It’s only white people who steal here

Author: Tereza Vrbova
Location: Prague
I heard this story from Jana Zavadilová, who sells suitcases and purses in a shop. She is a tidy, slim brunette in her forties. She looks very self-confident, has a high style of expression, and in my view is an ideal shop assistant. She told me this story in a café at a lunch break. In order not to put on weight, she never has lunch. So she ordered just coffee and mineral water. And she had about six cigarettes. I was fascinated watching her long fingers with red varnished nails tipping off the ash of each cigarette just before it would drop..
“Gypsies come to our shop from time to time. They frequent nearby shops, too, and I had been told by other shop assistants that I must be careful when they appear. We meet outside the shop to have a cigarette from time to time and talk about children, our husbands, our businesses – and recent burglaries. The girls said that Gypsies living around their home steal a lot. So I was always careful, mainly because Gypsies have stolen jeans from a shop nearby. Several items were stolen in my shop too, but never when Gypsies were around. So it’s just white people who steal here.
But I was on the alert when a group of Gypsies appeared in my shop the other day. There were about six of them, and I was alone. They spent some time looking at purses near the entrance. After that two of them started asking me about suitcases, so I stopped watching the group at the door. They thanked me and left. At that moment I saw with horror that one of the purses that had been hanging at the entrance was no longer there.
I was furious. I had treated them like any other customers, so they had thought that I would be stupid enough to let myself be cheated by them.
I ran out of the shop and began screaming at them in the street. I let out everything I had ever heard about them. ‘You don’t work. You live on social benefits and you only have so many kids because you want to stay home. You’re lazy bastards and thieves. I work eight hours a day and pay taxes for you to live on. And all you can do is come into my shop and steal.’ Of course they objected as they always do, showing me their empty hands and asking me what I think they stole.
I knew what had happened, though: one of them had made off with the purse and the rest were now calmly walking away. But it was obvious that I couldn’t do anything, so I went back to the shop.
In order to calm down – and to warn her – I immediately rang up Klára, the other shop assistant. When I told her what had happened to me she asked which purse was missing. I was appalled when she told me: ‘Oh come on, I sold that this morning. It was the last one of that kind..’
I can’t tell you how bad I felt. I repeated to myself all I had said to them. But there was nothing to be done. I kept thinking about it for a whole month, and wished they would come back so that I could apologize.
But it was no wonder that they never came back to our shop.
Any time I remember this I feel ashamed.”

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