punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

On theivery...

A long time ago (1985 or so), I was with a friend at Tower Records in DC. When I got there, I was asked to leave my coat and backpack in the front. In exchange for this, I got a 45 record spindle adapter with a number on it; the theory being when I went back, I would hand it over and get my stuff back.

But I didn't. I got my jacket back. Not my backpack. I told the (now different) person behind the counter I had both a jacket and a backpack, and his response was a "sorry, that's all I have." We called the manager. Long story short: I was minus one backpack. Okay, truthfully, I was minus one backpack and the stuff in it, which really was only a few pens, a notebook (with old schoolwork), some junk pieces of paper, and maybe a broken plastic ruler. Oh, and some food I bought earlier to snack on. My wallet was actually in my pocket, so that was a relief. But I was still pissed. I have never gone back there ever since, and when someone takes by stuff to put it "behind the counter" I usually leave the store. I realize this might make me look like a shoplifter, but I don't know the person behind the counter well enough to just hand over my possessions. I hope whomever stole my backpack got run over by a truck and his carcass eaten by wolves, which I realize are not likely to roam in downtown DC, but I can't just picture the roadkill sitting near the Metro station there without picturing the ultimate humility of being eaten by hungry wolves. "What are the odds of that?" asks the ghostly form over his chewed-up former torso.

So. Why did I bring this up, other than I am bored and frustrated at work, reading threads on a computer board? Because those threads asked about shoplifting, and made me realize, again, that I have never stolen from a store... ever. I used to think this was normal until I got older, and people in groups would confess stuff they nicked, and never believe me when I said I never had. "Even as a kid?" No. "Sure..." they say, with a lilt in their voice like I thought I was still being hunted by guards at People's Drug and Pharmacy, but should at least admit my humble failings to a close circle of friends.

Have I stolen? Yes. Oddly enough, by stores I worked at. Nothing major, really. I mean, the best opportunity I could have gotten was working at Chesapeake Knife and Tool, where a $400 knife could have fit into my sock. When I worked at Crown Books, I got free books anyway (I just exchanged the ones I didn't want with ones I did), and when you can't exactly steal Cargo Furniture out of your own showroom without a significant gaping hole to account for. But at CK&T, I stayed honest. Boring, but honest. I could have easily faked inventory and stole a whole lot of stuff without someone noticing. Someone did eventually try that. He was the guy they hired to replace me (he was cheap), and months after I was laid off, the guy stole all our account numbers, and placed large orders to a temporary address. Sadly for him, though, the knife industry is less corporate, and suddenly my former employer got calls from dealers going, "This address isn't yours... is it? Some guy claiming they're opening a new store, but that sounds awfully fishy..." Even huge knife companies have only a handful of employees, and everyone seems to know everyone else. So the butthead was set up in a sting operation, but he must have gotten wind of it because he never picked up anything. So things like that keep me honest. I always figure there's an angle I didn't see, and I'll never get away with it.

Well, I did nick some Cargo. I confess. Most of it was stuff that... well, it was how they did their bookkeeping. Suppose I got a lamp for $100 retail. My cost was probably $40. Then the lamp gets discontinued, and goes on sale. They had this weird rule about how things depreciate. If I sold the lamp in its prime, I made back my $40 plus $60 profit (part of which goes into my annual store bonus). Until it depreciated. Then it was worth less, but because of their odd rules, they marked down your cost price along with the sale price, but you still paid back what it was origianlly worth. So now the lamp is discontinued, and after one year, it's depreciated at $20, and selling retail for $60. So when you sold it, you "lost" $40. I claimed, "but if you sell it at $60, you made back the $40 on cost, plus a $20 profit!" Not according to them. Now if you had something YEARS after it was discontinued, it was worth almost nothing when you sold it. So even though your store sold an old table for $200, because it origianlly cost you $200, you lost $200 because it was recorded as a "zero item." I have been told by accountants this is normal proceducre with depreciation, and done for tax reasons. Only one store was immune to this, and that was our "scratch and dent" store in Potomac Mills. So what a lot of managers did was "sell" their old stuff at a slight loss to Potomac Mills, which acted as a transfer of close-to-same-cost on paper. Thus you offloaded your stuff to Lacsetta at Potomac Mills, she made a ton of money on paper, and made huge bonuses every year. You kept some of your bonus that you would have lost if you held onto the item for too long. So what happened if Lacsetta didn't take it? Hmmm... under these laws, you never suffered a loss until the date of sale. What if the sale never occured? Most of our showrooms were too small to handle old furniture piling up so... let's put it this way. My district manager told me one day if I didn't get rid of all these items in my showroom, I was to throw them away. And tell no one. Hello coffee table! Hello fake potted trees! I also got a mirror because a customer never picked it up, even though it was paid for. They just vanished off the face of the earth. And before inventory (under these rules, if you had MORE items than you bought, you were back-charged, which was a whole 'nother mess) it ended up in my home. Sound confusing? It doesn't make sense until you see the balance sheets we did every year.

So. Then there was the bunk bed. Our company built a lot of its furnutre from modular parts that our drivers assembled in your home while you waited. Sometimes these parts were warped or chipped, so the drivers had spares of all the parts in all their delivery trucks. Over time, these started to accumulate, and apparently, no one was keeping good track of them. One driver said, "we just grab us a bunch of bed rails and other spare parts before we head on out, and no one counts 'em." So one day, I saved two driver's asses.... big time. I covered up a huge mistake they made by convincing the customer that everything would be all right. The story is too long for this already long entry (how long does it take a database to build?), but suffice to say I stuck my neck on the line for drivers I knew would do the same, and ended up REALLY sticking my neck on the line before I knew just how bad things had gotten with the order. Long story short: we fixed it by enlisting the help of another store. The drivers gushed thanks, because if I blew them off, they'd have to work the weekend. So they said if I wanted anything... just name it. I said, "Naw, that's okay," but the drivers were good ol' boys from Chase City, Virginia, and good ol' boys repay their debts! One driver said that he had enough unlisted spare parts to make a whole upper bunk... and just sitting in the back of his truck...

My son still sleeps in the bunk to this day.

So, I guess that was a form of stealing.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000246.html
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