Tag Archives: checking bags

Guilty before proven innocent

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

While shopping today I exited a shop while carrying a shopping bag with a couple of books that I purchased at the bookstore a few doors down.  I noticed the lady standing at the door.  Its funny, I often think of her as having a customer service role – to smile, answer questions and just be lovely.  But shopping with a shopping bag changes everything.  You are no longer just a casual shopper, you are a potential thief.  Actually, no…you are a thief!  Until you can prove otherwise, that is.

As I exited the doors with my bags I was aware of my current status.  I was also aware of the customer service come security lady at the door, but I didn’t want to show her my bag.  Not because I had anything to hide, but because I was tired, I couldn’t be bothered, and I had to walk across the other side of the store to show her, so I did what anybody else would do in that situation, I avoided eye contact.  I could see her from the corner of my eye coming towards me, so I bit the bullet as she asked if she could check my bag.  I smiled politely and obliged, opening my bag for her to see all its contents. She thanked me, and life went on.

I walked away thinking about this, how I smiled and politely showed her the contents of my bag.  How I allowed her to invade my privacy, allowed her to accuse me of stealing, and didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow at her.  Why do we allow ourselves to be treated like this??  If it were in any other situation we would never allow it.  Could you imagine…you visit somebody in their home, and as you leave they smile and say “would you mind if I had a look in your bag before you leave?”.  You’d be fuming!!  But for some reason in this context its ok.  Why? Because its always been like this, we don’t even give it a second thought.

Yes, I know, theres a lot more to it than that.  For the most part people can’t decide who does and doesn’t visit their store.  And people DO steal, probably a lot more than I would like to believe.  But why should that make it ok for me to be treated like a criminal?  Does the actions of a few bad apples justify the assumption of guilty until proven innocent for all of us?

I remember as a teenager being in a shop with some friends, when a staff member waited for me at the front of the store asking to search my bags.  Till this day I have never seen such a thorough search, they were very determined to find something.  It was as if they had decided my guilt when they saw me, and now it was just a matter of confirming it.  And when they didn’t find anything they seemed quite upset about it!

Now I understand that people have to protect their investment, but surely by now we have the ability to do this in a better way.  We have cameras at every corner, unpurchased objects to beep upon exit, and even contraptions attached to garments that can not be removed without damaging them…yet we still feel the need to hold onto this degrading practice.

When will demeaning practice stop and allow us to shop again with our dignity?