Your statement makes no sense.
If there are no matching items, then HOW CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE any list?
If "john" has no matching records in the items table, then how can you expect to get a list of ids for "john" when there are no ids for him???
An optimist sees the glass as half full.
A pessimist sees the glass as half empty.
A realist drinks it no matter how much there is.