The group had only been in the empty Kinglake Foodworks store for a few seconds when they copped an unpleasant surprise.
Gloved-up, wearing balaclavas and wielding crowbars – the three would-be thieves meant business.
They entered the Kinglake Foodworks, making a beeline for the cigarettes, but then a cascade of thick smoke descended from a hole in the ceiling.
It filled the room, prompting a strobe light to go off along with an extremely loud alarm.
The robbers can then be seeing panicking and running from the store empty handed.
“[They] get their hopes up, they can get in and once they’re in they can’t see or hear each other,” store owner Peter Kordos said.
“Hopefully they tell their friends that it’s not an easy target.”
Asked how it felt to watch the group run in fear, Kordos said: “It felt fantastic”.
It cost Kordos around $7000 to install the Smoke Shield technology, which is increasingly being used by Victorian retailers to stop thieves.
Kordos beefed up security a few years ago after the store was robbed – sadly, that time the thieves did get away with stock.
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It was a wake up call for Kordos, and now the investment in the anti-theft technology has paid off
“Thank god we had it,” he said.
“It was extremely satisfying.”
The men involved in Wednesday’s break-in turned smoke-out haven’t been caught.
But Kordos’ not too worried.