Will Shoppers Defend Clumsy Customer?

PHOTO: Will Shoppers Defend Clumsy Customer?: Hidden Cameras Capture Reactions When a Woman Drops an Expensive Vase in a StorePlayABC News
WATCH Shoplifting: A Family Affair

At the New Jersey Decorating Exchange in River Edge, N.J., customers cautiously navigate the aisles, seemingly mindful of that unwritten retail rule: You break it, you buy it!

But actress Traci Hovel appears to live by a different set of rules.

We wanted to see how people would react when Hovel, posing for us as a customer, drops an expensive vase right in front of their eyes.

Will they blame Hovel or cover for her when approached by the store manager?

CLICK HERE to watch the scenario unfold on the latest full episode of "What Would You Do".

There are only a few shoppers in the showroom when Hovel "accidentally" sends the first vase smashing to the ground.

The sound freezes shopper Kim Hughes in her tracks as Hovel begins to spin her story.

"Don't say anything, just don't say anything," Hovel pleads.

Hughes does what others do throughout the day: initially she stays silent.

We decide to turn up the pressure on Hughes by using a second actor to play the role of store manager.

Actor Vince August enters the scene and explicitly asks customer, Kim Hughes, what happened. Hughes, like many others, adjusts her answer in order to protect Hovel.

"Ma'am, did she break it?" August asks.

"Well she was over there. I didn't see her drop it, but I did see her trying to pick it up," Hughes responds.

Hughes later explained to ABC News' John Quinones that she did, in fact, notice our actress drop the object, but did not want to get Hovel in trouble with the manager.

We found most eyewitnesses to be sympathetic with Hovel's dilemma, often not revealing what they saw to the store manager.

When the scenario played out in front of shopper, Susan Manas, she told the bogus store manager that her back was turned at the time of the incident. Twenty minutes later, she confessed.

"Now, did you see it, or did you not see it?" Quinones asks.

A sheepish Manas admits, "I saw it."

"How could she be that careless?" Manas told Quinones.

Sympathy Only Goes So Far

Hovel wasn't that careless. Before the cameras started rolling, we swapped out the store's expensive pieces with props, while borrowing a few of the store's original price tags to make them appear to be the real deal.

We did find that customers had their limits. Sympathy toward Hovel only went so far. When our actress started to accuse bystanders of being involved in the accident, the tone changed dramatically.

"I mean we're all in this together," Hovel claims.

"We're all in this together? How?" asks customer Marie Corbo. "I was just standing next to you."

"Don't even start to bring us into this. It was in your hands, you were carrying it and you want us to say something different than that you dropped it," continues Corbo's husband, John.

Things get even more heated when Hovel suggests that the Corbos split the cost of the vase with her.

"How about we all split the cost?"

"Are you serious?" John Corbo asks.

"You are unbelievable," Marie Corbo adds.

After the dust settles, John Corbo candidly confides to John Quinones that he thought they were dealing with a "psycho".

People's reasons to cover for Hovel varied throughout the day. Another bystander told ABC News that he had stayed silent because her believed that Hovel would not be able to pay for the broken vase. Her disheveled look, he said, indicated she might be grappling with a tight financial situation.

"I was thinking when I first saw her appearance that maybe she couldn't afford to pay for the vase," he said.

What happens when Hovel appears to be more well-dressed or when our scenario takes an unexpected, international twist? Watch as glass flies and emotions run high on "What Would You Do?"

CLICK HERE to watch the full episode of "What Would You Do".