4 Horrifying Behind-The-Scenes Realities Of Your Local Mall
The mall: an air-conditioned human zoo where you can get food on a stick, buy some pants, and maybe impulse-purchase a full suit of armor. Truly, it is a wonderland. But the mall, like every part of our society, has its seedy underbelly -- one that all the vape-booths and video game stores in the world can't hide. We spoke to a few of the noble guardians of our society's official teenage foreplay building: the mall janitor and security guard. Here's what we learned.
Theft Is A Huge Issue
A lot of mall theft is low-scale -- just cheap jewelry and chintzy RC helicopters grabbed and tucked away. But some thieves step up their game. "There were a handful of times," says Katlynn, "where people would slowly fill up their cart at a bigger store like Sears, wander till closing time, then make a break for the outside with all their things."
More discreet than a loaded cart is the hollowed-out baby stroller. Bob, a mall security guard, has seen so many of these over the years that he knows to follow up and nab every single woman who rolls a stroller around without a baby. Strollers with babies deserve an eye, too, as he learned recently from one especially ballsy customer. "This woman was actually lifting up her baby and using it to hide the merchandise," he said. There's a special place in Hell for thieves that hide stolen items underneath babies. That place, ironically, is also underneath a baby.
Hellfire and apple splatters.
One time, a guy walked out of JCPenney with $500 worth of pots and pans on his shoulders, perhaps planning to build his own suit of armor, Ned Kelly-style. When confronted by a security guard, the robber threatened him with a gun. That's when Bob got the call, and ran off to assist:
"I sprint towards him thinking, 'This is going to fucking hurt, goddamn he's big.' I hit him center mass with my best football tackle possible at the exact same time the other guard jumps onto his upper half. Timber. Subject falls down, and we all pile on top of him. He busts his face all over the rocks, is yelling and spitting blood all over us. We get him cuffed and bring his legs up like a hog tie. We hold him in the snow like that until PD shows up. He yells, cries, and tries to break out of the cuffs (that doesn't happen in real life, by the way). PD arrives and takes him in."
It wasn't nearly as kinky as it sounds.
Turns out the guy had been bluffing about the gun. But that doesn't really matter -- in the eyes of the law, it may as well be the same thing. In general, mall shoplifting is a way bigger deal than you think: If a thief ever lifts more than a couple spare sets of tube socks, chances are they're not just grabbing items for themselves. Instead, they're boosters for organized retail crime rings:
"Yes," says Bob, "there is an underground market for retail merchandise and groceries, as silly as that sounds. The front-line workers that do the shoplifting sell it to the distributors to make their crack money and support their habits."
A "fence" gives a "booster" a list of products, and the booster steals them and sells them to the fencer for 10 percent to 25 percent of the price tag. The industry is massive. Some estimates put it at $37 billion a year, on track with the entire American sports industry or all the art sold anywhere on Earth. The inevitable Godfather reboot should realistically be about the black-market Old Navy industry.
"I know you charged me 50 percent for those slacks, Fredo. You broke my heart."
Mall Security Is Not (Entirely) A Joke
Mall security can't arrest you, but that doesn't mean you can just stroll away from them while tossing out derogatory Paul Blart quotes. Though some malls are "completely hands-off," malls like Bob's are very much hands-on. Hanging from his belt at all times are a pair of Smith & Wesson hinged cuffs and FC-4 pepper spray.
They used to hang a Paul Blart DVD there too, but it was ruled "cruel and unusual."
The mall cop's best non-violent tool, however, is a little something called lying. One time, he caught a kid shoplifting sunglasses, and the store didn't want to prosecute, but the kid had also apparently shoplifted hats from another store, and no one had witnessed this. Bob delivered a long monologue:
"Spencers are going to run their camera footage. They have 100 percent camera coverage in their store. ... From there, we will sit you down and call the police. They will show up and give you a ticket, hardly different from a speeding ticket! However, if you continue to lie to me, it's going into my report, and my report gets attached as a supplemental narrative to the actual police report. Therefore, it's the same as lying to the police. You can now get an obstruction charge. That DOES mean jail, and it's a really bad idea."
"You know how 'snitches get stitches'? You don't want to know what they do to shoplifters there."
In reality, the store had no cameras, and lying to a mall cop is about as much of a crime as lying to your nana. But the suspect didn't know that. He admitted to everything. So, we guess we're saying ... don't trust authority figures? That can't be right.
The Mall Is The Grossest Place In The World
Janitors are permanently cast afloat in a sea of bodily fluids. Katlynn knew that much going into the job. First, the puke: "I've dealt with enough vomit over the years as a caregiver and janitor," she says, "that the smell doesn't even bother me anymore."
But the mall is a different story: She's seen vomit blow from a tyke's mouth and stretch five-feet-long. She's watched kids puke as they walk, trailing a highway of vomit as they go. Katlynn's seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, she's watched c-beams glitter in the dark off the Tannh- sorry, sorry.
"All those food-court burritos, lost in time like tears in the toilet. Time to hork."
Then there's the blood: Mall staff have to deal with a lot of stupid injuries. Trips, slips, helicopters ... helicopters?
To do the helicopter (the version that does not involve a penis), you lie on the handrails of a pair of escalators, one going up, one going down. Done right, it looks like this:
Done wrong, as happened at Bob's mall two years ago, it goes like this:
Extra blood had he combined this with the penis-copter version.
And now, onward -- to poop! You'll never become fully jaded to poop. Like the time a man's colostomy bag exploded in the bathroom. "The waste covered the toilet and dispensers," she says. "It covered a portion of the floor equivalent to about a 12-by-9-foot area. It got on walls, the ceiling! And even managed to get into nearby stalls."
Honestly, we're kind of impressed. We may be witnessing the next evolutionary leap of humanity; that is, after all, a hell of a deterrent to any potential predators.
Even Ewan McGregor would have said, "Nope."
Mall Bathrooms Are A Bizarre And Hedonistic Place
Toilet stalls are little rooms with locks, which makes them a certain type of person's refuge. One man locked himself in on Christmas Eve, and he spent several hours ringing in the holiday with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Katlynn opened the door when he failed to respond, and she found him motionless on the toilet. But he wasn't dead, just dead drunk, so the cops hauled him off to the drunk tank. And that, kids, is why Santa didn't come to Christmas last year.
"On Dasher! On Dancer! On Jack! On Coke!"
Speaking of coming: If your mall lacks an Ikea, the best place for sex is the restroom, and the best restroom for sex is the family restroom. The extra space for changing babies offers extra space for making babies, as visitors to Katlynn's mall discovered early on. Like you needed another reason to be skeeved-out by that weird plastic changing table.
If babies aren't getting wiped, babies are getting made.
But there's another reason those security cameras are pointed at the restroom entrance. No, not for theft prevention. It's to help the many ladies who accidentally tuck their skirts into their underpants. Seriously. That's an actual concern: When the team monitoring the feed spots a woman so indisposed, they immediately radio the nearest lady janitor. The janitor then drops everything and finds the woman in order to cut the humiliation short. It is perhaps the only time you'll ever be grateful that a janitor caught you in your underwear.
For more insider perspectives, check out 7 Reasons the TSA Sucks (A Security Expert's Perspective) and 5 Horrifying Things Only Garbagemen Know About Your Town.
Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.