From Drunken_Black_Belt,Tales From Retail:
I know this time of year is hell, and it's really easy to become jaded and hate the holiday season. So I wanted to re-tell a story that happened to me years ago, that still reminds me that the Holidays are a time for family, love, and happiness. I've told this before, but do to changes in the sub rules, I had to re-post it with some changes.
Fade back to Christmas Eve, 2011 I'm working LP for a large retailer that is in every mall. Normally I have 4 stores in my own Mall, but for the busy holiday season, they would pool all the LP and do a different mall each day. Luckily on Christmas Eve, I was working at a mall much closer to home, with my co workers/friends, Stacy and Lela.
We had been busy. Really busy. Lot's of shop lifting busts. Lots of people attempting to buy gift cards with fake credit cards. We were all burnt out, miserable, and ready never celebrate Christmas or any other holiday again.
This company has several different stores, all aimed at specific age groups. We happened to be in the store for teens and see these two young girls, probably about 14/15, stealing two colognes, and placing them in their bag. Stacy and Lela then follow the girls while I walk over to the men's side of the store. The two girls then proceed to grab a few shirts, and a hoodie, and place them in her bag as well. Stacy and Lela had already moved to the exit, and once the two girls crossed the threshold, we stopped them and escorted them back to the office. The first girl, Thelma, tried to put up a fight at first, saying she didn't know us and we had to let her go. Her friend Louise, was quiet, complying and not saying a word. We eventually get them into the back office, the girls are searched, and their bags emptied. Cops are called, and we proceed to ask the girls for contact information for their parents. Thelma is reluctant at first, but once we explain that either we can call them or the cops can, she gives us her parents number. Louise is still quiet. Stacy is asking for Louise's parent's number, and she just starts crying. Thelma is trying to console Louise, giving us death stares like we are the biggest assholes in the world, and Louise is so distraught over something that she can't do anything but cry. We are talking huge racking sobs. I was fairly sure everyone in the store could hear her, even over the bass bumping from "All I want for Christmas is You" out of the speakers.
Stacy and Lela keep processing the girls, and I step out to make the call to Thelma's parents. Thelma's father, who we will call Mr. T, answers the phone. I explain who I am and why I am calling. There is silence on the other end, and then I hear a long sigh followed by "Merry Christmas to me". I then explain where we are, and ask if Louise is his daughter as well. Mr T says no, and I proceed to explain the reason I asked is because Louise isn't talking, and Thelma wont tell us anything about her. Mr. T sighed into the phone and explained the situation: Louise's mother died a couple of months earlier. Since then, her father has been burying himself in his work, and Louise has been spending a lot of time with Thelma's family, as Thelma and Louise are best friends. Mr T then explained that Louise's father was in Italy for the holidays, as he couldn't handle the first Christmas without his wife. So Louise was staying with them.
It took me a few seconds to collect myself and explained to Mr. T that normally we can't release juveniles to anyone but their guardian, but as he was taking care of Louise, I would see what the cops could do within their power to make sure this went smoothly as possible for him. Mr. T then said he would be to the mall in a short while to collect the girls. I went back in the office and pulled Stacy and Lela aside and explained the situation. Now Stacy and Lela were both really tough on shop lifters, but the second I explained what was up, everyone's demeanor changed. We sat down and told Louise we knew the story, and that we were sorry. Thelma broke down, explained it was her idea, and that Louise was just with her. Still a crime though, we explained. Eventually the cops showed up, and luckily it was one we knew well enough to have them trust us. We explained what was up, and he said he'd handle it best he could. Everyone was trying to hold back tears, Louise was calming down. Tissues passed around, and Stacy even went and got coffee/hot cocoa for everyone. We knew with the mall being as busy as it was, it would be a while sitting and waiting for Thelma's parents.
Mr and Mrs T eventually showed up, and Mr T was a big fellow. I'm big, but this guy was BIG. He looked like an extra on Sons of Anarchy, or any biker movie you've ever seen. But not just any extra. You know that one guy in the background of every biker bar in a movie, that looks like he got into the gang by eating other bikers and absorbing their strength? Yea, that was this guy. Full tats, beard, gravel voice, and "don't fuck with me" aura around him.
Luckily he was as calm as the Dali llama on Vicodin. He walked in, saw his daughter sitting there, and went over and shook the cops hand. The officer explained what she was charged with and why, showed him the items, and we relayed why we had stopped her. The whole time Thelma is sitting staring down at the floor, while Mrs T stands there and just looks worried. Mr. T then asked if he could talk to his daughter, and we said of course.
Mr T turns to Thelma and asked what the hell she was thinking. Thelma explained that there was this boy she liked. She wanted to buy him some Christmas gifts to show she liked him, but didn't have money. Mr T asked why she didn't just ask, and Thelma said "Because he's a boy. I know you're my dad and I was afraid you wouldn't want me talking to boys."
Mr. T just nodded and said something along the lines of "Thelma, you're a young lady now. And I know these things are going to happen. But you should never feel scared to come talk to me or ask me anything. If this boy is nice and treats you nice, then ok. If not, then I'll get angry. But part of being an adult is learning to take responsibility for your actions, which is what you are going to learn here today. We got you clothes, a laptop, and an iPod for Christmas, just like you asked. You'll keep the clothes, because you need them. But the laptop, iPod, and other gifts that you don't need, well, you're going to find someone who is less fortunate and give them away. There are a lot of people worse off than you, and if you can't even learn to appreciate how easy you have it, then we will give them to someone who can."
Then Mr T. turned to Louise. And like a scene out of a fucking Hallmark movie: "Louise. I know things are tough. I know it's been a rough few months for you, and your dad hasn't been there for you. But we don't have you over all the time because we feel bad. You are Thelma's best friend, and we consider you family. So just know you can come to us with anything, including letting us know when my daughter is about to do something stupid like shop lift. We are disappointed in you both, but you get a pass because I know you're in a bad place right now. I'm going to call your father and make sure he gets his ass back here and steps up for you.
And then they hugged. The whole scene. Right in the fucking feels. I consider myself not an overly sensitive man, but god damn did I want to cry right then. So the cops made a call to Louise's father, he was able to confirm he was, in fact, in Italy. He gave permission to let Thelma's family take her with them. As they were leaving, Mr and Mrs T kept apologizing to us, and we said that we don't take it personal, its just a job. But we also added it was great to see parents who really care, as we've seen plenty of ones who don't. We wished them a Merry Christmas, shook hands, and they left.
Few weeks later, I got a call from Lela. Mr. T had come back in to thank us all for everything. Lela said that he said they had a good holiday, talked a lot of things out, and Mr T had a discussion with Louise's father, and he agreed he needed to step up, and came home for New Years to be with his daughter. Thelma found a family in need, donating all the expensive stuff, all the toys and CDs and such that were given to her. Mr T said she had been on her best behavior since then.
Look fellow retailers, I'm mostly out of the game, but I know we've all seen some stuff that makes us jaded. Especially this time of year. It's a time where people are so focused on themselves and their families, that they can forget that we have places to be, and people to be with too. Dealing with that chaos, on minimum wage no less, can really make us hate the holidays. But I try to remember the good times, like this memory, that remind me good people still remain out there. The season is almost over, and this weekend will be one last big push. So everytime you're dealing with someone you just want to punch, remember Mr T and that people like him are out there.
Good luck everyone, and Happy Holidays!