John and the Parking Structure: A Holiday Customer Service Fable

This is the story of a conscientious security officer named John. He worked in at a large campus, keeping thieves and burglars away from the cars and vans that were parked inside. One day while making his rounds, he saw a shadowy figure, dressed in a long shaggy coat skulking around the parked vehicles that he had vowed to protect.

“Excuse me, sir,” John said in a most commanding voice. “Can you please tell me what you’re doing skulking around in my parking structure?”

The shadowy figure rose up to his full height and stared at John with obvious contempt.

“Do you know who I am, young man?” he said. I’m Mr. Big, the president of this campus. You are rude, sir, and you’ll pay for your lack of respect.”

John scratched his head thoughtfully and continued his patrol. Mr. Big stomped off to his office, a skill he had mastered in his MBA program. He called the security company and complained loudly to the president about John’s rude conduct. The president complained loudly to the operations manager who complained loudly to John’s recently promoted supervisor. The supervisor confronted john and loudly rebuked him for his rude treatment of Mr. Big. John insisted that he had just done his job, as he was trained, but his defense fell on deaf ears. The supervisor gave him a written reprimand, a scar that would remain in his record from that day forth.

The next day, John was patrolling the parking structure when he saw another shadowy figure skulking around the parked cars and vans, but, John had learned his lesson. “Doing my job only gets me in trouble,” he thought as he walked away from another potential reprimand. “What shadowy figure?” He thought as he walked off to the next level.

Later that month, John and his new supervisor were retrained in the art of low risk, customer oriented crime prevention. They worked together to practice their new skills in John’s parking structure. John appreciated the support and involvement of his supervisor and mentor as they shared in the learning experience.

The very next day, John was patrolling the third level of the structure when he came across another shadowy figure skulking among the cars, vans. John approached with a smile and said:

“Hi, you look a little lost, can I help you find something.”  The shadowy figure rose to his full height, smiled and said.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Big’s son, Lance. This is my first day on the job, and I have somehow managed to misplace my car.”

“Not a problem,” John said. “It’s easy to get lost in here. Let me give you a hand.” 

John helped Lance find his car and was rewarded with a smile and warm handshake.

Later that same day, John saw another shadowy figure skulking through his lot. He approached the man, smiled and spoke.”

“Hi there, can I help you find something.”

The man jumped up, looking clearly startled.

“Hi, uh . . . I’m just trying to find the exit,” he stammered.

“Not a problem,” John replied. “It’s easy to get lost in here. Just follow me. I’ll guide you to the exit.”

John escorted the man, to the exit and bid him a fond farewell. He remained there, smiling and looking around until the shadowy figure was well away.

Mr. Big, saw both events on his state-of-the-art video surveillance system. He was clearly impressed with the new security program. He immediately called the president of the security company and loudly praised John’s remarkable performance. The president loudly praised John’s performance to the operations commander who loudly praised John to his supervisor.

John’s supervisor created a commendation that was placed in John’s package, where it resided from that day forth.

Moral:  The right low risk customer service approach to security problems can make good people safe while making bad people go elsewhere. Happy holidays!

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About the Author


Jim Grayson is a senior security consultant. His career spans more than 35 years in law enforcement and security consulting. He worked for UCLA on a workplace violence study involving hospitals, schools and small retail environments and consulted with NIOSH on a retail violence prevention study.Grayson’s diverse project experience includes schools, universities, hospitals, municipal buildings, high-rise structures and downtown revitalization projects. He holds a degree in criminal justice and a CPP security management credential from ASIS. He is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on a wide range of security topics.He can be reached at [email protected]. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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