Comedian Jimmy Durante would have called it a "dilemmia," a perplexing situation that is probably all too common in today's sometimes-too-dishonest world.

As the buyer of goods at the branch of a big department store in a suburban Washington shopping mall, you take a two-piece clothing ensemble home.

Only there do you find that the salesclerk failed to remove, from one of the items, the locked-on-tight magnetic antishoplifting device designed to trigger an alarm when you leave the store.

Somehow, blessedly, the device didn't embarrass you by setting off the store alarm. But, Murphy's law being fully in force, you can't find the receipt for the goods.

Will you, on returning to the store, be able to persuade the store personnel that you're not trying to get them to remove the device from an item that might, in fact, have been shoplifted earlier?

So you park the car and walk in to explain your plight to the clerk. She calls the security office, which sends a guard.

A uniformed guy in a blazer? Heck, no -- a plain little woman in a nondescript trench coat, who -- when not on special assignments like this one -- can slip into the crowd and scout real shoplifters. She invites you to hand the wired item to her at the front door and escorts you inside, where the clerk snips off the device.

You walk out, no further questions asked, and see the security guard at the earring counter, applying lipstick like any customer not on the lookout for thieves.