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I Am A Security Guard: Mistakes, I've Made A Few

Shortly after I started my job, the Head Guard gave me an assignment. He showed me a picture of a young man with a goatee. The youngster had fought with him and an assistant manager before getting arrested for theft. The Head Guard banned the man from the store. He told me to call the police if the shoplifter returned.

Of course, someone who looked like him walked into the store on a Saturday night. I looked at him. He looked at me. I asked if he had been in the store before, hoping to provide a hint about the arrest. He asked if he looked like someone.

Because he sounded like a smart aleck, I told an assistant manager about the visitor and grabbed the picture from the main office. Meanwhile, a cop walked into the store. I gave the photograph to the officer. He compared the picture with the man and decided the two did not match. I had made a big mistake.

I apologized to the customer. Luckily for me, he did not complain to the corporate office. I had dodged a bullet.

That was just one of the mistakes I've made while doing my job.

In previous columns, I've written about people who are quirky, obnoxious or just plain ignorant. This time, I acknowledge that I've been the idiot on several occasions.

Another man made me nervous after he walked in the store during a Christmas season. The Nice Cashier told me the customer lurked in the toy section. I walked to the aisle and watched him. An assistant manager shook a finger at me and told me not to stalk customers. And the man eventually bought merchandise that night.

On a different evening, a couple walked in the store about 2:30 a.m. They grabbed a few pairs of sweatpants, and then walked around the aisles to look for more goods.

The couple reached the cash register without the clothes. I asked the man where they left them. When he didn't answer, I called the same assistant manager. The man claimed I accused him and his friend of theft, griped that he had spent $40, and demanded the clothes as compensation. The manager agreed and chewed me out for using poor judgment.

I felt awkward about costing the store merchandise.

One woman stood near a shelf of pantyhose. I glanced at her just when she slipped something inside the right pocket of her jacket. I approached her, and asked about the item. She reached back into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone.

Because the cosmetics department is a high-theft area, I'm especially concerned about preventing theft there. That anxiety caused me to overreach while dealing with a woman who spent about 20 minutes in the section. I watched her put a lipstick container in her purse. After she walked past the cash register, I told her about the act. She showed the item to me. She had brought a used container to help her remember her preferred brand.

Due to luck, the company has not fired me or transferred me to another store. It helps that many of the managers are patient and kind. The Head Guard provides tips and updates about thieves caught by the staff. Also, most of my blunders took place early in my time at the store. Since then, I've figured out which customers to watch and to report suspicious behavior to the manager on duty. In addition, I try to build goodwill with the staff by sweeping the floor, bringing carts from the parking lot and showing up early,

Somehow, one customer maintained goodwill despite a dumb mistake by me. That customer, who wore a short haircut, walked into the store with a backpack about 1 a.m. Since we occasionally require customers to leave bags at the front, I asked, "Sir, can you check your bag?" When the customer answered yes, I realized that I had made the request to a woman.

Despite my stupidity, she smiles at me when she stops by the store. It's a lot more than I deserve.

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A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. He welcomes your comments.

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See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.



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Posted on April 29, 2010


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
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POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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