"We Have Security For That..."

On a recent trip to my local supermarket, I decided to try on the consumer price scanners they offer. These handy devices allow the buyer to scan the bar codes of his items as he selects them and tallies the cost on-the-fly. During checkout, the scanned items are uploaded to the cashier and payment is made.

This being my first experience with the solution, I had questions (I always have questions). The system, though high-tech, is based on the low-tech idea that customers will be trustworthy enough to scan all of their items. Imagine, however, the quintessential example of the harried mother tracking multiple children while trying to follow her grocery list. Little grabby hands drop a box of sugar-coated, syrup-laden flakey cereal into the grocery cart and Mom doesn't see it.

I asked my cashier, call her Shelley, what would happen if a customer inadvertently missed scanning an item. I first saw a look of panic flash across Shelley's face. Then she looked around almost as is she needed back up. Finally, she told me, "we have security for that." "Oh," I replied, "will an alarm go off at the doors if something hasn't been scanned?"

Shelley: "Well... Not exactly."
Me: "Can you catch it if something got missed? I mean, is there some way to notify the buyer before they leave the building?"
Shelley: "We have security for that."
Me: "Is there any way to stop items from leaving that haven't been scanned?"
Shelley: "Have you not scanned something, sir?"
Me: "C'mon Shelley, of course I've scanned everything. I'm just curious if you can catch it, especially if someone accidentally misses scanning an item."
Shelley: "We have security for that."
Me: "Sure thing, Shelley. Sure thing."

The long and short of it is that my curiosity forced Shelley into what was for her, an uncomfortable situation. I don't think she had ever had anyone pose that question to her. She probably never thought about it herself. Most people, unfortunately, don't think about real security. Instead, Shelley tried to scare me with her "We have security for that" retort. Perhaps to conjure up images of men in dark suits, shades and their right hands up to their ears listening for orders. Perhaps to make me think that well-trained, coke-sniffing dogs had been pulled from the U.S.-Mexico border to monitor the exits for would-be shoplifters smuggling Gerber baby food to their minivans. Perhaps to instill in me the notion that there's an eye in the sky watching my shopping patterns to determine if I could be gaming the house.

Maybe security for many people is really nothing more than a sense that there is something out there to protect them from those things they know nothing about; it absolves them of the need to ask these questions themselves. Or, perhaps, because they really don't know the answers, they want to bluff their way out of the conversation instead of simply admitting to their ignorance and moving on.

Whatever it is, "we have security for that..."