Extortion by the car guard

2014-10-09 00:00

HOW many times have you parked your car and gone into a place for five minutes, and just as you get back into your car, you spot a person in a reflector jacket running at top speed and yelling: “Come, come!”?

At that moment, you roll your eyes, wondering where this person was when you parked your car. There was not a human in sight when you arrived, but when leaving, neon jackets surround you.

It’s downright annoying and I believe that the concept of car guards is a form of extortion and is not fair on shoppers.

I believe that some shopping centres employ their services and they even get paid a monthly salary. If that is the case, it should be made clear to shoppers that there is no need to tip them for standing in the sun, because if we are honest, that is really all we are paying them for.

On so many occasions, friends and family have had their cars broken into or stolen, and the car guards conveniently did not see a thing. The truth is, these people are definitely not going to risk their own lives to protect your vehicle —and rightfully so.

If that is the case, why do we feel so obligated to take out money from our wallets and pay them?

The real question here is: what do car guards do — what exactly is their job description?

Recently, there was a robbery in Durban’s popular Florida Road. Three robbers held up a young woman and her father in broad daylight, and the car guards there admit that they hid when they saw the men had guns.

In light of this, what exactly is their role?

Most bystanders would probably have reacted in the very same way, so we can’t blame them for taking cover.

Some argue that it is an honest living, which if we take a moment and dissect that thought, we will find to be otherwise.

How can it be honest when many Durbanites wake up early in the morning to take home a hard-earned pay cheque in whatever field they are skilled in, while car guards just need a good sunblock and a reflector jacket to stand behind your car (which may have a sensor or rear-view camera) and cause some confusion in the car park?

If we are completely honest, there really is nothing they actually do. One of the first things you are taught at driving school is how to reverse, so if you need a car guard to help you reverse, then I suggest you get a refund because that school did not teach you much. In one incident, I actually bumped my car trying to listen to a car guard, hence I went back to the basics of driving and have not dinged my car again.

The saddest part about this is that as shopping centres pop up around the province, more unemployed people are investing in reflector jackets and extorting money from shoppers.

It has got to a point that I now choose to visit centres that don’t have car guards and have underground parking facilities instead.

Some shopping centres in KZN even have red and green lights on the roof so you can see which bays are free and which are occupied. To be honest, I feel safer in these centres than in those with car guards.

I have had many good and bad encounters with car guards, from being forced to pay upfront when parking my car, to one running and pointing to an empty bay I did not see.

I am still on the hunt to find someone who actually thinks the role of the car guard is important and one who thinks that, if their job title was removed, KZN would have a crisis on its hands.

Yet we will still reach into our bags and give them money out of guilt, or because you think it’s the right thing to do.

• Catch Carol Ralefeta on East Coast Radio, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm.

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