Thank you for trying to shop at ParanoiaCity – or: should I not smile at security guards?

Today was the third time I’ve been accused of stealing from supermarkets in my part of London, Balham. We have exactly three supermarkets. Where am I supposed to shop now without feeling extremely awkward? And why was accused in the first place? Two reasons – I think, but feel free to add:

One: I sometimes wear a hoodie, which, in the UK, instantly makes you a criminal. But just because this comfy and highly practical item of clothing has fallen into disrepute, I don’t feel like taking my suit out of the wardrobe and do up my hair just to buy a pint of milk! And, actually, I didn’t wear a hoodie when I was accused the third time…

Two: My suspicion is that I come across as weird, because I greet and smile at the security guard. To me, that’s as a sign of courtesy and, to a degree, empathy, because I know what it’s like to have to do jobs like that. Often, I wished that people smiled or just recognised me as a human being. Instead, I’ve found that smiling appears to have the opposite effect. My current theory is that it attracts the security guard’s attention, maybe even make him (I haven’t been reprimanded by a ‘her’ yet) paranoid. If you’re a security guard, can you tell me whether that’s the case? If yes, I will try and stop smiling. I’m absolutely sick of being accused of not being (looking?) trustworthy & of not even receiving any apology!

I’ve also come to wonder whether this whole security business is worth it at all. I know there are all these figures how much losses supermarkets apparently make from stealing (both from customers and, actually, primarily employees)… but is it REALLY worth it, apart from the fact that it gives some more people a job? At least train people better so that they don’t enrage people who just want to purchase some food for a quiet night in by calling them ‘dodgy’ or ‘thieves’, even if they produce a receipt. Not sure what I am going to do now. It feels very uncomfortable going shopping where I live – apart from at the outdoor market and the cornershops (although, those increasingly have security cameras, too, but at least people seem to build some kind of trust relationship with you over time). In my experience – and that of a friend – once a security guard is convinced you are ‘dodgy’, they will try and prove they are right. A friend even had stuff shoved in his bag (not in Balham – somewhere else in South London). Not a nice feeling. And even if I manage to redeem my reputation, somehow, magically, I’m sure the next incident is round the corner. Thank you for trying to shop at ParanoiaCity!

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