I know how it feels to be singled out for no good reason. Lately, profilers have been flagging me because they erroneously believe my presence presents what? Some sort of threat? Most assuredly… I am NOT who they’re making me out to be. And that does tend to happen when prejudice rears its ugly head. So… who are they?
The (wo)men, who big box chain stores hire to thwart shoplifters. Normally, I’d say more power to them… if not for the fact that I am NOT a shoplifter and have never, ever, stolen one damned thing from any store… period!
Now, since they are basing their suspicions solely on my physical appearance…
Permit me to present the profile of the real me ~ If such a thing as a pictorial Thesaurus existed… whenever anyone flipped the pages open to the “H” section… oh… say… to look up the word “honest”… they’d find a snapshot of me. Of course, they’d also find my photo… again in the “H” section… if they were looking up the word, “hippie”.
“Yeah, Yeah Yeah”… not too long ago, this Sixties era “flowerchild” got back to his longhair roots. How long is long? Well… the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover will answer that Q. In that Fab Four, crosswalk procession, my hair style/color is a pretty close match to John Lennon’s. And as long as we’re on the subject of hair follicles, I also sport a neatly trimmed beard.
The clothes that make this man ~ In spite of my nostalgia for the Sixties, it’s been a long time since rainbow color / tie-dyed tees, bellbottom jeans with embroidered peace symbols and sandals were en vogue. Come to think of it… I’ve never ever actually owned anything tie-dyed.
These days, when I go shopping, I wear drab hued cargo pants, khakis or faded, stylishly threadbare jeans topped off with a tee, polo or sweatshirt. My shoes are athletic and outerwear is whatever the seasonal weather patterns dictate. Also relevant to this discussion, my sunglasses come off as soon as I enter a store… i.e., no shades to make me look like a shady character.
So… what happens after I “lose” the shades? Well… I start innocently / casually browsing through the merchandise… my eyes focused solely on the merchandise. I can assure you I’m not looking about suspiciously to see if anyone is watching me.
In spite of that… folks… you would not believe how fast store security salesclerks have been rushing up to me… to ask me if I need any “help” (I can hear the suspicion and near panic in their hesitant, vocal inflection). With my being fully cognizant of the real reason for this sudden burst of “customer service”… and how ludicrously inept they are at concealing it… well… I’m almost tempted to say in a hushed tone, “Oh… btw… I am not a shoplifter” AND then burst out laughing.
But this is no laughing matter ~ What makes my receiving this “special treatment” even more inexplicable is that these businesses also employ burly dudes to patrol their portals. If I were to profile them, I’d say they look like steroid bulked up NFL retirees, who could easily tackle any and all suspected shoplifters… long before any of them reached the end zone / parking lot.
I’m also virtually 100% certain that these merchants have invested heavily in security cams. So, clearly, everyone can see that I’ve not stolen one damned thing. So why am I being singled out?
Here’s the real kicker ~ In bygone days, while sporting a much shorter “conservative’ hairstyle and, in some cases, even outfitted with the exact same garments, I have shopped these same chain stores and locations. Yep, as you may’ve already guessed, those were the days when I had gotten absolutely no service at all. True, maybe at that time, they weren’t being ripped off as much? I dunno…
And… btw… I do know how store security functions (or in this case malfunctions). Once upon a time I worked in retail sales and management… to the tune of thirty years. During my OJT, I learned how to properly prevent shrinkage. Translating that from Retail-Speak to English… that means we learned how to make damned sure that outgoing merchandise did not bypass the cash register.
My past training sessions had neatly drawn out the typical shoplifter profile… the #1 tip off being that any “customer” who eyes the store personnel more than the merchandise is usually up to no good.
Is there anything positive… re my being profiled? Well… if I ever DID need help, I wouldn’t have to wander around ISO a clerk. But all one-liners aside… let’s get serious.
My experiences have given me a far better understanding of the emotionally devastating feelings minorities experience when they’ve been racially profiled.
True, I won’t likely ever be beaten up or beaten to death for merely being a “hippie”. But the same cannot be said for those who have been assaulted and murdered because they are non-Caucasian.
Equally true, I could rapidly put an end to being profiled by simply getting a haircut. But, what about folks who can do nothing to change the melanin content of their skin?