So, Just How Safe Are You- Really?

This thought struck me a few days ago, and it’s been on my mind a lot.
Most of us in South Africa (at least, most of us in the middle class suburbs) live in fortresses- behind eight foot walls, palisade fencing, remote operated electronic gates, movement triggered spotlights, armed response teams, alarm systems, car immobilisers and smash-proof windows… and most of us think that’s enough to make us safe. Most of us think we’re careful enough and that we keep an eye on our surroundings… but do we really? Most of us are careful who we give our details to over the internet and so on as well, and think that’s enough.
Well, lemme argue my case, shall I?
I stopped at a supermarket to buy bread and milk one afternoon and the cashier asked me where my son was. I blinked at her, smiled, said he was at home, and then I forgot about it. I stopped at the same supermarket (probably the next day or a day later) and a different cashier asked me how old Damien was- he was with me- I told her he was 16 and she commented on how much he’s grown. This struck me as, what’s the word, a little personal? I dunno; it seemed almost invasive.
I know a lot of people disagree with my “attitude” when it comes to people who provide me with a service- in that I don’t WANT to be their friends. I will be polite but that’s where I draw the line. I don’t discuss the weather and I don’t go out of my way to tell people to have a nice day and so on. Please and thank you is about it. I also don’t chat to the people in line with me if I can help it, and I get annoyed with complete strangers who talk to me out of the blue.
Then with the cashiers asking me personal questions- I realised that my parents and myself have been using the same supermarket, café, video shop, garage, doctor, bottle store, chemist, etcetera, for more than twenty years. And despite my habit of being simply polite and no more- most of the people who work in these places have also been there for 20 odd years, and as a result have gotten to know who’s connected to whom. In fact, one of the cashiers at the same supermarket once asked me if I still lived in the same flat! I was more than a little stunned as I realised that someone- someone I wasn’t even on a first name basis with- knew where I lived! And then I did the math (so to speak) and I realised that the cashiers know who my mom is… who my granny is… and who Damien is. And since I don’t like being too friendly I get annoyed when the people who work at the places I frequent start treating me like an old friend… maybe its just good customer service in most people’s eyes- but these are people I hardly know- who know an awful lot about me!
Extreme as it may sound, I have decided to shop and fill up my car elsewhere- and I’ll be making sure I don’t frequent the same place too often either.
All I want is polite customer service; I sure as hell don’t want to make friends with the woman who bags my groceries or the guy who fills my car and cleans my windscreen.

8 thoughts on “So, Just How Safe Are You- Really?

  1. lol I used to be one of those cashiers.. *blush* My shift was dead boring if I didn’t speak to peeps and find out about their lives. Some people loved it, and would tell us their life stories and how their mothers and sisters have stolen their best friends, and we developed relationships from it, but others would just nod and life would just go on as usual. 🙂

    But you’re right to be circumspect about us.. we can get rather stalkerish… 😀

  2. writeprocrastinator: heh heh… i can live with innocuous conversation about the weather and such- but these people are getting a little too personal!

    chatty mel: lol, if someone does talk to me i usually just nod and smile- i try not to encourage them… i tip for good service- but getting overly friendly is not good service to my mind… there’s a real fine line!

    janine: hoo boy, don’t get me started on people taking advantage!

    katy katy katy: hhmmm… see, i understand people not minding sharing information like that- but i like my privacy- and since i haven’t shared the information they’re asking about- i find it invasive.

    h.e.: i so don’t mind being polite in order to garner good service- and i tip accordingly, but in the interests of my own safety- these people make me nervous!

    allan: lol, very much like bloogers- ‘cept you guys don’t know where i live- and the info you all know about me is stuff i have shared- the cashiers and such are making their own assumptions based on stuff they’ve seen!

  3. “but these are people I hardly know- who know an awful lot about me!”

    That could describe Bloogers too!

  4. The media portrays South Africa as one of the most dangerous places on Earth so I am not surprised to see all of your protection.
    As for service industry workers I always lavish them with attention in order to dissuade them from prying and it almost always works…plus I get great service.

  5. if i am the customer I share bits of info I feel save to share when asked. But I can tell you as waitress I am expected to remember those things and ask about it. I have seen many families with kids for years and watched them grow up and it is rude not to ask after the kids,spouse, pet and so fourth. In this case it is customer service.

  6. I like chatting, but sometimes I’d love to just be left alone and not chat, so it’s a problem. I think I appear very friendly, and people take advantage of that.

  7. I would probably be one of those annoying people behind you who struck up a conversation. I must admit I like the friendliness and chattiness of people around me. I like it that the pharmacists knows who I am, the garage guy knows I always tip etc. One of the things I enjoyed about the US was the friendliness of the cashiers. Sorry, not relating!
    Chatty Mel

  8. As a former supermarket cashier, I don’t know what their problem is. I knew some fellow cashiers that wanted to know these things, simply to make conversation.

    The problem with that is it opens a window that can’t be closed. People would drone on and on, and you are trapped in the checkstand. I’d find out entirely too much information about their loved ones, pets, neighbors, politcal opinions, anger over the price of the groceries (like I actually saw a personal increase in salary), etc…

    They’d go on rants, much like the one I’m typing now ; ) What I meant to say was, that it was probably innocuous conversation and that you shouldn’t be too worried.

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