During my school days, while playing football, I went in for a tackle and the ball went into touch for a throw-in. The referee looked at us to see who the ball had come off. I told him that it was their throw-in, as the ball had come off my leg. Immediately, one of my classmates, who shall remain nameless, pounced with, “The trouble with you, Pritchard, is that you’re TOO FUCKING HONEST!!!” Those words, uttered over 40 years ago, have stayed with me all my life. This classmate went on to become a successful professional and international footballer, but he shall remain nameless for reasons that I’ll explain later. Similar words have been said to me by other angry people.
Today, in Poundland, I had a surreal experience. I was stopped (mistakenly, I hasten to add), on the suspicion of shoplifting. It all began with an oversight on my part. I saw a box of green tea for (as you would expect) a pound. I picked it up with another item and proceeded to the check out. As the cashier was putting it through the till, he told me that the green tea was actually “two for a pound”.
I said, “Would you like to just put it through the till so you can serve the next customer, I’ll leave my bag here and come back for it when I’ve picked up the other box?”
The cashier said, “No, I trust you. Just go and pick it up, then go out.”
On my way back to the tea aisle, I passed two burly store detectives. I tried to catch their eyes and I considered explaining to them what I was doing. They were deep in conversation, so I decided against it. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I picked up the box of tea directly in front of them, and as I walked past them I again tried to catch their eyes. They were still deep in conversation, seemingly (and cunningly, I suspect) unaware of my presence. As I walked towards the exit, I tried to catch the eye of the man who had served me at the check out, to show him I’d picked up the extra box. He was busy. I now felt uncomfortable, even though I was well within my rights to be walking out as I put the extra box of green tea in my bag.
I had barely exited the premises when… well, do I really need to say? Yep, the two store detectives came running in my direction. In the blur of the ensuing chaos, I think there may have been a third man, but I’m not sure. I hurriedly tried to explain what I’d done, which is not easy when this kind of thing is happening to you.
I looked up and beyond them towards the exit of the store, and thankfully an angel appeared in the shape of the man who had served me at the check out. All was explained, and the store detectives apologised unreservedly. I told them not to worry, that they were only doing their job, and I congratulated them on doing it so well (I’m too fucking honest, see!).
I then wandered around the shop next door, in a daze, breaking out into a bath of sweat – I really don’t sweat much as a rule, but on this occasion…
I’ve never shoplifted, and never will. But I found out exactly what it must feel like to be caught, other than the fact I knew that all could be explained – hopefully, in time before some busy-body of a passer-by had filmed it all and posted it on social media. Hmmm… now there’s a thought. It’s probably all over Facebook and Twitter as I write this.
So what of my old classmate who accused me of being too honest before becoming a big (ish) name in British football?
He’s currently serving a six year jail sentence for fraud. Seriously, crime doesn’t pay, you know. Its much better to be honest.
And next time you go back into a store to pick up the other half of your “two-for-one” offer, tell the store detective before your exit. That’ll learn me!
I need a cup of tea now.