The Shopkeeper

I was in the backroom sorting supplies/dozing off/making out/… when I heard the ding as someone walked in. I peeked out into the main store to see what kind of person had walked in.

Black/6ft 1. Suspicious. Great big coat that looked like it could fit half of what was in the store, and a backpack for what was left over.

Just to be sure, I went to the counter and leaned on it with my elbows, my eyes tracking his every move, although I grew uneasy when he walked behind the shelves where he probably knew I couldn’t see him. He would walk aimlessly between the shelves, stop, pick something, stand looking at it for a minute, then replace it. Not once did he ever look towards the counter, but he had to know I was watching him.

This guy was good. I decided that he could go on for hours, and I’d get so used to seeing him patrol that I wouldn’t notice when he did pick something — for good.

Neural adaptation — that’s what it’s called. I barely graduated from high school, but I know the word because my daughter learned about it in a college freshman Psychology course.

I called out to him when he was close enough to the counter. I called out again, then once more, and he turned to me. He took out the earphone in his right ear and said, “Did you say something?”

His accent was foreign. My suspicions increased.

“Shoplifting might be accepted back where you come from, but here it’s a crime. You look like someone who’s going to walk out with something hidden in your coat, and I don’t want you around here, because I’ll get into trouble with the manager.”

I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. Instead, I said, “I need you to leave if you’re not going to buy anything. I have some work to do in the backroom, and I’m not going to stand around watching you walk up and down my store.”

He looked me right in the eye and said calmly, “I don’t like what you’re trying to imply.”

Imply. The devil probably looked up the word right before coming to the store.

“Look,” I said, getting angrier. “You’re not buying anything, you leave. It’s as simple as that. I don’t want you walking up and down, and then…”

“Wait…” he cut in. I wasn’t going to let him.

“I don’t want you walking up and down and then taking God-knows-what. I simply don’t have the time to watch you, because I’ve got things to do in the backroom.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” he said. “Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve come into this store to buy something. All the other guys who work here know me.”

Yeah right.

“I come in here sometimes when I’m bored, walk around, and buy anything I feel like…”

“I don’t want anyone ‘bored, walking around and picking what he likes.’ If you’re not going to buy anything, I need you to leave,” I cut him short.

“I was going to buy these,” he held out two 25c combs.

“Just leave,” I took them from him and threw them beside the cash register, heading for the backroom where the greater pleasures of life awaited me.

“Hey!” he shouted. “I said I want to buy these.”

I returned to the counter and rang them up. 75c, including tax. I wanted to wallop his nose, but I dutifully made change, and handed them to him, although I made sure I didn’t put them in a paper bag, or ask him if he wanted one.

I heaved a sigh of relief when he left.


I (Azuka) have never been more insulted in my life. I think I handled this pretty well, considering that I’m sometimes a pushover, and will either take anything thrown at me meekly, or explode in anger.

This is the corner shop where I’m one of their (I hope) esteemed customers. I get a discount on a carton of Arizona Green Tea which I can reserve up to a week in advance. Some items I’ve requested have been added to the stock because I’m likely to buy  items I request every week.

It happened this morning, but I’m still very angry at what happened. I’m going to talk to the manager tomorrow (today, actually — it’s 12:12am).


  1. Easy bro… Things do not often seem the way they are.. The dude behind the counter was probaly scared out of his wits too.. Pls the perceptions he’s builtover the year do not help either…

  2. veracity says:

    This has happened to me a few times. It’s racial profiling…, but what do you expect with our black brothers sagging their pants, speaking bad English, glorifying ignorance and gangsterism? I myself have felt a wave of anxiety many a time I have found myself in the subway or a lonely alley with a hooded sagged-pant homie.

  3. wow, did that really happen???? I can understand her fears but that is no way to speak to anyone its so disrespectful, i might have felt the way she did but i would not have verbalised it…..aah well guess its better to show your true feelings like she did than pretend(like i would have done

  4. sting says:

    Wow, that is really, really rude and racist. I’m sorry that happened to u. I hope u got a chance to speak with the manager and hopefully the idiot was reprimanded or something.

  5. Rita says:

    Hope you’re feeling better now…

    Happy New Year.

  6. Simplegal says:

    Ouch…that was really rude. Regardless of what the shopkeeper was feeling, there were better words to verbalize it! Sorry you experienced that, hope you feel better.

  7. tommeh says:

    Don’t know if I showed up late but If there’s no such word(s) like ‘happy belated New Year’ then I’m still chanced to say HAPPY NEW YEAR..
    Enjoy every bit..

  8. Daddy's Girl says:

    I love this piece – love how you flipped it. For me, it’s always very rewarding to put yourself in different shoes – always an opportunity to learn. I’m sorry that happened especially at a place you visit frequently – very wrong. How did the talk with the manager go? Anyway, Happy New Year Azuka… and by the way, I’ve finally updated my blog eons later.. drop by, I’d appreciate it.

  9. wow! you should definitely talk to the manager. Just be calm when you do it. You don’t want to give them any opportunity to label you ‘angry’ AND ‘black’.

    Let us know how it goes and Happy new year!

  10. Catwalq says:

    1. It has been a hot minute since I have been here.

    2. I am sure you took a deep breath, had a calm discussion with the manager and then let it go. You cannot control or expect civility from people and unfortunately in the west, one defense mechanism for them is a form of profiling where they discriminate against anyone or any people they stereotype…

    3. What did you do with the combs…or what it it you said you bought again?

    4. Oh, we are in 2009

  11. TheIceQueen says:

    awwwww..pele oo! i can imagine how it when i go to some stores and they will just be moping at me like colour teevee..making me all nervous and ish to the point where i start suspecting myself..

    and then there’s the way you wrote it..brilliant! 😀

  12. Cider says:

    Really, you wrote it well. Chai, you’re gooood! (Re-read it again after I found out you were the supposed ‘shoplifter’)
    Ano tho this happened a long wyl back, I’l still say “sorry about that”.
    Takia of you!

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