Monday, 30 May 2011

Can I check your bags please?

Ever gone to leave a store and been stopped abruptly and asked to open your bags for an inspection? Ever felt a little invaded by this? Well, it's ok if you do because showing your bags is completely voluntary.

That's right. Despite the store displaying the rather misguided sign "We reserve the right to check bags as a condition of entry, blah, blah, blah" and having a gargoyle out the front asking to inspect bags. It's all intimidation.

When you enter a store, you enter under the conditions of the store. The retailer must display the misguided sign described above if they intend on checking bags. When a bag search is conducted, no items are allowed to be touched, with the retailer only able to look at the contents inside the bag. 

However, you do have the right to refuse a bag check, but since a customer enters a store under the conditions of entry, the retailer can ask a person to leave. But since most of the bag checks are done upon leaving the store, this is no problem.

Here's a fact I bet you didn't know. Not only can a customer refuse to undergo a bag check, but in the event that the store forcibly conducts a search against the person’s wishes, a retailer could be charged with assault. If a store has an absolute belief that a shop stealing offence has been committed (i.e. they saw you stuff the Justin Timberlake CD in your bag), they can legally detain or search a customer. However, if a customer has not stolen anything, the retailer may be sued for false imprisonment.

The thing I don't like is that retailers must know this practice is not customer friendly. They already have plenty of anti-theft procedures in place like surveillance cameras, chunky plastic tags that set alarms off and expensive items in locked glass cabinets. Walking out of an electronic shop the other day I was asked to show the contents of my handbag. I showed my bag complete with an iPhone 4 the same as what was on their shelves. It was no problem. So, what's the point?

At the end of the day, this practice is now so ingrained and accepted that no one questions it, and if you do, people wonder what you have to hide. Most people do it without a second glance. A fundamental right in our society, the right to privacy, has been let go simply through a common desensitising practice.

Thanks to FindLaw - for clarifying this.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Death of a bookstore

Will this be a common sight in years to come? This is what currently remains of a well-known large bookstore at a local shopping centre. Bigger than most libraries, this bookstore used to boast an extreme range of books, but certainly not at the lowest prices. And this is only one reason why online shopping has trumped the local store.

As we increasingly embrace the digital age and online shopping becomes easier and more efficient, many of us are turning away from physical stores and using internet shopping more and more. But why has the occasional purchase on eBay or Amazon turned into a phenomenon that impacts physical stores enough to close their doors? I can think of a few reasons:

1. Competitive prices
A recent retail report by The Australian Institute has shown that, despite the rising Australian dollar against the US dollar, "the average mark-up for items such as clothes and shoes is 142%, and around 40% for items like DVDs and music". Indeed! One only has to look online for a few minutes to see the difference in prices for identical products here and overseas. I recently purchased a top-brand snow jacket from America for AU$200. If I went to the local snow gear store I would be paying AU$650. Thankyou ADSL2+ broadband, you have just paid for yourself.

2. General lack of service at physical stores 
Ever walked into a shop wanting help only to see staff walking around like they're off with the Min Mins? I have. A lot of people argue against online shopping by saying that you can't beat face-to-face service. Actually, turns out you can Gerry Harvey, because most of time you get a blank face look when you ask "Does this product come in red?". Most good online shops have much more detail about the product you are about to buy. Sizes, colours, features, etc. A recent trip to a well-known outdoor recreation store saw me bear witness to a saleswoman telling a customer that she "couldn't try on a medium in that $700 jacket if they didn't have one out of the box as a sample" . . .

3. Reliable shipping/delivery
I'm not sure about others, but I have never had any trouble with receiving products bought online. I once had to order an extra matching pillowcase for a bed setting from a local manchester shop. I was told it would take two weeks to have it sent from regional NSW (I live in coastal NSW), only to be told three weeks later that they had to source it from a store that's a 20 minute drive away. I've ordered books from England that arrived sooner and without a fuss in under two weeks. And in Australia it seems that most of the time shipping plus the price of the item is still cheaper than the in-store price.

4. Shopping in the comfort of your dressing gown and bed socks
During this sudden cold-snap, is there anything better than curling up on the lounge in your fluffy comfy clothes and dabbling in a bit shopping? No need to worry about screaming children in the shopping centre or little old ladies running over your foot with their motorised wheelchair (it has happened). As an added moral bonus it's environmentally friendly too, as you're saving all those petrol emissions from escaping from your car. Never mind, they'll be released tomorrow when you go to work.