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The Real Poop

Let’s take a loop around the mall. First stop is the flashing lights and touchscreens of the soon-to-be-obsolete gadget shop, otherwise known as the Apple Store. After a few minutes shooting birds at pigs we move on to the food court to grab a slice from Sbarro. We stand chewing philosophically over the fountain, wondering how much change is really in there. Quick stop at the record store to see what to download when we get home, and then to check out the movie marquee for the same reason.

The mall is a wonderland.

All is not well in this apparent utopia; there are those who would destroy this mecca of merchandise if they could. Shoplifters lurk around each kiosk, hucksters, and loiterers, those who would actually lift a quarter – stealing a wish – from the fountain fill the spaces between candle shops and Auntie Anne’s pretzels. Who will protect our malls?

The Mall Cop. Mall Cops – also known as Mall Security Guards – hold huge amounts of responsibility in their black utility belts. They assure that scores, sometimes hundreds, of individual businesses are able to operate safely under the same roof. At the same time, these protectors of Payless and guardians of The Gap must patrol the masses, assuring that every client is under their watchful, benevolent gaze.

Malls are huge, and it’s a huge job. Add to this the fact that you may need to serve as an ambassador for the mall, giving directions, helping old ladies get from A to B, locating parents of lost children. Plus, you’ll need to do this on foot. Your dogs will be barking by the end of the shift. Unless, that is, you earn the most coveted piece of Mall Cop equipment imaginable: the Segway.

But we are jumping ahead of ourselves. Put aside the dream of having a personal transportation device to weave in and out of customers in pursuit of criminal activity. We can talk about that later. For now, let’s focus on how to become a Mall Cop in the first place.

Start by realizing that the main purpose of any Mall Cop is to ensure that the mall makes money – and keeps it. In fact, a fancy name for Mall Cop is actually “Loss Prevention Agent.” Keeping that in mind, you can imagine what many of the important skills are required to become one.

First, you’ll need good communication and people skills. Mall cops are required to work with crowds, mediate conflicts, and act as liaisons between businesses and the public. To do this effectively, you will need to be able to make yourself heard in a calm and authoritative manner to large groups and individuals – and sometimes those groups or individuals will be agitated (or teenagers, also a notoriously difficult group to work with).

To be a Mall Security Guard, you will also need to think quick on your feet. Most Mall Cops need to patrol the entire building, often walking miles each day. When a situation goes down – some punk with a CD in his jacket, an escaped hamster from the pet store, or an attempted Play-Doh robbery at KB Toys – you will need to make decisions quickly and logically.

Because of all this thinking while walking (although some positions do have you stationed at a kiosk, office or post), and due to the need to occasionally apprehend or escort unsavory characters from the premises, Mall Cops need to be in decent physical shape. (Now calling Paul Blart.) Quick fitness test: go to the mall with your friend, chase him from one end to the other and then tackle him to the ground. Actually, don’t do that or you might meet a real Mall Cop. Just imagine doing it. Is your imagination exhausted and nauseous from the effort? Get some physical training in before applying.

OK, future Mall Cop, let’s run down the list. Good communication skills? Check. Quick thinker? Check. Quick runner? Check and check. What else do you need to earn your badge?

Most Mall Security Guard positions are going to require that you have a minimum of a high school diploma. So quit hanging around the mall and go study! While you’re at it, take some classes in Public Speaking or Psychology and make sure you show up to gym class – these can all help you land the job. Remember, this is the bare minimum for an unarmed Security Guard position. Promotions in the Mall Cop business all depend on experience, training and certifications.

Want to be the best Mall Cop you can be? After high school, there are some community college or certification courses you could take to increase your chances of landing a sweet Mall job. One option would be to take some Criminal Justice courses at a local community college. Add a self-defense course and now you’re talking. Another route would be to go through an agency training program. Check out the Protection Professionals Certification offered by ASIS. A certification like this requires some experience, but will help guarantee a good posting.

Once you are officially stationed in the mall – shiny new badge and uniform – your most important step to achieving Mall Cop street cred will be on-the-job training. The industry recommends that you receive at least 48 hours of training in your first few weeks on the job. Here’s where you will learn what it’s really like to patrol the gritty wings all the way from the Food Court to the Department Store. And if you get lost in between? Just remember the three most important words for any Mall Cop to find the way: You Are Here.

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