I helped close up the store last night with the work BFF, the nicest shift leader man alive, and our new seasonal guy that everyone loves. At 9-o-clock we turned off the last cash register, locked all the doors, and pulled out the security gates. The work BFF and I were doing the last minute things (picking up garbage, empty recycling bins) while the shift leader helped our new guy cash out. While we’re piddling about in the office, we could hear banging on the door and a bunch of yelling. By now, it’s at least 10 minutes since we closed, and the store is very visibly closed. It’s dark, the security gates are out, the open sign is turned off, and the store hours posted next to the door say that we closed 10 minutes ago.
Now, we close at 9pm, but the two stores closest to us both close at 10pm. Also, we’re right by the border crossing. Like, if you go out onto the main busy road right outside the store and don’t get into the right lane, you’ll wind up on the bridge and heading over to America. We do get a lot of people coming from out of town who don’t know the store hours or don’t know how to get to the nearest stores. Sometimes they’ll knock on the door just to ask for directions. Also, we’re right by the university, while one of our stores is on a road called University. That store is open until 10pm. A lot of people just see “University location open until 10pm” and assume it’s the one near the university. So, the work BFF and I decided to go out to the vestibule together to see if someone needed directions to the nearest stores.
Last night, it wasn’t lost tourists or someone who read our location wrong. It was three young men who looked to be barely drinking age if they even were. They were just standing there banging on the door, demanding we let them in so they could drink. WBFF and I get up to the door and tell them through the locked door that we’re closed, but the downtown location is open for another hour. Usually, this is enough to placate people who stand outside our door, demanding booze. Not these guys though. They decided yelling at us through the door would be a better use of their time.
C’mon, I just want one thing!
Dammit, I’m just tryna get my drink on, why you gotta block that?
It’s your damn job, open up the goddamn doors and get me my drink!
We told them all the registers were turned off, the debit machines were off, and the security team would call the police if we let anyone in after the lights go out. They didn’t care. They just stood out there yelling at the two of us. We shut the gate up tight, shook our heads, and went back to the office to laugh at them where they couldn’t hear us. We figured they’d tire themselves out and head downtown to grab a bottle there before that store closed.
About 10 minutes later, we locked the doors for the night and headed out into the parking lot. The new guy got in his car, while WBFF and I walked to hers. We could hear this yelling and then saw a car sitting there honking at our shift leader. It was those three guys! They had sat there in their car, waiting in the parking lot for us. This in itself was creepy enough. But they sat there yelling things at us from their car, watching us walk to WBFF’s car. Then, they sat there in their car, like they were waiting for us to leave so they could follow. We sat there, car off, trying to figure out what to do. I mean, they were pretty pissed off that we couldn’t magically re-open the store for them 10 minutes past closing, make a cash register come to life to ring them through with no drawer in it and sell them a bottle when we legally couldn’t. Like, they were really pissed about that. And then they sat outside waiting for us, and wouldn’t leave until we left. It was really scary.
In the end, I took out my phone and got ready to dial 911 if they got out of their car at all. We sat there for 5 or 6 minutes, trying to keep an eye on them from the locked car we were in. Eventually, they realized we weren’t going anywhere with them sitting there, and they left. Not before driving by us slowly and yelling things at us, and then speeding through the parking lot, almost hitting a minivan and a couple of pedestrians.
Sadly, this isn’t the only time things like this have happened to us at work. I had a group of three younger guys threaten me because I wouldn’t serve them until they gave me their ID. I had the man we refer to as Scary Customer Guy scream at me and shove his pen in my face like he was trying to stab me. We get shoplifters all the time, and more than once they’ve pulled some sort of weapon on our security staff when they try to arrest them. And our store isn’t even one of the two really “high crime” stores in the city!
The point is, stuff like this happens. It doesn’t matter where you are, there is always the chance of crime or violence. Does that mean you should never go anywhere? Stay in the house, hide under your blankets where the world can’t find you? Of course not. You just need to stay smart and be safe out there.
1. Stay In Groups
I’m horrible for this. I walk everywhere and have no problem walking home alone most night. Unless we’ve had an incident in the store, or I had to deny a lot of sales to people in the area, I’m fine walking. My co-workers won’t let me do that though. When we close the store at night, we stand at the doors in a group while the shift leader locks up. Then, we walk as a group through the parking lot, making sure everyone gets to their car ok. We wait and make sure everyone’s car start usually, and everyone gets out of the parking lot ok.
If you’re in a group, you’re less likely to become a random target usually. Some random criminal isn’t going to want to mess with a whole group of people when they could pick on the person who is walking alone.
2. Keep A Legal Weapon With You
I’m not talking about arming yourself to the teeth with guns and ammo. You probably have keys with you. Did you know that putting your keys between your fingers not only makes a great small weapon in an emergency, but it’s also a very low budget way to cosplay baby Wolverine?
We always joke at work that we’re fine in any situation because we have to wear steel-toe boots at work. Those in themselves are a weapon. A kick to the shin or groin with the toe of one of those will stop a lot of people.
Heavy backpacks or purses are great for swinging at people. Large rings make a punch more effective. Keys on a lanyard can be swung around at someone in a panicked moment. There are a lot of things that you have with you right now that can be weaponized.
3. Keep Your Phone Handy
This is the best tip I know. I always have music playing on my phone, so I know it’s right there with me. Know the emergency and non-emergency police numbers for your area. If you think you’re being followed, or you’re in somewhat but not immediate danger, you can always call the police. They’d much rather stop a crime before it starts, or when it’s just starting, then have to clean up the aftermath.
If you don’t feel comfortable calling the police, call a nearby friend. If I have to walk to someone’s house at night, I call them while I walk. That way, I can tell them about anyone suspicious around me. If something were to happen to me, then my friend would not only have a physical description of whoever is bothering me, but she would know where I am so she can call the police for me. She would also be able to hear what is going on as long as I’m on the phone with her.
Well, that’s all the tips I have for today. My work Christmas party is this weekend, and my roots are showing pretty bad right now. I’m off to dye my hair and make myself feel all pretty-pretty again. I am going to work on this topic more at a later date, though, and find some more tips and advise for staying safe out there. I just had to get this out of my head today, because I’m still pretty shaken up about last night.