Shopping for swimsuits makes you a potential thief, apparently.

With summer in full swing, vacation coming up, and me having recently lost 10 pounds (woot!), I thought I’d treat myself to a new swimsuit.  A friend gave me a tip that a local store was having a sale on two pieces: buy one separate, get one 50% off.  Sounded kind of awesome, so I decided to check it out.  After all, I’m celebrating body positivism and all that and working on acknowledging and loving me for who I am.  Also, Husband wanted to see me in a bikini.  In fact, the first thing he said when I mentioned that I needed a new swimsuit for vacation was, “Bikini?!”  Yes, sure.  Bikini.  I had one before, but only wore it a handful of times.

So anyway, I strolled through the racks, selected a plain black bikini bottom, a plain top, a pair of swim shorts, and was delighted to find a 60’s style black with white polka dots bikini top.  Last one in my size.  Oh, yes, is this ever coming home with me.

I arrived at the changing area and waited while the woman in front of me took her turn with the attendant.  The woman had several swimsuit separates and meekly said, “I’m not sure how many I have here.”

The attendant said, “You can take six in with you.”  The woman began counting out six items, and the attendant–wait for it–started counting loudly with her, as if this grown woman would not be capable of counting to six unaided.  The woman took her six items to the changing room and left the rest outside.

The attendant turned to me and asked me how many I had there.  I told her four.  She peered over her counter skeptically, and I held up my items and watched her mouth “One…two…three…four.”  The woman in front of me couldn’t count to six, but apparently I couldn’t even make it to four.

I took my items, tried them on, and immediately hated the swim shorts and found the plain black top too big.  The polka dot top was fresh and cute, and the bottoms fit well.  On my way out, the attendant advised me to leave whatever didn’t fit on the counter.  I did, and walked off with my top and bottom.  I went back to the swimsuit area and selected a different size of the top that didn’t fit, then back to the fitting rooms.

The attendant was sitting on the floor, arranging something on racks.

“How many do you have?” she asked wearily.

“Just one.”

“One?” she eyed my hands.  “Did you say ‘one’?  You have three.”

“Yes, but I tried these two on already.  I’m only trying on this one.”  I showed her the one top that I would be trying.

“I can’t allow you to take those other two in with you.  You will have to leave them out here.”  She gestured to a seat outside the fitting rooms.  The forcefulness of her ruling, paired with the implication that I may actually steal these two other items if I brought them in with me (what kept me from stealing them the first time?) was a bit jarring.  At this point, Husband had arrived on the scene and witnessed her giving me this strange edict.  We both agreed it was a little odd and later wondered aloud if perhaps she was new.

The thing is that I understand people steal.  I do.  Stores from the smallest mom-and-pop operations to huge stores like Wal-Mart and Target have a right and a responsibility to make sure that merchandise isn’t walking away without compensation.  I know there are certain rules and regulations in place to minimize theft.  However, these regulations to the average shopper are almost invisible.  Who really pays attention to those sensors by the door?  Or the security guard that doesn’t look at you twice if you aren’t obviously up to no good?  The store matron in the small shop that ever-so-casually checks you out?  My exchange with this attendant felt different.  It felt like she screamed, “You might steal something if I don’t watch you like a hawk!” at me without actually saying it.  The counting the items.  The forceful tone when she said, “I can’t allow you to take those in with you.”  I’ve never experienced it before and it really threw me.  I’m the kind of person that will go back and pay if I get to my car and realize there is an item that got lost in the bottom of the cart that I forgot to pay for.  It’s happened more than once.  Once when I was a teenager, I bought a pack of stickers and after I got home I found two packs had stuck together and I only paid for one and was gripped by guilt for weeks.  Needless to say, today’s exchange felt off.  I understand that she was probably ordered to behave this way, but I’ll definitely think twice before shopping there again.  I know you need to protect merchandise, but geez, do you have to be so blunt?


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