I am going to make it a point not to give this sort of place any of my business. You probably should too.

When you are told to check your bags at the door, you are being assumed a thief. You are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Not only that, but you are putting your own belongings at risk in order to satisfy their undue paranoia. This is wrong. Shoplifting prevention doesn't have to include something as invasive as requiring you to surrender your belongings before entering the store.

Today I visited a music store at a new mall that sprung up nearby. This is the kind of music store that sells the stuff to make music (instruments, mixers, amps, etc.), not the music itself. Anyway, I had a small bag with some sneakers I had just purchased at another store in it. A bag that can't even be easily used for shoplifting at all. Yet I was told to surrender it. After arguing and making a scene, I just walked out. I tried to get my point across to as many people as possible. I didn't look back to see if anyone else left as well, but I probably should have.

Don't patronize places that assume you're a thief before you even come in. There are plenty of stores out there that respect you as an individual.

I disagree with Zorin. Usually when a store asks you to check your bag at the door, they are not doing it to offend you. Certainly, it implies that you may be a thief, but then again, you may well be.

The guy at the cash can't tell by the way you look if you're going to shoplift. He can't decide on first glance who is an upstanding citizen, nor who is a criminal. If his store has very expensive items that are easily pocketable, such as a music store might, his only hope of keeping shoplifting down is to stop everyone at the door and confiscate their bags. If he doesn't, shoplifters will dig into his profits and then he will be forced to raise the price of merchandise.

There are two places that I know of in Calgary (where I live) that require bags to be checked. The first is a used record/CD store, the second is the University's used bookstore. Both these places would be targeted by shoplifters as their wares are not traceable. When I am asked to check my bag when entering one of these stores, I feel no anger. After all, I know I am not a criminal. I accept that the cashiers are just trying to keep prices down for everyone, instead of only those who take the initiative to break the law.

Hm, I wish I could avoid these stores. Stores like Student Bookstores and the U of M bookstores require bags to be checked. This is understandable, as they don't wish to be stolen from when they're trying to rob the student blind. Just think how tough it would be to slip a $180 Calc textbook into your shopping bag or backpack? These stores go through so much merchandise so quickly that they can't afford any type of theft deterrent system other than a cop sitting there, sippin' on coffee.

Other stores I frequent like Cheapo Records in the Twin Cities ask that you check your bag. I feel no pang of violation handing my bag to a clerk working an honest job in an awesome music store. They also go through a high volume of merchandise, buying back and selling tons of music, and none of their cd's are in those big theft-deterrent plastic things. If they used those, they would need twice as much space as the already expansive collection takes up (think about the normal mall Sam Goody and multiply that by four or so). We're talking a lot of space there. If all they ask is to hold my bag behind the counter in plain sight of any other customer, so be it.

The store is a privately-owned business somewhere up the corporate chain, and the owners and managers have every right to protect their property and prevent theft. The business they lose from the few people who refuse to shop there because they check your bag is easily made up by the theft prevented daily.

I would suggest that Zorin be an owner or a manager of a retail store with highly pilferable merchandise for a while. He might have a different point of view. I've had extremely expensive merchandise taken from my bookstore, and it's heartbreaking. Not just because of the loss of money, but because of the loss of trust. After a while you begin to become paranoid wondering who is going to steal what next.

Aside from being an invasion of your privacy, I believe that it may even be illegal for a store to demand to check your personal property unless they have due reason to suspect you of shoplifting. This is also true for stores that explicitly warn that you must show your bags when exiting the store, the warning is simply invalid. (Much like a hand written notice which reads: 'All women must display their breasts for photographic inspection by store clerks upon exiting the store.' would be invalid.)

If you are asked to show your bags just keep walking out of the store, maybe ask 'Why? Did you see me take something?', while walking away. The security guard that is asking to check your bags knows quite well that he cannot do anything to stop you leaving. If he obstructs your path or restrains you in any way that can be consudered as assault or false imprisonment, and he knows quite well that if you haven't stolen anything he will surely lose his licence and job. For this reason it is not very likely that he will do much if you walk away.

So next time someone asks to see your bags just walk away, it's not like they can do anything.

Of course if you have actually stolen something then you should probably run as fast as you can, rather than walk away.

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