it
Proceed to next ornament

Les Claypool said...

Kari: great post. It's their own fault for making the aisles so close together.

You should spend more time in jewelry stores...

dävid said...

reminds me of the time i accidentally shoplifted a new laptop from the apple store.

i think i'm going to have kids just so they can get me all sorts of free loot.

a brood of accidental theifs

Kari (Disco Mom) said...

Les, great idea though so many jewelry stores around here are "by appointment only"...

David, there was a (totally tasteless) man on my mission who always thought it was so funny to say, "We had children because slavery is illegal" - get it? Made me want to kick him in the face, especially since he had a nice kid. But accidental thieving...well, it's accidental - guilt-free! I'd like to hear more about the accidental laptop lifting - I'm so small-time with my fruit and rattle! I wouldn't have minded getting those 2006 sunglasses tucked into the sling but the guy was standing right there...

Blythe said...

Shells, we pretty much hang it on our tree because we are big dorks, and it gives us a good laugh every year.

I have no idea how to get your children to steal stuff you might actually want. Actually, since my kids are older now, I don't really think I'd be so into the stealing thing in any case. It's tough to get away with it over age 3. Though we do have a pair of obnoxious customers (I work at the Gap) who come in most Wednesdays after we do markdowns. They spend hours combing through our sale rack while their children run wild and steal watches.

dave said...

Just the other day Jeff Wills was down here (for Nerdly) and we went into Target so he could get new earbuds (his broke on the train). While there, I picked up some Pringles and some Cool Ranch chips. We paid for my stuff and Jeff picked up the bag. I went to take it from him so he could pay for his stuff, and he held on tight, so i took the hint and we walked out of Target. I accused him of shoplifting and we joked around about it.

3 hours later, he realized he hadn't paid for his headphones. He thought I was just joking around about him carrying the bag or something. So: accidental shoplifting happens to adults, too.

kat said...

i'm re-reading things. because it's late and mr. handsome doesn't want to fall asleep. silly boy. on my chest, no problem. in his bed, forget about it.

crate and barrel - used to be my favorite hang out. cruised it with katie to pick up a wedding present, and when we got to the car i discovered that now we have a new silicon pastry brush. go katie! something i WILL actually use!

southwesternbelle said...

Do your kids give lessons? My grandson pulled the same thing and his mom got the beat down from store security.

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