I walked in the door at Walmart yesterday and counted six security cameras which appeared to be aimed on me between parking my car and walking in the front door. That’s six that I could count. Two of them were at the door. And I did not mention the dozens of cameras that watched me as I shopped.
Then as I checked out, for the first time in my shopping experience, I was actually greeted by a representative of the company to which I was turning over my hard-earned money for the groceries I would eat to live on. She made a couple of friendly, yet cliché, remarks which made up the bulk of our interpersonal relating. And I used a debit card which also did not trust me to pay. I punched in my security code, but the card reader sent a message saying my card was denied.
Finally after numerous attempts to work it out, the checker said I would need to call my bank, meanwhile I left my buggy full of groceries with her and walked out under the watchful eye of dozens of security cameras.
I never felt so untrusted.
“Friendly service”? Sure, but it would better be termed “friend-like service”. That way it would not actually suggest we were literally friends, which would be more honest, because we are not.
Walmart doesn’t trust me as far as I can throw it.
This is just one experience among many I have on a daily basis. There are so many like it that I could not probably think of them all, much less write a blog post holding them all together in any sense of brevity.
I grew up in rural America where all the neighbors knew each other. We did not lock our doors at night – or when we left town. Most of us left the keys dangling right in the ignition in the car. The grocery store had a mirror for security, but I never saw anyone watching it. We knew the clerk’s name without reading the nametag. She was the wife of a friend, the sister of two other friends, the cousin of six other friends, sang in the choir at the church. Her aunt was our 3rd grade teacher. We went to a cook-out party for her 9-year old’s birthday. That was our security system.
I am not stupid. I totally get it. I understand the powerful urge to secure the Walmart parking lot and merchandise with security cameras and patrol officers. But the lack of trust Walmart has for me (a guy who has never stolen so much as 1 cent worth of merchandise from them – nor even thought about it before) and all the expense in electronics and man-power and money the system goes through to watch me along with everyone else gets translated into higher cost of bread and milk. There is more to the BIG picture than we normally consider.
“Shrinkage”. I don’t know if that is still the term merchandisers use for it, but it was when I worked in retail. The term covers all kinds of loss from shipping damage, to fraud. And the main culprits in theft are actually the employees, statistically speaking. These are the people Walmart should be TRUSTING the most. These are the people who must submit background information just to be there. Yet all the probing from background checks, interviews, cameras on the ceiling and every other security measure put in place does not achieve the TRUST that should be foundational.
There are forces at work pulling us apart and driving up the price of milk and bread in the process. And sending me home empty handed, as if I were unable to pay because some security feature in the system was triggered breaking down the “trust” in the “friendly service” I otherwise would have received. Instead, I was hit with the blunt reality that we are in fact not friends at all, and there is absolutely no trust between us. This despite the fact that I shop there all the time.
Oh, and by the way, this is the world that produces homelessness. That rural picture I painted above??? We did not have anyone living on the streets in our small town. The few who passed through over the years found hospitality for the most part – or kept on moving. By far, most of those living in that community found a place to belong. So, yeah, this stuff matters, and we should think it through carefully.
Here’s a question to consider: How might the church of Jesus Christ make a difference in this BIG picture?