Thursday, May 10, 2012

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe"

Well, be that as it may Roy Batty, there are a number of things I have yet to see while out on a long and lonely night of surveillance.

For the most part, it would seem that non-PIs out there think surveillance is all like this (a scene from Horrible Bosses):


It's more like this:

Okay, given that I've seen exactly the same number of Teletubbies as hot, depraved, women suggestively eating fruit while standing half-naked in the windows - that is to say, none - doesn't diminish the validity of the point I am making.

Surveillance is boring!

But it's a kind of boredom I love and want more of. And I should probably qualify that as saying surveillance is mostly boring. It is the waiting, and waiting, and even more waiting that is boring.

The longest job I had was two weeks of eyes-on at a business documenting the comings and goings of an individual who was thought to be the owner. A certain individual, Mr Pepper (not his real name) had sold his business to a nationwide chain and, as part of the sale agreement, was not to participate - directly or indirectly - in a similar venture for the next few years.

A reasonable request.

However, the new owners were concerned when a database of client details was emailed out to an throwaway address and then several employees, one of which was the former owner's daughter, quit and both start working at a newly opened competitor.

The surveillance tasking itself was simple. Watch the business from opening to closing for a week and document all comings and goings as well as identifying the staff and, in particular, note any visits by Mr Pepper and try to ascertain what his interaction with the business actually entails.  Essentially it meant sitting in place, no going mobile for a follow or anything remotely exciting.

After the first week, we had confirmation of Mr Pepper having some connection to the business as he had made several visits and was directly observed going through paperwork in the office. However, the client wanted another week of surveillance to cement their case.

I think, in all that time, Mr Pepper made no more than four or five attendances. All brief.

Monotonous, yes, but fairly lucrative nonetheless.

At least in this case the client understood, and had no qualms, about the costs involved for the time spent. Unlike in most 'peace of mind' enquiries where, for the most part, nothing eventuates when you explain to the client the realities of conducting a surveillance operation (and the costs they are facing).

Surveillance is not a one-person job!

However, it seems , most clients won't accept that. Now, the question is what do you, the investigator, do?

Do you turn down a client because their budget won't cut it? I know, anecdotally anyway, of some that do just that.

It would be nice to be able to turn down money, but what if you have bills that need paying and your client argues that she saw on TV how 'Veronica Mars' tailed someone by herself, so it must be possible...?

My take on this is that sometimes clients need educating.

I take the time to explain how surveillance, particularly once mobile, can go wrong. And how, with only one surveillance operative, it is more likely to go wrong than with even a small team of two.

Lastly, though, I give the client the option after stating my reservations. If they are going to throw their money away they may as well be throwing it at me.

It's not like I didn't warn them...



  1. I just LOVE your dry but witty sense of humor :)

    1. If only there were some way I could use my dry but witty sense of humour for the power of Good rather than Evil...