Now here is a thorny etiquette issue that only someone British could get themselves into. What do you do when you are carrying something that sets off shop alarms?

This lunchtime I needed to buy a cheap calculator, so off I trotted to a local branch of Rymans, selected the model I wanted and attempted to take it to the counter. No can do, the whole display was protected by a security cord. Little problem there, just queue up at the counter, tell the assistant what you want and then wait while he goes through the laborious process of deactivating the alarm, carefully unthreading the cable that is linking every single model on the rack together, extracting the one I want and then threading the cable back again before activating the alarm.

All this for a £4 calculator.

One consequence of this rigmarole must have been that the assistant forgot to cancel the security tag on the back of the packet (yes, this £4 model was indeed protected by two different security systems). As a result the bleepers on the door went off as I walked out of the shop. Nobody accosted me so I just forgot about it and carried on.

Two minutes later I enter Woolworths.

*bleep* *bleep*

That was me, walking in the door with my new purchase still primed and clearly still ready to set the alarm off in just about any shop I enter. Here then is where I face the dilemma. If I walk out the door without purchasing anything I will of course set the alarm off – instantly attracting the attention of the burly looking security guard whose day will clearly be made by having something more to do than stopping the local teenagers pilfering the pick n’ mix.

Now any sensible person would have approached him directly and explained the problem. Being British of course I am caught in a panic over the etiquette of the situation and the fact that nobody ever really taught me the correct way to approach a security gorilla and say “Look, I am not a shoplifter but…” So instead I go for Plan B – wander around the store and find something nice and substantial to purchase, something I can take to the cash desk and buy right under the nose of the security guard before walking with as much confidence as I can summon towards the doors and the dreaded alarm sensors.

*beep* *beep*

The security guard looks nonplussed for the moment, trying to work out which of the three people by the doors have set the alarm off. He has seen me make my purchase so is sure it cannot be me. Eventually I have to put him out of his misery and demonstrate that it is the Rymans bag causing the alarms – leaving me finally free to escape the store.

Once back at the office, the security tag is peeled off the back of the calculator pack. A sensible man would have done this in the street outside Rymans in the first place but that wouldn’t have made for such an interesting story would it?

Upon arriving home, Mila delves into the bag containing my purchases.

“Why have you bought a pair of kitchen scales? You never cook anything that needs weighing.”

If only she knew.

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