Many of us baby boomers fondly remember Allen Funt’s “Candid Camera” television show. The half-hour program ran through the 1960s and 1970s, and was followed by several specials in the following decades.
For you “kids,” Funt devised stunts, two of his most memorable being a talking sidewalk mailbox and an attractive lady turning up in a service station asking for help with a car missing its engine. Then, using a hidden camera, he captured and shared unsuspecting peoples’ humorous reactions to the pranks.
“Candid Camera” was innocent fun, and the folks who got pranked ended up laughing along with the viewing audience when Funt, instantly recognizable, made his appearance with a huge grin.
Today’s candid cameras (aka security cameras) capture a lot of funny stuff, too. But a lot of it isn’t so ha-ha funny. It can be incriminating or, at the very least, embarrassing, which is not so funny to the person caught on camera. With security cameras practically everywhere, just about everyone’s phone is capable of being used as a camera. Anything that anyone does in public can be shared via social media. If it goes viral, millions of people may eventually see it.
Needless to say, none of us want to end up being recorded doing something we shouldn’t be doing—or not doing something we should be doing.
Consider the TruGreen employee caught on a security camera this past July posting a treatment sign on a Florida homeowner’s property and leaving a door hanger without making a treatment. When the homeowner shared the video with a local television station the incident erupted into a full-blown media event.
I even read about it on Yahoo, meaning tens of thousands of other folks that log into Yahoo probably read it, as well. In terms of news value, I didn’t view the technician’s action (oops, inaction) as being worthy of all the attention it generated. The incident hardly ranks up there with the weighty and potentially life-changing issues of the day.
But the media is the media, after all. As it (the digital media, at least) provides daily updates on ISIS and North Korea, it also keeps us informed of the adventures and misadventures of Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. How very odd.
TruGreen, of course, fired the technician and returned a sizable refund to the homeowner. The story didn’t die there, however. Several other homeowners, seeing the news report, contacted the television station to claim they, too, were victims of “phantom” treatments by TruGreen technicians.
Once a news story like this gets started, it often picks up reputation-damaging momentum. The only thing a company can do at that point is go into damage-control mode, which is what TruGreen did. Responding to a request for a comment from the television station, a TruGreen spokesperson pointed out that the company has 11,000 employees nationwide “who do their work with integrity every day.”
Fair enough. I have no reason to doubt that is true.
Mowing down baby ducks
But, what is it about Florida?
This past May, a 24-year-old Palm Beach County landscaper reportedly ran over a family of ducks with a riding mower. The family that had been caring for the ducks watched from a window in their home, their 7-year-old son screaming, as the landscaper mowed down the 11 ducklings, killing 9 of them. The family insisted the landscaper intentionally ran over the ducklings, which were a few days old. Police charged the landscaper with nine counts of cruelty to animals.
Obviously, we all know we should do what we’re supposed to do whether anybody is catching our actions on camera or not. Even so, be aware that everything we do in public is being watched and scrutinized.