Reader unhappy about how she was treated after robbery

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dear editor,

I am a retired nurse. On Monday, Jan. 21, I went to Wal-Mart to shop for a friend who was ill. While I was in the store, my purse was stolen.

I am very cognizant of the possibility of that happening and take precautions when I am out and about. I am short, and I was in the process of reaching for an item on the shelf above me.

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Two women appeared on either side of me, close enough to make me uncomfortable, and asked if they could help me. I thanked them and backed away, noticing a third woman walking away down the aisle. Immediately, after walking hurriedly away, I noticed that my shoulder bag was missing.

I retraced my steps hoping to see that I had dropped it; immediately I realized those &8220;helpful&8221; women had taken my purse.

I ran to the garden center to see if I could see them. I turned back into the store, shouting, &8220;I&8217;ve been robbed; I need security; can someone help me?&8221;

I asked a clerk at a nearby counter for help; she shrugged her shoulders and looked away. Being robbed is traumatic, but what happened to me afterwards was even more upsetting.

The third clerk I asked, offered to help me, but was not sure what to do; she did go with me, and we ran all over the whole store looking for women who would let me use a phone to call the police and my husband.

Most store personnel took no interest in my plight; one clerk did suggest I use my cell phone, which I reminded her was in my missing purse.

I began to feel invisible.

We finally went to customer service, and there I was told their phones did not dial out. I asked for store security again and was told they were probably outside. When I inquired if the store cameras might have recorded this incident, the clerk told me that the cameras no longer worked in that part of the store, due to recent remodeling. Then, she quickly added that she was not supposed to tell that.

I asked to see the store manager and was told that the manager was busy due to the holiday. At the financial center, I was finally able to call my husband and the police. I was told that I could stand outside the financial center and wait for the police and my husband. No one offered in any way to make me comfortable. I felt as if I were being viewed as the one who had committed the crime. I was just astonished and indignant at the apathy displayed by Wal-Mart.

When the police and my husband arrived, they asked to see the store manager, and the assistant manager did appear. The policeman, upon hearing my story, told me I had been robbed by members of &8220;The Diaper Bag Gang.&8221; The assistant manager said he felt that was true and a review of the tapes might show that. I told him the cameras weren&8217;t working there, and he was surprised when my husband pointed above the door and showed him there was no camera.

My point in recounting this unfortunate incident is to make shoppers aware of what can happen when one is on guard. I know that Wal-Mart cannot prevent criminals from coming into their store, but I was as shocked at their reaction as I was at being the victim of a crime.

A company whose founder has expressed high values should be disappointed, if not appalled with the way the local store in Selma has dealt with this particular situation.

I am so concerned about our community and worried about our lack of caring for each other. If we continue to accept crime as &8220;business as usual,&8221; we are going to lose revenue, resources and our most precious commodity, our people.

Thank you,

Eralou Divelbiss