Sunday morning is when our Ad Change happens. All of the crap that was on sale last week is no longer on sale, and I spend most of my morning putting up new little stickers on everything. Bleary-eyed and hours before dawn, I schlep up and down the grocery aisles and look for tiny little expiration dates printed in about 2 point font on each and every one of the quarter-million items in my store.

The good part of Sunday is that the Store is mostly deserted. There are employees milling around, changing displays, unloading trucks, stocking shelves. But very few customers. There are usually only two types of people who shopping in the Store that early in the morning; Idiots and Thieves.

The Idiots are those people who forgot that they don’t have any more diapers for their baby, and furthermore, that Pampers do not clean themselves out and are not reusable. The Idiots are those people who have stayed out all night causing trouble and driving under the influence, and decide that it would be really fun to go to the grocery store and stumble around, knocking over displays, while looking for Twinkies. The Idiots are annoying, bumbling miscreants, but at least they probably mean no harm.

The Thieves, on the other hand, are those assholes who get out of bed in the morning, with the sole intention of ripping you off. They are not in the Store to shop… they are in the Store to steal things from us, either by running out the door with it, or – my personal favourite – walking up and down the aisles behind me, waiting for me to miss one of the myriad expiration dates on these tiny little tags, just so they can run up front and get it free. They skulk up and down the aisles, just ahead of me, looking for signs and displays that will be wrong… but only until I get to them. They know they only have about a 20 minute window of time, because I’m right behind them. But I can’t simultaneously change every display that needs to be changed all at once. After all, I’m only one man.

Thieves look for display signs that have been taken down (but not destroyed) by the stock crew, and put them back on the wrong display. Thieves lurk near the Pepsi and Coke vendors, waiting… just waiting… to see if Pepsi builds a display of 12 packs ($2.99) under a huge signboard displaying “99¢” that use to hang over Coke 2-Liters just minutes before. Thieves slink around displays for special promotions that ended last week, scrutinizing every square inch to see if there are any stray tags left on these products that would cause the item to ring up “wrong”.

I’ve always wanted to go up to one of these assholes and ask them where they work, just so I could follow them around at their job, waiting for them to screw up something so that I could take advantage of it.

Yesterday, I’m going about my business, pulling down expired tags and signs, when I see one of these assholes. I recognise him. He is here every week, looking for something wrong. He is lurking through the back of my store, around a large pallet of Coke 24 packs, stacked high and placed there temporarily while the Coke guy brings the rest of his order out of the back room. He’s going to take these 24 packs to the back, I realise. They were last week’s sale.

“Hey,” said the Thief.

I try to ignore the asshole. It works for a few seconds. Unfortunately, I’m heading his way, squinting every stooped step of the way, looking for tiny little out-of-dates.

“You work here?” asked the Thief again. This time, there was no way I could pretend. I was too close.

“Yeah,” I mutter.

He looks the pallet of pop up and down; a layer of Regular Coke, a two layers of Diet Coke, a layer of Sprite, so on and so forth. “What’s the price on these?”

“I don’t know,” I said, even though I did.

“Well,” started the Asshole, sucking his teeth, obviously deep in thought. “Why don’t you go an’ find out fer me… ‘Cos there ain’t no sign on this display here.”

I looked straight at the Thief. “Well… sir… that’s not a display. The Coke guy is getting ready to take them away.”

And – as if on cue – the Coke man did indeed come out of the back room with a pallet jack. Excusing himself, he said to the Thief, “let me get these out of your way.” He then promptly hoisted the pallet of product to the back, safely behind the doors marked “employees only”. The Thief looked as if he had missed a great opportunity. And, in a way, he had. I smiled, energized all of a sudden. This asshole wasn’t going to get one damn thing free this morning. I smiled, content with my little victory.

The big victories are hard to come by anymore.

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