Are Your Security Guards as Useless as Mine?

Here's the restroom in our commons' area. The sign reads: "Please don't use."

Our cherished monkey bars

We're frustrated with our building's security guards. What's new? In my other post on this topic, I complained our security guards were afraid of teenagers who trespassed into our commons' area, where the slides and monkey bars are. The teenagers have been known to sit on the benches next to the playground, making parents and their tiny children uncomfortable -- people who either rent or own apartments in our building and who pay monthly dues for security. We have no idea why they're in our playground.

At one time, the teenagers would settle in on the benches so that they'd have four or five individuals packed up against each other like sardines. Then they'd get loud and obnoxious, laughing at dumb stuff with shrill, fake cackles, throw cigarette butts and juice boxes on the floor of the playground and annoy the shit out of the rest of us. For some reason, the guards were terrified of them. The night guard would let out a loud sigh, and ask: "What can I do? I pick up their butts and show them that it wrong to litter, but they don't listen."  What can you do? Kick them out!

One night, my daughter slid down the slide and over a lit cigarette. We'd only been there for a couple of minutes, so I didn't see who threw it. Only two teenagers were around, on the bench, of course, a smoky-smelling grumbly guy and a fat girl, so I picked on them. When I pried the guy and his languid butt off the bench, she started shrieking at me. Realizing he was about to land on the sidewalk outside our building's grounds, he argued: "It wasn't me. It was another person." About five minutes later, when we were finally enjoying our moment in the playground, a woman came over and told me:

"It was him." I didn't know one way or the other. I was just upset at the tobacco stain across my daughter's bottom.

When I confronted some other assholes, see http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_lFBv1ZCoPwY/SpN3qbirtMI/AAAAAAAAAzk/ojM6ZQjA7OU/s1600-h/DSC00073.JPG, they got really pissy, especially the one in the purple tank top. What amazed me was when I asked them if they lived in our building, not one of them did. Our security guard, whom I'm back to now, had just let them come on to our grounds because he was afraid of them. He was stunned that I took a picture of them, like a bunch of 14-year-olds were dangerous or something. He also warned me about my behavior; when they started to shout swear words from the street, I had gone out to the street to continue the conversation and get clarification on words said. 

One of the reasons I'm going on about this is that I do not, not for the life of me, understand why people who are chickenshit want to become security guards. It's like someone who doesn't know how to swim applying for a job as a pearl diver. Plus, I'm honked off at this guy. The other night, my family was hanging out in the playground at the commons' area at around nine. My daughter was mucking around fairly quietly, climbing up the swinging latter and sliding down the slide. I was whispering to my wife. The same friggin' security guard, who was too afraid to tell the teenagers to be quiet and get f^%$ off private property, sauntered over and said: "Please keep it down." Before he could continue, I asked:

"Why didn't you take care of the teenagers? Where were you then?"

"I'm not complaining now," he said with a smile. "I just came over to say hi."


Every month, four apartments on 11 floors in eight buildings pay either NT$1,700 or NT$1,900 for this security team and services. We don't have a swimming pool or a weight room. We don't have billiards' tables or an MTV. All we have are the two playgrounds. We are simply paying for the elevators, the buildings to be cleaned, the lousy security and these play areas. And not even... For example, Taiwan was hit by a sandstorm last Sunday. But we  didn't get the sand swept out of the building until yesterday, after I complained. In fact, I complained twice. The first time, on Thursday, I was told that I am responsible for cleaning the landing outside the elevator on the floor I live by this same guard. The second time, when I took it up with his boss, I got the floors swept. They were not mopped however and nobody  touched the windows. 

When I totaled up the money they're taking in to show the manager, it came to around NT$700,000 a month. I deducted NT$210,000 for the salaries of seven security guards and NT$40,000 for electricity. "So, you're banking NT$450,000," I said. "The night time security guard tells me it goes right in your pocket."

"No, what does he know?" was the reply. "By the way, it's NT$409,000. We keep this in the bank for the tenants, that is all. How do you think we can continuously maintain the sidewalks or buy all these pretty flowers?"

Again, I find this troubling. We moved in a year ago. Since then, the sidewalks have been ripped up and redone twice. The flowers he's talking about are sitting in pots all over the grounds. Is it his brother or a cousin who owns the landscaping company? Does his wife work for a florist? What is he getting back in kickbacks?

On Friday night, I discovered yet another thing. The garbage cans in the commons' area have disappeared. This seems in keeping with the garbage services they don't provide. The tenants in my building are expected to chase the garbage trucks and deal with our own trash, even though we pay NT$1,700 or NT1,900 a month in security and service fees. When I asked my old friend, the night security guy, what I should do with the greasy bag left over from my deep-fried pig-blood rice squares, he said: "Take it up to your apartment and throw it away. [What? Are you stupid?]" 

There is a solution to the garbage. The manager says if I pay an extra NT$300 a month, he'll get an ama to come up the eighth floor and take my trash out evenings. It's not really a solution, because when I told my wife, she went through the roof. We have filed a complaint with the government as of Saturday morning. My wife says there are other complaints with this office from our complex, particularly about the lack of garbage service. I'll ask her for the contact number and put it up on this site. 

If you'd like to know more, here's a link to my last rant and the pissheads who used to invade our playground: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/08/security-guards-in-taipei-whats-use.html


Anonymous said...

Depending on how your property was developed, that central area is very likely PUBLIC property and open to anyone. It's a favorite con by developers to get special allowances on height by the local government in exchange for public parking spaces or open areas, but then put up a security guard to try to discourage the public from actually using what's rightfully theirs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick,
In the condo unit, members elect trustees and they handle condo fees also making the decisions; the manager listens to the trustees. You will be a very good candidate for the position of trustee who can take good care of the unit. Apartment is another story; the tenants are all under the mercy of the owner. The owner makes decisions and the manager who is hired by the owner carries out the orders from the owner. The tenants have less power than the owner of a condo unit that is my understanding, unfortunately.
The play ground may be classified as public place that I don’t know. If not, one solution is that the owner could lock up the play ground and give keys to those who have the right to use it. Most of the security guards are those retired old man who are trying to earn the minimum wedge. Certainly they hate to get involved with the local youths who may be Yakuzas as seen in the Monga movie. There were several cases of the incidents that security guards who have been severely beaten up by the youths and have to be hospitalized.
We have lived through one room apartment, run down condo, and finally bought a dream house of our own in the past. What you are facing today is nothing but experiences of life. Many years from now, you may feel funny that you were so mad at these incidents; after all it is part of the life experiences one has to go through.
Have a good day and enjoy the spring time in the beautiful Paradise named Formosa while you can.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Yes, I can't get a straight answer from the security guard. "Depending on how your property was developed, that central area is very likely PUBLIC property and open to anyone."

Where would I be able to find out if it's public or private? Does Taiwan have laws against loitering? Drinking in public? I remember once being in an Internet cafe at around midnight and the cops came in and started checking ID. They were looking for minors out past curfew.
What is the curfew for minors in Taipei? I should have asked.

Of course, the problem would've been solved by simply turning on the light. But the security company is always looking for ways to scrimp.

Terry J. Benzie said...

I believe that if the commons area is included in your contract (i.e. you pay for 50 ping, which includes a 45 ping living area and 5 ping public area), then the commons' area is private as you own it. However, if it is a "bonus", is was likely developed as a public area.

A few months ago I was in a private office building in Taipei City that had an obviously disturbed woman come in and hurl obscenities at most people walking by. The guards said they had called the police but said that the lobby was a public space (it had a Starbucks and small seating area in it) and unless she hit somebody, she was breaking no laws. They said they could only stop her from going to the elevator shafts, as that was the private property of the tenants.

Security guards seem to come under a wide-array of competence but you do seem to have drawn the short stick in your apartment.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"The guards said they had called the police but said that the lobby was a public space (it had a Starbucks and small seating area in it) and unless she hit somebody, she was breaking no laws."

LOL, I'm all for freedom of speech.

The night guard at my friend's apartment is an ex-cop, a no-nonsense kind of individual that has even banged on the door of his squabbling neighbors' place and told them to "shut up." This is exactly the kind of guy I want to pay my monthly dues to.

The Baron said...

Dunno what's worse: your tea-sipping muppets or my my non-existent ones.

I pay NT$1800-odd for a permanently open front door and no discernable maintenance.

An affable enough tailor in an adjoining shop does poke his head in now and then but my son would probably tun him over. He, as you know, is six.

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MJ Klein said...

Patrick, i wonder if you could get some others to withhold that fee for a month to see what happens. just to get the manager's attention. of course, the more people that withhold the fee, the better.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Patrick, i wonder if you could get some others to withhold that fee for a month to see what happens. just to get the manager's attention. of course, the more people that withhold the fee, the better."

My brother-in-law is using my parking lot. They'll just harass him, and he doesn't really have it in him to fight back should I do that.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you why "people who are such chicken**** want to become Security Guards".

They don't. Cheapskates and small minded morons in management positions contract security out to the lowest bidder. That means Security companies are forced to underbid each other. That drives contract rates down. Lower contract rates drives down Officer pay.

Pray tell, how many smart, experienced, hardened professionals do you know willing to work for minimum wage? Please, PLEASE send them to me, I'll hire them in a heartbeat.

Until then, bug the people with the fat wallets to increase the budget for Security and see what happens, rather than complaining about the people just trying to scrape by on crap wages in return for a ridiculous amount of responsibility.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I have complained to the management, on numerous occasions. I also complained about my fees going up. I don't want security at all. They don't do anything for us but we can't get rid of them.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I really can't stress how unhappy I am with the situation. My buddy has an apartment of the same size. His building comes with a swimming pool (meaning they have to hire a lifeguard), a weight room, an indoor playground, a games room (billiards tables, etc.) and a library. We have a meeting room with one ping pong table and one treadmill. Yet we pay double in security fees. My fees for the treadmill and ping pong table plus a bunch of guards that do nothing are at NT$2000 a month.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I've forgotten a very important component. We have to take out our own garbage. Since I can't get home in time, I pay an extra NT$300 a month for an old lady to come over and do that. My buddy at NT$1000 has this service.

Why would we not have garbage services at NT$2000 a month? I complained to a city bureau about this. The management team said they had solved the problem, so the city said "case closed." Then the management team changed hands (we still had the same guards, but with new uniforms which I am sure we paid for). And they started to harass the old lady which they found to "solve the problem."

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Anonymous said...

How much are the individual security guards paid? What tools do they have at their disposal? If complaints arise from them being too strict will you or the company back them up? I work in a Mall as security for the time being. I have seen everything from stabbings, to fights, thefts, loitering etc.. I'm paid less then 30,000$ a year, work odd shifts (night/days, holidays etc..) have no tools at my disposal and have the most incompetent administration as well as supervisor. I kick teenagers out, my boss lets them in the next day saying they are calm now (we have an eviction procedure for re-occurring offenders) which he fails to use. Now I'm all for competence but you get what you pay for. No way will I risk my safety or well being for a company which will not back me in situations where physical harm may happen. No vests, no secondary tools, no cuffs, yet I am supposed to arrest these individuals on my own, sometimes alone at night with just my bare hands? People come to expect way too much from security for the bullshit pay we are getting. You want it all, perfect client services, super quick and efficient "police" like qualities as well as paramedic level competence. I've seen it all when it comes to Security, no matter how well you work, the clients are never satisfied. They want to squeeze every penny out of the department. If someone complains security was too harsh in his operations you get fired.

If you get one of those hardcore guards and he decided to physically kick out a teenager and potentially harm him doing so will you put your credibility and face value on the line in court for said guard? I highly doubt it.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I don't think they are paid much. In Taiwan, they're often retirees (this seems to be the case in my building). As they are old, they don't really pose much of a threat to teenagers. That is one of the problems.

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