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Floyd has bagged a few stories in his time

On the back of the book, "Shoplifters I Have Known," you will notice an endorsement from someone identified simply as a former five-fingered discounter.

" 'Shoplifters I Have Known' has changed my life," it reads. "After reading Floyd's memoir, I quit shoplifting and dedicated my life to rescuing kittens and walking old ladies across the street."

OK, so the praise is a bit tongue in cheek, but you get the drift: the 83-page book with the funny name promises plenty of chuckles. The author, identified only as Floyd on the cover, doesn't disappoint in the series of humorous and oftentimes poignant anecdotes reflecting his nearly 40 years working in the grocery business.

Consider the anecdote about the elderly couple who munched their way through the produce section, sampling everything from peanuts to grapes.

"Next time you want to sample the produce, we can sell you a grazing permit," Floyd gently scolded them at the cash register. The couple apologized and never again ate their way through the produce section, he added.

Then there is the story about the man who was arrested for trying to steal more than $50 worth of groceries. When his case came up in court, his minister and several members of his church gave glowing testimony on his behalf. His attorney urged Floyd to drop the charges because the defendant was such a good Christian, noted the author.

"I could tell he was religious, sir," Floyd told the judge. "In the stuff he stole was three Bibles and three Easter cards."

The jury laughed but the judge was not at all amused by the quip, the author duly acknowledged.

I laughed over the attempt by teenagers in an Oscar-worthy performance to fake a brawl while one urchin headed out the door with six-packs of beer.

But there are also heartwarming stories of honesty, including the woman who called the store to report finding a money bag in her groceries when she got home. The staff intentionally forgot to charge her the next time she came in for groceries, Floyd wrote.

The book, either paperback or in digital form, can be purchased for $4.99 at shopliftersihaveknown.com.

Turns out the author is Floyd Hayner, 83, a 1948 graduate of Medford Senior High School. Most of the stories are from his life and times as a grocery clerk and eventual store owner in the Rogue Valley.

He arrived in the area with his family on the eve of his teenage years.

"My family got run out of Michigan, then out of Nevada," he said. "Dad was sort of a Gypsy, a poker player and a bootlegger. He kept leaving town."

But his mom kept the family afloat. He recalls selling Mail Tribune newspapers for a dime apiece on Medford street corners as a youngster during World War II.

Incidentally, newspapers were apparently large sheets of paper with writing and photographs on them published before the advent of Twitter.

He worked in grocery stores from 1948 until 1986. He retired after he and a business partner, along with their wives, sold the Greatway Shopping Center in Eagle Point, a center they had built in 1973.

"Carol always wanted me to write this book," Floyd said of his late wife, noting they were married for 49 wonderful years, eight months and 23 days. "I promised her that I would do it."

The book is dedicated to his wife and Lawson Inada of Medford, his writing teacher at what is now Southern Oregon University. He was also poet laureate of Oregon from 2006 through 2010.

"Floyd is very funny and quite bright," Lawson observed. "When he was in class, he was already pretty much retired. As you can imagine, he contributed a lot to our discussions. His stories were always very humorous. He's a real treasure."

"My wife talked me into going back to college," Floyd explained. "I decided to take a creative writing course from Lawson. Here I was sitting behind all these kids, all eager to read the stories they wrote."

He was not eager. No way. One day the professor called on him to read what he had scribbled down.

"So I started reading one of my stories," Floyd recalled. "After I was done, everybody clapped."

He was inspired. He would graduate with a bachelor's degree in business in 1990.

"I took some business courses to find out what I did wrong," said Floyd, who offers a bit of business advice in his book.

He will tell you shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes — and ages. Take the folks who were regularly stealing dental glue to hold their dentures in place.

"I like people," he said, "whenever possible."

Some people made it a bit challenging, he admitted.

"I remember these two ladies walked in one evening and wanted to cash a personal check for $50," he said. "They were well-dressed. But they weren't regular customers, so I didn't recognize them."

He told them that cashing the check was no problem, providing they had proper identification.

"The older woman said, 'Well! This is Ginger Rogers, and I am her mother,' " he said. "I told them, 'I am Mrs. Hayner's son, but I will still need to see your identification.' "

Like the judge, they were not amused.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.