Tag Archives: mistrust

A Culture of Mistrust

When we bought our piano, I saw something strange. We had paid for it and were going to walk out of the shop (to await delivery and begin the saga of the piano guys) when the security guard at the door did something interesting. He asked to see our receipt. He then wrote down the product ID and amount. I found this strange. This information is already in the point of sale system. Why task the security guard with making a manual tracker?

I’ve noticed that this is a pattern. Every single time that I go to a local supermarket/department store, called Big Bazaar, they have an extremely complex checkout system. The cashiers bad my goods up, then they sign the receipt, along with the number of bags. When I leave, the security guards scrutinize my bags and the receipt before stamping the receipt. I did not ship my half dead computer speakers from Germany. Instead, I bought a set at a local computer store. They cost all of 350 rupees. Still the process was the same as with the piano. The cashier put the invoice into the envelope after stamping it that I had paid. The security guard – less than ten feet away – took the invoice out of the envelope, examined it and the bag, then stamped it, put it back in the envelope and signed a log with the product code and price before sending me on my way.

I wondered aloud to Daniela about whether they were double checking the sales staff. She disagreed. Her argument was that corruption was rampant here (a post for another time) and that there was nothing to prevent the sales and security people from being in cahoots; which would render such a system pointless.

So I asked our driver. He is rapidly becoming our guide to all things Indian. He mentioned that the guards – nearly always being Nepalese – either speak only Hindi, or Hindi and English. Language is highly politicized here and the sales staff are Kannada speakers.

“Why do you speak Hindi? You are in Karnataka! You should speak Kannada!”

So there is a gulf between the sales and security people that managers can exploit to keep everyone honest. It is not simply that they don’t trust me as a customer and worry about shoplifting, they don’t trust their own staff either.

My wife’s work involves customizing ERP software for legal compliance outside of Germany and the US. She tells me that India (along with Brazil) stands out as having particularly arcane tax systems. She says that a clear thread in the regulations is a lack of trust on the part of the government towards the populace. One could argue of course, that this only encourages people to avoid doing things officially; which is something that I often see and it even further encourages distrust, but I digress.

On a related note, our third floor apartment in a guarded, gated community has bars on the windows and the bedrooms can all be dead bolted from the inside. The culture of mistrust here seems to be at all levels and run in all directions.