Mystery egg reward for Kuma. An accident leads to a new experience when shopping for groceries.
Shoplifter Prevention Misfire
“That will be twenty-seven fifty.” The red panda running the cash register spoke as she finished ringing up Kuma’s items. She was wearing her store uniform with a green apron over it.
“That’s it?” Kuma seemed surprised. He was a short chubby bear dressed more casually in shorts and a shirt. While he hadn’t bought a lot of groceries the final total seemed off.
“That’s what the cash register says.” The red panda spoke with slight impatience. There was no one in the line after Kuma, so it wasn’t like he was holding up the line. But like most people in customer facing positions, she tended to become exhausted by customers very quickly as the day went on. There was only so much one could take before they began to assume the worst of every situation. “Will that be cash or credit?”
“Um… Credit.” Kuma fumbled through his pockets as he grabbed his wallet. He quickly swiped the card as panda printed his receipt and handed him his bag.
“Thanks for shopping at Faerie Fresh, where shopping is always a magical experience.” The red panda bowed as Kuma took his stuff.
“Um sure. Thank you.” Kuma took the bag and turned to leave. The sliding doors opened as he approached. He stepped one foot out and then suddenly a loud piercing alarm sounded. “GAH!?” Kuma nearly dropped his bag when it went off and used his free hand to cover one of his ears.
“Shoplifter detected.” A very happy girlish voice was heard from somewhere above. “Now initiating anti-shoplifter procedures.” She chirped in that same delighted voice.
“Wait what, but I didn’t?” Kuma started to object but was soon distracted by the sensation of his clothing becoming far too loose on his body. He looked down at himself to check the cause and saw that his fur color was wrong. There were several streaks of gray fur running through his natural coat. And before his eyes those gray streaks were growing larger until they made up the majority of his fur.
It was at about this point that his shorts fell from his body. Kuma blushed beneath his fur as he tried to figure out what was going on. Not only was his fur changing colors but he was getting smaller as a result. His shirt was gigantic on him, covering most of his body. At least right up until the back of it was lifted up by his tai. Kuma looked over his shoulders. His short little bear tail had grown much larger. It was thick and fluffy, covered with the same gray fur as the rest of his body, but also with black stripes.
His muzzle became narrower, and his ears more triangular. The fur over his hands and feet became black instead of gray, except… They didn’t really look like normal hands and feet anymore. His hands while still possessing surprising dexterity for their appearance, were normal animal paws. As Kuma had this realization, he felt himself grow unsteady on two legs and fall over onto all fours. He let out a yelp, but it came out as a chittering squeak.
Now his giant shirt fell over his head and he was soon tangled up in it. He squirmed around as he could feel his body continuing to change. Eventually, he decided to resort to drastic measures, and began to bite and claw at the fabric until he tore a hole in it. With a large hole in the center, the shirt was easily torn into two pieces freeing Kuma. But, as he looked around the world was a much different place. The bag of groceries he had been carrying sat next to him on the sidewalk outside the door. The bag was almost as big as he was.
“Squeeak!?” Kuma chittered. He looked around in confusion then paused as he saw the sliding glass doors leading into the store. If he looked carefully, he could make out bits of his reflection. But, what he saw was a raccoon not a bear. And not even a civilized raccoon that walked on two legs and wore clothes. The normal kind that walked on all fours, couldn’t talk, weren’t intelligent and lived in the woods. “Chiiit.” Kuma made another chittering noise as he walked forward closer to the door. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t stand upright. But at least he was still intelligent. If he was supposed to live in the woods now remained to be seen.
The store doors slid open and the red panda clerk appeared towering over Kuma. She looked down at him and then around him where his discarded clothes and bag of groceries were. She was aware of the store’s shoplifting defenses. They didn’t promise a magical shopping experience for no reason. When it triggered, she assumed the former bear must have hid something in his pockets or something like that. But, in his current state, his shirt destroyed, shorts discarded, and the only other place any items could be were the bag she had filled herself it was pretty obvious he hadn’t stolen anything. That meant something in the defenses might have gone wrong.
“Chiiii!” Kuma looked up at her hoping for an explanation.
“Um well… See…” The red panda wasn’t sure how to respond here. Normal store protocol was to chase people off with a broom after they turned into raccoons. But, that was how they treated shoplifters. It didn’t feel right doing that to someone who was innocent. But what had cause the security system to misfire like that? She ignored Kuma for a moment and picked up the bag of groceries. There was nothing extra in it beyond what she had packed. She looked at the receipt, checking each item in the bag off on the receipt.
And then she realized the mistake.
There was a large bottle of shampoo in the bag that was not on the receipt. She remembered bagging it… That meant… Something had happened when she tried to scan the item and she hadn’t been paying attention. Either the scanner hadn’t picked it up, she hadn’t moved it close enough to the scanner, or maybe she just tried to scan it too fast after the last item. Regardless of if it was something she did or a technical glitch, the error was entirely her fault for not paying attention.
“Oops.” Her ears flattened with this realization. “Okay, so I think I might owe you an explanation.” She picked Kuma up, carried him inside and sat him on the checkout counter. Then she dug around behind the counter until she found a book.
“Squeak?” Kuma chittered and looked at her expectantly.
“It’s the store security system.” The red panda explained. “The owner made it themself. I’ve never actually met the owner. Don’t know what their name is either. They’re not listed in the company directory for some reason. But anyway, the point is, that it’s automated. If anyone tries to leave the store with something they haven’t paid for. Then, poof! Raccoon! Well not quite a poof it’s a little slower than that… But as you can see…” She gestured at Kuma.
“Chiiiiiiit!” Kuma bristled and thrashed his tail.
“Yeah so, I’m not accusing you of shoplifting. I sort of… Accidentally forgot to ring up one of your items and that set of the security system! But don’t worry! I’m sure the employee handbook has an explanation for what to do in this situation! I can make this right! Just give me a moment to find out what I’m supposed to do.” She flipped through the book trying to find out how to reverse the transformation.
Meanwhile, Kuma having had time to process what was happening began to walk back and forth across the counter. There wasn’t a lot of room for him to move up here, but he was getting the hang of how his body worked. He had conflicting emotions on the situation. On one hand, to suddenly be turned into a common animal like this, and as punishment for a crime he didn’t do! That was embarrassing. On the other hand, part of him liked the sensation of changing shape, and having a new body to try out. He wasn’t sure what he should be doing. So, for now he just focused on getting used to moving around.
“AHA!” The red panda got excited. “I found the entry on how to fix this!” She held the book up as she read the passage. “In the event of a security system misfire, it is of the upmost importance to make the unlucky customer feel assured that we care about them and want to make things right. First off, above all else, provide a sincere apology.” The red panda paused. “Did I say sorry already? I can’t remember. Either way, um, very sorry about this.”
“Chit.” Kuma gave her a stare. He wasn’t sure how sincere that counted as.
“Right moving on to the actual fixing part.” The red panda turned back to the book. “After apologizing, we need to ensure the customer feels valued by the store and that we have done right by them. For that reason, anyone the security misfires on is to be given a 5% off coupon that will apply to their next purchase. Note, this coupon may not be combined with other promotions or sales.”
“CHIT!?” Kuma wasn’t sure he had heard that right. He wasn’t going to get changed back to normal. Just get a coupon?
“There’s more!” The red panda ensured Kuma. “If the customer is not satisfied with this resolution, you can offer them a second coupon. They may not be combined. Note, that once the security system has placed its curse on someone no one other than the store owner can reverse it. If the customer continues to be difficult after being given a second coupon, apologize again but inform them there is nothing more that you can do.” She closed the book. “So uh… Well… Yeah you heard it all.”
“Chiiiit!” Kuma swished his tail back and forth and tried to stand up on his haunches. Obviously, there was a fix. The store owner could reverse it! He continued to chitter away. It was hard to tell if he was demanding to see a manger, asking politely if there was a way to speak to a higher up, or demanding belly rubs. No one had yet to perfect a racoon to English translator. All three statements were possible translations.
“Sorry, but there really is nothing more we can do.” The red panda bowed. “The store owner is the only one who could do anything, and no one even knows who they are or how to reach them.” She paused. “So… I guess this is where I give you two coupons?” She opened the cash register, retrieved the two items and offered them to Kuma.
“Chit?” Kuma tilted his head and looked at her, wondering if this really was the limit of what could be done.
“Sorry.” The red panda shrugged. “It’s out of my hands at this point. I can’t do magic, and I can’t contact the owner. I can give you coupons for your next visit though. So, you know, it’s not all bad.
“Squeak.” Kuma rolled his eyes. He snagged the coupon with his mouth, jumped down from the counter then walked for the front door. It didn’t open. Apparently, he wasn’t big enough to trigger the sensor.
“Allow me.” The red panda walked over to Kuma so the door opened. The raccoon quickly scatted out, found his bag of groceries and dropped the coupons in them. Then he bit down on one of the bag handles and began to dragon the groceries in the direction of his home. It looked like he was going to be stuck like this. However, before leaving he paused, let go of the bag and ran back to his discarded shorts.
He dug through them until he found his wallet and keys, then carried those to the grocery bag and dropped them in. Only then did he resume dragging the bag along. At the very least, if he was going to be like this, he could live in an apartment instead of the woods. Would be much easier. Wouldn’t have to hunt or look for food. Could just order delivery. And… He wasn’t completely over the excitement that came with having a new form.
Filled with mixed emotions, Kuma just continued on, dragging his groceries along the sidewalk as he headed for home.