Sunday, 28 December 2008
Ladies and gentlemen, I can reveal this for the first time: the ugly face of modern industrial espionage in the Middle East. It's going on all around you and yet you barely know about it, cushioned as you are from the harsh realities of life at the hard end of commercial enterprise.
As you will know, the London Irish are out on their hols, carrying with them The Niece From Hell. We decided to take a yomp up to Carrefour in Ajman to pick up a few bits and pieces when we were stopped, to our immense surprise, by security on our way in. Now, we know that Carrefour is funny about taking bags into their shop but none of us was carrying a bag beyond a ladies' handbag. None of us was wearing a stripey sweater and eye mask and a quick check of the party also ascertained that none of us was sporting a balaclava and sawn-off shotgun.
But one of us was *gasp* carrying a camera.
"Not allowed, this!" said the man from security.
"Why not?" we asked.
"Security," said the man from security with the certitude that only comes when people are given clipboards and flat-top hats with shiny peaky bits.
And then, I have to confess, the red mist descended. "What security? Are we threatening the lives of other shoppers? Do you think we'll be taking snaps of the joint so's we can guide in the 747's?" I asked, with some asperity and, given the times in which we live, probably unwisely.
In a trice it got twisted. About ten other men in epaulettes appeared from nowhere and stood around. A more senior person arrived. He was wearing a stripey tie. So we knew he was the real thing.
"It is not allowed, this," he told us, clarifying the matter.
"Why?" I asked, because by now I was keenly and gleefully committed to being an asshole. "Because you are hiding something? Your prices are fixed? Your goods are smuggled? Perhaps you are selling illegal things? You are breaking regulations? What are you hiding, please?"
"It is because of our policy, sir," he stated with a nervous giggle. "It is a problem with competitors, taking these pictures. They come and they take pictures. For competition."
And then, taking advantage of my open-mouthed silence, he smiled and, in a spirit of conciliation, he swiftly heat-sealed a plastic bag around the offending Canon 450D (IMHO a truly great camera, BTW) and allowed us to continue on our way, espionage threat averted and the free world saved - at least for the moment.
For the record, I took the above photo of the secured, no longer offending, item of photographic equipment using my 2 Megapixel camera phone...
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