A Spectacle Of A Robbery

, , , , , | Legal | April 5, 2019

(I work at an opticians with my mum, who’s the manager. In the middle of the shop is a large rack of sunglasses. The dummy lenses in the frames are tinted like sunglasses for people to try on, but there’s a price sticker on each of them, as well as the words, “Suitable for prescription lenses,” embossed in white font. Because of the embossing, they’re not normally a target for thieves because you can’t wear them with the text there… or so we thought. It’s the middle of the day and the store is quite busy; a coworker is stood in front of the rack acting as a greeter when a heavily pregnant woman comes in.)

Coworker: “Good morning! Is there anything I can help you with today?”

Customer: “Yes. I was wondering if you could tell me about these glasses…”

(She leads him to a different display only a few feet away. There are about five others of us on the shop floor, mostly busy with people, and two more of us are approached by customers almost immediately after my coworker. The man who speaks to me is very skinny and looks kind of nervous.)

Customer: “Hey, yeah, I’m looking for my mum’s glasses; her name’s [Woman’s Full Name].”

Me: “Um, I can’t see any ready to collect for a Ms. [Last Name].”

Customer: “It might be under [Different Last Name].”

Me: *still rummaging in drawers* “I can’t see anything for a Ms. [Different Last Name], either. Hang on, let me check the order list. Can I have her date of birth?”

Customer: “Actually, don’t worry. I’ll just leave it.”

Me: “I’m sure I can find them, just—“

(With that he turns and hurries out, and it’s right then I realise the entire rack of about fifty pairs of sunglasses has been emptied. It takes a few seconds for me to link the theft with a man who has been talking to me the entire time, and I realise he was a distraction. I run out of the shop but it’s too late. When we check the CCTV, there are four people clearly involved. They came in within a few minutes of each other, three made beelines for member of staff, and the other waited briefly before emptying the display into a backpack before they all left at almost the same time. It was amazingly well coordinated, and we still don’t know why they’d want sunglasses with white writing in the way of your vision. We report it to the police and take their photos from the CCTV, and we think that’s all we can do, until a few weeks later when my mum and I are at a car-boot sale.)

Mum: *whispering* “Do you see those?”

Me: “The sunglasses? Yeah, why?”

Mum: “They’re from the shop.”

Me: “They’re just black frame sunglasses, Mum; they all look the same.”

Mum: *to the people at the stall* “Oh! Look at these! How lovely! Let me just try them on!”

(She makes a big pantomime out of trying on these sunglasses and really looking at them.)

Mum: “I’ll think about it.”

Me: *as we move away* “So, they weren’t ours?”

Mum: “No, they are. I’m calling the police.”

(I still didn’t really believe her because there were only a few pairs out and they’re mostly black and brown, generic-looking sunglasses, but when the police turned up they found dozens more pairs in their car. When they had a closer look, they found that the white lettering had been carefully filed off of each pair. They were arrested and eventually found guilty of the theft, though they were only fined. What most surprised me was that they’d gone to all that effort to steal and file down the sunglasses only to end up selling them for £5 each at a car-boot sale!)

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