In elite circles in the Cayman Islands, Zilla Rocca is hailed as a deity.  

It’s now early January 2004, roughly 11 months before I quit my job as a most distinguished retail associate.  It’s that time of the year when all businesses slow down after the mad holiday rush of working long hours to make 40% of your profits for the entire year.  I savor this time because the phones don’t ring.  Traffic isn’t as violent and annoying.    People are back to being assholes to each other in public.  Normalcy.

 At my unnamed retail store, this was the time of the year for exchanges, returns, and packing up all the overstocked items to be shipped back to corporate (for our store, it was the lifesized cardboard cut-outs of Orlando Bloom from Lord of the Rings).  It was a Monday night in January–quiet, blissful, and sane.  Instead of doing what we’d normally do on Monday nights (watch Alias: Season 1 on DVD behind the counter), myself and another associate were pulling items off the shelves while our manager worked the register and handled the exchanges and returns.  You’d be surprised how many people got EXTRA copies of Linkin Park , Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook and NOW That’s What I Call Music! Volume whatever. (By now you should be aware of the countless improved anti-theft measures that were taken from Part 1 of this series. If not, take ten minutes and read it over.  That information is crucial to this story.)

Our store was right off of the Delaware river , so we were unfortunate enough to have the air smell like sludge, seagull shit and French fries mixed with tar and the black plague.  We were in a shopping center next door to a Cingular wireless store and a giant Superfresh grocery store.  To our left with a McDonald’s which led out to Delaware Avenue , a heavily congested two-way road that can run you from the sports stadiums all the way up to Northeast Philly.  Most thieves would have a getaway car parked near McDonald’s and were able to skate off onto Delaware Avenue for a clean escape.  Or if the thief just grabbed 14 copies of Friday After Next, he could run out the door towards the intersection where he would risk a Frogger-like death but would ensure that no staff would run after him (as I stated in Part One, our policy for theft prevented us from leaving the store).

Because Tiny Lister Needed the Work 


It’s about 7pm, dark and bitterly windy.  My manager is at the register.  I’m on the floor grabbing CDs and the other associate is doing the same.  Oddly enough, I saw a tall black man waiting in line at the register behind an old lady returning something.  He had a big department store paper bag and was just standing there.  I walked up to the register to check his bag.  He said, “I just need change for a twenty so I can catch the bus.”  He reached out and held the $20 in his left hand.  I looked in his right hand and saw the department store bag packed to the gills with Philadelphia Freeway, Kiss of the Dragon, and the deluxe gift edition DVD of Scarface.  The kicker was that each DVD was wrapped in masking tape and had a white anti-theft sticker still on the side.  Plus, there were NO department stores within eight miles of our store.

 I realized he caught us sleeping and picked us clean with a booster bag that we didn’t check.  And now, this f*cking idiot was asking for change so he could walk out the door and catch the bus home after a massive come up.  As a sales associate, I couldn’t open the register unless it was a sale, so I told him that he’d have to wait until the manager was finished with the other customer.  Amazingly, he did.   F*cking nitwit!

 I quickly ran over to the other associate and asked if he’d seen this guy walk in and boost items.  He too hadn’t seen the guy.  We both agreed that we’d stop him at the door and shake him down.  As we began walking towards the door, the birdbrain isn’t even within 2 feet of the door when the anti-theft alarm starts going off.  “BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!”  He froze.  His face collapsed.  It was like that scene in Bronx Tale when Sonny locked those rowdy bikers inside the Chez Bippy and proceeded to beat the death out of them.

You Can Never Trust a Place Called The Chez Bippy 



Very firmly we said to him, “Sir, you CAN’T leave the store yet.  We have to check your bag.”  The guy looked like he just shit himself.  His options were to A) turn around run like hell into the night with his bag of goodies, B) drop his booster bag and then turn around and run like hell, or C) attack us and run away with whatever was left of the botched shoplifting scheme.

 He chose D) calmly walk backwards out the door while casually assuring us that he indeed didn’t really have anything in his bag.  “Oh, that’s nothing.  I came in with this bag.  It must be from the other store.  It’s no big deal.  I’m about to just get on the bus!”  Again, we firmly said, “No sir, don’t even THINK about leaving.  You have something in your bag and we have to look at it or else we call the cops!”  And he just brushed it off while slowly creeping through the door!  “Oh no, trust me, I don’t have ANYTHING.  Your alarm system is probably acting up.  I’m late for the bus.”

 By this point, he was out the door and still watching us as he walked backwards.  We were completely dumbfounded.  We kept badgering him but knew we couldn’t cross the threshold of the glass door like the baseball players in Field of Dreams.  Shockingly, the guy relented a little bit and said, “Oh I do have one DVD.  That’s all.  Just one.”  He went into the bag and tossed us some kung-fu DVD to get us off his back.

Iowa: Like Philly But With More Corn


We were never in this position before.  No training video had ever presented us with this situation.  We looked at each other and said, “F*ck it, let’s get him!”  We told our manager to call the cops and broke out into the freezing parking lot.  Stupidly, this jackass didn’t run towards Delaware Ave where he could’ve probably lost us.  He ran further into the shopping center where there was no clear cut exit.  We saw a patrol car gliding through the parking lot and waved him over, told him the deal, and he fired up the sirens.

 My co-worker turned around and flew in the direction of the guy, who moved quicker once he dropped his booster bag.  I found it under a truck some random guy said “HE DROPPED IT RIGHT THERE!”  I picked up the bag and ran towards Bath & Body Works.  By this time, there were 2 patrol cars parked outside.  I showed them what I found and asked if they found the guy.  They said my co-worker thought the thief ran inside Bath & Body Works and he went in there with another cop to scope it out.  They came out a minute later, looking confused and defeated.

 My co-worker then turned his head towards Old Navy, pointed his finger, and shouted, “THERE HE IS!  THAT’S HIM!”  He appeared to be walking casually out of the parking lot, thinking he just escaped from the worst shoplifting attempt ever.  After he was spotted, he froze up and his eyes bulged out of his head.  He looked like Tryone Biggums getting a colonoscopy.  The cops, who by now were pulling up in cars and wagons, made a bee line towards this numskull and proceeded to swarm him and “subdue” him if you know what I mean (black man + Philly + nighttime + horrible weather + bored cops = asswhoopin’).

 Afterwards, we went back to our store and gave statements.  The guy had about $300 worth of stolen items in the bag.  The cops were finishing up the end of their holiday patrols and were delighted to see some action.  They brought the perp around in the wagon for us to identify him.  He was laying on his stomach, facing the front of the cabin so we couldn’t see his face.  I said to the cop, “Jesus, what the hell did you do to him?!”  The cop replied, “Nothing.  After we gripped him up, he said he was going into diabetic shock and pretended to collapse.  That’s him though, right?  Good.  We’re outta here.”

 And that’s why crime doesn’t pay in Philly after the holidays: you’ll get beat down over Freeway CDs by six cops outside of Bath & Body Works. 

MP3: Zilla Rocca-“Faster Blade Freestyle”
MP3: Zilla Rocca-“Hold Your Head Bounce”

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