I stood up to a Chinese shop owner – and saved an ol mere $600

A typical Chinese shop in Honiara – the scene of the crime

An SIBC reporter was inside a Chinese shop in Honiara when a crime took place – this is the story of what happened. 

My friend and I entered our local Chinese shop, like thousands of times before.

We were there to buy dishwashing paste – yes, it was that boring.

But something happened on this shopping trip – something I’ll never forget.

At the shop near SIBC, we came past a group of ladies standing at the counter who were talking about something being stolen.

At first my friends and I paid little interest to them, we were more interested in the things on the shelves.

But as we were going out to the next shop, something caught my eye. The little group of women were now gathered in front of the CCTV screen were asking the shop owner to replay some CCTV footage. I went over to look.

I overheard that some money was stolen from a purse. The purse was recovered, but the money was gone.

The woman whose money was stolen was from Guadalcanal, her accent was clear. There were two young girls with her. It was also clear to me that they were from the villages of Guadalcanal, probably in town to do some shopping.

$600 was missing – a lot of money for someone from the villages.

In fact, it is a lot of money for anyone.

$600 is a lot of money, for anyone.

I got a closer look at the woman who claimed her purse was stolen.

My friend came over to join us and we stood there gazing at the screen.

We saw another woman taking out the money from the purse and putting the purse over the other side of the counter. This was crazy! I mean I had heard stories like this happening but to actually witness it on camera was something else.

I looked over to the counter and there she was. The woman was still standing there at the counter where the empty purse was stolen and she was looking so innocent. She didn’t even bother to look around at what all the fuss was about. I kept looking at her then back to the screen.

Suddenly the screen went blank.

The Chinese shop owner, who looked very young, jumped down from her chair and said “No. she’s our customer” and went over to the woman.

The group watching the CCTV footage went with her. I was expecting them to just tell the woman that the camera had recorded her taking the money out of the purse, but nothing like that happened.

Instead, a shop keeper was serving her, writing out a receipt.

My friend and I waited for the Chinese shop owner. We wanted to see the video again.

The group had a discussion at the counter. The woman who had lost her money said: “the Chinese lady said we should come back tomorrow. She will look at the video herself later today.”

She looked like she was going to cry.

“That was my money for my fare to go home,” one of the girls with her whispered to my friend. “her husband (the woman who had her purse stolen) is also admitted at the hospital,” she said.

The Chinese lady came back to her chair.

This is when I decided to act. I had been a victim. My friend had been a victim. We could relate to what the woman was feeling.  We were not going to let this one go.

We were going to stand there and bring in the police if necessary to make sure the Chinese woman replayed the video and the woman got her money back.

“We must see the video again” I demanded. She looked angry. “You two keep quiet,” she snapped.

“Don’t tell us to keep quiet,” my friend snapped back. “That woman needs her money.”

“Yes,” I chimed in. “That was her fare to go back home. This is our country, we have our rights.”

We were on a roll and once we started we couldn’t stop. The security guards stood there and watched and we insisted that she replay the video.

One of them eventually told the lady “Hey these people will get angry if you do not do as they say. They are concerned about their money.  You have to replay the video.”

The woman finally agreed.

We demanded that the CCTV footage be played again

The scene of the incident came up on the screen, and narrowed in on the counter.

The whole picture was very clear. We saw the thief, picked up the purse which was on the floor behind her, looked around and hid it.

Then when she was sure there was no one around her, she took out the purse, opened it and pulled out the money. Then she put the empty purse away from her on the counter. The evidence was there! Crystal clear!

The security guard wasted no time going outside to call her to come back in. She was caught, and there was fear and guilt in her eyes.  Mumbling some excuses, the thief had to look at herself as the video was replayed again to the scene where she was taking out the money from the purse.

She was a mature woman, well dressed. We told her to give back the money. She wrote out a cheque of six hundred dollars and handed it to the Chinese lady. The cheque was cashed and the money was handed to the owner.

The woman was so happy she actually shook the thief’s hand after she received the money!

It was a good day for me, and I’m sure it was the same for my friend. We were content that we had done something good for someone.

There were some important lessons that we took away with us that day.

One was that we have to stand up for ourselves and for each other.

There are members of our society who are afraid of standing up to shop owners. This woman who lost her money was expected to accept the offhand explanation from the Chinese lady to come back the next day for the video.

Would any of you help the poor woman out if you had been in the shop?

Or would you just ignore her because you had better things to do? Would you want to be involved? I didn’t have any choice at that time. My friend didn’t have any choice either. We had to help. Simple as that.

Another important lesson for me was truth. I couldn’t let the thief get away. I couldn’t stand seeing her get away with what she had done. I could only be satisfied with the truth.

I was told to write this to encourage us, Solomon Islanders, to speak out.

When we know something is wrong, point it out. And if there is an opportunity to make it right, make sure it is made right the right way.

My friend and I put a smile on that woman’s face. She thanked us when we walked out of the shop together and her happiness made us happy too.

Let us be good to each other, let us be kind people, helpful citizens, proud and united Solomon Islanders. Let us stand up for each other.

Even the Bible encourages us to look out for one another’s interest not just our own. And it is worth it, believe me.

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