Tony Reid chronicles the happenings inside Sports Zone, the Central Pennsylvania shop where he works.
It all started as I was on my lunch break enjoying a nice Subway sub and some Mr. Ballen videos last Tuesday afternoon. The owner of the shop sent me a text asking if I knew the whereabouts of a box of 2022 Certified Football that had been on the shop’s front counter earlier in the day.
Prior to my lunch break, I had actually moved the few boxes of cards from our front counter to our back counter because that has been a pet peeve of mine- leaving higher end boxes of cards and cards themselves sitting within grasp on our counter top. It’s just not smart, even for a few minutes.
I finished my lunch and walked back in the store confident that I would be able to quickly end the APB placed on the big blue Certified box. After a quick sweep of the back counter and other areas where we thought it could be, it was clear that it was no longer in the store.
At that point, I suggested Jason check the surveillance cameras, which he was already doing at that moment. Unfortunately, after going to replay, it became painfully obvious pretty quickly that the box was stolen from behind our counter.
Prior to leaving for lunch I had helped a customer in store for the better part of an hour. Initially he had brought in Topps Chrome redemption cards to turn in for store credit. He was there for quite some time and had a number of questions about our boxes, our packs, our singles, our graded cards and pretty much everything else within our four walls.
He was white male, a little bit taller than I was, scruffy and was dressed in camo basically from head to toe. A pretty standard customer in these parts.
He eventually decided on what he wanted to use for store credit as one of our other employees had come to the front, and, at the same time, another employee who was off duty came in to say hello. At that point the customer left and I, in turn, headed out the back door for my lunch break.
In reviewing the footage, the customer was in store for over an hour. I left our front computer station, which is right by our register, for a grand total of 26 seconds as I went towards the back of the store to retrieve an item that we had sold online. In that time, the customer did a double take, reached over the counter with both hands and grabbed that blue box of Certified and stuffed it into his oversized camo jacket.
I had been had. I had been played. I had been made to look like a fool, which is exactly what I felt like watching the surveillance footage back again. I was clearly walking all around up front, trying to help the customer at different points in the shop, smiling and being my generally friendly self but I couldn’t help thinking that I looked like a goof from a distance and to say it was embarrassing as an understatement. I like to think of myself as pretty bright and savvy but I got taken over on this one.
We had called our local law enforcement, the Sunbury Police Department, who stopped in grab the footage and try to figure out who the heck this guy was. It’s a small town so even a theft of merchandise worth a few hundred dollars gets attention, which is something we don’t take for granted.
The owner and I had both posted a short, very clear clip on our social media in hopes that one of our friends would be able to give us a lead or point us in the right direction in some way. I was pretty happy with the response from my post, as it had well over 3,000 views in nearly 100 shares within the day. The post lead to people messaging me some names of potential suspects. None of them jumped out at me.
Friday morning we were visited again by the police. With some updated information and work by local officers, we may just have found this character.
Again, with the seemingly daily posts of the rash of smash and grabs and literal knocking down of front doors of hobby shops, we feel lucky that we’ve never had to experience something that devastating. Our heart goes out to all those who have had major thefts at their shops.
Our shop will be just fine but we will definitely have to be more vigilant moving forward.
Stay safe out there in those streets.