Yesterday was a seemingly normal day, aside from the fact that I was stalked by a store security person in a popular craft store and made to feel so uncomfortable that I actually started to wonder if I was in fact breaking a law.
I understand loss prevention, and I have worked in retail but what I don’t understand is how it’s okay for security guards and employees to make people who are not shop-lifting feel discriminated against.
When the woman, let’s call her the Mall Cop, appeared in her security uniform next to me in the jewelry and bead aisle I made eye contact and said hello. She seemed like she might actually be looking at beads, until I realized she had decided to glue herself to me, so closely that I couldn’t think straight. She was looking at the same beads as I was, well her hands were touching them, right next to my hands, but she had her eyes on me. She was sending a message. She was on to me.
I’ve seen “loss prevention experts” in stores before. They usually just make their presence known and then leave you alone. This Mall Cop decided she’d browse, elbow to elbow, with me for the duration of my shopping.
I was trying to ignore her and pretend she was invisible but a few minutes in to this uncomfortable situation I started to worry. My mind was racing and I actually felt like my hands were a little shaky. My kids, two 9 yr olds and a 13 yr old, were with me and they were touching everything. I started to wonder if they’d put something in my purse, or in their pocket, or if I had accidentally done something suspicious. Why was she treating me like she was about to ask me to spread my legs and put my hands on the wall?
“It says SECRET SERVICE he whispered,” and I explained that she was security guard who was apparently keeping an eye on us. I intentionally spoke loud enough that she could hear. Then my frustration started to turn to anger and embarrassment.
I tried to keep my cool but I was no longer feeling inspired or creative and the last thing I could do was focus on which beads compliment each other and which accent stones match those beads. My kids realized she was unusually close to us and and one son noticed her embroidered badge. “It says SECRET SERVICE he whispered,” and I explained that she was security guard who was apparently keeping an eye on us. I intentionally spoke loud enough that she could hear. Then my frustration started to turn to anger and embarrassment.
- Was she targeting me because I have a lot of tattoos?
- Was she suspicious of me because my kids were literally touching everything in the store?
- Why were other women, of a similar age, able to browse the beads and jewelry supplies comfortably and alone?
I did not appreciate being treated like a criminal. I did not appreciate that her presence, right by my side with her eyes glued to me, was noticed by every other shopper in the vicinity, and I certainly didn’t appreciate that my shopping was cut short by my lack of ability to concentrate on what I went to the store for in the first place. I felt like I was about to be arrested and yet I had done nothing wrong.
My daughter says I get “crazy eyes” just before I’m about to get confrontational with someone and I could feel it coming over me. I wanted to throw my purse on the floor and offer to let her search it. I wanted to make a scene and confront her for making me feel so uncomfortable and humiliated in front of other shoppers and ask her why she was stalking me?
I thought better of it. I knew I’d misspeak, as I usually do when in a confrontation. I get flustered, red-faced, nervous and emotional. Therefore I decided to get my basket, purchase what we’d selected and leave.
I used it as a teaching experience for my children explaining to them on the drive home what discrimination was and how others must feel when they’ve done nothing wrong and they’re treated differently because of their skin color, appearance, age, clothing, vehicle or gender. I told them how some people are beaten up and even murdered because of who they choose to love or because their clothes are dirty and they’re homeless. I pointed out that we may have just been discriminated against because of my appearance or because of the fact that I was a mother with three unruly kids in tow.
I decided to call the store manager when I got home to let her know how unpleasant my shopping experience had been.
My call to the manager put my mind at ease, at least with regards to how I was feeling about a store that I normally enjoyed and looked forward to shopping at. She knew of the woman but said she was not employed by the store. She was in fact a Mall Cop and her job was to drive around this open air mall and keep the peace. The manager explained that she did make a purchase that day but she couldn’t be sure whether she was on or off the clock at the time of my interaction with her. I asked if she was apparently “taking matters into her own hands” by policing the bead aisle and the manager explained that she likely was.
At first I felt sorry for myself, my bead shopping experience was ruined, wah-wah-wah! The bigger and more important thing to recognize is that that’s all that was ruined and I should be thankful. As unpleasant as it might have been I am glad it happened. This was opportunity to get to walk in others shoes, an opportunity to be empathetic. People are discriminated against every single day and I am fortunate enough to be able to count on one hand the amount of times something even remotely resembling discrimination has happened to me.
I’m Julie, a former cloth diaper retailer who discovered a passion for the industry. Now, instead of selling cloth diapers, I advocate them and promote small businesses I love who sell and manufacture them.
I’m the wife of a fireman and mother of three. I have a daughter and identical twin sons.