Recover Stolen Purchases Without Breaking A Sweat

Lars writes:

Something pretty bad happened to me the other week that ended up being pretty cool, and speaks well to the quality of customer service at my local Burlington Coat Factory.

I bought a couple of shirts and a sweater there, and after which went to continued shopping. Upon returning to our car, my wife and I noticed that our doors were unlocked and that the sack of clothes from Burlington were missing. Someone had reach their apparently skinny arms into the crack we left in the window and unlocked the passenger side door.

My immediate reaction was, “bummer, but at least nothing else was missing and no one got hurt.” My wife, with over a decade of retail experience, knew that our best chance of getting the stuff back was to go back to the store and ask them to look out for someone trying to return the items. A security employee named Justin took my information and said he would give me a call if anything came up.

Sure enough, 8 PM that night, Justin called and said that my items were back in the store after someone, who was still in the store, had attempted to rerun them. Since I had used a credit card, he couldn’t get cash, so he was trying to find something he wanted in exchange. Justin also informed me that they had called to Police.

Great! So, what happened? Sure enough, the supposed thief tried to book-it out of the store once he saw the cop, and was apprehended. After a short and pleasant phone conversation with officer Rutherford of Clackamas PD later that night to corroborate my story, I was informed that I could come retrieve my clothes the next day.

Our purchases have fortunately never disappeared, despite presenting thieves with ample opportunity thanks to our near-criminal absentmindedness. Lars and his wife handled the situation like pros. If your shopping vanishes, always have a chat with the store manager and, if the goods are valuable, call the cops.

Has one of your shopping expeditions ever ended with a loss? Tell us what happened and how you responded in the comments.

(Photo: aturkus)


Edit Your Comment

  1. sleepydumbdude says:

    Very lucky the criminal was an idiot and took them back to the same store the same day.

  2. rellog says:

    Yup. I was in a rush one Saturday afternoon as I was running late for a wedding. I didn’t have a decent shirt clean so I stopped off at a KOHLS and picked up a new one and brought a few ties that might match my suit and shirt combo. I had also just bought a 3 ton jack at a Sam’s Club that day which was also in the car. Having a mess in the car, I opted to park in a structure instead of have it valeted. Big mistake. I came back to find my car window smashed and all my belongings gone. I didn’t call the cops as there was little that they could have done, as this was not my first break in and they were less than enthusiastic to even take a report the first couple of times. The lot had signs up stating they had no responsibility and the credit cards refused to re-reimburse me saying items stored in a vehicle were not covered in their theft coverage. Having read the entire “coverage” after that, you pretty much have to be mugged for any coverage to apply. Worse yet, I knew better than to do any of it, but my hast in getting to the reception on time cost outweighed my better judgment.
    This was not the first time I have been robbed, and possibly not the last, but I take a bit of solace in that when I have seen or caught people in the act (and I have) I make sure they suffer the consequences for the actions of their fellow criminals.

  3. waldy says:

    Also very lucky they only had clothes stolen and not the car itself. Leaving your windows open, even a crack = asking for it.

  4. Morticia says:

    If the window hadn’t of been down a crack then they would be dealing with a smashed window as well. Let’s face it, if a thief wants to take something then not a lot stands in their way. Probably the lesson here is to keep items out of sight, but even then you don’t know who is watching you put things in the trunk of your car.

    Good teamwork from customer and staff. I’m glad they got the little bugger.

  5. EllenRose says:

    Depending on the situation, I often leave my car doors unlocked. I also don’t leave goodies in the car. I figure, by and large, that I’m ahead of the game, not getting my windows smashed in like the other cars did.

  6. bohemian says:

    Never leave things in plain sight if you can help it.

    That was a smart idea to go back to the store and let them know the items were stolen. I suppose the return potential had more incentive than the items.

  7. corrosive says:

    Did they not have a trunk?

  8. ivanthemute says:

    Great story, and a big Kudos to the managers and LP staff at Burlington. But Carey, you could have written a better title for the piece.

  9. ideagirl says:

    @corrosive: Because this was obviously the consumer’s fault??

  10. Starfury says:

    It’s nice to have story like this where the store staff goes out of their way to take care of a customer.

    We’ve got a Burlington Coat Factory near us and it’s a nice place to shop. Good clothing at good prices.

  11. Antediluvian says:

    I’m impressed that the store staff even bothered to pursue the theft at all, and that they had enough internal communication that worked and staff that paid attention so they were able to notice when the stolen items were being returned. That’s amazing. I can’t see a Target or Walmart being that on top of things (mainly due to their larger size).

    Also, I’m totally impressed w/ your wife’s reaction — I honestly never would have thought about the returning items for money bit. Proves two things: I don’t think like (some) thieves, and I haven’t worked in retail.

  12. dasunst3r says:

    I think this also belongs to the “Above and Beyond” category.

  13. rellog says:

    @ideagirl: While there is NO excuse for the thief… people also need to be aware of their situations and surroundings. While I blame the thief for my break in, I sure didn’t do anything to prevent it either, so in a way, it WAS partly my fault.
    What NEVER ceases to amaze me is when women will leave their purses in their shopping cart and wander away, even a few feet. HELLO! Wake up and realize there are bad guys out there. I loose little sleep when they have stuff stolen. Similarly, I loose little sleep when teenagers with multiple thousands in audio/video equipment are stolen out of their cars. Morons should be paying for a college education anyway. But make no mistake- I HATE the thieves. Hope they burn for it.

  14. BugMeNot2 says:

    The only time I’ve had something stolen out of my car was when I left the window open a crack in the heat of summer. Don’t invite thiefs. Close your windows.

  15. BugMeNot2 says:

    Thieves, even. :D

  16. PinkBox says:

    @Morticia: I agree. I’ve had my locked car’s windows smashed when a thief decided to steal my cd player. This was in a locked garage, as well.

  17. randombob says:

    That’s a lucky break, man.

    if he had tried to return it w/o a receipt for store credit, seeing it was paid for w/ credit card, then this wouldn’t have had a happy ending (unless you’re the crook)

  18. eblack says:

    @corrosive: Could’ve been a hatchback. My Impreza doesn’t have a trunk, though I tend to keep things in the back covered.

  19. ludwigk says:

    my housemate has a similar story to this. He had received some Bose equipment as a gift, but wanted a different widget instead. He went to a Bose store and exchanged it for the stuff he wanted, which was a small pair of computer speakers. He then had a total brainfart and left them on top of his car and went shopping elsewhere. He got back and realized what he had done. So he pulled out his cell to see if the Bose store had another pair in stock. He really needed them. He noticed he had a voice mail – it was the Bose store, and they had his speakers waiting for him.

  20. Michael Belisle says:

    The risk of something like cracking a window depends heavily on which part of town you’re in.

    Blaming the customer here is totally unnecessary: I’m sure they learned a lesson. They probably considered what could have happened and what to do in the future. It contributes nothing.

    @rellog: Do you have home or renter’s insurance? My renter’s policy is $8/month and covers things stolen out of my car. I decided it was a good idea after the apartment next door burned to the ground.

  21. Kajj says:

    @waldy: Thank god we found a way to blame the victim even in this happy story.

  22. missdona says:

    My dad calls it the “damn fool theory.” The damn fool theory came about when my mother’s friend had her purse stolen from the front seat of her car. Just because she’s a damn fool for leaving her purse on the front seat of her car, doesn’t make them any less thieves.

    I think this a minor instance of the damn fool theory.

  23. @sleepydumbdude: “the criminal was an idiot”

    There aren’t that many SMART criminals, honestly. My husband had a defendant up on charges of drug dealing who when he showed up in court for his arraignment, was trying to deal in the hallway outside the courtroom in front of the bailiff. They ain’t into a life of petty crime because they’re geniuses.

  24. Somehow, by dumb luck, I’ve never had my car broken in to. Even though I used to have a serious system in it, kept all my CDs in it, never had an alarm, and used to hang around areas that had high break in rates(read:College campus in Milwaukee).

  25. TPK says:


  26. Amelia Subverxin says:

    Oh, that is so nice to hear. We have a policy that items purchased by credit card can only be returned to the credit card that has the matching last four digits (the remainder of the number and expiration date are not printed on the receipt for security reasons).

    Last month, I had a woman scream at me for half an hour because she was trying to return something with a credit card that totally did not match the numbers on the receipt. When I explained that this policy was to prevent someone from stealing her bag and trying to return it for a refund, she called me a word that rhymes with witch plus a few other nice names.

  27. rjhiggins says:

    @corrosive: It might not have (hatchback, pickup truck, etc.), but that’s not relevant. Are you somehow trying to blame the victim here?

  28. Brie says:

    @rellog: I’ll see your “step away and leave purse in shopping cart,” and raise you a “while yakking on your cell phone, oblivious to your surroundings.”

    I won’t shop at the local UltraCheap during certain hours, and when I do shop there I lock my purse to the cart.

  29. rellog says:

    @Michael Belisle: I do have homeowners insurance, but the costs of everything, including the window was less than or near equal to the $500 deductible I have. Add to that the cost of my insurance skyrocketing for making a claim and I thought it wasn’t worth the futures costs that would be incurred. I had my stereo stolen a couple years back as well, from my driveway. I forgot to set my alarm and lock the doors. Again stupid me, forgetting to do the right thing…

    As for the “blaming” of the OP, the OP himself stated it was partially his fault for leaving it out in the open. We all make mistakes and the better of us can admit when we do…

    A few years back I caught a douchebag breaking into my neighbors shed. I tagged him in the face a coupl o’times good before he started swinging a wrench at me (a big ol’ 18″ one.) He came within millimeters of my face, and took off running. I ran and got my baton, but I lost him. Sure felt good though, and I caught him breaking in before he did any serious damage to the shed door, so I looked at it as a win… :)

  30. rellog says:

    @DikembeMeiztombo: Which one? MATC, UWM or Marquette? (Guess it could be Alverno, Concordia or Caroll… but those aren’t very high risk areas…)
    Mine happen in a parking structure in downtown Milwaukee. You have been very lucky to have gotten away for this long.

  31. loueloui says:

    This is quite a difference from the Burlington Coat Factory I remember of late. Yes, the same store that would not return any merchandise, for any reason, even with a receipt. Screw you Burlington, I’m still not shopping there.

  32. royceguy says:

    Had my skis, boots and a keg tap stolen out of my garage overnight a few years ago. The next afternoon called a few “Play It Again Sports” (they buy and sell used sports stuff) stores. The second store I called had my skis and as is standard they had a photocopy of the sellers drivers license.

    I called the police non-emergency line and by the time the volunteer cop-helper dude showed up, I had the name, address and DL# of the guy who took the stuff. Citizen On Patrol called a Deputy and that was that.

    I never did get the keg tap back though….which ironically I used more than the skis at that time.

  33. acasto says:

    I can’t believe so many people are so casual about being robbed; like it’s just a normal part of life. The reason crooks are so prevalent is because we let them. Just like with gangs, they should simply be hunted down and made to vanish into the night. Nobody will remember them, let alone miss them the next day. People act like bunch of gazelle just hoping to not be picked off by a lion.

  34. DCGaymer says:

    Sadly crime like this is everywhere….While in the town of Kapaa, on Kauai, we stopped on the local main street to do some shopping. We found a few shirts and some shorts to help make it through the long weekend and decided to catch a quick bite. So we put the bags into the trunk of our rental and walked about 50 feet to the local diner….afterwards when we came out and opened the trunk…we found that our bags were gone. Someone had opened the rental car trunk (No key needed thanks to the handy dandy keychain remotes they all use now days) and taken everything. We went back to the store where we’d bought everything…and let the owner know to be on the lookout…she just shrugged and said, “Yeah, that happens here alot lately…there’s a meth problem on the islands.” We never did hear from her or see our things again. The outcome of that incident…we don’t buy anything on Kaua’i anymore and we don’t put anything in the trunk. The sad part to us was that the locals acted like…”Oh well, nothing to be done about it”.

  35. usmcmoran says:

    I took my 8 year old daughter to a kids park and saw a family distressed that their car had been broken into. the thieves had watched the wife put her pocketbook in the trunk then when the family went inside, they broke the small window in the back and opened the door and popped the trunk. a few cop friends of mine said this is common and they deal with it all the time. if you are going to put things in the trunk do it before you get there.

  36. jitterpup says:

    @corrosive: um, not all vehicles have trunks, you know.

  37. @rellog: UWM. The corner of Kenwood & Bartlett

  38. juri squared says:

    A few years back at the Bristol Renaissance Fair in Wisconsin, a friend of mine won the costume contest. The prize was a T-shirt and free tickets, which she stowed in her basket (part of her costume).

    Some damn thief managed to pickpocket said basket while it was on her arm – got the shirt, tickets, and a souvenir she’d bought. We told security, and the front office replaced all the stolen items. Way to go, Bristol!

  39. dogmatixx says:

    We had the same thing happen. We were at the food court of our local shopping center, and someone shoplifted our bag from right under our noses. We immediately went to the shop we’d bought the clothes from, and apparently beat the thief there by a few minutes. The clerk called the cops while stalling the thief, and they came and arrested her. Sadly, the thief looked quite strung out and drug-addicted, so hopefully she got help. But we got our stuff back. I think the store was Ann Taylor. Just goes to show you that many shopping bag thefts are people looking to make a quick buck from immediately returning the items.

  40. ImpossibleCheeseburgerPie says:


    You want to “hunt down” crooks? How exactly should we do this?

  41. theblackdog says:

    @usmcmoran: That’s a really good arguement for disabling the ability to push a button or pull a lever inside the car to open the trunk.

  42. bbbici says:

    Always put a few scorpions in each shopping bag.

  43. synergy says:

    I always just throw my bags in the trunk. There’s more space and thieves can’t see it if they wander by.

  44. corvi_yallis says:

    If it was Burlington Coat factory in Clackamas, OR, I live near that store. That store has been around forever. Must be because of good customer service.

  45. jimconsumer says:

    @rellog: While I blame the thief for my break in, I sure didn’t do anything to prevent it either, so in a way, it WAS partly my fault. — No, it wasn’t. It is never your fault. Strictly speaking, we shouldn’t need locks at all. Unfortunately, a sleazy subset of society forces that upon us. Regardless, if you are a trusting, honest individual who leaves your car unlocked, or the windows down, that does not in any way make it acceptable to rob you, nor does it make you responsible in any way, shape or form for the individual decisions & actions made by some dirty thief.

    I’m tired of hearing that victims are in any way to blame for the actions of another. If a woman with a nice ass has a close fitting pair of jeans on, is it her fault when she gets raped? Even just a little? Of course not. If someone breaks your window and robs your house, is it your fault for not having bars on the windows? Of course not. Neither is it your fault if you leave a door unlocked or the window down. Sure, it’s legitimate to say you could have made certain decisions that would have reduced your risk of becoming a victim, but that in no way makes you responsible for what some criminal did to you. Period.

  46. n0ia says:

    I had my truck broken into while I was at work.

    I went out and noticed there were wires where a MP3 head unit should be.

    I notified the security company that monitors the parking lot, as well as the police department (who has a precinct on the other side of the building!), and notified the manager of the security department at my company.

    I got less than sympathetic replies from pretty much everyone.

    I can only hope that the thief got shot (or severely maimed at the very least) when he tried to sell it because it was already broken anyway! Jokes on him! (True story.)