Friday, May 10, 2013

Title:  A silent theft
By Author Herschel Cozine

Appearing in issue #20, May 20, 2013
For sale date: May 9, 2013

Tag line:  The shoplifter got the computer out of the store without being noticed.  To amateur detective Gladys, that sounded all wrong!
Police/characters: An unnamed detective and Gladys, his mother-in-law

The gist:  A robbery occurred in an office supply store.  The clerk, who was alone on the sales floor, reported that a bold shoplifter grabbed a pricey laptop from the shelf and bolted from the store with the box under his arm.  The clerk had been talking to another customer and looked up just in time to see the thief jump into his car but he did not get the license plate.  He had no description of a car and not much of the shoplifter either. The customer corroborated his story.  It happened too fast to really get any details.  Gladys, the detective’s MIL, was eavesdropping on his conversation with his wife about the case.  She asked him if anyone heard anything to which he replied neither the sales clerk nor the customer had heard anything.  He said, “Why would that be significant?  It’s an office supply store not a dance hall.”  Gladys said that the clerk didn’t steal the laptop but that he (the clerk) knew who did.
Crime scene:  A modern office supply store in the middle of town.

Clues:  No one heard anything when the thief ran out the door.
Suspects:  Unknown shoplifter, the clerk.

Red herrings:  None.
Solution:  A store that sells expensive computers would have a security system with a magnetic tag on the merchandise and a detector at the door.  The tag is removed at checkout to allow the customer to exit the store without setting the alarm off.  Since no one heard any alarm it meant that the security tag had been removed, presumably by the clerk, before the thief ran out the door with it.  The clerk reported the theft to avoid suspicion.

My two cents:  Well, the author is asking us to suspend disbelief a few times in this story.  First, that a detective would come home and discuss a case with his family.  That almost never happens.  A family member could potentially know the thief (let’s say she recognizes that it’s her cousin), and once she hears all the details, she could go and warn him he’s about to be arrested and to get out of Dodge.  It’s happened.  So detectives don’t blab details about a case.  It could be believable that he pillow-talks with his wife, but giving case details out to his MIL?  Uh-uh.    
This author said that the MIL was eavesdropping, which implies she’s around and close but not in the conversation.  But she was at his home, presumably sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the chit-chat between husband and wife and taking part in it.   My gripe is about the word eavesdropping here.  Okay, it’s a little gripe.

 Next, we have a high-priced office supply store that leaves its high-buck merchandise out on the shelves?  The sample laptops are wired to the shelf frame.  If someone tried to remove one, an alarm would sound.  When was the last time you were in Staples or Office Max and saw a nice pile of boxes of laptops on a shelf?  You didn’t.  When you want to purchase one, the clerk goes in the back room, retrieves the item, and walks with you to the cashier.  You are not even allowed to hold it in the store.
High-end office supply stores have security video cameras in the store and out in the parking lot.  That would solve the not having any description of the perp and his car problem.

 Also…see how this goes on and on? … when was the last time you ever saw one clerk in a Staples?  Okay, granted, when you want help you can’t find anybody.  In this scenario there were three clerks; one on the floor, one in the back doing inventory, and one out on his break.  Why does it have to be the clerk on the store’s floor that is involved?  Why couldn’t it have been the guy in the back who disarmed the security tag?  Or the guy taking his break?
And lastly I don’t understand the detective's comment, “It’s an office supply store not a dance hall.”  Huh?

WW loves old

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