Spy Vs. Spy Guys

The art of watching the watchers

Joseph is concerned about the spying he believes is pervasive—from government tax forms to cameras at traffic lights. "And I would never use one of those Ralphs discount cards because they're just a means of knowing your purchasing habits and who knows what else?" he said. "I don't believe in credit cards because I think—and this is a personal opinion—that it's a very intelligent attempt to enslave the American people. When you rack up a lot of credit-card debt, somebody's got you by the chimichangas. If they determine at some point, 'Hey, we're going to declare martial law or declare all debts due and payable.' Then, if you can't pay, they could either enslave you or put you in jail or take everything you have or, you know, put some tattoo on your forehead or whatever."

Joseph is not as troubled by the potential invasions-of-privacy by Spy Guys' customers. His absolute Orwellian fear becomes more ambiguous when the surveillance equipment is in the hands of Little Sister, Stepfather and Jealous Husband. He points out that surveillance equipment can be used to gather evidence on vandals and burglars, sexual harassers and abusive baby sitters, obscene phone callers and sabotaging employees. He pointed out that there are devices that determine whether other people are spying on you.

"I basically stock what my customers need and want, what most of them are asking for, what they really need to solve their problem," Joseph said. "I don't ask any questions because I believe people expect and deserve a little anonymity surrounding these purchases. If you want to tell me your name is Tom Sawyer, hey, as far as I'm concerned, I'm Huckleberry Finn. Your money's as good as anybody else's. As long as you don't come right out and ask me to do anything illegal or immoral, you know, something that's going to hurt people or whatever, I'm more than happy to help you."

Another customer had come into Spy Guys and was staring at the stun guns. Joseph watched him for a moment.

"People need to understand that there is a downside to everything," he says. "It's all about being an intelligent consumer. They need to know what that downside can be and how something they may have thought was a perfect solution can become a new problem—how it can turn around and bite them. If you decide you want to be a snake charmer, it's your business. I'll sell you the basket. I'll sell you the snake. But I'm also here to tell you that the snake-charmer business is dangerous. Snakes can be poisonous, you know?"

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