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20 May 2014

Many many years ago a man named James K. Baxter opened a place in the heart of Wellington city called The Love Shop. It was like a charity shop, except that everything in it was free . I worked there for some time and it was then that it occurred to me that people can be very odd. That thought had struck me before, but one incident crystalized it. A friend working with me came to me and spoke softly.

I think that woman is stealing stuff.”

I blinked. Why on earth would anyone steal when everything available on the shelves and in the bins was free for the taking? Feeling that perhaps the lady (and yes, I watched her and she really was shoplifting) must not have quite grasped the ‘free’ aspect I approached her.

     “Excuse me, I just thought I should explain, everything in this place is free, you don’t have to pay.”

The woman drew herself up in outrage, snapped shut the case into which she’d been quietly shovelling items and snarled at me. “I don’t need your !@#$% charity!” and stormed out. I noticed she hadn’t returned the items she’d taken however, but it left me slightly baffled. In a place where everything on display was free and there were a number of signs saying so, why did she feel a need to shoplift? She could have openly taken everything she’d taken in secret. Was it that she hadn’t understood our policy displayed on large signs. Or was she really against taking something for nothing and felt that using her time and energy in stealing was giving back in some weird way? I never did find out since we never saw her again, but even after some forty years I wonder why she felt that it was better to ‘steal’ free items than to take them openly? People! They can be very peculiar sometimes.

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