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The day i was ‘caught’ shop-lifting

Story of my brush with shop-lifting and how technology prevented it? :)

Birthdays of kids in the family means visit to the toy store. One such day, some years ago, I found myself looking at various yellow and green coloured plastic auto rikshaws (or tuk tuk’s) to gift to my nephew. While I was rummaging through racks of cars, buses and jeeps, something behind me started beeping loud alarm like noises. It seemed to be coming from the sensors that were placed at the exit gates. A well-to-do family had just passed out through those gates. The alert security staff, asked them to pass through the sensors again, only this time one person at a time. The man of the house passed, no beep. The woman followed. No beep either. Then the kids passed. The sensor towers were silent like a zen monk in meditation. Then the kids’ granny passed through and the sensor towers came buzzing to life. By then the shop owner came to the exit to take stock of the situation. He calmly told the man that his mother possessed an object from the store that they might not have purchased.

The man angrily stared at his mother and started asking her in harsh tones if she has taken anything from the store. The old lady meekly said ‘No’. The shop owner insisted he check the small purse that the lady carried. She voluntarily opened it and rummaged into the contents to pick a small toy that still had the tag and handed it over to the shop owner. Her son was furious by then and started scolding his mom. The shop owner broke the heated verbal outrage by asking the man if he intended to pay for it or should the owner put it back in the shelves. The man bought it to save face and immediately rushed out. The owner went back to the till with relief that another shoplift attempt (albeit a minor one) had been thwarted.

We might marvel at the technology that enables it. It is simple electronics. One sensor tower transmits electromagnetic waves at a particular frequency and the other receives it. The moment a radio frequency tag passes through the wave frequency received changes and the receiver starts beeping loud alarm sounds. The working of this anti-theft/anti-shoplifting technology can be summed up by the picture below

How Anti-theft devices work. PC HowStuffWorks.com

This other day, I was at an affordable clothes store at suburban mall in Bengaluru. As soon as I entered the security requested me to deposit the bag I was carrying at the baggage counter. After getting an acknowledgement token in return, I went about shopping. The store was running a discount sale. Clothes stores always have some offer running. If you thought that Spring-Summer Sale, Summer clearance, Winter collection, Winter clearance were the norm, they were interspersed with Sankranthi, Republic day, Ugadi, Independence day, Dussera, Diwali and Christmas sale. After picking up some clothes one heads to the trial rooms only to find a guard frisking the new clothes to check if the anti-theft tags (or Radio Frequency Identification tags) were intact. The trials were done. Akin to the Charles Darwin’s theory the well fitting dresses survived. The less fortunate ones were dropped off in a bin next to the trial rooms. At the billing, the cashier removed the anti-theft tags after she billed the clothes, bagged them and the ran the bag over a sensor to check for beeps. Nothing beeped and off she handed it over to me.

As I passed the exit gates, the sensor towers started giving out alarm sounds. I became red faced. The security asked me to stay in while he passed the bags through the sensors. No beep. So I had to turn my pockets out. First went the wallet through the towers. No Beep. Then the phone, keys and coins. No beep either. Finally he found the culprit. It was the store’s baggage token that was nestled in my jean pocket which I had forgotten to turn in and take my baggage.

Both of us grinned at each other and I collected my baggage and left. Not before I snapped the culprit tag.

Some clever store manager had attached anti-theft tags to the baggage tokens so that people don’t forget to take their baggage while they leave the store. Clever hack saved me hassles of coming back to the store to pick my deposited bag at a slight inconvenience of looking like a shop-lifter for a brief moment.

I still if the old lady wanted to buy this toy for her grandchildren and didn’t have the money or permission from her son to do so? I will never know

Did you like this blog? Please clap as hard and as many times as you can. :)

I am a writer, reverse engineer, entrepreneur and marketer. Right now I am building Whenda, a Next Gen Asset Mangement SaaS for Enterprises. Hit up www.whenda.com to know more.

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Ideas, Thoughts, Rants, Observations and one-liners of Sunil Prabhakaran (Linus P) on India, Bengaluru, Inclusion, Engineering, Advice, Startups, Reverse Engineering and occasionally some poetry too!

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Sunil Prabhakaran

Sunil Prabhakaran

Products | Startup | Writer | Reverse Engineer

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