in which i think my wallet is stolen then returned

I had a weird experience at the grocery store this week.

I am not the most organized grocery shopper, because Allan does 90% of the shopping. So the fewer things I carry with me, the better. I had my list, wallet and keys in one of the reusable Loblaws bags I took to the store. It was just a small fill-in shopping; I had three bags with me.

I paid by credit card - we collect President's Choice points - then meant to put the wallet back in one of the bags, but, it seems, did not.

As I was finishing packing, I noticed the cashier credited me with two bags, but I had three.* I said, "I had three bags, not two," then realized it was too late and didn't matter, and said so.

The cashier said, "I asked you how many bags, you said two."

I said, "You never asked me. Don't worry about it, it doesn't matter."

But it was too late, she had already taken offense. A little upset, she insisted that she had asked and that I said I had two bags.

A few steps out of the store, I had a feeling that I didn't have my wallet with me. I remembered putting my card back in the wallet, but not putting the wallet back in the bag. Immediately before going to Loblaws, I had gone to the bank: I had $200 cash on me. And of course, the usual credit cards, driver's licence, and so on.

I thought I should check before I went back in, so instead of turning around right away, I continued on to the car, checked every bag to see if my wallet was there, and then went back.

I looked at the checkout station. Nothing was there.

The cashier said, "Did you leave something here?"

"Yes, my wallet."

"It's not here. I remember you, but I didn't find a wallet."

I went to speak to customer service. As I did so, the cashier said, "Maybe you dropped it outside, I'll go look for it." And she ran outside.

I used the opportunity to ask the customer service person to look under and around the cashier's station. Nothing.

The cashier runs back inside, breathless, saying, "I didn't find anything." I thanked them both, and went back to the car, took everything out of all three bags, shook out the bags, and re-packed. Nothing.

Naturally I was beginning to be distressed. I was beginning to suspect the cashier took my wallet.

I called Allan to talk through my options. He expressed surprise that a cashier would risk her job by stealing (and usually I would agree), but it seemed even less likely to me that another customer would find a wallet and, rather than turn it in to customer service, pocket it.

I went back to the hutch where customers return shopping carts, but it was already empty, the carts had been put back. At the various Mississauga Loblaws where we shop, an older man who seems mentally disabled does the cart collection. (Not the same man, but Loblaws seems to employ a similar older gentleman at each store.) At this store, the man is very friendly and I always say hi to him. He saw me looking at the carts, asked if everything was okay. I told him I lost my wallet and he said he would keep an eye out for it.

Back to customer service. The customer service person again looks at the cashier station, and suggests I might have left the wallet in the cart. I explain that I've already gone that route. Now the cashier says, "You said the last place you saw it was the cart!" I said, "No, I never said that."

Now I remember the cashier running outside... and I have a growing suspicion that she was taking my wallet, which was in her apron, to her car.

Customer service asks another customer service person to walk around the store and check people's carts, to see if my wallet is - accidentally - in someone else's cart. Meaning, I left my wallet in a cart, and another customer chose that cart for shopping, and didn't notice a wallet in the top rack. I am quite certain I did not leave my wallet in a cart, so I'm not expecting anything, but I appreciate that they are being helpful.

While this is happening, the cashier says, "I'll keep looking for it," and runs outside again.

I quietly tell the customer service person that I am very sorry to say this, but I suspect the cashier has my wallet. Customer service says all she can do is call the manager.

Manager takes me through the same route as customer service. I tell the manager the same thing I told customer service: I am 99% certain that I left the wallet at the cashier, and less than five minutes later, it was gone. The manager suggests that the customer behind me picked it up by mistake.

Manager says that people lose wallets all the time, and customers turn them in. I gently and gingerly suggest that it is possible - unlikely, I agree, but it is conceivable - that the cashier has my wallet and I think they should look through her things. The manager says, "We do not search our employees. You can leave your name and phone number and if we find anything, we will call you."

I write down my name and phone numbers, and walk slowly outside, more because I need to think things through than anything else. The cashier running outside twice is troubling me.

I call Allan again and tell him I think I have to call the police. After all, if the police ask the manager to search the employee's things, the manager is off the hook.

As I speak to Allan, I realize I cannot walk away from this store without my wallet. I don't think another customer has it. I think it's there and I have to get it back.

I decide to go back to the manager, and politely tell her that I am going to call the police. If she would like to search the employee's things - including her car - before I do, I'm giving her the option.

On my way in to the store, the cart-return man says, "Are you the one that lost the wallet?" I say yes, and he produces the wallet.**

He says, "I was afraid she would accuse me of it." I thank him profusely. He says, "It was on top of the carts, here." We are standing by the rows of shopping carts, and he indicates my wallet was sitting on top of one of the cart handles.

I had already looked at the carts, and I know it wasn't there earlier.

The man says, "The girl came running out... I found it here, I was afraid they would accuse me of taking it."

I told him I would tell the manager that he found the wallet and returned it to me.

In the store, of course, customer service is very relieved and, I imagine, glad to be rid of me.

Outside, I call Allan again, and the cart-return man appears again, and luckily I remember to give him some money. I have a bad habit of thinking of things like that when it's too late.

Here's what I think happened. I can't say I am 100% certain, because I didn't actually witness it. But I am reasonably certain that I left my wallet at the check-out, the cashier took it, then ran outside to put it somewhere (such as her car), then - possibly thinking her car might be searched - ran outside again to leave the wallet on top of the carts.

* * * *


* The reason the cashier asks how many bags you have is that the store awards us "points" for each of our own bags we use, and a tiny amount is also deducted from our bill for each bag. This is one of the perks of using the store's credit card, which we carry for convenience and points, rather than credit.

The cashier needs to know the correct number of bags in order to credit you with the proper number of points. I noticed she had credited me with 2 bags when I had 3. She either never asked me, or if she asked, I didn't hear her (and thus could not have answered).

** The first comment, below, reminds me of an important detail I forgot to clarify! When the man gave me back my wallet, my money was all there.

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