Jitendra Singh, a 7-Eleven store owner, was recently alerted by an employee that there was a shoplifter in the store. Singh, who was working in the back office at the time, watched a teenaged thief on the store's security cameras as he introduced a few items like gum and candy into his pockets.
When Singh arrived at the front of the store, the shoplifter was already at the counter paying for a few items. "I asked him, 'Take out whatever you have in your pocket,' so he took out one of the items," he told CNN.
The owner, however, believed the teenager the teen had more items stashed in his pockets, so he told the young man that he’d have to call the police if he didn’t completely empty his pockets. As the teen obliged, Singh asked him why he was shoplifting. The young man answered that he and his younger brother were hungry.
Meanwhile, an employee had called 911 and had an operator on the phone. Singh, however, reassessed the situation and told the employee to hang up. "I said, 'Well that's not food. You're stealing gum and candies. That's just something for munching,'" he said. "I said, 'If you're hungry, ask me. I'll give you food.'"
Singh, who has owned the Toledo, Ohio, 7-Eleven location for five years, said his shop carries food items like pizza, chicken wings, taquitos, nachos, and sandwiches, which he thought would make a better meal for the young man and his brother, so instead of reporting the incident, he gave the teen some food and sent him off.
"When he said, 'I'm hungry and that's why I'm stealing,' I said OK, he has some genuine problem. He's not a thief who's going and stealing stuff and selling it," Singh said. Rather than seeing the teen punished for attempting to feed himself, the store owner decided to show some compassion.
"At least (he) won't go to jail," Singh said. "Once you go to jail, you'll have a criminal record later in life. You're not going to be able to get any good job or anything."
While the exchange between the store owner and the teen was unfolding, another customer, Cedric Bishop, was in the store. When he shared the incident on Facebook, thousands of people responded, sharing the post nearly 3,000 times. “I was so touched I gave the young man $10. Some young people just need to know that someone cares. Just thought I’d share this with you. Have a blessed night,” Bishop wrote.
Singh said he has been overwhelmed by the reaction. "Customers are now coming back and saying, 'You're a good guy and you did a good thing,'" he said. "For me, it was not a big deal. ... I did what any normal human being would've done in that situation."
Bishop has gone on to continue spreading the goodwill. He returned to the shop and spoke to Singh and asked if could set up his grill to hand out free hot dogs, soda, and chips to kids as they leave school. Singh was happy to oblige. Bishop has planned to begin serving free food on May 2. He will set up shop outside the 7-Eleven at 3749 Upton Avenue in Toledo from Monday to Friday from 4 to 6 pm. He has asked those who’d like to donate to his cause to contact him at (419) 322-2183 or through his Facebook page.