Monday, November 17, 2014

A Secure Job

The terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2008 inadvertently created a lot of jobs. Security guards were suddenly en vogue and every store, restaurant, hotel, office and apartment building hired them by the dozen to stand at their new gates, collect at their entrances, and to sit in their elevators. Years later, the rituals are firmly entrenched while the actual security part is highly questionable. Most seem really bored and uninterested like this guard at the cell phone store.

We walk through 'security' check points many times throughout our day, we beep and buzz as we step through metal detectors, my purse is scanned and physically rummaged through, a hand wand is ceremoniously waved in our vicinity, but no one has ever given any of the beeping or flashing red lights a second thought.

For example, a trip to the mall requires everyone to pass through security gates at the street, security guards outside the main doors, and airport style security checks at every entrance.

The men go through metal detectors to the left, beep loudly, step on a small platform, get wanded, beep several more times, and walk away. Women go to the right, bags are inspected then scanned while the women enter a curtained booth for a wanding experience, beep several times, and walk away.

Once you're inside the mall, each store has their own security guards with places like the movie theater and grocery stores having a second set of security personnel, metal detectors, booths and wanders. No store will let you enter if you have shopping bags or back packs. A purse is okay, but all other items have to be checked at a counter either outside the store or just inside the door to the store. It is a serious deterrent for shopping - you think long and hard about whether you REALLY want to browse through a store when you know you have to stand in another line to check in your bags and then again to claim them once you leave.

Any purchase you make inside the store, HAS to be stamped by the security guard on your way out. Oh, and by the way, photography is forbidden. 

It is virtually impossible to return things, but if you want to loose your patience and several hours of your life, you need to present a stamped receipt that every employee in the store will feel impelled to study and ruminate on it. If you pay in cash, a second worker has to circle and initial the change given back to you verifying that you actually received it - or more likely, that they didn't keep it.

Even the little grocery stores in our tiny town have metal detectors and bag-check counters. I avoid the Dmart that's popular with the Indian shoppers because you have to wait in an additional line to have your purse zip-tied shut. The cashier has to snip it open at check-out to make sure you haven't swiped something while shopping. This is the Haiko where I do most of my shopping - you can see the clumping of people at the entrance as they wait to get in. You have to grab your grocery cart before entering and hand it to a security guard while another one watches you beep your way through a metal detector before handing your cart back. I keep trying to side-step the metal detectors but while our elderly guard may not care that you beep, he really cares that you attempt to avoid beeping.

When we first arrived, I was constantly getting chased down for not getting receipts stamped or for walking around a security check-point. Now, I rarely give it a second thought. The other day I actually caught myself chasing down a distracted receipt-stamper to get my verification in ink - my very own gold star for a safe and legal shopping experience. No security guards at a restaurant, store, office, or apartment?!? Why, that feels completely unnatural and is the reason why the security guard's job is the most secure thing in India.

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