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Checking ID

It is always difficult to convince people that protective measures need to be taken seriously. This can be an issue if no bad things happen for a very long time, and it can be an issue if the measures are not uniformly applied. If measures are applied to lower level employees, but not higher-level employees, it is a clear sign from management that the measures are for show, and not to be taken seriously.

Jack Sink of Payless Shoes wanted the people who checked ID at the doors to check everyone’s ID but had a problem getting the guards to check the ID of those they knew. They would check the ID of strangers, but not that of executives or friends or those whom they recognized. Now, in most cases this is not really an issue, but there is some feeling in the trade that if protective measures are not taken seriously at the top, and are not applied evenly, it creates larger opportunities for bad things to happen.

The question, of course, is how do you convince those required to enforce policy that you are serious. It takes, after all, a brave guard to ask the chairman of the board for his ID each time he comes in.

Sink’s approach was both novel and successful. At random intervals – perhaps once every week or two – he would pick some person whom he thought was a good candidate for being let through because they were known to the guards. He would give them a twenty-dollar bill. If the guard asked for the ID, the person would give them the twenty bucks.

Eventually the appropriate Pavlovian response became ingrained, and everyone, including Sink himself, was asked for ID each time they entered the facility.

Even-handedness has the additional benefit of being easily applied in a wide variety of circumstances. As an example, this author was recently changing planes in Chicago, and decided to get something to eat. At the next table was a couple in their 80s. The man ordered a beer to go with his meal, and the waitress asked for his ID. The patron, who had probably not been carded for well over half a century, was endlessly amused. But since it was obvious to all that everyone was carded, nobody of any age could complain, or feel discriminated-against, when asked for their ID.

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