There I was looking for pesto sauce in the Perth Road Spar when I saw something out of the ordinary from the corner of my eye.
A man in a hoodie was stuffing cans of energy drinks inside his oversized coat.
A sideways glance of disbelief with a fellow shopper confirmed that this really was happening. The disbelief was down to how blatantly he was doing it.
Like rabbits in headlights we watched him turn to leave the shop. For good measure, he grabbed two handfuls of crisps before he went, not running but walking on to the street.
“Excuse me,” the lady who had also seen what happened, said to the man behind the till.
“Did you see that?”
We told him what had happened.
The thief had been at the other side of the shop, with two aisles in between him and the till, so there really was no way to have seen him.
The staff member wasn’t surprised. He explained that until recently, there was a security man on the door, but when they aren’t there it’s open season.
We’ve heard shoplifting is out of hand in the press. Speak to many shop workers and they’ll confirm it’s true.
It’s all very well imagining what you might do if you saw someone uplifting snacks but I was stumped when confronted with the actual event.
Once, when I saw a boy being bullied and rounded on by a bigger pupil outside his school, I screeched the car to a halt and confronted the boy without thinking.
But this was different.
It was an adult who seemed not to care who saw him and it felt on a knife-edge as to what he would do if taken to task.
Many are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Do some feel forced to break the law to survive?
That’s bound to be a reality for some – with food banks experiencing record demand.
But this felt opportune and dangerous – and from what another regular shopper said, the same man could well be back in an hour for a repeat performance.
If there feels like jeopardy is present in confronting a shoplifter, why should a lone member of staff take the risk?
What if the offender is not in his right mind?
What if there’s a weapon?
What if asking someone to empty their pockets ends in injury or even tragedy?
It’s all very well saying that shops can afford the hit in profits but many can’t.
High Street stores are struggling to compete with their online counterparts and a huge increase in theft will only accelerate their demise. And if they close, jobs go and more people will struggle.
There are two sides to this story but I had rarely thought of the staff who sign up for an honest day’s work and should never have to put themselves in danger.