Sexist: You need to check your bag at the counter.

I am all about supporting the underdog. I like to shop locally, and I like to support my independent retailer. I try to encourage my students to do the same: stay away from the big box corporate retail shops, and patronize the mom and pop on the corner, or the mom and pop on the internet.

I do have one big pet peeve that will send me a-runnin’ from a local shop: The bag check policy.

Right around the corner from my house, is Talking Leaves a great independent bookseller, they have an incredible range of titles, and very knowledgeable sales staff. I never shop there. Ever. Why? Because within 2 seconds of entering the store, some 19 year old is screaming at me with increasing belligerence: Sir? SIR! You NEED to check your bag at the counter.

Let’s dissect that statement:

Sir? Sir!= Increasing shades of panic, and decreasing shades of respect.

You NEED= I need not do anything. You might like for me to, but ultimately it is my decision.

to check your bag= If I were a woman and this were my purse, would we be having this conversation?

at the counter.= OK, Ms./Mr. 19-year-old. Are you ready to take personal responsibility for every item that is in this bag? While it may make you feel more secure that I’m not going to lift a 99¢ trinket from your store, it really doesn’t make me feel secure that anyone could walk by your cashwrap and walk off with $500 worth of electronics, credit cards, and important papers that I carry with me.

The policy is absurd. Yesterday, I was shopping at Hyatt’s, a local art supply store, where the same situation replayed itself. I walked by two female workers, both of which greeted me, and asked if there was anything they could help with. No mention of my bag. Then after about 20 minutes, I was approached by a male worker that indigently indicated that I was in the wrong by carrying my bag with me, further, it would HAVE TO BE checked at the counter. I politely handed the chap the few items I had selected for purchase, and suggested that if I were female, and this were a purse, that he would never dream to have this conversation with me. Moreover, I explained, if that was his policy, I would gladly take my business elsewhere.

I mean, REALLY. While it’s likely that people can and do steal. I don’t… and frankly, if I did, I fancy that I’d go for the big ticket items, a $75,000 Cartier watch, a stack of $1,000 notes off the counter of my local bank, maybe I’d even stoop for a nice Hermes tie. I wouldn’t think it worth my time, energy, or potential damage to my character to pinch a $2.99 paperback or a 49¢ paint brush. Unfortunately, retailers seem to have difficulty putting this in perspective. In offending me and operating by a panicked “what if” policy, they’ve lost a customer for life, and a significant dent of my associated business (students, colleagues, family, all of you reading this, etc.) I hope, to them, it’s worth it. I might suggest to all the small retailers out there: the man purse is growing in popularity. Deal with it, or ignore it at your peril.

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