Monday, December 18, 2006
Busted by the grocery police
In the Not-Wal-Mart dairy case
Somewhere in Ontario, December 2006
Remember the old saying that folks buy SLR-type cameras and then watch them gather dust at home because they're too large to conveniently cart along? I humbly beg to differ.
Since first bringing the new wonder machine home a couple of months back, I've taken to slinging my beaten-up old Tamrac camera bag over my shoulder whenever I head out of the house. It could be for something as routine as dropping the kids off for a playdate, going to fill the tank with gas or, in this case, getting some milk from the grocery section of the newly-expanded Super Evil Empire Retailer in an unnamed burg somewhere within the Province of Ontario. Wherever I'm headed, the bag is ideal for carrying the camera and the rest of my collection of electronic tools (yes, I'm a geek...it only gets worse with time.)
I've ofen fretted about getting caught with said camera in a store. Well, I need fret no more. The eagle-eyed sentries who guard the hundreds of security cameras hanging down from the ceilings of a certain unnamed Evil Empire Retailer are very clearly earning their keep, as they saw fit to dispatch not one, nor two, but three nattily-dressed managers to intercept me in the dairy section.
I could hear them coming from a half-mile away - Head Manager #1 (HM1) was wearing the kind of clip-cloppety heels that bring back bad memories of school marms on power trips. Her two assistants (HM2 and HM3) looked very stern as HM1 initiated her interrogation:
HM1: "Can you please explain what you're doing with your camera?"
Me: [Pause to bite lip before I say something really caustic]. "Why, yes, ma'am. I'm taking pictures of your lovely milk cartons."
HM1: "You're not allowed to do that. Our rules explicitly state that you are not allowed to take pictures inside the store."
Me: "I'm so sorry. I was not aware of your rules. Are they available on your web site?"
HM2 & HM3: [Nod] [Frown]
HM1: "Yes they are. I suggest you read them. No cameras are allowed in the store. There are no exceptions."
Me: "OK. It won't happen again."
HM2 & HM3: [Simultaneously furrow their brows]
Me: [Walk away really slowly, watching out for burly men. They never arrive.]
What I wanted to say instead of the "won't happen again" part was something akin to a smarmy, "And what do you want my wife and I to do with the basket laden with hundreds of dollars of fine slave labor-produced goods that we had intended to purchase from your store?"
But I resisted this, of course, because visions of minimum-wage-paid hands grabbing the memory card out of my camera danced in my head. And I really wanted to get these pictures home so I could share at least one on my blog.
I learned a lesson on this day, and it has nothing to do with power-tripping store employees taking down a sarcastic, camera-wielding journalist in the dairy case. It has everything to do with a little word my mother taught me when I played hide-and-go-seek in the dairy case of a much smaller and friendlier grocery store in my neighborhood: please.
Your turn: Does this mean the end of my storebound photographic adventures? Any advice on what I should have done - or what I should do next time I go shopping - would be most welcome.
In related news: I came across this piece, The Right to Bear SLRs, on Wired.com. Kinda timely, I think.
Quick program note: I'm scheduled to participate in Report on Business Television's look-back at 2006 tonight (Monday) at around 8:37 p.m. The actual show runs from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time, and will feature a bunch of experts and related folks speaking about the companies that made headlines this year. I'm part of a three-person panel discussing Research In Motion (RIM, the BlackBerry folks). If you're in Canada and subscribe to cable or satellite service, you can watch it live on TV. Otherwise, I'll post the link to the show once it's posted on their web site. Should be fun!