Imagine Bob Walsh's surprise when he received a small manila envelope in the mail, addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Welsh." Despite the misspelling, the envelope had their correct home address, so he opened it.
The first thing he noticed was the $100 bill on top?#34;with 19 other $100 bills tucked underneath. A neatly printed note accompanied the cash:
"Mr. and Mrs. Welsh,
This money is payment for some items I stole from your store many years ago (plus interest).
I am very sorry."
Walsh, who ran Logos Bookstore on the 100 block of North Oak Park Avenue for 24 years with his wife, Marietta, and his daughter, Marie, isn't surprised that someone stole upwards of $2,000 in merchandise from his store. That's a sad fact of life in retail, he said.
"Thousands of dollars over the years walked out the door," Walsh said, "leather Bibles, frames, music CDs. Getting ripped off is something that happens in small stores and large. They call it 'shrinkage' and build it into the budget."
The Walshes, however, didn't build it into their budget. They just lived with the losses and tried not to let it affect their outlook. They were, after all, a religious goods store, which made the ripoffs that much more ironic?#34;and puzzling.
"What do you do with a stolen Bible?" Walsh asked.
Maybe in this case the thief read it.
Some of the retail theft smacked of professionalism. That was about 10 years ago when they were getting hit hard and often. One day they came back from lunch and an entire shelf was empty. They invested in some theft detection technology and "just tried to get people to be more alert."
Walsh admits it forces a merchant into a kind of professional paranoia, which, he said, is "too bad. That shouldn't be."
And it made the mysterious case of retail restitution that much more surprising. Obviously the person went to some length to get it to them. Since he or she spelled the name wrong, they couldn't get the address through the phone book. Walsh figures the person probably came into the store and asked.
At first he wondered if maybe the bills could be counterfeit, but they weren't new. He thinks maybe it was someone who stole from him to support a drug habit.
"I think it might be somebody in a 12-step program making amends. Restitution is one of the steps, cleaning your slate."
Either way, it's reassuring.
"It's nice to hear some good news once in a while," he said.
Since retirement, which he very much enjoys, Bob Walsh has been mentoring students at a school on the West Side, and working, with a team of lawyers he put together, on the case of a kid whom he believes was wrongly convicted. So the retail theft of the past clearly didn't put a dent in his generosity.
On the other hand, he's not getting carried away. He thinks his wife will probably give away most of her half of the returned money.
"I put mine in the bank," he said.
The Walshes asked that we print the following note of thanks to their anonymous note writer:
"Imagine our surprise upon receiving in the mail last week a small padded envelope containing a substantial amount of cash. While it was a joy and a privilege to serve Oak Park and the surrounding area for 24 years, shoplifting was always a heartbreaking occurrence.
"So it was heart-warming to say the least that someone had the decency to make amends for stealing and offer an apology.
"We accept the apology and want to thank this individual and congratulate him or her for their courage and decency."
Bob and Marietta Walsh
former owners of Logos Bookstore