I worked in one of the last bookstores in town. Print wasn’t dead, but it was on life support. The neighboring restaurants drew in most of our business. The bulk of our sales were made while customers were waiting to be seated elsewhere.
Parents paged through new releases as their children collected all the trinkets we’d placed at eye level. Millennials turned all the political biographies around, teens stole glimpses at artful nudes, and couples bickered about Playboy’s newfound presence at the checkout counter.
The bad element snuck in with the dinner rush. They couldn’t look me in the eye on their way in, but they looked out for me the further they went. I’d catch them craning their necks over the shelves and ducking back down once I’d made them.
I’d walk by and they’d say, “Browsing.” before I got one word in.
It’s store policy not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, but there was no such thing as too much costumer service when one of them was around. I made sure these people had a chance to meet everyone that was on staff at the time.
Troublemakers weren’t hard to spot hunched over in their cardigans with their hands in their pajama bottoms. They came from all walks of life, but they’d devolved into gaunt, pale faced ghouls, with cherry red eyes, and plum purple eyelids. Each one stinking of nicotine, body odor, and box wine.
I’d go back to the section they’d been “browsing” in, scan the shelves, and try to find what they’d done. There were always subtle signs. I’d find a stack of front facing hardcovers repositioned with their spines out, a title set atop the row, or a handful of books on the floor.
Troublemakers had to make room for their additions to our inventory. You see they weren’t shoplifting. They were shop dropping. Continue reading Shop Dropping: A Spooky Story about People Who Put Things on Retail Shelves