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Danny Wallace on why home security should never be arranged on impulse

I bump into my friend who lives on the next street but whom I won’t identify for reasons that will become clear.

Within five minutes he has told me something I find extraordinary.

“I just bought a new burglar alarm,” he says, nodding.

That is not the extraordinary bit.

“Oh, right,” I say, not knowing where to take it from here. What are you supposed to say when someone tells you they’ve bought a new burglar alarm? It’s not like with cars. I’m not going to ask him what make or model he bought. You don’t see guys in pubs with Burglar Alarm magazines arguing about whether the Yale Easy Fit could take the Honeywell Home & Garden.

But I won’t need to ask him much more, because here’s the extraordinary bit.

“Yeah, bloke came round, said, ‘Do you wanna buy a burglar alarm?’, so I did.”

It takes a little while for those words to sink in.

“You… bought a burglar alarm,” I say, “off a man who just turned up at your door?”

He nods.

“Yeah,” he says.

“So some guy randomly turns up at your door and says, ‘Do you want to buy a burglar alarm?’” I say, still processing this, because maybe it’s me, maybe my standards are too high, “and you say, ‘Yes, I would like to buy a burglar alarm from you’?”

“Not as formally as that,” he replies, sniffing to imply a casual demeanour but also to mask a sense of discomfort at my line of questioning. “But, yeah, I thought, ‘Why not? Saves me a job.’”

“How did he know you even needed a burglar alarm?” I say. “Why was he even looking at your house in that way?”

“He said he was in the area and he had to sell another one at cost to keep his boss happy.”

I shake my head.

“No,” I say. “No, I don’t think you should be buying burglar alarms from men in the street. Even if it’s to help make their boss happy.”

“It was only 70 quid,” he says.

“Well, it sounds state-of-the-art,” I say. “But why would his boss be happy selling one for the price it cost him to buy?”

“Wanted to keep his numbers up,” he shrugs.

I should leave it there. But I can’t.

“But what’s the point? Why not just wait a day and then sell it at a profit? What’s wrong with his boss? ‘Well done, you have turned absolutely no profit, now we’ll just buy more for the same price!’ Is there some kind of burglar alarm bank holiday coming up? Are burglar alarm salesmen not allowed to sell burglar alarms on specific days? Something’s not right here.”

My friend doesn’t look like he’s listening to a word. He has the same look on his face as you do right now.

“It’s pretty good,” he says, bringing something out of his pocket. “It comes with a key fob!”

“It could come with its own Head of Security,” I say. “It’s still a stranger turning up at your house and selling you a burglar alarm.”

What is going on with this guy? He’s fallen in love with a key fob. It’s clouded his judgment. He’s a smart man. But this feels like he’s bought a bag of oranges from a man standing next to a broken window outside an oranges shop and thought nothing of it.

I click my fingers as I have an idea. It’s clear now!

And yeah, I know you’re wondering what an oranges shop is, but I’ve moved on.

“It’s obvious!” I say. “For a minute I thought it was just a dodgy fella selling below-par key fobs to the gullible.” He looks offended, so I add: “And also to you. But don’t you see?”

He shakes his head.

“He’s a burglar! Going around lulling people into a false sense of security by selling them dodgy burglar alarms for 70 quid!”

“I don’t think it’s dodgy,” he says, offended, now possibly the only man ever offended by someone saying something about their burglar alarm.

“It was 70 quid from a man on the street!” I say, eyes wide.

“He wasn’t on the street, he was at my door.”

“Well, I apologise, Archduke!” I say. “But if you want to lie in bed at night and press your key fob and hope that it makes a beeping noise and then sleep the comforting sleep of a man who knows he paid 70 quid to some stranger who turned up at his door one day to protect his home, then you can!”

He looks offended again, and now I have to reassure him I am only looking out for him. I don’t want him getting burgled. Or for his knock-off and uninsurable system to go haywire, just to win an argument. I tell him I’m only concerned because I just want the best for him.

That night, at about a quarter to 12, just as I’m just drifting off to sleep, I hear the distant sound of an unfamiliar burglar alarm.

“YES!” I think. “GOOD!”

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