When I started this blog, I never knew how far it would take me. I thought I would mostly be writing about mom life which I normally do, and love! I have been able to use this blog to also write about my own experiences both the good and the bad. This post is about something scary that happened to me last weekend while I was out shopping by myself. Moral of the story, TRUST YOUR GUT. Shout out to my gal pals who encouraged me to share with everyone!
It all started when I was heading downstate for Friendsgiving this past Saturday. I was SO excited to see my girlfriends and celebrate all together. I hopped in the car and headed out. I was already enjoying the peace and quiet from a kid-free drive, and then decided I would stop in Saginaw on my way down at the Target there to pick up a few things. Another bonus, going to Target with no kids so I could browse all the aisles as many times as I wanted with no interruptions LOL! I pulled into the parking lot and of course it was pretty packed, I’m sure everyone was getting their Christmas shopping in. I drove down one aisle and saw another car leaving from a PRIME parking spot. It was literally the first spot right next to the handicapped spaces. I whipped in there and said, “Thank you Lord!” Obviously he had something to do with giving me that spot!
It took me a second to find my wallet and keys, I actually almost forgot to shut my car off. I must have been a little excited to get inside! For those of you who don’t know, our family lives in a small town and the closest Target is over an hour away, so it’s an extra big deal when we get to go obviously. I headed inside and this is where it all started.
I waited just a bit until it was my turn to grab a shopping cart. While I was waiting behind a cute family, I looked up and made eye contact with this man who was awkwardly standing by the shopping baskets. He then strangely grabbed a basket and headed into the store. Right then as I grabbed my own cart, I felt like something was off. I looked up and he had headed to the kids section so I just kept in mind what he looked like and to just be aware since I was by myself. It might sound crazy but I instantly had a bad feeling about that man.
I headed right to the baby section to get some more diapers and wipes for the kids. While I was searching for the right size, I noticed the man passed by in the main aisle. He no longer had his shopping basket, he was only holding his phone out like he was texting, and also holding an empty plastic Target bag. So weird? He glanced up at me and then kept walking. I am a pretty over cautious person when I am by myself, especially after hearing the horrifying stories of human trafficking and what not. So in my mind I am thinking, this man is up to no good.
I just wanted to grab some wrapping paper and a few other Christmas items and then I would be leaving. Target always has such fun wrapping paper! I have purchased paper from there for years now. I went back to the Christmas section and was browsing the wrapping paper and ribbons, and there he is again. The exact same man walks by the back wall by the outside lights, still not holding anything but that empty Target bag and his phone. At one point he acted like he answered a phone call, I have no idea if he was actually speaking with anyone. I was trying to decide what I should do. At first I was thinking, get me out of here I’m heading to the check out. But as I started walking, I said to myself “I can’t do that, if I go right up to the check out he might follow me out to my car. But I made my way up towards the front and cut through the cosmetics. I was right by the travel sized items display and there he slowly walked by again, looking up at me. At this point I was honestly pissed off (excuse my language), because here I am just trying to enjoy a quick kid-free shopping day and I can’t even do that?! And also, he picked the wrong mom/woman to mess with. NOT TODAY.
I always thought I would have a plan if something like this ever happened, but in the heat of the moment I was so confused about what to do, so I’ll be honest I almost started panicking. I started to take random turns down aisles, trying to decide what to do. I ended up back in the baby section near the clothes, and there he goes walking by again. I looked at a few baby clothes still trying to decide what to do, and there was a mirror right there. I glanced in the mirror and saw the man go by AGAIN looking up at me and then back down to his phone. UGH! Leave me alone!!! I noticed a mom and daughter shopping in the baby section as well. They were working on a donation list and needed some outfits in different baby sizes for their church. I walked up to them and said “Hi There, do you mind if I shop by you guys and possibly go to the check out when you’re finished so I’m not alone?” The lady looked up and must have seen my face, I felt like I was sweating so maybe my face was red too! She looked up and said, “Oh my goodness, are you okay?” I told her that this man had been following me throughout the entire store and I honestly didn’t know what to do. She told me to stay close to them and that they were almost done shopping. She actually offered to walk me to my car too. They were true angels.
While they were getting their last minute baby items, I noticed the man lurking right across the aisle in the other children’s section again. I tried to get a picture but there was no way of being that secretive. But then he came closer to the edge of the main aisle, and since I was standing next to the mother and daughter I said somewhat loud, “THAT’S HIM. That’s him right there! Right there!” The man heard and saw us, looked up, and then walked right to the front out the door! My heart was pounding so fast. Did I just call him out?? He literally left right away with nothing to purchase. He was clearly there for the wrong reasons. I continued to stay with the mother and daughter and they still escorted me out to the parking lot. The mom mentioned that her daughter was in high school and they were very happy to help. In my mind I also hope that the daughter was able to learn from this scary moment too. I’m sure her mom tells her about these stories, but at that age it’s most likely in one ear and out the other. For her to see my fear and own experience in person, I really hope she was able to learn and make her own plan if God forbid something like this every happens to her.
I was pretty worked up. I left the parking lot and couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. I am thankful that I have always been so aware of my surroundings mainly since I had children. I thought about what possibly could have happened had I not been aware too. I drove the rest of the way down to Kaitlin’s and made it there safely.
The very first thing I said after hugging her of course was that I needed to tell her what had happened to me at Target! She had actually had something similar happen to her not too long ago, and she told me I needed to call and let the store manager or security know as soon as possible. I have no idea why I never thought about calling the store, maybe I was too worked up but she was right, I needed to extend the alert so no other women would be trapped into this. I made the call.
I spoke with a man named Stephen who was head of the security there and told him everything. I’ll never forget how extremely helpful he was. I told him a time range I was there but I didn’t know the exact time. That was when he asked to look at my receipt and see what time I had checked out. GENIUS. It was at 1:38pm. He kept saying how thankful he was that I had called, and he would look into the security footage of the situation.
It only took him about 25 minutes to call me back. This is where my heart just felt a small sigh of relief, and that I wasn’t just being crazy or over paranoid. Stephen told me that the man was clearly up to no good, and was clearly stalking or creeping after me. Of all the areas in the store I told him that I saw the bad man, Stephen clearly saw that in the video footage. He also noticed his empty plastic Target bag he was carrying for no reason. The odd part was I guess the man parked near me and looked at my license plate on his way in. Stephen had asked if I was anywhere else prior to Target shopping, and I said no, but at the time he was concerned if the man had followed me from another store. The man actually made a small purchase after I had left the store AND used his credit card!! So security not only has a picture of him, but also his first and last name. Phew. Stephen kept reassuring me that I did the right thing by calling the store (thank you Kaitlin), and that next time even if I feel the least bit uncomfortable to go up to guest services and ask to be escorted out to my car, or even around the store if I wanted.
Here is the next mind blowing part. As I continued to speak with Stephen on the phone, he had mentioned that as a dad of a daughter he would hope she would call, and take action the same way I did when I felt unsafe etc. He also made me aware that there have been 20 arrests in the last month regarding issues like this. 20?!? UGH. That is so scary and awful. I was so thankful I could be with my best friends that night, so I could feel the love and support from other strong women. Many of my friends have unfortunately had similar experiences too. They actually encouraged me to share this story as well so I could hopefully help others to be just as aware.
It makes me want my children to just stay put and never grow up. But with scary experiences like this I can do one thing. Spread the word, teach them, and constantly remind others especially woman to be aware of their surroundings and to ALWAYS trust their guts. You think something feels off? You’re most likely right, so take action. I’ll never forget that sweet mother and daughter who took me under their wing so I felt safe, and the nice security man Stephen. Thank you SO much for being such huge help.
Lots of love and God Bless ALWAYS,