you can’t search me

April 6th, 2008

Apparently it’s not legal for supermarkets to check shoppers’ dockets as they leave the supermarket. Funny, I don’t see that happening too often, mostly only at that Thai chain Lotus (at least, I think it’s a Thai chain, and I think it’s called Lotus….), although I’ve seen it at one or two other large supermarkets scattered around the country over the years. It always struck me as being utterly absurd- yeah, that’s right, I used my Bruce Lee kung fu powers to fly back over the cashiers and steal a whole bunch of stuff then back out to the exit without being noticed, and so you need to see if what’s printed on my docket matches what’s in the bags I’m carrying.

Although I not that the article says “不合法” and not “非法” or “犯法”. I don’t know how to interpret that properly: Is it not legal in that there’s no specific clause of any law permitting supermarkets to check dockets? Or is it actually illegal? I would like this to be cleared up, because the article also says it is not legal for supermarkets to search customers. Anyway, from 新京报/The Beijing News’ Jiang Yanxin:

“超市出口查小票不合法”

“Not legal to check dockets at supermarket exits”

市消协人士称超市怀疑消费者偷窃时无权搜身、罚款

 City consumers’ association figure says supermarkets have no right to search people or impose fines when they suspect a consumer of theft

 在怀疑消费者偷窃东西的时候,超市方也不能对消费者采取罚款或搜身等行为。昨日,北京市消费者协会投诉部主任郎丹科做客城市服务管理广播表示,超市方在出口处检查购物小票的行为,也是没有任何法律依据的。

When they suspect consumers of theft, supermarkets can’t impose fines on, physically search or carry out other actions against consumers. Yesterday, while a guest on Beijing Public Service Radio, director of the Complaints Department of the Beijing Municipal Consumers’ Association Liang Danke stated that the checking of dockets at supermarket exits also has no basis in law whatsoever.

Now, the second section seems to be about beauty products and cosmetics and consumers’ rights to return goods and get refunds, but I’m not interested in any of that. And besides, it’s all very obvious: If your hair turns a different colour from what you expected, but there’s no issue with the quality of the product, you’re stuck with funny-coloured hair. If you’re hair turns a lurid, radioactive neon green because the product was of substandard quality, you’re entitled to return the product and get a refund. Or something like that. Should all be very obvious, shouldn’t it?

[Tangent: Yes, should be obvious, but I know a woman who demanded a refund on her shoes because she spilt oil on them. Idiot.]

Anyway, back to the checking of dockets:

被超市搜身可要求道歉

Those searched by supermarkets can demand an apology

有市民在节目中反映说,自己去超市购物,有物品遗落未付款,被超市便衣诬蔑为小偷,这种情况如何处理?对此郎丹科 称,超市如果称消费者偷窃东西,必须要提供摄像头记录的资料,证明消费者的盗窃行为。无论在何种情况下,超市对消费者进行罚款或搜身等行为,都是不允许 的。如果消费者遭遇搜身、当众侮辱或罚款等行为,可以要求经营者赔礼道歉。

During the programme, some city residents responded saying that while shopping at the supermarket, they’d left things behind without paying and had been branded thieves by the supermarket’s plainclothes detectives- how can this kind of situation be handled? To this Liang Danke said that if the supermarket accuses a consumer of theft, it must supply recordings from a camera and prove that the consumer had committed theft. Regardless of the situation, the supermarket is not allowed to fine or search the consumer. If the consumer is searched, publicly insulted or fined, they can demand that a manager politely apologise.

此外,超市在出门时强行检查购物小票的行为,也是不合法的。作为消费者而言,和超市之间的交易行为截止时间是将东西给收银员、收银员收款后给消费者小票时。这之后无论是商品还是小票,所有权都是消费者,超市不具备在出口处查看小票的权限。

Also, it is not legal for the supermarkets to forcibly check dockets at the exit. As far as consumers are concerned, the transaction with the supermarket is completed once, the items having been handed to the cashier and the cashier having accepted payment, the cashier has given the consumer the docket. From that moment on, regardless of whether its the commodities or the docket, and the supermarket has no right to check the docket at the exit.

So there you go, once you’ve paid and you have your docket and your purchases in your hand, you can refuse to allow your docket to be checked or to be searched. But what happens then? In refusing, you bring more suspicion on yourself….

Still, I think this could be seen as an example of the greater emphasis on individual rights and the weakening of over-arching bureaucratic power. Maybe.

Whatever, it would be good to see this in action. Trouble is, apart from Lotus, I can’t think of too many supermarkets which do forcibly check dockets, and I’ve never seen supermarket staff insist on searching anyone here. But it would be interesting to see if a consumer was able to stand up and demand, and get, an apology from a supermarket for unlawful checking of dockets or searches.

2 Responses to “you can’t search me”

  1. John Says:

    Metro in both Fuzhou and here in Chengdu checks receipts and stamps them. One of the local supermarkets in Fuzhou checked, but there was no stamping. Carrefour in the Fortune Centre doesn’t bother unless you go out through the entrance because you’ve bought something without going upstairs.

    Most of the bookshops here go through the whole process even although there seems to be no point in someone a metre or two away checking a receipt which they saw you being issued. The whole process does seem ridiculous and inefficient.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Yep, ridiculous and inefficient, and not even legal, but it keeps a few people busy. Just not legally.