#1
Just another day at the shopping mall
TOM MCFEAT: ON THE MONEY

I can't help it. I've been setting off alarm bells again. Some of my local stores are of the opinion that I might be a shoplifter.
It isn't store staff who make the accusation. It's those electronic theft-detection systems that guard the store exits.
You've no doubt heard them. The mechanized voice that often follows the alarm doesn't actually use the word "shoplifter." Instead, it suggests that the store has "apparently failed to remove the inventory control tag" from my purchase or something similar. It helpfully suggests I return to the cash to sort out this horrible mix-up.
The public pronouncement acknowledges that the person frozen at the exit is probably innocent and that the problem is probably the store's.
But the buzzers and loud warning imply the possibility that I could actually be doing something bad. The machine might as well be saying: "HEY EVERYONE. THE GUY AT THE EXIT MAY HAVE SOME OF OUR STUFF THAT HE DIDN'T PAY FOR. SHAME ON YOU. MAYBE."
You know the drill. A staffer often tries to check things out. When a cursory inspection fails to find evidence of criminality, they take everything back to their electronic thing-a-majig by the till, where they feverishly re-swipe the merchandise or take off the electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags that should have been removed in the first place. Often, the renewed effort is for naught, as the alarms still sound for some unknown reason.
You then leave the store with your goods sometimes with an apology, sometimes not.
Full column
Does Tom's story ring alarm bells with you? Tell us your experiences with security systems that guard store exits.


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