Dear Harris Teeter,

I really did not want to have to write this post, but I told you I would and I’m a man of my word.

First let me say that I like Harris Teeter in general, you have good produce and good meats, staff is generally very nice and helpful, prices are reasonable. You were born here in North Carolina and I like to support businesses from my home state. If it were not for your good qualities I would not bother with this post I would just stop shopping there, but I like Harris Teeter enough to try and make it better.

Therefore I’m going to try to get you to change the one really bad thing you do that makes me very uncomfortable when shopping there (and I assume it makes some other people feel uncomfortable too). If I cannot get you to change after trying my best then I will have no choice as a man of principle than to stop shopping there.

So What’s My Beef?

I’m really sick of hearing “security scan cameras”, “security scan and record all cameras”, “security scan cameras E and F”, and all the other variants that I’ve been hearing for many years while shopping at your store.

I have complained in the past at my local store and I have emailed your headquarters and tweeted at you about this in hopes that you would do the right thing. I told you that 140 characters on twitter is not enough to express why this practice is wrong and must be stopped and that I would write a blog post to shame you into changing if needed. I waited, but you have not done the right thing, so here we are.

The thing is, this voice that announces variations of “security scan cameras” is not a robot voice, it is one of the staff. When I first heard it I thought hmm, must be someone suspicious in the store. But for someone who shops frequently, when you tend to hear that about 80-90% of the times you shop there, when you hear it soon after entering the store, you start thinking maybe it is me they think is suspicious. And that makes me feel uncomfortable. And the more I think about it the more it bothers me. Even if it isn’t me, who is it and what makes them suspicious? The way they are dressed, the color of their skin, etc. Being a person who has empathy for my fellow humans this bothers me and I cannot support a business that does this.

Now when I have complained I have been told those announcements are random. But you know what, having a policy to randomly do that also gives cover to do it for other reasons so while I would like to believe you are not profiling people, I really cannot rule that out, and that bothers me.  If it really is random, does it make sense to randomly make customers feel like suspects? Business marketing 101 says no!

It does not make sense to make customers feel uncomfortable while shopping, and it does not make sense for me to keep shopping at a place that persists in a practice that makes me uncomfortable.

So I started thinking about why you have this policy, you must think it is beneficial, you have made it clear it is part of “loss prevention” strategy. I think the reason this has not backfired on you until now is because the average clean cut white person who hears that is not going to think they are the suspicious one in the store. Some people might say you are using “white priviledge” as part of the psychology for your loss prevention scheme. Here in the South, you might could get away with that for years in the past but the time has come for that to stop. For the record, I’m a white person but I am not immune to negative stereotype profiling because I have long hair. Some conservative folks frown on that sort of thing and make negative assumptions about you based on that. But there are many superficial things that people get profiled on, skin color, tattoos, skin piercing etc, etc, so even white people may not feel the white privilege in every case. I applaud the unique individuals who have the courage to be who they are and express themselves through personal style in spite of knowing how some people will judge them. I have long felt the societal pressure to conform, and even today if I were not self employed I think I would have a hard time getting some jobs for which I am very qualified without cutting my hair. I “could” cut my hair and perhaps then I could go back to assuming those announcements are not targeted at me, but that would be giving up a little piece of my self dignity. For people of color, my empathy says they probably also feel uncomfortable when they hear those announcements in your store.

I don’t want to stop shopping there without first doing my best to make you change this practice. So I plan to tweet a link to this post and my dismay every time I hear that when I shop at your store. If after 12 months of doing that you won’t change then I will stop shopping there and I will also encourage everyone I know to boycott your store.

The bottom line is I will not tolerate this treatment towards me, and I will not tolerate this treatment towards others indefinitely. I implore you to do the right thing and change this policy.

What Do I Suggest?

Look, I can hear the devil’s advocate arguments in my head saying “but loss prevention is important, if our losses go up we have to charge you more and you don’t want that right?” My answer to that is, I don’t hear this in other stores, and I would rather pay for my groceries with money than pay with my dignity.

What I suggest is make a recording and play it as often as you wish, but the recording should not imply that there is someone suspicious in the store. A good message alternative that I can think of is:

“For your safety this store is monitored by full coverage video surveillance.” That still sends a message to potential would be shop lifters to make them think twice, and it puts a positive spin on the surveillance policy. People expect to be under surveillance while shopping so this kind of message is acceptable. But a message that makes customers feel like suspects is simply not acceptable and it must stop for the long term benefit of the Harris Teeter brand. Your new parent company Kroger does not make customers feel like suspects, so maybe you need your parent to have a talk with you.

I Invite help from anyone who reads this and who agrees with me to join me in the effort to make Harris Teeter do the right thing. If you shop there pay attention, and if you hear similar messages and you agree they should stop, then tweet a link to this post and express your dismay to @HarrisTeeter on twitter. And if you are a human with empathy towards other humans I think you should care about this. The world is full of bigger problems but this is something where a small positive change is needed and it would take very little effort to help make that small change happen. Please also keep an eye on my tweets and retweet me when I tweet my dismay towards @HarrisTeeter, you can follow my tweets at @joeaudette

Companies use twitter as an important tool in their marketing and they do not like to see a lot of negative sentiment tweets about their brand. If we join together using the power of social media we can influence Harris Teeter to do the right thing. I’m going to try that for up to a year from now. If they tell me they have changed the policy and if I stop hearing the dreaded announcements then I will update this post or even take it down. I’m trying to create positive change, I did not want to make a stink about this, but it seems that is what it will take.

UPDATE 2016-05-10
Today was my first time shopping at Harris Teeter since making this post. In less than 30 seconds after entering the store I hear a man's voice come over the speaker and say "security scan and record camera A". I'm pretty sure that is their way of flipping me the bird and telling me they are dug in on this policy and don't want me shopping there. So I'm about to tweet "another #badexperience shopping at #harristeeter today with a link to this post and cc @HarrisTeeter. Guess I will also make another public post about it on Facebook too. So to me it seems that they are not so worried about loss prevention because they don't care if they lose customers who are bothered by this policy. Nevertheless, I intend to keep shopping there and keep tweeting and posting whenever this happens and try to spread more awareness about this bad practice. They seem pretty dug in though so I'm not optimistic that there is any humanistic leadership at that organization and in time I may have to go full boycott mode.

UPDATE 2016-05-10 - evening

After reflecting on today's experience I've decided life is too short, and I'm just not going back to Harris Teeter, it is not worth the effort and they clearly don't want me there. If you decide yourself to stop shopping there for the same reason as me, please at least send them a parting tweet linking to this post and telling them they lost another customer.

I've been a mediocre guitar player for many years, good enough to accompany myself singing and I've done fairly well playing solo gigs and in bands in years past, but I always felt that I have not learned music all the way and have not developed my musicianship to its full potential. So about 2 years ago I decided I wanted to go back and really learn music on piano/keyboard and really learn music theory and learn to read and write music and develop my ear to a level where I could transcribe music I hear and be able to write down musical ideas that I hear in my mind. I've still got a ways to go on those goals but I feel like I'm making steady progress on my piano/keyboard playing and now one of my sub goals is to learn to play from Fake Books aka Real Books which is what jazz musicians usually do. A lead sheet from a Fake Book/Real Book usually has the melody line notated and the chord symbols and the idea is to improvise around the melody and improvise your own arrangement for voicing the chords to harmonize the melody.

Aside: Historically, "Fake Books" were typically under the counter books that jazz musicians would buy from music stores or make for themselves in loose leaf binders and share with others. But this practice was often outside the rules of copyright law which is why they were sold under the counter as opposed to over the counter. The music publishing industry has tried to remedy this by publishing "Real Books" which have the licenses for publishing these copyrighted works so that the authors and composers get their royalties from the sale of the books.

Ok, so I got myself a Real Book of Jazz Standards to learn from but quickly realized that only a few of the songs were familiar to me and it got me to wondering how these songs became jazz standards and how I could get more familiar with them. So I found this book, The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, which gives a bit of the history of the songs that the author considers as Standards and tells you about the various recordings and interpretations that have been done by various jazz artists. Some of the songs have come in and out of favor over the years so there are many opinions about which tunes should be considered standards and there are 6 volumes of Real Books for Jazz Standards reflecting some of those changes over time in the common repertoire. But the book is a good starting point for learning about the jazz standards and not intended to be all inclusive. I got the Kindle version of the book but in hindsight I would rather have the printed copy. While it is a book that you could read from front to back it is also the kind of book you could skip around and browse and the printed version would be better for that I think.


Now that is all well and good and stimulating to the curiosity and it makes me want to listen to those recordings mentioned in the book to hear the different ways that these tunes have been interpreted over time, but it would cost a whole lot of money to just go on a buying spree to obtain all of those recordings. Fortunately for those seeking a jazz education, in the age of Spotify one can listen to those songs at any time for free with advertisements or with no advertisements and a reasonable subscription price. I know I know streaming is killing the music business so they say, and records killed live music, and video killed the radio star and all that yadda yadda, but nevertheless there is something to be said for being able to listen to all that music that otherwise would be out of reach to a poor aspiring musician who wanted to educate him or herself with exposure to this large repertoire.

Anyway I worked my way through the book making a playlist on Spotify of all the ones I could find of the recordings mentioned in the book. I was able to find the majority of them and it took quite a while to create the playlist so I thought I should share it with others who like me may want to learn about the Jazz Standards repertoire.

 

This playlist can be useful for listening to multiple renditions of each song in a row to see how different the interpretations are, or you can set playback on shuffle and just enjoy a random stream of great jazz music.

I often get these contact form submissions on joeaudette.com and on mojoportal.com where people are pitching to get my site to the top of google, no big deal, I delete them, but yesterday was the first time I got one by phone.

Yesterday at about 2PM I got a phone call on my cell phone from 951-813-2184 that went like this:

  1. me: hello?
  2. caller: is this the tree service?
  3. me: i think you have the wrong number
  4. caller: are you Source Tree Solutions?
  5. me: that is my company but it is a software company not a tree service
  6. caller: oh, well you're listed in the yellow pages under tree service
  7. me: that's news to me, I didn't know I had a listing in the yellow pages
  8. caller: well are you interested in getting your site to the top of google?
  9. me: oh my God, you gotta be kidding me
  10. caller: well what do you do for advertising
  11. me: Dude! you don't know the first thing about me, my business or my web site, I don't need your SEO spam phone calls, please never call this number again, click

I chuckled for about 15 minutes after that, but hope it is not the start of a trend of spammy phone calls.

These are all the cell phones I've ever had.

the phones I've owned

I remember when I first got that Samsung clamshell phone on the left, gosh, how long ago was that 1997, 98 99? Somewhere in there I'm sure. I remember being so excited about that phone when I first got it. As a kid I had always fantasized about those communicators they used on Star Trek and when I got this phone it was like the realisation of a childhood dream. I got rid of my land line pretty soon after that and haven't had one since.

I was pretty excited when PocketPC phones first came out. Being a Web Developer, the idea of always having access to the internet wherever my phone worked seemd like a dream. I think I got that phone around 2002 or 2003 and at the time I gave my old phone to my younger brother Frank who lived in North Carolina (I was living in TN at the time). It really wasn't a compelling internet experience, and though I kept it until long after my service contract expired, I got really tired of carrying around that big phone. I mean if you put it in your pocket people were like "hey is that the internet in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?". It was really a phone that needed a belt clip like Batman, but I really wasn't into that belt clip thing.

So then I got the Razr, must have been around 2004 or 2005, again I gave my old PocketPC phone to my younger brother Frank. I was much happier with the Razr, it was slick, it was small, and it was a joy to stop carrying that old boat anchor PocketPC.

Last month I got an iPhone. Its way beyond any phone I ever imagined seeing in my lifetime. Its got a compelling web surfing experience, and yet it fits nicely in your pocket without raising eyebrows. I know a lot of people like a physical keyboard and those folks tend to like Blackberries. I suppose if I was answering a lot of email with my phone I might wish for a real keyboard too. Honestly I haven't yet answered an email with my iPhone. For me its more about knowing whether I have important mail at any time than actually responding to it from my phone. It can usually wait until I'm near a computer again. After all, I'm near a computer about 95% of the time. For me its just another convenient way to service my internet addiction. I work long days and then finally collapse and watch movies at the end of the day when I can no longer keep going. I used to find myself getting up from the couch a lot just to check if any new mail had come in, or see how many people are on mojoPortal.com. Now I don't have to get up off the couch. In some ways I like the Facebook experience better on the iPhone than on a computer. I love having a lot of my music collection in my phone, love the GPS. Its a really great device.

So I thought again whether I should offer my old Razr to my younger brother Frank. The funny thing is, now that I'm living in North Carolina, I find out he never activated or used any of the phones I ever gave him, thats how I'm now able to take a picture of them all together. He hasn't committed to a new phone contract for like eight years now. He's still using this old monstrosity:


We're talking dinosaur phone. Not only that but he relies on this thing for all his communication and he lost the battery charger years ago, so he can only charge it now in his car and he's been doing this for years. I'd say he's way over due for a new phone.

No Swimming sign that looks like its for Aliens

I walk by this sign almost every day when I go for my exercise walks at the park, its always struck me as funny. Today I took this picture with my iPhone.