Tony Reid offers his weekly dose of happenings inside Sports Zone, the Central Pennsylvania hobby shop where he works.
I had worked a pretty uneventful full week and was starting to struggle with worthy and relevant content for this week’s Shop Talk. Unfortunately, the events of Saturday afternoon created some unwelcome activity but one I’m sure longtime retailers can relate to.
While we spent the week selling boxes of cards and preparing the usual stacks of online orders for shipment, the week was to end on a sour note.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, our store carries a variety of hobby-related items–from trading cards to remote control cars. It’s that diversification that helps us stay in business.
The young customer that I wrote about last week who had issues with his car and had it fixed by the guys at the shop for free made some news in the shop for all the wrong reasons.
After dealing with the general public and people in general, as a retail manager and in other managerial positions over the past 20 years, I have a pretty good gauge and gut feeling for human beings and human nature. While our shop helping out a down on his luck youngster had made for a feel good story, the amount of time he was spending in the shop did raise a bit of a red flag for me. The kid’s story and actions just had me feeling a bit unsure and I even mentioned it to the shop’s owner.
The young man returned to the shop last Saturday as my co-worker Felix and I were at the register helping another customer. He poked his head in and wandered around a bit, which is now very commonplace for him. Within a minute or two, though, he poked his head back out around the corner up front and was back out the door. Like I’ve mentioned the kid has spent hours upon hours in the store, so for him to be in and out in a few minutes was a little odd.
A few minutes later, I was in the back of the store doing some basic shipping and Felix came running back and asked if I had seen one of the RC cars that was sitting behind our curtain in the repair area. Apparently, it and a few accessories were now missing.
We quickly decided to pull up the surveillance footage. There it was right in our faces. After searching for a few minutes, we saw the kid come into the shop with a flat backpack and leave with it absolutely stuffed. The stolen merchandise totaled just shy of $1,000.
I might need to further explain the layout of the shop a bit. If you walk in our front door and bear right almost immediately, you’ll be in our RC body part room, which is where we have the large bodies for the cars. Toward the back of that area is a sectioned off part of the store where Felix and Mike do repairs, not the most easily visible part of our store by any stretch of the imagination. One could quickly get in and out of that area and leave the store without anyone noticing. We have surveillance but that’s chasing a problem, not preventing it.
That’s exactly what this young man did. He went behind our curtain in our side back room (which no one does) and lifted the car and some of his accessories, filled his backpack and left the joint.
We called the local police which, sadly, we’ve had to do more often than I would like over the past few months. The officer was quick to come down and take a look at the surveillance footage I pulled up.
The young man that we’re speaking about was literally looking at these very cameras last week as he had told us a story about a stolen bike. When he found out we had surveillance, his tune changed. That quick interaction got my antennas up. In essence, he had seen first hand that we had cameras and would regularly check the video. Why would he then try to steal from us? We even knew his name and he had told us in the days and weeks prior where he lived. So upon close of business, we had heard back from the police officer who saw him literally playing with the car in broad daylight just moments after taking it from the store.
We got our merchandise back but the fact that we spend multiple hours helping the kid out and handed him free parts to get his car fixed was disappointing to say the least.
Always the optimist, I try to see the best in the situation but I’m also a realist and realized we’ve had to call the Sunbury Police Department more and more often.
Maybe it’s time to move to the beach after all.
Here’s hoping you all had a great week. And hopefully, I can offer some positivity next time around.