I love my country but sometimes it drives me crazy….for instance my experience this afternoon at the well-known Sarasota book and gift store, Elysian Fields. I’d been to this store before and liked it, so, having just returned to Sarasota and being in the neighborhood, I stopped in to see what was gong on. They have a nice selection of gifts and spiritual books, as well of many ongoing events such as meditation classes, intuitive arts fairs, etc., and I was looking forward to getting involved.
As I walked in, I noticed a sign on the front door stating that all backpacks must be left at the front counter. Now, my backpack serves as my purse and goes wherever I go. Frankly, I think it would be foolish to leave it out of my sight and in the hands of strangers, so I politely asked if I could carry the backpack with me as I shopped, explaining that it is my purse. One of the pleasant women behind the front counter suggested that I remove my wallet from the backpack so that I could leave it at the front desk, just so that “everyone is treated the same.” I could have pressed the point and asked her what she suggested I do with my checkbook, camera, lenses, iPod, and laptop computer. Did she expect me to lug all of those items around the store in my arms as I shopped? I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to push the issue. It is, after all, their store, and they have the right to set policy.
But the whole experience made me reflect upon my recent trip around the world. In New Zealand I walked into a ladies’ clothing store and, being sensitive to the issue of shoplifting, I inquired at the front desk if they wanted to inspect the contents of my backpack when I entered the store and before I left. They looked shocked at my question and didn’t understand why I would suggest such a thing. In fact, I think they had a good laugh about it – crazy Americans! Nowhere on four continents did my backpack ever become an issue when I walked into a store…only here in the good ol’ USA.
Why is it that we have bred such a culture of fear in this country? What was the store afraid would happen if I shopped with my pack on my back? Shoplifting? Breakage? Either way, I was made to feel bad, as if I was either a thief or a bungling klutz who would knock items off shelves. I might also add that the shoplifting issue could be overcome if the employees were on the floor assisting customers rather than gathered together behind the front counter.
Unfortunately, the incident resulted in me leaving the store, with a firm resolve never to go back. It’s a shame really, because I would have been a good customer.