Trainee hairdresser Severine Tschirren was in the Coiffure X salon at the time and told local paper the St Gallen Tagblatt that she initially thought he was going to raid the till.
But instead the man went to the window display, tore down a curtain and grabbed one of two cardboard cut-outs of the Star Wars character Chewbacca.
He then ran out of the building with the giant cut-out, dropping a note on the floor that said he must free the hairy creature “because he suffers from Stockholm Syndrome”, referring to the psychological condition where a victim feels attached to their captor.
Tschirren, 20, told the paper she was “full of shock” and didn't know what to do.
Staff called the police who at first didn't believe them, she said, adding that she found that pretty funny. “You cannot invent something like that,” she said.
St Gallen police confirmed the existence of the handwritten note and said they attended the scene on Monday, but hadn't received an official complaint.
“I had to laugh when I heard the story for the first time,” a police spokesman told radio station FM1 Today.
Tschirren told the radio station police advised her to tie up the thief should he come back to steal the second cut-out figure, and that she had now equipped herself with pepper spray just in case.
Salon owner Ivan Herb told the media he thought the thief either had psychological troubles or was carrying out a student prank.
“If it was supposed to be a joke, it wasn't funny,” he told newspaper 20 Minutes.
The salon is known in the city for its window displays. Photo: Coiffure X
Speaking to The Local, Herb said staff at the salon were initially scared after the man said it was a terrorist attack.
“In the first moments yes,” he said, before quickly realizing it was no such thing.
He told the media he did not lodge an official complaint to police because he felt “that would probably do nothing” but is offering a 100 franc reward for the return of Chewbacca, which is about the value of the cut-out.
“We hope we will get Chewbacca back,” Herb told The Local, adding that he is making a ‘Chewbacca Wanted' poster to put up in the shop.
He also admitted that the incident has whipped up plenty of interest for the salon, which has been running for 30 years.
“It's great for us!” he laughed.
It's not the only theft of a fictional character in the St Gallen area this week.
A duck-shaped garden ornament known as ‘little Picozzo' was stolen from the garden of a 60-year-old in Bad Ragaz sometime between last Friday and Monday, St Gallen police said in a statement.
The figure has a value of more than 1,000 francs