Here’s what scares me: until I noticed the broken glasses and the severed finger, I didn’t immediately realize it was from a Photoplasty contest. I just assumed some dude was actually selling questionable meat on Craigslist, because Craigslist.
But also because I used to work in a grocery store. And I know things, people. Things I can never unknow.
Would it surprise you to learn that one of the most stolen items in our store was meat? It sure surprised me. We may have had all the pricey non-food items like batteries and razor blades under lock and key, but it seems the meat department could’ve used a few more involved anti-theft devices of its own.
Nearly all the most notable thefts that occurred during my five-year tenure as a cashier involved some form of animal product that used to moo or oink. Chicken wasn’t as much of a hot commodity, presumably because everything else tastes like it anyway, I guess. Which is a shame, because I love poultry jokes. But here’s a red meat twist on a white meat classic:
Q. Why did the beef cross the road?
A. Because it was piled up in the shopping cart of a thief being chased down the street by the store manager and a plain clothes security guard.
Yes, on one particularly memorable afternoon, a man loaded a shopping cart up with enough meat to keep Paul Bunyan well-fed for a full day, and just breezed out the door with it. This was before the time of those fancy newfangled shopping carts with electronic wheel locks, so he was perfectly able to keep strolling right off the property with his vacuum-packed plunder, most likely whistling innocently, if my years of watching Looney Tunes have taught me anything.
I guess he figured nobody would find anything odd about a man perambulating several dozen pounds of meat down the block on a hot summer day, because he made no attempt whatsoever to hide his stolen goods or make himself any less conspicuous. It wasn’t until he had traveled several blocks at a leisurely pace that he finally looked behind him to check whether he had gotten away cleanly.
That’s when he saw the manager and the security guard, who had been following him for some time at a reasonably close distance, and who by this point were only putting off apprehending him out of sheer amusement.
The thief paused a moment, weighing his options. Then he bolted. With the cart.
I’m sure you know all too well what those things are like to maneuver. Even in the best conditions they test the limits of your dexterity. In the worst conditions they’re like trying to control an excited Great Dane who’s just seen a cat run by slathered in gravy.
In other words, the thief didn’t get far. He and his bovine booty were marched back to the store to be dealt with by the proper authorities, and I can only assume the shopping cart was given a promotion.
That was a fun day. Nobody got hurt, everybody had a good laugh, and absolutely no genitals touched anything they weren’t supposed to.
Oh yeah, see, not long after the novelty of The Great Beef Buggy Debacle had worn off, a colleague of mine was having a very different sort of day. The kind of dog-tired day when every minute on the floor feels like an hour, and when your lunch break finally rolls around you could almost weep with relief…if only you weren’t too exhausted to produce tears.
So the last – and I mean the very last – thing my coworker needed, as he trudged wearily back to the employee break room, was to stumble upon a small grubby man furiously shoving two large salamis down the front of his stained plaid shorts.
That’s not a euphemism. I can’t decide whether it would be better or worse if it was. Either way, let that image sink in for a minute.
Once my coworker had mustered enough presence of mind to wave over security and confront the man (because you don’t let that kind of thing slide no matter how much you need a nap), Mr. Is That A Salami In Your Pocket refused to simply remove the goods from his…goods. No, if he was going down for shoplifting, then damned if he wasn’t going to make the experience as uncomfortable as possible for his accusers.
So he undid his fly and let shorts and salami fall to the floor together, right there in the store aisle. And lo, my coworker and the security guard got an eyeful of a different kind of sausage, because not only did Mr. Is That A Salami In Your Pocket believe there is such a thing as a free lunch, he also believed in free-balling it.
Word was security escorted him to the back of the store with his bits still swinging in the wind, because it was clear that was going to be easier and a lot faster than than reasoning with him to put his damn pants back on.
I assume there was then a stampede for the hand sanitizer, several calls made to therapists, and a multitude of sincere wishes that the Neuralizer actually existed in real life.
Anyway. Let’s move away from dirty dangly bits and back to the original topic of sketchy meat deals, where we come to one of my favorite stories about a guy who was part idiot, and part just plain unlucky. A man who believed that other criminals were wasting their time stealing and reselling things like mobile phones, car stereos or bikes. No, he knew how he was going to make his fortune: second-hand meat.
No flaws in that logic. No siree.
I’m not sure who exactly in our store’s affluent neighborhood he thought would be on the lookout for cut-price cuts on the street, but he must have figured that with some smooth-talking salesmanship, he could create the demand. But how best to steal his supply?
I’ll give him this, he executed the actual theft brilliantly. Knowing that the longer his route to get of the store with stolen goods, the better his chances were of getting caught, he ruled out the more obvious tactic of actually going all the way to the meat department to get what he came for. Instead, he bided his time browsing the front of the store until he saw somebody approach the checkout with two beautiful, expensive pork roasts. And when the order was all bagged up at the end of the checkstand and both customer and cashier were busied with the matter of payment, he casually walked over, subtly snagged the bag with the roasts, and continued out the door. The customer, none the wiser, finished paying and walked out with his remaining purchases believing all was well.
A short while after, we received a phone call from the customer, who, upon returning home, had realized that his meat had unfortunately not made it home with him. A quick survey of the employees was conducted to check whether any items had been left behind, but of course they hadn’t.
Not five minutes later, a somewhat bemused-looking woman came through the door with one of our store bags in her hand. She walked up to my checkstand, dumped out the two missing cuts of pork, and asked, “Do these belong to you, by any chance?”
It turned out that our thief, while unfailingly patient and calculating in the acquisition of his stolen merchandise, had been extremely sloppy in orchestrating its disposal. Having traveled a mere two blocks from our store, he decided that was plenty far enough away to set up shop, and asked the first woman he came across if she was interested in purchasing some good quality pork on the cheap.
The same woman who was now standing at my till.
Who also just happened to be an undercover cop.
You have to wonder what kind of unlucky star the guy was born under to have the audience for his very first sales pitch turn out to be law enforcement in disguise. I almost felt sorry for him.
But not too sorry.
Because everyone knows that if you’ve got some meat to get rid of on the cheap, Craigslist is the only way to go.