Criminal Disruptors

Today I went back to the Verizon store to see how the story ended yesterday. I didn’t think it would end well, but how it ended was a surprise.

I had swung by the store mid-afternoon to get a new screen protector and case for my phone. Taking the old screen protector off was much more difficult than I or the sales associate thought, but he promised it was doable and my beat up phone would look like new when he finished.

Device-less, I sat in the store for almost 90 minutes watching the occasional customer come in, curious about what people were buying.  (Mostly new cases and power chargers.) It was a boring wait until the door flew open and a young guy and woman blew in, all jittery, trash talking, and high as kites.  I won’t write here what his tattoos said, but will tell you that she was wearing a sweatshirt, cropped top, and flaunting her fluorescent bikini underwear. I’m not sure how her sweat pants stayed on because they were pulled down so low, kind of a bad choice in 27-degree weather and a bad fashion statement at any time of year.

But I digress.

Twitching around and wiping his nose, the guy said he delivered mattresses-- a LOT of mattresses – for a living so he needed a phone plan where he could get a lot of calls. But he didn’t have any money so he needed something cheap. As he talked his girlfriend stretched like a cat, pulling her hair up, showing her abs, and eyeing the sales associates, all of whom were young guys.

Show on, ladies and gentlemen.  While the couple sucked up everyone’s attention I noticed a plain, decently dressed guy sidle up to them and say something. He was with them but appeared so “normal” in his jeans, navy baseball jacket and nicely cropped hair that no one in the store was paying him much attention. As the trashy couple stirred things up, arguing about the phone and money, Mr. Normal Guy was casing the store.

The manager came out from the back office and asked me whether she should be thinking about calling security or the police.  I told her it would be a good idea to pay close attention and have a plan.  This might be more than just a coked-up couple buying a phone. It could be a team orchestrating theft.

When the guy started yelling and begging and bullying the girlfriend to give him some money because he “didn’t get paid this week,” my phone was done and I decided to get out of there as fast as I could.

But how did the story end? Day Two.

But I was curious today what had happened. Theft by the ‘nice guy’?  Security escorts?  Violence? So I stopped at the store on my way home from work today.

 “So what happened with the crazy couple yesterday afternoon?” I asked.

“Oh, them. They took off with the other guy they were with to the liquor store next door after they stole a phone from one of our customers, and then ran down into the woods.  The husband of the woman whose phone was stolen tracked the phone and found them.  He said he wouldn’t press charges. He just wanted his wife’s phone back.

“We called the cops and they came to the store. But the husband came back and said he had the phone and didn’t want to pursue them.”

“They were pretty scary acting,” I said, describing what I had noticed the day before. “Do you think the guy really delivered mattresses for a living?”

“Oh, the people who stole the phone were different than the people you’re talking about! This happened about an hour later.”

What? Two crazy-ass threesomes within a couple of hours?

“How do you handle people like yesterday,” I asked. “Do you get special training?”

“No, no training. I guess you just have to keep calm and level headed,” the young sales associate explained. “Most people turn out to be OK.”

The famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” British poster from World War II has been widely popularized in pop culture, so much so that it sometimes feels trite. But keeping calm may be the very wisest advice when you’re working the front lines.

Kudos to Verizon for hiring such calm, level-headed people.  You can learn a lot about a company by the people they hire, especially the people on the firing line, I mean the front line.