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  • April 2011
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Thieves and Robbers

A Harris Teeter store in Apex, NC.

Image via Wikipedia

A woman stole from me at Harris Teeter‘s last week, and I’m feeling confused.

I seldom travel to Harris Teeter, it’s far away from where we live and a luxury shopping experience, but it carries products that I can’t normally find. I was looking for shampoo.

When I first arrived, I asked a store clerk to help me find the shampoo aisle, and then hustled around finding a few other things.  The store wasn’t crowded and I was pleased to find the same clerk at the check out counter.

She seemed to make a special effort with me because I was unfamiliar with the procedure; which side of the counter to stand on, etc. As she checked me out,  I told her about making this special trip to find that shampoo. I told her I really appreciated her help from beginning to end.

As I was leaving, she came out behind me and offered to push my cart back into the store when I was finished loading my goods into the car. I noticed that she had a small bag in her hand.

When I returned home, I looked all over for the shampoo. It was on the receipt, but nowhere in the car or in the bags.  I couldn’t believe it! I thought surely it had slipped under the seat of the car, but a thorough search came up empty.

As much as I have resisted thinking this, I’m forced to conclude that the little plastic grocery bag she was carrying may have been my shampoo.

Why is this confusing to me? Do I imagine that people are all good or even well intentioned? Am I disillusioned because her behavior contradicted itself? Well, I guess, I’m confused because I thought I was pretty good at reading people, and I had read her as “helpful”, “trustworthy”.

Mostly, though, I’m confused because this woman was African American. I find this pretty difficult to reconcile with my hope that relationships between the races can be improved as we interact with one another daily.

I’m terribly sad and disappointed that she may have seen me as a rich, white woman whom she could take advantage of, rather than simply a human being, an equal.

Another person stole money from us two years ago. He took cash from us for a futon and never delivered. I really think he intended to, I checked in with him weekly, visited his office several times and sort of became his friend.

I really wanted to believe the seven week delay was not his fault, we talked about our families, his health, his car accidents. He played Rush Limbaugh and Christian Music on his office radio.

One day, I called in and his storefront was locked up, the phone disconnected, the website shutdown.

I began praying for him and continue to this day, that he will return our $180.00.

What is the difference, I wonder?  He is a middle aged, heavy set, white man. I have a completely different response to his dishonesty. I’m disappointed, but  praying for him.

Have you had a similar experience? What was your response? What would you prefer to do?

4 Responses

  1. Having read this post several times, I think you are more upset with your reaction to the situation than with the possible theft itself. You may be fighting to overcome a subconscious stereotyping. You saw that the clerk was a black person, not just a person. You wanted for her to be an exception to a negative stereotype, and by letting you down, she made it harder for you to get past your feelings. The chubby white guy did not come with a stereotype. He was just a guy. Maybe the fact that he used religion to take advantage of you has elicited your need to pray for him.
    Just wondering, why would the African-American clerk steal a white woman’s shampoo, of all things? You say she had the bag in her hand as she followed you out? Might she have been thinking about something else and not realized she was still holding it?
    Now I must admit to the same internal struggle. My husband and I have a second home in a small town in North Carolina where white folks are probably not in the majority these days. I come from a VERY small town in Pennsylvania where one never saw a black person. Spending time in the South is giving me a chance to root out my prejudices. So far, I’m more often disappointed with white people than with people of other colors, but my goal is to avoid internal labeling of any sort.

    • All sorts of ideas to ponder, and I appreciate your suggestions. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if my “bending over backwards” approach to racism, is in some way a throw back to subconscious stereotyping of my family in childhood. I also grew up without ever seeing a Black person. Thanks for helping me think!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing that. It must be a little bit painful. You are doing right though to pray about it. Maybe you could confront the clerk but it probably wouldn’t make any difference, she would deny it. You could tell the store manager.
    I had kind of a similar experience. I was at McDonald’s in a different city. Some boys were hanging around the counter which was odd shaped. The clerk made our order and got our drinks with an extra one and set it aside. One of the boys took it, it was done very, very smoothly. I didn’t tell anyone at first because of several thoughts going through my mind. Should I mind my own business? Did I actually see that? Did the boy possibly pay for it before our order?

    The next week I was at the same McDonalds and I rose to the occasion to tell the manager what I had seen the week before. That clerk wasn’t working there then and maybe I did make a mistake but the manager seemed really concerned and interested. I don’t know what happened after that. Thanks for your courage to share and tell others.

    • Oh, I so understand…did I imagine that??? I’ve been there! That’s why I searched the car for over a week, and though it wasn’t in the car, I just felt I might find it somewhere!
      I don’t mind confronting someone if I’m sure, if I have evidence, but if it is after the fact and there is any chance that I could be mistaken, even if my gut tells me other wise…I’m not very good at that…Unless, it’s life and death…
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, too.

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