It was a week after I'd established my swap shop in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and things had been going surprisingly well. After testing it with friends I'd opened my island up to the wider community via dodo code, and most people were behaving. Guests were swapping out unwanted items and finding new trinkets to take home, with many showing stunning generosity and sending kind messages. There were a couple who stretched the rules by leaving flowers or a single iron nugget, but I was willing to forgive them (particularly given someone had donated 300k bells to cover costs). Demand had grown so great, in fact, that I'd even set up a swap shop Twitter account just to manage all the requests to visit.
And then, as always, someone tried to ruin it all.
I was minding my own business managing the shop when, glancing down from my Nook phone, I noticed a mysterious absence of fruit in one section of the shop. Maybe someone was swapping out a lot of fruit at once? Odd. Putting my phone away, I saw that half the items in the swap shop had vanished - and the culprit was mid-way through hoovering up the remaining goods. They clearly had no intention of swapping anything, and were well on their way to simply clearing out the stock.
Although I'd considered the possibility of this happening, I panicked. I had the funds to replenish my shop if everything was taken, sure, but it would have been hugely time-consuming - and ruined my public sessions for several days. Not to mention I really didn't want him to get away with it.
With this on my mind, my first reaction was to use the formal way to end a session, which can be done via the minus button menu. The problem with this, however, is that it's the "proper" way to close a session, and from past experience visitors retain all their items - meaning the thief would simply be teleported back home with all the goodies. My next consideration was to use the chat feature to ask him to stop, but if he'd already gone to the trouble of queuing for the swap shop just to steal items, I doubted this would be sufficient to dissuade him.
And then I hit on the solution - something which, ironically, had been the bane of my multiplayer experience in New Horizons. When you disconnect from the internet while hosting visitors (such as when the Switch goes into sleep mode), all guests are unceremoniously dumped from the island, often without any of the items they obtained from that session. The very thing that had caused me an immense amount of pain now became my saviour, and I simply put my Switch to sleep.
I loaded back in, and with a huge sigh of relief, there were all my items. The poor soul who was also in that session and was ejected along with the thief was a little confused by the situation - but I was able to invite them back in, and having heard the story, they provided a 20k bell donation to the shop. The universe balances itself out.
As for the thief, thankfully I was able to identify him from his Twitter username - and he has now been blocked, never to return to swap shop again. So there's a lesson for anyone wanting to open their island to strangers, or host their own swap shop: if in doubt, hit the power switch.