Monday, October 12, 2009

The Five (little) Finger Discount

“Why did you buy this?” Cath asked. This was not an unfamiliar question. In fact, I can’t recall a single time in our relationship where I’ve come back from a store and not heard those words. Perhaps I’m subconsciously purchasing the absurd to keep her on her toes, you know, keep things exciting… mysterious even. I can’t help it, I love novelty items. I guess I’m sort of an impulse buyer, if it’s on sale, brightly colored or pours from a twist top (solid or liquid), it goes in the cart. Sure, perhaps I could’ve used better judgment the day I purchased 2 flats of canned green beans, but from a fiscal point of view it was a steal. On the other hand, storing and consuming 48 cans proved to be a logistical nightmare. At one point in an effort to rid our house of these cans and give the world back a good chunk of its aluminum supply, I found myself mixing a batch of green bean pancakes for breakfast. Thank god Cathy was there to stop me, or it could’ve got out of hand. I had officially run out of ways to implement them into our meals and I broke down. It was really a tender moment in our relationship. I remember quite vividly her gentle hands on my face and her cotton soft voice consoling me as I crashed to the floor crying and cursing the day Costco put those little green bastards on sale. A week later I bought 6 loaves of bread for the price of 3. We barely finished one before the others turned into the back end of a science experiment. As a result I’m no longer allowed into a shopping warehouse by myself. But this time it was different.

Lu and I had just walked to the Apothecary shop down the street to get her some bubble bath and moisturizer. There shouldn’t have been anything to question, but sure enough, I turned around and Cathy is holding a bar of soap. This wasn’t your run of the mill bar of Irish Spring. Nope, this was one of those hand crafted, fancy paper wrapped, straw tied, hand written $12 price tag, made in Jane’s kitchen gourmet bars of soap! It didn’t make sense, it was NOT on sale, it wasn’t brightly colored and it was definitely not pourable…. I would never have bought this! In fact, I’m appalled that she would even question me. Sometimes it’s like she doesn’t even know who I am.
“I didn’t buy that.” I scoffed.
“Well it’s in the stroller.” I shrug my shoulders, Cath shrugs her shoulders and then we both glance over at Lu who was noshing on some string cheese. Without missing a beat, she pulls off a long string, puts it in her mouth and says without looking at either of us, “Oh that’s mine. I put it in the stroller. It’s beautiful, it smell nice, like oranges.” I wasn’t sure what disturbed me more. The fact that she thought this $12 bar of Rosemary scented soap smelled like oranges, or that my 3 year old was clearly on her way to a life of crime.
“Lu? Did you accidentally put this in the stroller and forget to tell daddy?” I was giving her an out. If she’s smart she’ll bat her eyes shyly at me, say yes and plead cuteness, if not…..
“Nah, I just took it.” I Gasp, Cath gasps, Lu chews her cheese.
“On accident? You took it on accident right? If you took it on accident, it’s okay you didn’t know better, we can fix this, but it was an accident wasn’t it?”
“Nooooo, I took it on purpose. It wasn’t an accident, I just wanted it. So I took it. I took it so I could clean my body with beautiful orange soap.” Great. In five short minutes our precious little three year old daughter has admitted that she’s knowingly shoplifted a bar of soap, and apparently, all of the orange juice she’s been drinking smells like turkey stuffing.
“Lu? What you did was steal, and that's not a very nice thing to do. In fact, it’s a very bad thing to do. I think we need go back to the store so you can apologize and give them back their soap.”
“Ohhhh… Okay.”

After lunch we head back to the scene of the crime. We open the door and immediately Lu grabs the soap from the bottom of the stroller, walks over to a shelf and puts it in the very spot she took it from. Before I knew what had happened she was back in the stroller and ready to go. I look around and notice not a single person saw her. Huh? That wasn’t how this was supposed to go down. I’m confused….
“Okay I put it back, now let’s go. Let’s go, let’s go!” She was shouting out orders like I was Bonnie and she was Clyde.
“Ummmm. Ummmm…” What the????? This was supposed to teach her a lesson! She was supposed to apologize, hand the bar of soap over and be so embarrassed by her actions; she’ll never shop lift again. In a hazy panic I turn the stroller around and start to leave. I tell myself that it’s the right thing to do. After all in order for the whole moral lesson thing to play out she would have to re-shoplift the soap, give it to the manager, explain that this particular bar of soap was in here before, then it was in my house, but I didn’t pay for it so I brought it back, returned it to the shelf… I’m sorry. It was all too complicated we had to roll. We’ll have a talk on the way home. Then suddenly from behind a case of shaving cream a lady materializes before us.

“Hello, can I help you find anything?”
“Nope, just looking.” Why was I sweating? I could feel my pulse in my throat. I was telling myself to be cool and then Lucy says, “No thank you, we were stealing soap and we’re done, now we are going home.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Did she just say “we?” I mask my nervousness with girlish laughter and furious bout of gum smacking. Has she lost her mind? For god’s sake, I was supposed to be the voice of reason, and now I’m an accomplice! After a few moments of panic I finally crack and rat out Lucy. Shaving cream lady seems more confused than anything. I explain our situation, we all have an uneasy laugh and Lucy apologizes to the store manager. We spend a few more minutes in the store smelling things, orange things, before heading home. Along the way we stop to pick up a few leaves, scare a few squirrels and talk about the difference between wrong and right. After all was said and done, I stopped the stroller and ask Lucy to tell me why what she did was wrong…
“It was wrong because I stole it on purpose.”
“Very good. “ I reply. This was a good learning moment, and I felt pleased by the outcome. I had thought… Yes, I had thought she had a clear understanding of the situation and this was something we would never have to deal with again and then she turned around. She smiled, batted her eyes shyly at me and said, “Don’t worry daddy I know stealing on purpose is wrong. That’s why the next time I steal something, I’ll remember to make sure I do it on accident.” Well I most certainly did not see that coming.

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