“We’re sorry, you do not trust the Wal-Mart inventory control system. Please step back, and an associate will slap you around until you do.”

Items ready for checkout at Wal-MartLet me just say that we don’t trust Wal-Mart’s inventory control system for a reason.  That reason being that these things are not too reliable.  I would dare to say that those merchandise alarms sound more false alarms than catch shoplifters, first of all, and secondly, it seems to me that it does more to make the average, law-abiding, actual paying shopper feel like a criminal at many fine retail establishments.  All of a sudden, John Q. Shopper, who just dropped a nice wad of bills at the register has to prove that he owns that which he just paid for.  If the system were 100% effective, that would be another story.  If I pay for the merchandise and the system never goes off, then great, and I am all for having it.  However, it’s not.  People forget to deactivate items, items don’t deactivate, and then the more incompetent members of the sales staff at stores say, “Yeah, well, there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’s going to make the alarm go off in every other store you visit.”  Lovely.  They act like I enjoy being the center of attention in a bad way every time I walk into a store.  It’s embarrassing, it’s aggravating, and sometimes it’s not even merchandise that sets the things off! Depending on the things I’m carrying, some of my everyday stuff has tripped the store alarms.  JMU Bookstore is notorious for it.  I could probably walk in there buck naked and still set the alarm off.  It’s insane.  So now you’re probably wondering what to do in place of evil itself, er, the electronic “inventory control systems”.  My recommendation, no matter how much it pains me to say it, is to replace the machines with some real human beings.  The warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco know the right way to do it.  What they do is they station someone at the entrances to check your stuff and then validate your receipt, usually by either punching a hole in it, or by swiping it with a highlighter or something.  Reliable, and it prevents theft by posting that employee at the entrance with that “you don’t get out of here unless I say you can” look on their face.  That “come on, try to steal something, make my day” look.  You know?  So let’s prevent humiliation of many as well as the false accusations of many and rip out the electronic merchandise control systems and let’s put some real humans in their place.  Trust me, the world will be a better place for it.

Date posted: December 17, 2001