Thursday, December 08, 2005


I like Christmas. Or Yuletide as I prefer to call it, because as we are all aware (aren't we) that this time of year was first and foremost a pagan festival before other johnny-come-lately religions appropriated it.

Be that as it may; the origin of the season is neither here nor there in my books. I'm happy that once a year we are reminded of that noble sentiment Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men (I use the archaic genderism advisedly. It is of course redundant, but I like the scan). You could make it an aphorism by which to live your life.

However. (you knew there was going to be a 'however' didn't you? Otherwise that would be it, we'd have polished off the plum pudding and you'd be picking holly out of your teeth by now). However. As each year passes, I get more and more pissed off by the rabid commercial terrorism that the season has become.

It's not the giving, nor indeed buying, of gifts that I deplore, nor the decorations, the lights, the wonderful food and drink. There's a space for all these things. They are the tokens by which we celebrate the privileges of our lives. One of the great things about the Season is that it is scalable - you don't need to spend much more than a few thoughts to bring happiness to others.

But that's not how the retailers see it. Christmas is now an OPPORTUNITY. Along with that view comes the reciprocal view by shopkeepers that certain customers see it as an OPPORTUNITY as well.

A few years back at about this time, I was browsing in a bookshop in the city (I'm naming names, dammit. I really hope they read this). My own view is that there are few better gifts than a book, and I have many friends who are avid readers. So bookshops feature prominently in my Christmas shopping routine. In this particular case, I'd found a couple of things, and I was having a particularly enjoyable day (shopping for books is just about as much fun as giving them - I'm selfish like that). I paid for my purchases and was heading out the exit when...BLLEEEEMPP BLLEEEEMPP BLLEEEEMPP BLLEEEEMPP ... one of those wretched shoplifting alarms went off at my elbow.

Security Guard appears.
SG: Can I see your bag please sir?

Me: Why? (alright, it was a dumb-ass comment, but I was genuinely rattled)

SG: I'd just like to check your bag. It's a condition of the store.

Me (indignantly, realizing that he thinks I've stolen something): OK, just as long as you know I really resent you doing this (I was also resenting the fact that a dozen customers were staring at me a whole lot as well).

Of course, after I had revealed the contents of my bag to everyone in the shop, and it seems that it was just the bloody alarm detector thing having some kind of conniption, there were the perfunctory apologies and I was allowed on my way.

But man, it wrecked my day. What's worse, I now have some kind of phobia about the whole thing. It's wrecked all my Christmas shopping expeditions forever. Now whenever I go into or out of a shop when all the Christmas decorations are up, I feel like everybody behind every counter in every shop regards me not as a customer, but as a potential, or even probable, thief.

Most of all, I was pissed off that a shop in which I have probably spent thousands of dollars on books, made me, a loyal customer, feel like a common pilferer. Now, I understand that retailers have trouble with shoplifting but in their zeal to stop a relative minority of thieves I feel they have traded something valuable on something petty.

The way I see it, no matter how hard you try, you can't buy loyalty. But you can sure smash it in one embarrassing second.

†Yes, yes, I know, possibly the worst pun I've ever made on The Cow


Anonymous anne arkham said...

Having worked many years in retail, I assure you that those alarms go off frequently. They are almost always false alarms, and I promise that the employee who is searching your bag is not thinking "This guy's a thief," he's thinking "This freaking alarm is malfunctioning AGAIN."

Also, you should know that everyone's had an experience like that. It's happened to me more times than I can count. Sometimes I stop. Sometimes I just keep walking.

December 08, 2005 4:19 PM  
Blogger Chickie said...

I've had that happen a few times. Always at Wallyworld. And I just keep walking - the greeters they use are usually so old or disabled that they can't catch you.

December 08, 2005 4:20 PM  
Blogger Joey Polanski said...

Aftr they offr the apology, you shoud offr t fix th alarm / dtector so it wont do that no more. Then kick th dam thing hard as ya can an walk out.

December 08, 2005 4:29 PM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Anne Arkham: Sure, I understand that the real issue here is with my brain and not other people's brains, but no matter that I know that I haven't stolen anything every time I pass through those security things I feel weirdly like I'm under scrutiny. I know you're just rolling your eyes and thinking "Yeah, get used to it chum" but I think there's something seriously wrong with a society that assumes everyone is guilty... call me old fashioned. I'm an idealist. I'm in therapy.

Chickie: Careful, I might be getting close to the ages of those greeters. It all depends on your reference point.

Joey: If you're every in town, let's go shopping. I don't mean that in a gay kinda way. I just want to take lessons.

December 08, 2005 4:55 PM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

As far as I'm concerned, books are great. But music is a FANTASTIC gift.

With the alarms, I've had people just wave me though WAY too often. I almost want them to search my bag at that point...

December 08, 2005 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Universal Head said...

Ahh, the assumption of guilt syndrome. Seems to be getting more and more prevalent in our society, especially in the entertainment industry. I'm thinking of anti-copying software on music CDs that doesn't actually let you play it in certain players. Or the DVDs I have that start with a two-minute advertisement telling me not to download movies from the internet, when I BOUGHT THE FRIGGIN' THING IN A STORE WITH MY HARD-EARNED MONEY. And not only do I have to sit through this particular ad every time I put the DVD in, but to add insult to injury, it begins with a high volume siren/guitar distortion onslaught and offensive flashing graphics, which almost always causes me to lunge desperately for the volume remote - which I then can't find because it's fallen behind the couch cushions - in a near panic with my heart pounding and in danger of nervous collapse.

I too, hate to be treated like a thief. These kinds of corporate-greed-driven insults make me want to go out and download songs and movies, because if I'm going to be treated like a thief I might as well receive the largess that comes with being one.

December 08, 2005 8:34 PM  
Blogger jedimacfan said...

A tip for music thieves:

If you take 2 CDs and place those square magnetic pricetage/alram strips commonly found on them facing each other, the alarm will not go off when you walk through it.

That's how thief stole CDs from us when I worked at B&N. If nothing else, it should save you a few bucks, Joe Fuel.

December 08, 2005 9:58 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

I triggered a theft alarm on "Black Friday" morning. At a newly opened Office Depot. Where my wife had just started working. I kept going; the store manager insisted I come back (in a somewhat loud voice so's I could hear her over the stupid, still-blaring alarm). And she'd been standing beside the cashier when I checked out. They found one item with its tag uncleared, fixed it and let me go. And (sorry) I experienced no particular trauma and have had no haunting flashbacks on later visits. Maybe you should have your therapist switch your meds; seems to be working for me.*

And I recently had a run-in with DRM on a legally downloaded music track. I bought it while at work, and downloaded it to my work PC. Later - at home - I wanted to play the track; no problem, I thought. I'll just download it again, which I did.

Seems I'm such a theft risk and/or lowlife I'm not allowed to *play* the downloaded track on more than one computer. I stayed reasonably calm. Next day at work I burned the track to a CD - allowed, 3 times I think - then ripped the track using a sound editor and saved it as an mp3. Problem solved forever.

I see this as one of those "self-fulfilling prophecy" things. I can't play something I bought? I think not. I don't mind paying for music but there's no way I'll buy a separate copy for each computer I use.

December 09, 2005 1:38 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Joe: Hmmm. Wanting to get caught. Wanting to be involved in "Hello From Hell'... Hmmm...

Universal Head & RaJ: Yes, you're understanding perfectly the depth of my argument (except for your '*' RaJ which goes mysteriously unexplained)

jedimacfan: Good haxx0r tip there, bonus C0w points for u.

December 09, 2005 8:21 PM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

You forgot something... Wanting to wear a kilt.

December 10, 2005 5:09 AM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

Right. That was my daily dose of irony: a footnote* touting improvements to things like attention span and memory.

And I'm considering an exhaustive review to find a consensus "worst pun ever made on The Cow." Toward that end I'm willing to agree it's this one. Thus far, anyway.

* Forgotten. Hence the irony. See? Better today.

December 10, 2005 9:02 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Joe: Ah yes, -shakes head- I'll add that to the list.

Jam: I think from now on you can just use the asterisk and we'll all understand its ironic implications.

December 10, 2005 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Cissy Strutt said...

the Law for Australians: Under the Law, it is legal for a retail someone to ask if they may look into your bag, and it is also legal for you to refuse. Even if the retail premises displays a sign saying "it is a condition of entry that all bags be presented for inspection" you are within your legal rights to refuse to show them your bag. They have only one legal recourse, which is to bar you from FUTURE visits to the premises. I stood on my rights at Coles Express Kings Cross (supermarket) when an (short)agressive security guard insisted on looking into my bag. I refused, explaining the Law to him (couched in v sarcastic "well, as you would KNOW ..." terms). When I told him he could bar me, he promptly did. I continue to shop there most days.

December 10, 2005 12:12 PM  

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