Those damned book thieves

Inside All Sages, 2005 (via TBN)

All Sages Books (万圣书园), a book shop in Beijing's Haidian district, strictly enforces a rule that all customers must check their bags.

Intended to prevent shoplifting, the policy is an annoyance to customers who would rather not endure the hassle of checking items, and an unacceptable offense to others who don't like feeling like criminals whenever they want to browse for books.

But it's not entirely effective, particularly when winter comes. The store store's official microblog discussed the issue in a series of updates on December 1:

18:25: Winter is here, and once again the bookstore has begun to lose books. Those parka-wearing people in the store swaying with a purpose are truly frightening. We can't just put up security cameras all over the place in an academic bookstore! My reader friends, please help us. If you see an unscrupulous person, please tell us. Thanks! One woman once stuffed two books into a handbag.

18:35: We are not afraid of people who steal books to read. What we fear are the ones who steal books to sell. They work together to steal large books in particular, and then they sell them to China Bookstore. Someone selects a book and sends a text message, and then a woman or a student-like man comes to steal it, and they get your staff to help them locate the book. The coats they are wearing are specialized and have a layer of inside pockets. The China Bookstore in Haidian sources its large books directly from us.

18:37:Doll's nest: Install a magnetic gate. The magnanimous won't be offended, and you needn't be too gentle with those who misbehave. (I'm simply puzzled as to how they could do this at such a fine bookshop.)
Reply: There are anti-theft gates and security cameras, and there's an old retiree from the Haidian Coal Plant to watch things.....but they're better than you! They've got specialized anti-magnetic devices.

18:50: There are some related businesses I won't do because I am well aware they they will bring harm to my staff. Second-hand books, for example. They might steal to achieve results. You can't always just send only your most trusted people to collect books, because they've got to learn other positions. It's like in a café: cups are always getting broken, and a manager could say that things will be recorded, and compensation exacted. But I am convinced that this system creates lies. I just have everyone voluntarily note things down, without requiring compensation, and it's a lot simpler.

19:07: Sometimes the annoyances are enough to make business itself uninteresting....For example, you carefully arrange good books on the counter, 100 yuan apiece, and a day later eight are missing, carried off by people by supplying books exclusively for China Bookstore. They sell a book to China Bookstore for 20-30% of the price, and then China Bookstore marks it up for sale. A dishonest, unsafe society isn't good for anyone. After they sell the books, those book thieves might end up getting their wallets stolen!

19:16: I'd guess that the Xidan Book Building loses at least a million yuan worth of books a year. Guo Lin Feng, now closed, lost 450,000 one year. I can mentally accept up to 60,000, but any more than that would sadden me. Readers, are you aware of the situation? Please understand our bag check rules and anti-theft gate.

19:42: My hope is that All Sages will be a place for people to relax. No lie! Our cashier staff are good people and have never lost anything checked by readers! It's just that there are some individuals who don't understand All Sages and who carry a huge bag when they enter the store, and when you ask them to check it, they say it contains something important, or lots of money. I'll always say, with my eyes wide open, however much you have, we can guarantee it!

20:12: Kang Guoping: If someone carrying a lot of money still goes to a bookstore to read, you ought to trust him.
Reply But if you have one person with a bag, you should allow bags for everyone. It can't just be because you've got money. But we really can't let bag carriers (it's not right, and it's not right to you all). We'd have to close if that happened! So many lost books every year!

20:32: Thank you to everyone who helped All Sages come up with ideas. When doing business in China, there are lots of unrelated annoyances that have to be overcome, and it's not easy for anyone to insist on finding ways that are ethical as well as effective. However, "I have a dream": One day, bookstores will be open to all comers who swipe their own bar codes and self-pay. This may not fit with human nature, but it's a special dream of mine!

20:34: cont'd: So I have a dream: to serve in my next life at a self-scan, self-pay any other industry like the book trade, where you're not just retailing but offering reading for free, and value for nothing? Why shouldn't it be the safest, most honest place in society?

From Douban, an anecdote about bag checks at All Sages:

Two women came to All Sages to look at books. It probably was their first time, and they were enchanted.
After they'd finished looking around, they went to get their bags, but they'd lost the key.

Her bag was in one of the cabinets. However, she couldn't remember which cabinet.
So she had to describe the color and style of her bag so the employee in charge could look for it. Unfortunately, after a search, it wasn't there.

The woman got really anxious.
She said, open up the cabinet and I'll take a look. I know which one is mine.
The manager turned her down, because how could he be convinced that a particular bag was hers?
Finally, someone came up with the idea of trying a phone call.
So everyone shut up, and there was silence. They carefully searched for the ringing.
It was very faint, but they were able to locate it without any trouble.

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There are currently 4 Comments for Those damned book thieves.

Comments on Those damned book thieves

sounds like they need to come to an agreement with china bookstore so they don't knowingly purchase stolen books. Destroy the market, and the theft will diminish.

in the US, expecting shoppers to check bags is common place, but the volume of people in and out of a store is much less.

I haven't seen any chain bookstores that require its customers to check bags, but the bookstore at my university did and everyone was okay about it.

One of the most popular 2nd-hand record store in San Francisco also requires its customers to check bags and people are fine about it, too.

The initiative to check bags is reasonable. But the measure is too rude for a book store with great reputation over colledge students in Beijing. Why not take a more modest way such as asking guests to deposit their bags before entering the book shelves?

We have a few places in Thailand like this, none of which I'll buy from.

The great thing about Thailand though is, if you're a westerner, most Thais don't speak English so you get to take your bag into the store simply because they're too afraid to try to ask you in English not to :)

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