I am wondering why a grown woman would carry around an large empty purse while faking looking for something in it. I can only think of two reasons. She is mentally off or she goes in with a empty purse and leaves with a full one. But if she isn’t a thief… What physiological reason would she have?
It would certainly be hard to know for sure, but my first guess is that the handbag may belong to someone struggling with dementia. Women with dementia navigate their identity, memories, security, and privacy through familiar things. A handbag for a woman is often a sign of all of these things and a familiar (but empty) purse may be a trigger for her search.
Wishing you patience and peace,