I wanted to share an experience I had tonight at the Simpsonville SC Walmart and can only laugh about in retrospect.
Our children are getting ready to head off to a week of camp and they are getting to the age now where they want their own luggage. So today we had gone out and had bought our oldest daughter a cute, girlie rolling suitcase but had struck out when trying to find something for our son. I also had to get those items that every camper needs as well as some household stuff and so I struck out to Walmart, where you can find anything and everything.
I must admit that I love Walmart and never just go in and get what I need and with my ADHD my trip through the store looks like a blind mouse caught in a inescapable maze. I looked around at some stuff and priced out some things I wanted to buy later and looked at supplies for the camping trip I want to take. My headlight on my car has gone out so I grabbed a pair of those. Then, as I walked through bedding I grabbed a comforter that was the match to one I bought for one of our girls a while back and hadn’t been able to find since. That is when I grabbed the 5 piece luggage set, bright almost but not quite Carolina Panthers blue, I knew my son would love it. After that I went over and got all the kids travel needs toothpaste, shampoo, sunblock etc. And while I was over there I grabbed some hairbows and headbands and some brushes for the kids to take to camp that they could lose and not get skinned by their mother for.
With all that done I was ready to head over the grocery section but I wasn’t ready to leave yet, I knew I would be bored and had nothing to do at home, so I headed over to the bike section. One of our students wants me to go mountain biking with him but I need a new seat and a helmet so i was entertaining the idea of going ahead and getting them so I could be ready to just go when I had a day free.
That is when I heard him. There was a man at the other end of the aisle and I could barely understand him. but what I could make out was. “This isn’t shopping” “he’s throwing handfuls of merchandise into the buggy” “I am going to need help” “he is in the toy section”. Two things went through my mind at that moment. 1. Oh crap somethings about to go down I better get outta here before someone goes crazy on someone! 2. Is that guy somebody I know trying to prank me.
I walked around and tried to get a look at the guy but I didn’t know him so i shrugged it off and went back around the store to finish my shopping. From the toy section I went through the home decor section and looked at clocks, I don’t know why so don’t ask. Then as I walked through the sunglasses section I looked to see if they had anything my kids would like. They did not. So it was time to end the trip and head to the dairy section and out to check out. On the way I passed the kid’s clothing section and saw that they had value packs of underwear for sale. It took a while for me to find the right size and cut for my girls. Sidenote 1: I am not comfortable with the idea of size 4 toddler panties being available in low rise bikini and definitely will not buy them for my daughters Sidenote 2: there is not much as awkward as a 30 yr old man shopping for girls underwear in Walmart alone on a Saturday night but hey ya gotta do what ya gotta do right?
Anyway I found what I needed and went over to get my son some underwear in the boy’s section. At this point I am approached by a young man who makes eye contact , head nods and walks away. He then reappears and whispers “hey”. He was so quiet I could barely hear him. He walked closer and I judged him to be your average Hollister wearing teenage boy nothing particularly shady or off about him. Leaning in towards me over my buggy he whispers again “Hey if you are stealing anything you better be careful some old guy in a gray shirt is following you and watching you.” My eyes must have gotten huge and my jaw must have dropped in disbelief because he repeated himself again and added “seriously” I laughed and said that was hilarious and asked him if he wanted to know why that was so ironic. Then i explained I was a youth pastor and stealing was the last thing I would ever do. He laughed said “For real? That’s messed up” and walked away.
The whole conversation made me laugh and I tried to peak around the corners to spot the guy but I never saw him. Obviously it was really time for me to go and finish my trip. I walked back to the dairy case got some coffee creamer and texted my wife about the convo I just had. I could not get over it and so I tried to hover and spot the guy but I couldn’t.
I wandered up to the front stopping along the way to look at the As Seen On TV display. Recently I have gone crazy for the Magic Tap Drink Dispenser and was hoping they had gotten it to store already, no luck. While I was looking, I spotted the boy who had tipped me off at the checkout, I was a little suspicious of him at this point, and so I walked the other direction. After a quick stop at the Pepsi single cold case,I got in line and started unloading the buggy. As I unloaded the majority of the small items I saw the older man duck behind a clothing rack trying to appear as if he wasn’t watching me when obviously he was. My first instinct was to try to make eye contact to acknowledge him but he turned and walked away. After a few moments he walked back and took position again. There were a thousand different scenarios racing through my mind and I was about to ask the cashier if the guy was a Walmart employee or not. I then decided on a more direct course of action. I squared my shoulders, stood up straight and walked with a confident stride and a friendly smile on my face. The gentleman turned away from me acting as if I was intruding but I was not going to be denied. I looked him in the eye, even though he would not maitain eye contact, and point blank asked him. “So are you the guy that I was told is following me and thinks I am stealing from the store?” He stammered a bit and denied watching me and explained he was simply talking on the phone but he added, almost under his breath, “I am with Walmart Security”. My reply was quick, emphatic and confident. As I grabbed his hand and firmly shook it I drew my body to full height, which put my eye level just above his, my eyes widened and I smirked as I said “Allow me to introduce myself. Rev Jason Roth Youth Minister Reedy Fork Baptist Church I just bought a load of stuff tonight to send our kids off to camp next week.” The gentleman broke eye contact, still holding a phone to his ear this whole time, looked at the floor and snickered as he shook his head slowly side to side and said simply “Have a good night sir” and walked away. I went to the checkout helped the cashier go through the rest of my items and even helped her open the luggage to make sure there were no “extras” inside, paid for my order and started to leave. As I turned to walk away I caught a glimpse of the teenage boy that had been so gracious to tip me off walking back with his friends into the area of the clothing section that I had just had my confrontation. If I had to bet, I would bet that those boys were Walmart employees posing as shoppers and that the tip off was just a ploy to try to get me to say something incriminating.
As I walked out I shook my head and knew that I would have a great story to add to my shoplifter thwarting tales except this time instead of being the store employee tackling the shoplifter I was the one the store was trying to thwart!!