At my day job, we recently underwent a major upgrade of our security cameras.
Yes, shoplifting has gotten bad enough and technology has gotten good enough that we have made this major investment.
Retailers have come to the sad realization that they face losses from both the traditional lowlife thieves and the thrill-seeking youngsters who rationalize, “Hey, the store has insurance!”
(Apparently these youngsters have seen enough neighbors with wheelbarrows of free zucchini to assume that insurance agents are roaming the countryside insisting, “Premiums? Shucks, we don’t need any premiums. Our assets were just going to waste!”)
When I worked in a convenience market during high school, we used the low-tech ancestor of a surveillance camera — a big mirror hanging from the ceiling at a jaunty angle, ostensibly so the cashier could monitor suspicious activity. (In those hippie-phobic days, my boss considered “lingering more than two seconds on the personal hygiene aisle” to be suspicious activity.)
It occurred to me that shoplifters could just as easily use the mirror to determine when the cashier was distracted. I became increasingly distracted when the old country song lyrics “I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see if I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me” lodged in my head.
I experienced an even earlier brush with surveillance (or faux surveillance) when I was in elementary school and desperately needed to use the restroom at my father’s office. Some comedian wannabe had placed a “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” sticker smackdab on the inside of the door. Luckily, I was later able to BUY a giant-size ex-lax instead of shoplifting one.
I’m not sure how much the presence of cameras deters thieves, but the cameras can make employees self-conscious and inclined to repress normal habits. The Jaws of Life are often required to rescue workers who indulge their pent-up urges while driving home. (“You wouldn’t believe how much nose-picking and jock itch-scratching one human can do in the split-second after the airbag activates!”)
Surveillance plans vary widely in accessibility, storage capacity and resolution. (“Are you SURE the suspect didn’t bear a striking resemblance to your baby’s six-week sonogram?”)
You’ve probably seen stories about New York City grocers having to keep cans of SPAM (!) under lock and key. I understand that other items soon to be locked up nationwide are religious tracts, jury duty notices, “honey do” lists and kale fruitcake.
Of course, much of the shoplifting is caused by soft-on-crime district attorneys and judges. Granted, you can no longer refer to it as “revolving-door justice,” because the thieves usually take the revolving door as well!
Cities that decide not to prosecute thefts under $950 also exacerbate the problem, although a few dummies still wind up serving jail time. (“OK, my understanding of math in school made me think two $650 flatscreen TVs would total less than $1,000. But at least I grasped the important part, about the store once allowing a man to hold a door open for a woman!”)
I’m up late writing this, so I’m tempted to call in sick tomorrow. But then a little voice asks, “What? And give up SHOWBIZ?”
I’m sure my guardian angel will get me to work safely. Guardian angel? That opens another privacy can of worms! Talk about incriminating images stored in the cloud!
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and the author of Yes, Your Butt Still Belongs in Church. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.