I walked up to the register and stood behind the man buying orange soda. That was it. One two-liter bottle of store brand orange soda and nothing more. I go to the grocery store near my home and the lines in the self-checkout line are always at least two or three people long. A couple of people stepped in line behind me. I waited patiently. For once in my life I wasn’t in any particular hurry.

I watched the shopper fumble to take a dollar from his pocket with one hand. He tried to unravel the crumpled up bill from his pocket, but never used his other hand to assist in the process. That’s when I noticed that his other hand was down by his side. He was holding a white box and had two or three plastic produce bags wrapped haphazardly around it.

At first I couldn’t tell what it was. I could only see the bottom of the rectangular white box, which showed nothing other than the UPC. I noticed he didn’t scan the box so I thought it might be cigarettes he purchased from someplace else in the store. He held it so closely to the side of the wall just below the scanner. In fact, the box itself was pressing up against the low wall.

The orange soda bottle rolled down to the conveyor belt and stopped with a thud at the end. The man looked up but never moved that box away from it’s place against the wall.

After depositing his dollar into the machine and receiving a penny of change he started to walk away. He wrapped a produce bag tightly around that bright white box and when he turned I could clearly see the label which read “Dove.” A simple box of Dove soap he clearly did not intend to pay for.

It took me a minute to process what I witnessed and by the time I wrapped my head around it the man was already gone. I certainly didn’t want to run after a man who had just stolen a box of soap, but I wish I could have helped him in some way. I wish I could have offered to pay for it or even to pay for a few other things he might have needed from the store.

This is the second time this month that I have witnessed someone stealing from one of the stores near my home. Just a few days ago two boys stole bottles of Tide from the CVS store. The boys looked anxious as they walked along the aisles in front of me, but I never would have guessed they were in the store to steal detergent. When I reached the check out line the cashier informed me that they grabbed the bottles, threw them into their backpacks and ran out out the front door.

Strangely enough on my trip to CVS I was taking advantage of a free deal that made detergent free after a sale, rebate and coupon. When the cashier rang up my order she said “Wow you got this for free. It’s too bad you couldn’t teach those boys to use coupons so they wouldn’t have to steal them.”

I am thankful that I have never been in a situation where I felt the need to steal to keep myself or my clothes clean, but in both instances I would have gladly paid for the items for those who needed them.

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