Working as a supermarket manager gave me quite a few stories to tell and dealing with beer and cigarette thieves might be the most entertaining. Stupid criminals are the easiest to catch and perhaps the most interesting. Those who steal tobacco and alcohol usually fit into the stupid category.
Front Door Stupid Criminals
Different stores have a variety of security measures and I will not reveal how a store manager is helped by technology. The day a group of teenagers had two shopping carts full of beer required no security footage help. On a busy day this group just bolted out the door past the registers without paying in front of dozens of customers.
Another manager and I ran after the thieves. Knowing it would take these idiots quite a while to load all this loose beer in a car made catching them seem like a simple task. However, these defeated party animals knew they were about to get caught so they pushed themselves away from the carts of beer and ran.
This store was on a hill and when they let go the carts of beer looked like a party train racing down the hill. Agony hit my brain when I saw these carts were headed directly toward my car. I had just gotten my car out of the body shop repairing the key marks from vandals the past week. Like an NFL player I bolted toward the cart and tackled the first one which caused both carts to hit the ground like a beautiful bowling strike. The thieves got away but my car and the beer did not escape injury.
Back Door Stupid Criminals
Sometimes employees can try to promote themselves from clerks to stupid criminals. While unlocking the back door for an employee to put trash in the dumpster I spotted another employee sitting in his car watching the dumpsters. The next day he was there again and so was another manager I had assigned to also watch.
As the back door was closed and locked the employee sitting enjoying the dumpster view got out of his car and took trash out of the dumpster. His fellow employee had put two huge bags of “trash” in the dumpster. One bag was packed with beer and the other with cigarettes. I held one employee and the outside manager the other until the police arrived. Their party was canceled.
The Roof and Inside Thieves
It is pretty easy to spot a cigarette thief inside a store. They wear big coats with extra inside pockets. Their shopping carts are lined along the outer edges with paper towels to quickly swipe cartons of smokes and put them toward the center of the cart and cover this with a case of drinks. A trip down a deserted aisle and the cigs quickly are hidden in the coat pockets.
The more sophisticated thieves figure out how to drill a large hole in the store roof. In the middle of the night they drop down over the cigarette section and throw cartons back up to their buddy to escape back through the roof. There is nothing worse than a manager being called in the middle of the night by the police when they spot the roof tiles hanging down.
Thieves who work from the roof and inside don’t make such an interesting story as they are not amateurs. Police investigation usually uncovers these more professional criminals when the goods are being sold. Eventually the stupid criminals and the more professional ones learn how not to steal beer and cigarettes and get away with it.