Bed Bath & Beyond Forbids Cell Phone Cameras

Bed Bath & Beyond tries to prevent shoppers from doing any online comparisons or research, because it has a “no photos” policy in its store. I discovered this yesterday when I used my cellphone to take a no-flash, silent photo of a coffee grinder. A store associate walked up and said, “You can’t take photos of merchandise. It’s store policy.”

We proceeded to have a conversation about this policy, where I explained that there are good reasons to let customers take quick snapshots of products, and he explained that “every store has a policy like this” and that “it’s been around for forty years,” and if I wanted a photo I could go to their website. He also said the policy was to prevent spies from stealing trade secrets. (He actually just said “You could be a spy,” but I’m assuming he meant the retail kind, and not the Polonium-210 kind.)

In all stores I’ve been in, I’ve been allowed to take photographs of products with my cellphone. I do it now without even thinking about it—and often, if I decide to buy the product, I go back to that store because that’s where I first saw it. It’s like a DIY brochure for the item.

I called the corporate office and asked whether this was really a company-wide policy, and the customer service rep kept repeating that it was, that she was sorry for my inconvenience, and that if I wanted to take photos I had to ask for permission from a District Customer Service Manager, who would take my name and reason for the photos and then contact the store to set up an appointment. So now you know what you need to do if you want to snap an impromptu photo of an item.

Bed Bath & Beyond: you have a reputation for treating your customers with respect, so please grasp that here are at least half a dozen reasons a shopper might want to take a photo:

  • He might be going to meet someone he wants to show it to.
  • He might want a good image of the box that includes any model numbers and product information for reference when he looks up product reviews online.
  • He might want a “real world” photo of it from a specific angle to match it with existing products he owns, or products for sale in other stores, and he doesn’t want to rely on the manufacturer’s beauty shot.
  • He might want to compare a different model in another store side by side with this one, and using cell phone photos makes more sense than buying and returning the product.
  • Maybe he wants to send the photo to his mom right there from the showroom floor to see if this is the grinder she wants—and if so, then he will buy it right then.
  • Or maybe he just doesn’t have pen and paper with him (after all, why do you need to carry a notepad when you can take a photo of the product?)

At least one of those reasons could lead directly to a sale for the retailer during the same visit, and several of them could lead to a future sale—yet Bed Bath & Beyond insists on a shortsighted policy of trying to control its shoppers’ behavior so they can’t make smart decisions.

Comments

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  1. Meg Marco says:
  2. snazz says:

    most retails stores have this policy, its mainly for security purposes so you arent scoping out their cameras or taking a layout of the store. i agree, it could hinder sales and can be an inconvenience to a consumer like you, but they are mostly trying to protect their store. i guess that outweights the lost sales and customer service issues.

  3. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    As someone responsible for doing POGs, I have to deal with this all the time. Going into stores like WalMart, Best Buy, Target etc. and looking at store displays and sheliving to get the product layouts. I usually take a piece of paper and sketch out basic facings, and amount of shelf space for different products and manufacturers. Sometimes I also have to take pictures.

    I also have to do occasional price surveys where I have a list of 100 items or so and compare how Wally World and Target are versus military stores. That is really uncomfortable.

    I haven’t been thrown out of a store yet, but a lot of my coworkers have at some point. I’m guessing that’s probably another reason they are all protective.

  4. snazz says:

    i would suggest that if you are taking a photo is a store for any of those reasons you mentioned, which seem very valid, that you ask an employee for permission FIRST. ive found most stores are willing to accomodate photos if they control what you are taking a picture of.

  5. Myron says:

    @public enemy #1: What is a POG?

  6. gniterobot says:

    When you take a picture of a retail item you steal it’s sole, thus devaluing the item itself.

    Not to mention what the russians would do with that picture of the blender…

  7. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @Myron: A planogram. You use software to design a section of the store with what products they should carry and then you send it to the individual stores.

  8. AbstractConcept says:

    Yeah, my photo professor told us about this. Stores will often not permit you to take pictures because you could be another company trying to recreate their layout, like others have said..

    Makes sense, though it’s not gonna stop many people.

  9. mxx says:

    what kind of trade secrets can they have at an ‘open to public’ retail location?
    i accept trade secrets in places like manufacturing facilities or R&D departments or even software inside of POS cash registers. but to forbid photos of a product sitting on a retail shelf visible/accessible to anybody by claiming trade secrets is retarded.
    if it’s a trade secret, they shouldn’t be selling that item because once i buy it I’ll know all the “secrets” it’ll have.
    Real industrial spies won’t try to save $29.99 on a coffee grinder.

  10. Kezzerxir says:

    You know how many times I’ve snapped a photo while shopping to see if a design or a color was ok! Just take the shots anyway, if they want to toss you out right before you buy something then let them.

  11. ry81984 says:

    I work retail and I would never tell a customer no to taking pictures. Sometimes you just do not enforce certain policies no matter how much you are paid. *Cough*checking receipts at the door*Cough*

    The risk of offending a customer is much higher than from someone taking a photo to spy on what you are doing.

    Customer share their good experiences on average with 4 to 5 people. Customers share their bad experiences on average with 10 to 15 people.
    What kind of experiences would you want customers to have?

  12. davebg5 says:

    @public enemy #1: DING DING DING!!! We have a WINNAH!

    I used to work for BB&B (in store and corporate). This is the exact reason why they do not allow photos in the store.

  13. bohemian says:

    I take photos in stores all the time. I have gotten some double takes from store staff before. I do so frequently at Lowes or Menards. I run across a light fixture, tile, fencing, or other visual things for our house. Since I stink at describing things and my husband does not understand if I tell him something is chartruse green I will grab a picture and just show him instead.
    Or I see some item on sale so I send him the picture and then call to see what he thinks. That way I can pick something up without it disappearing or needing a second trip across town.

    What next? Will they throw out customers who use price notebooks to grocery shop? Will I get tackled for looking up window sizes when buying blinds in home depot because I have my phone out?

  14. Antediluvian says:

    How about you load your carriage up with a little moderate to pricey merchandise and push it around as you grab your snapshots. If they throw you out, tell them you’ll buy this stuff from across town where they treat customers better. If they acquiesce, tell them thanks for wising up, but it’s still cost them a sale.
    Also, put the stuff back if you’re not stopped. Otherwise it’s just kinda rude.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Do it discreetly. I find it hard to believe there is a store employee looking over everyone’s shoulder to enforce this.

    I don’t see why stores can’t differentiate between taking a pictures of a couple items you want vs. someone who is going down every aisle taking pictures.

  16. Juliekins says:

    I also take pictures in stores all the time. Figuring out how to turn off the shutter sound on my phone was one of the smarter things I ever did. I also tend to make it look like I’m dicking around with my phone instead of taking a picture. It’s not that difficult to obscure what you’re doing.

    I worked at Wal-Mart when I was in college, pre-cell phone cameras. We were supposed to stop people from writing down prices(!!!) because it might be someone from the Target across the street or the K-Mart next door trying to compete. We had a no picture policy too. I never saw anyone trying to take pictures that hadn’t asked first, but I guess it probably happened sometimes.

    If I had a clerk tell me to leave the store because I took a picture, that would be all the comparison shopping I’d need to do. It’s akin to jotting down a model number or a price. Taking a photo of a food processor at Bloodbath and Beyond doesn’t represent a security risk. I’ll go buy it at a store that doesn’t treat me like a criminal.

  17. Scazza says:

    Yeah, when I worked for a big box toy store, we were informed that customers were NOT to take photos of any of our displays, for one, to stop other stores from taking our ideas/prices, but also to stop other stores from seeing our layout (Companies actually PAY for shelf space and positioning, and other companies might want to see whos paying us how much to be where…)

  18. Veeber says:

    Isn’t there a home depot or Lowe’s commercial where a couple are taking pictures of a ceiling fan with their phone and using it to evaluate what it would look like in their room? If so could we use this to claim that they are encouraging this behavior?

  19. axiomatic says:

    Take pictures until they ask you to leave. Come back the next day or go to different store location. Problem solved.

  20. I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of my WEDDING DRESS after I had paid for it while they were still doing alterations. Because, they told me, if you take pictures, you could STEAL THE DRESS DESIGN from the designer and have it knocked off cheap somewhere else. Uh, not after I paid $3150 non-refundable, thanks.

    They also told me dress designers refuse to allow you to take pictures of wedding dresses, ever, for any reason, ever. Either they were making shit up (ding!) or no wedding dress designers have ever been to an actual wedding with all the photographers and videographers and shit.

  21. j-yo says:

    Most stores have this policy for valid reasons. Get over it! If you can take a discreet shot, more power to you. If there happens to be an employee nearby enforcing the no-photo policy, then it means that your planets were not aligned properly that day (or insert your own belief system here) and it’s time to move on with your life.

  22. Hey, Store People! You know that fancy technology you love, because it lets you screen people and gather personal information on them to sell later? Well, it’s got a flipside.

    Welcome to the information age, motherf*cker.

    ;)

  23. bradanomics says:

    @Chris Vee:

    I thought of this as well when I was reading the article. I have seen that commercial as well.

  24. I understand the comments about this being a standing rule intended for competitors, but this is a good example of technology changing the rules of the game. Now that nearly everyone has or will soon have a cellphone with a camera, consumer behavior is changing. People use cameras, phones, and web-enabled devices when they shop in stores now, and this behavior will only increase in the coming years.

    The retailers that don’t get this—the ones who resist adapting to technology trends that are larger than their own store policies—will end up with angry or offended customers and lost sales.

    In defense of Bed Bath & Beyond, the associate who stopped me was clearly an unpleasant guy—he was officious, a bit rude, and got really freaked out and started trying to walk away from me when I began asking about the policy. A smarter associate would likely have watched to see whether I was taking photos of lots of things or just this one grinder. Still, I’d rather see the policy change than have rely on the kindness of competent sales associates.

  25. Anonymous says:

    USA Today writer Andrew Kantor has a great article about photographers rights. He basically writes there are very few places where photographs are prohibited. These are:

    • Certain military installations or operations.

    • People who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is, people who are some place that’s not easily visible to the general public, e.g., if you shoot through someone’s window with a telephoto lens.

    Otherwise, you’re free to take photos anywhere you want, even in public places that are privately owned. Of course, if you’re asked to stop taking photos, you must comply or possibly face trespassing charges, but in no condition would you ever be required to hand over the camera, film, memory card etc. to a security guard or other store employee.

    Here’s what he writes about what you can shoot:

    You can shoot pictures of children; your rights don’t change because of their age or where they are, as long as they’re visible from a place that’s open to the public. (So no sneaking into schools or climbing fences.)

    Video taping has some more gray areas because of copyright issues, but in general the same rules apply. If anyone can see it, you can shoot it.

    And yes, you can shoot on private property if it’s open to the public. That includes malls, retails stores, Starbucks, banks, and office-building lobbies. If you’re asked to stop and refuse, you run the risk of being charged with trespassing, but your pictures are yours. No one can legally take your camera or your memory card without a court order.

    You can also shoot in subways and at airports. Check your local laws about the subway, but in New York, Washington, and San Francisco it’s perfectly legal. Airport security is regulated by the Transportation Security Administration, and it’s quite clear: Photography is A-OK at any commercial airport in the U.S. as long as you’re in an area open to the public.

    Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  26. bradanomics says:

    @j-yo: You are correct. The companies will just have to deal with the fact of losing customers as a result of their poor business practices. Do POGs matter all that much? Really? And the big box stores wonder why people prefer to shop online. The prices are cheaper and there is not as much hassle.

  27. Anonymous says:

    i think a spy from a competitor would be better equipped. i mean a cell camera? if i was a spy, i’d have a tie-cam, or hat-cam, and take real video vs. some still shots.

    but someone also mentioned how easy it would be to act as if you are playing a game or texting. i would just play it off like that next time i’m price comparing.

  28. Anonymous says:

    First of all, they have every legal right to restrict photography in their stores. You are on private property and there is no established legal argument that can be made to contradict the right of the store to restrict photography.
    That said, deal with it. Most stores have this policy and for good reason.
    “spy’s” come to stores all the time to scope out placement techniques, pricing, merchandising, layout, marketing, and more. They can then take that back to their own businesses (or sell that information to competitors) and essentially trample on intellectual property.
    This is business 101, folks. It has been around for a long time and isn’t likely to change. I used to run a fairly unique restaurant. Several times, I had to stop people from taking photos of our layout, our ovens, our POS systems, and our stations. If a person is asking if they can take a picture of them with friends, we would allow it (we’d offer to take the photos too), but if someone walks in and starts snapping off shots, we were instructed to speak up and ask the person why they were taking photos, then ask them to leave.
    Simply put, there is no real advantage to allowing anyone to take photos of products and prices. It is only advantageous to price shopping consumers, who are more likely to take that price to another store and purchase it elsewhere.

  29. Antediluvian says:

    @FitJulie: Easy to turn off the camera sound on an iPhone, just put it in Silent Mode by toggling the switch above the volume buttons. Actually, that’s the only way to turn off the camera click that I know of.

    Also, if someone tries to stop you, you can distract them by offering to show them your shiny iPhone.

  30. etinterrapax says:

    @Mary Marsala with Fries: Agreed. This is the real issue. Isn’t it BB&B, among others, that gathers phone numbers at checkout for data-managed marketing? I am so bone-weary of dealing with a consumer culture where the consumers are the bitches of the system that needs them.

  31. jamar0303 says:

    I love having a phone with a front-facing camera. When I want to take a discreet photo, I turn around the phone so that it looks like I’m taking a random self-portrait when I’m actually taking a photo of the product (helps to live somewhere where the local Korean population will get out their cameraphones and take photos at the slightest provocation- these same Koreans are very “spendy” so it wouldn’t be any good for the store to kick them out).

  32. Mary says:

    Recently, I went shopping for fabric for a friend. I took pictures of the different patterns available and emailed them to her, and she called while I stood in the store and told me which one she liked.

    Sometimes I take pictures of something to think about buying it and show my husband, because I have a spending problem so I like to run things by him first.

    There are enough legitimate reasons to take pictures. And if you’re a spy, not being able to take pictures really isn’t going to stop you. They still do visits to competition, and they draw or sneak pictures, or just memorize and report things. So you’re not stopping the bad things, and possibly hurting your sales.

    I think it makes sense to back off in this case.

  33. Red_Eye says:

    @snazz: You surely dont mean the layout of product, you have got to be kidding if you do! Every Walmart I have been in here in Georgia hangs the bloody store layout papers on the shelf whenever there is a change (like for holidays). Sorry but posting the layout in public would negate any trade secrecy claim LOL.

  34. SOhp101 says:

    @snazz: No, it’s mainly because they want to prevent competition from knowing their layout/style/displayed inventory, not security purposes.

    Corporate policy in virtually all stores is no pictures. If an employee says okay, it’s probably because he doesn’t really care.

  35. missdona says:

    I’ve held private events at a couple of high profile cosmetics stores in NY (rhymes with Mephora) and they also have a corporate policy against photos in the stores for the same reason.

    The managers I worked with got special approval through corporate to allow photos during my events.

  36. mike1731 says:

    I’m fine with the no photo rule. Purchase the item you’re interested in, then return it if the cost is too high, the color is wrong, the fit is off, etc. It costs them more to process a return than deal with the occasional “spy”, but if that’s their policy, live with it. Besides, it’s really easier to comparison shop with the item in your hands than via a picture.

    Really is a stupid policy, though. We’ve done pictures of furniture, etc so we can compare it to what we already have for matching purposes. I’ve never had problems, even at our local BB&B store.

  37. liquisoft says:

    The employee is correct. There ARE trade secrets practiced in store layouts, and there ARE people employed by competing stores to try to steal ideas. It’s kind of silly, but it’s the way the market is.

  38. B says:

    Is putting the pepper grinders next to the spice racks such a novel concept that retailers have to protect it like a trade secret?

  39. JohnMc says:

    Chris, I really have to ask, are you being efficient? When I go to buy an item of $$ consequence I do my research online first. I get the pricing, terms and return policy of the stores. I usually get it narrowed down to 1-2 retailers. I then pick up the phone and ask the clerk if they have the item in stock. And I favor stores who have the inventory of particular stores online.

    With gas between $2.50-$3.00 gallon this strategy saves me money. The 10% disparity in price on retail pricing gets quickly eaten up driving around town looking. Why do that?

  40. toddkravos says:

    I carry my SLR everywhere I go

    I ran into this problem only once

    Him – “Sir you can’t take photos…”

    Me – “Show me where this ‘policy’ you mention is posted PRIOR to my entry to the store.”

    This happened to me at Home Depot some months back when I snapped a pic of a lamp and it’s shade to see if it would jive in my house. The kid was dumbfounded by my reply and just walked away mumbling something.

    If I ever got bounced out of a retail store for snapping a picture of something, you can best bet I wouldn’t shop there again.

  41. Hoss says:

    I always though pictures were not allowed in stores as a way to keep competition from easily recording pricing. I also thought there were store rules against lurking in a store with a note pad and recording prices. In any event — taking a few pictures or a few notes should not usually be a problem. I think this employee went too far unless the writer spent an unusal amount of time in one section of the store.

  42. tkozikow says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I’m sorry…did you say $3150 for a wedding dress, or is that a typo?

  43. Arch4ngel says:

    There is no good reasons to refuse customer to take a picture of an item. Why?

    Reason 1: If it’s a spy to steal how your aisle are placed… there is a 1000 other ways than taking pictures to do that (Spy camera anyone?). If he’s there to steal your price information… he can simply use a cellphone and call the HQ with product and price information and making it look like he’s talking to it’s wife. Etc… Etc… Etc…

    Reason 2: It’s a simple customer who want to have a second though before buying, want to compare online, want to show his/her wife.

    They can’t block you from taking pictures. I will be pleased to see them search you and show ID before going in a store. Just in case you MIGHT be a spy.

    What’s next? Checking your recipe after paying to make sure you didn’t steal anything between the cash and the door? Oh… wait… they already do that.

  44. pieoncar says:

    I’ve seen the Bed Bath and Beyond employee handbook — they STRONGLY reinforce “NEVER say no to the customer” and to “pass the buck” instead: let a manager handle conflicts, but as someone who works the floor, just send a customer with a problem up the chain of command.

    Although the store associate in question may have been following “official corporate policy,” it sounds like he was acting out of line in regards to never saying no (unless he was already a manager, maybe).

    Moreover, BBB will do price-matching on any advertisements — the associate should not have assumed you were taking a picture for a better price, but instead should have mentioned their price-match policy.

  45. kc2idf says:

    Actually, most stores and malls have a policy like this. Whether or not they actually enforce this policy is, of course, another matter entirely.

  46. @JohnMc: Fair question. I live in New York City, and use public transportation. I waited until I was in the neighborhood on other business before I stopped in at Bed Bath & Beyond so that I wouldn’t waste $ or time on a separate trip. And, of course, seeing products in person is a much different experience than viewing them online.

    But yes, if I lived somewhere with a car culture, I would probably follow your suggestion and never venture out to “window shop” without doing research first.

  47. Landru says:

    @fejjnagaf: What?

  48. rmz says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: *cough* *sputter*

    $3150 for a wedding dress? Yikes.

    No offense whatsoever, of course, I just can’t fathom spending that much on a dress.

  49. LTS! says:

    Don’t be so damned sanctimonious about what is a “good” reason and what is “bad” for business. Any business has a right to enforce and enact any policy which is not prohibited by law. Stores can ask you to leave for ANY reason, including taking pictures. If they do, then deal with it.

    If you are in a store and want to take a picture, I would simply either take it, or, if you’re one of the people who’ve responded in this thread and are aware that most stores have a problem with it simply ask if you can take a picture. How hard is it to ask a question? If they say no, walk out of the store and buy somewhere else.

    There’s more important things to worry about from big business than this.

  50. jeffjohnvol says:

    I think next time I’m in the mall I’ll go into that smelly place and put my phone in camera mode and point it at the products as I’m walking. As long as I don’t snap a picture I’m okay… right? Let “Mildred” follow me all she wants.

  51. jamesdenver says:

    @consumer_advocateur:

    Good summary. I’ll add for some reason you’re NOT allowed to take photos inside the immigration and customs area of airports.

    But I love taking photos- I’m certainly not a professional but I take photos of almost everything (products, people, airports) I find interestingly, weird, or cool. I especially like airports, subways, bridges, and infrastructure. It’s said that people impressed with engineering are automatically suspected of being terrorists.

    And how could I pass up this: [www.futuregringo.com]

  52. jamesdenver says:

    Oh and screw them too. If it makes life more convenient for me, the consumer(ist), I’ll do that unless that bother me to knock it off.

    I’ve often snapped a picture of something, sent it to my other half saying “you like this one” etc. Why should I make a separate trip, waste gas and time, when I can easily share something via pic message with someone?

  53. magus_melchior says:

    @Chris Walters: The other problem with the retailers’ argument is that the real spies would be really good at concealing their photography. Digital camera sensors are getting smaller every day, so it’s not too hard to conceal a camera on your person nowadays.

    Next thing you know, they’ll be doing random searches a la TSA.

  54. Supedve1 says:

    I happened to visit Home Depot yesterday and looked at all the signs outside the door on the DO’s/Dont’s and they had a NO PHOTO logo posted.

    After completing my slow transaction and exiting with my 2 bags a “guard” asked to see my receipt and I said NO as I just kept walking by, I’m sure she was stunned.

    Luckily I don’t go there often.

  55. AlexPDL says:

    Yeah these sort of policies have been around for a VERY long time. I remember going to a department store with my dad 15 years ago and taking some quick pictures. The department store security were on us quickly. Were we spying? Actually yes… my father was getting ideas on layout and retail ops.

    The store has a right to stop it. By the way… they do NOT need to post a sign saying it.

  56. fejjnagaf says:

    @Landru:
    Can you be more specific about what you didn’t understand?
    Simply put: Private property and intellectual property rights come into play here.
    A common form of intellectual property theft is via photograph. while many here speculate as to what methods may be used to steal intellectual property, such as merchandising, marketing, pricing, special codings, layout, etc., they are merely speculating.
    Others speculate further by saying that the store requires some sort of posting of their policies – this is not the case. Some argue that there are better methods than to use a camera phone – which is a hilarious and entertaining point of view, but has no bearing in reality. I have heard stories where company A, an independant startup store, sent an employee into company B, a successful national chain store, to take photos ,with their camera phone no less, disguised as a shopper out price hunting.
    To restate: there is no legal standing for one to argue that they have a ‘right’ to take photographs inside a store.
    while it may be true that the company has no right to confiscate property such as a camera or film, they do have a right to ask you to stop, ask you to leave, and pending refusal, have you arrested for trespassing.

  57. blander says:

    @liquisoft:

    Is it really a “trade secret” if it is being displayed to the public? Are they really protecting anything that can’t be obtained in other, maybe slightly more inefficient, ways?

  58. LionelEHutz says:

    I’ve never heard of this policy existing at any store. I take pictures all of the time so that I can look up reviews of the product online since 95% of the time the people working at the store either don’t know anything about the product or are willing to lie about the product just to get you to buy it.

  59. FLConsumer says:

    The only time I’ve ever had anyone ever say something about taking pics in stores happened to be at a locally-owned fan & lighting store. The dumb part of the whole ordeal was that they only sold cheap products from China, which no other store locally carried. The guy made me B&W photocopies of spec sheets on the products I was interested in, but that didn’t do me an ounce of good — I needed to see if the colours matched!

    I see it as another outdated policy. Really, no good spy is going to be blatant about taking pictures, and the layout of your store isn’t THAT difficult to figure out. Hire someone with a good memory to go in, shop, leave, then draw it all out. (This method is what I’ve used when I’ve been at places where there’s no debate that cameras were verboten.)

  60. fejjnagaf says:

    @LionelEHutz:
    Much like your namesake, you don’t know the laws.
    However, ignorance is not an excuse.
    If you want product information online, you can always jot down the info you need instead of taking a photo.

  61. fejjnagaf says:

    @blander:
    Yes.
    Just because a person can walk in and see the product, layout or whatever doesn’t mean that the intellectual property doesn’t get protection.
    I can walk into burger king and observe the way they make their fries, but if I videotape it, I can carefully review it, take as much time as I want, and steal their intellectual property.
    You can watch them make a subway club at subway, but that doesn’t mean you can duplicate it from memory.

  62. GitEmSteveDave says:

    WallyMart DOES list a price checking policy on a sign at the customer service desk.

    As for BB&B, the policy has been around for 40 years? Wow, they really were ahead of the curve predicting cell phones with cameras. Maybe 40 years ago they banned store photography due to the smoke the flash powder made, and the guy under the camera hood blocked the aisles, but I doubt it was for cell phone cameras. Or could I be wrong?

  63. lemur says:

    @fejjnagaf:

    This is business 101, folks.

    Since when is pissing off the customer part of business 101?

    Simply put, there is no real advantage to allowing anyone to take photos of products and prices. It is only advantageous to price shopping consumers, who are more likely to take that price to another store and purchase it elsewhere.

    The advantage of letting people do price comparisons (whether through pictures or by taking notes on paper) is that at least they come to your store and give you a chance to beat your competitors on price or on service. If you don’t let them do it, you’re out of the competition before the competition has even begun. Of course, it is possible that you already know you’ll lose.

    If a comparison shopper is forbidden to compare, the reaction is not going to be “aw shucks, I guess I’ll just buy it here then and forget about comparing.” Most likely, it is going to be “screw them, I’m not buying here anymore since I can’t compare.”

    Besides, other posters have noted that there are reasons to take pictures that have little to do with prices. If you go out to check out furniture for instance and your spouse is not with you, there’s little that can replace just taking shots of the furniture to show later to the spouse. Price is a factor but more important is the style of the furniture. Catalogs or online sites are not good substitutes to carefully taken shots. I don’t want to carry 5 catalogs and fish for the page where the specific furniture is and find that their shots do not show what I want my wife to see. Nor do I want to fish for the furniture on a web site. The easiest thing is to take the shots I want and show them to my wife later. If I can’t take the shots, I’m not going to go through hoops for the benefit of the retailer: I’ll just buy elsewhere and I’ll remember for future reference that I should avoid their store.

    If brick-and-mortar retailers want to hinder shopping, the result is going to be very simple: why bother to go to their stores when I can do all the comparisons I want online? (I said earlier online sites do not replace good shots but if I can’t take shots anyway, I’m losing nothing by going online from the get go.)

  64. blander says:

    @FEJJNAGAF: So if you tape/review the fry making and reproduce it Burger King can sue you? What happens if you just memorize it?

    Trade secrets – as intellectual property are not protectable unless they are held as secrets. If they are publicly disclosed they are no longer “trade secrets.”

    Now recipes are a different matter, but I find it difficult to believe that the layout of a store held out ot the public is intellectual property that is protectable, unless you’re talking trade dress. Trade dress, I can see a case for, store layout as far as how their aisles are laid out, I doubt.

    I am not aware of the laws so excuse the ignorance, though I am a lawyer, so can you please lay out what the intellectual property is that is protectable? I’ll give you trade dress for the overall look and feel of a store (though not the aisle location unless you cite me a case for it), what else? Copyright for any store specific graphic design not visible from the street?

    I don’t disagree that the store has every right to ask you to step and leave, I just don’t know what all of these protectable intellectual property rights are.

  65. veronykah says:

    I’ve never understood the logic behind this. If you were really at a store to “steal trade secrets” couldn’t you just WRITE or SKETCH things? [like one of the 1st posters was saying?]

  66. The Stork says:

    When I worked for Circuit City, our local store had the dumbest arrangement between the local Best Buy and American TV for competitive shopping:

    -No photographs, of course
    -Voice recorders only. You couldn’t write prices down (though we never threw American out for this) or bing a list in with you.
    -Stupidly enough, no cell phones. I went into American the one time I agreed to do the shop and got thrown out because I was calling prices back on my cell – which to their customers made me look like just another shlub on his mobile while shopping. If I’d gone in with a voice recorder, they’d have let me be – even though I would have stood out like a sore thumb.

    I never could figure that out.

  67. TechnoDestructo says:

    @AbstractConcept: “recreate their layout” Jeez, you wouldn’t even need to take notes in the store to do that. Just have a halfway decent memory.

    Maybe they should breath-test people on their way into the store, and force them to drink until they blow at least .2. Then they won’t have to worry about it.

    Also…you can’t hide cameras?

  68. savvy9999 says:

    @blander: excellent response.

    By the time an oh-so-valuable aisle layout (or POG, or whatever) would be registered, it would already be gone from the store to make room for Xmas crap.

    The subject material is too intransient for IP protection, it’s like patenting a fart in the wind.

  69. fejjnagaf says:

    @lemur:
    Hey, that’s a great point, but doesn’t matter one bit.
    To a retailer, the cost of losing propreitary intellectual property is nothing in comparison to losing a few incredibly uptight, easily upsettable customers who can’t wrap their head around basic IP law.
    They are not intentionally ‘pissing you off’, they are protecting their hard work.
    They spend millions on developing their branding, merchandising, and marketing techniques.
    Don’t like it? You are going to be hard pressed to find a brick and mortar that doesn’t have a policy exactly like BB&B’s.
    I can understand your points, but I have to tell you – none of it has any bearing on the legal issues at hand.
    They have every right to protect their IP and you have every right not to be able to purchase products at any brick and mortar who has this policy. Unfortunately for you, almost all(if not all) have the exact same policy. Some enforce it more than others, but they all restrict photography for one reason or another….

  70. UpsetPanda says:

    I keep a little notebook with me and write down the item number, UPC code and full description. Photos are good, but I’d rather just start scribbling furiously.

  71. endless says:

    I always find these claims absolutely ridiculous.

    As it has been mentioned before here:
    Its extremely easy to conceal taking photos. It would be only slightly harder to ask your customers not to breathe as to completely prevent photography in the year 2007.

  72. fejjnagaf says:

    @blander:
    Simply put, recording a trade secret is clearly a violation of intellectual property law. By snapping off photos, one is infringing on the rights of the owner of the IP, in the case of BB&B that could be a carefully researched placement, placement in relation to other products, any marketing materials they may have developed in house or paid for via a third party.
    This isn’t a case where one could reasonably remember key data as discussed above. However, in light of the fact that the store cannot reasonably take possession of the camera, phone or image, and in light of the fact that they cannot reasonably detain an individual who takes the photos and demand deletion or surrender of film or memory card, they are limited in their enforcement option.
    For this reason, they have one recourse – ask you to stop, ask you to leave, and if you refuse, pursue a trespassing complaint.
    That said, I don’t have the case law to back it up, nor the time to find it.
    Sorry.
    But clearly, they are well within their rights to ask you not to take pictures.

  73. blander says:

    @FEJJNAGAF:

    I’m going to have to disagree that anything placed out in public view is a trade secret. Breaking into a company and photographing a secret recipe is way different than copying the aisle lay out of a store open to the public. You’re not going to find a case to support that because it doesn’t exist.

    Two of the elements required to be a trade secret are:

    1) is not generally known to the relevant portion of the public; and
    2) is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy

    where you place things in a store is not subject to secrecy, unless you don’t let people in to see it.

    Something in the public domain is no longer a “trade secret” (see Computer Print Sys., Inc. v. Lewis, 281 Pa. Super. 240 or Millgram on Trade Secrets).

    They would have copyright protection on in-house marketing materials but not trade secret.

  74. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Um they’re pretty behind the times….if a spy wanted to steal pricing info, they’d just hack into their computers or phish off an RFID reader or something. And you can steal layouts and such without ever entering the store.

  75. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @savvy9999:

    The subject material is too intransient for IP protection, it’s like patenting a fart in the wind.

    IANAL, but I imagine that if one were to secure a patent on a fart in the wind, Taco Bell would expect some share of royalties.

  76. Joe says:

    This reply is long – skip me if you want. As a retail consultant, I just want to provide an opinion from someone involved in the industry.

    Lets take both views:
    Indeed, understand that millions of dollars are invested in the development of unique store decor/layouts that provide a store shopping experience that differentiates the brick and mortar from other competitors.

    No allowances are typically given for someone that wants to take a picture of a box on a shelf, vs. a mole that is benchmarking any new store layouts the client is prototyping, thus losing the competitive edge – for a while at least. Sadly, its just way too tough to police who is honest, and who isn’t.

    Yes, MANY logos, store branding that have a copyright – in many new layouts, can AND HAVE been lifted due to photos taken at store level.

    As an industry, it CAN be quantified how much is being spent on proprietary store design, AS WELL as how much the designs affect same store sales. The company has to protect its proprietary designs and layouts, as well as those of their vendors.

    “..patenting a fart..” – LOL!! you hit the nail on the head! -a $100 million dollar fart, that can reap billions. Wouldn’t you?

    OK – I’m the customer now, and as many have already mentioned, all I want to do is get an idea how patio set at Target might look at home, and show the pic to the misses.

    get the pic online baby.

    Oh, and I need to get the exact model number and description of the Cuisinart, so I can comparison shop.

    hah – write it down, no paper? wella wella , you DID say you had a camera phone? Only have a digi camera? ask for a piece of paper and pen at customer service. Back to your phone: text it to yourself, enter it in your Blackberry – google it –
    Real world picture, in a box??

    any others? Oh yeah, and I’m guilty of it – my daughter’s first trip where she could sit up , to the grocery store.

    Now, I was pissed off at first, but the 18 year employee was cool, and stated it was the store policy. He didn’t know why, he was courteous about it. I took the photo in front of the store front, no big.

    True – the last thing retailers want is piss off Sally Housecoat or Joe Lunchpail.

    BB&B, BB, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Costco and other big box’s policy is clear – the prob is the communication from upper, to middle, to store, and unto the customer. They ALL do a somewhat half assed job of explaining the policy.

    I believe Chris was in the right to ask about the policy, however, instead of soliciting a challenge to that policy, HE COULD have then gone to corporate..

    In a typical quarter, on a proto test I can reveal, there were 4 instances of associates asking the customer to stop taking photos. 4, out of X amount per 90 day cycle. You can do the numbers..

    You think its bad in the US? try the UK or Central Europe. Its verbotten to take ANY pics, unless you are accompanied by corporate or have a letter. Many express safety concerns regarding store bombing. (Ireland, Scotland, UK) vs. competitors (France, Germany, Italy)

    Hell , there very little a retailer can do, all they can do is to enforce stop gap policies to prevent “theft”.

    It’s anyones choice to go wherever they want, if you don’t like store policy, voice it to Corporate. Or go online.

    As AbstractConcept stated: ..” ..you can’t hide cameras?”

  77. BII says:

    @INconsumer:

    you would be surprised.

    and yes, i’ve had to stop people from taking pictures at my store, not because they were comparing, but because they were using a professional camera to take pictures of the entire shop. Hmm, seems suspecious.

    Other times, its been out of courtesy to the other patrons, having a flash go off near you can be rather disruptive, so if someone is taking picture after picture, I will ask them to refrain. One or two snaps, no big deal.

    Then again, I have managers that allow me to use my discretion and make my own assements, I have very few “zero tolerance” rules I have to enforce.

  78. Darren666 says:

    “Sadly, its just way too tough to police who is honest, and who isn’t.”

    No its not. If you see someone taking one or two photos of items they are interested in, that behavior is clearly different than someone who is taking several snapshots in different departments throughout the store.

    Someone who is determined enough to spy on your store can do so with readily available equipment and not be detected unless you screen everybody entering the store with an x-ray. Its not hard to conceal a video camera in one’s purse or some other creative place. If that information is worth as much as you say, then they will have no problem investing some minor dollars in the gear to do it.

    These policies are just reflective of boneheaded corporate management.

  79. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I take pictures all the time in stores with my cell phone. I did it yesterday when I was looking at curtains for the living room.
    I also use the note function to note price/model/etc.; to go home and research more expensive items before purchasing; and to note ideas when I see displays I like. I’ve taken pictures of rugs to send to my spouse to ask if he likes the style… photos of clothes to compare with friends… packages of light bulbs to see if they’ll fit the fixture, so many times for so many reasons.
    I had no idea this was a no-no!
    For the record, no one has ever asked me to stop or not take pictures. Not one word.

  80. Joe says:

    @darren666

    We had one instance where an equipment retailer rep, out to bid business, used his family as the setup, and had his little girl take pictures of the competitors rig at the store,
    “for a school project”, with a Nikon D40, while the wife distracted store personnel.

    Very low tech in execution, very unethical on the reps part. The retailer’s security department investigated, and the equip rep was dismissed.

    The equipment mfg was banned from doing business with the retailer.

    If someone “wants” to do it “right” they invest in high tech spy gear,

  81. Joe says:

    not use the family!

  82. Joe says:

    @MARSNEEDSRABBITS

    and you know what? depending on the retailer, they may not give a rats ass about what you do with your camera in the store.

    it’s a no-no;its up to the retailers to enforce their internal policies, and as already mentioned, with discretion at times given to store personnel on how to police it.

  83. @Joe: Thanks for your input. I did go to corporate, actually: I told the associate I had no beef with him and wanted a number for the corporate office. I then called and asked a corporate customer service rep why it existed, and was given a rote answer and repeatedly asked if I’d like to request permission. In other words, I wasn’t given the opportunity to engage in a real conversation with anyone at corporate—if I want to pursue this, I will have to make further attempts via writing. The customer service rep had clearly been instructed to “seal off” the questions by redirecting the topic to an “official permission” request. (This, by the way, is another sore point for me—that large retailers script customer service interactions so transparently, and thereby deliberately ruin any opportunity to resolve unique issues. But it’s not the point here, so I’ll save that for a future rant.)

    In general, I am surprised by the number of Consumerist readers who feel this policy is acceptable. While it is clear to me that retailers have a professed need to protect publicly visible “trade secrets” (even if it’s highly doubtful that a “no-photo” policy achieves this goal), this is not the concern of the customer. I think that’s very important, and overlooked by a large number of apologists for the “rights of the retailer” on this thread. Our site’s slogan is not “retailers bite back” or “stores have rights, too!” On a similar note, the “if you don’t like it, shut up and leave” approach is a passive solution that treats the customer as a powerless cog in retail’s wheel. The Consumerist is about empowerment, about realizing that customers are partners in the retail experience.

    In that sense, when we’re viewed as partners, it becomes a question of whether or not this decades-old policy is now outdated. As recently as 10 years ago, most people did not have cameras with them when shopping. Now, they do. In 1997, a blanket ban on photos caused very little “collateral damage” and didn’t really impede the shopping patterns of customers. Today and moving forward, this is no longer the case. I suspect a lot of the people defending the retailer either work for retail, or are business owners who are thinking about profits, or are simply shoppers who don’t (yet) shop with cameras. But I and others do, and it’s become a routine part of my shopping experience. I won’t be changing my pattern now that I have this additional tool to help me shop better.

    I think it would be wise for consultants and retail C-level suits to take a good look at this trend and consider how to make room for it. They could simply keep the ban in place but choose to ignore it on a day-to-day level except in egregious instances. (On a related note, Slate has an interesting series this week about how we create a society partly by choosing which laws not to enforce.) But it may also make sense to change the official policy so that shoppers are acknowledged as participants in the discussion.

    And telling me that if I want a picture I can get it online is absurd; the whole point of this topic is that I want control over this aspect of my shopping experience, and retailers aren’t willing to give it up.

    /end rant

  84. TheComputerGeek says:

    I work at BBB and I can understand both sides of the issue.

    For the consumer I can see that it is inconvenient that you can’t take pictures in the store. I know it sounds kinda dumb. I can see wanting to show your friends or family a product in the store.

    As for the corporate side it’s part of our “Shrink and Safety”. Yes we do it to prevent other stores from scouting us.(Personally I think that the dumber reason). Another is people scouting for theft, security in the store, and other illegal practices. (Really that’s why the policy is in place, and I think people can understand).

    I will say the sales associate did act like a bit of an ass to you. If a customer asked me if they could take a picture of a product I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.

    If I may ask where is the BBB that you had problems with located? I’m kinda curious.

    And if it helps I’m sorry you had to run into this problem.

  85. Joe says:

    Chris:

    Valid points. First off, although I never had BB&B as a client, I apologize for their boneheaded response to your replies.

    Although I may not agree entirely, I do feel, as you do, that retail space should readdress the need to protect their intellectual “property” within the public view, without encroaching on the consumer’s shopping experience.

    As I mentioned, with many billions of dollars at stake, there is non consistency in how to maintain a distinct shopping experience, rather a sanitized, one size fits all, look at the store it all looks the same as the other guy, approach. The retailers fight tooth and nail to maintain a competitive edge.

    And I wouldn’t expect you to change your shopping patterns either.

    I appreciate the thread and the replies nonetheless.

    As you implied, the consumer drives the retail market, its the retailer’s responsibility to maintain the experience and keep everyone happy; that includes the customers (internal/external) and the shareholders (had to throw that one in..damn)

  86. UpsetPanda says:

    The reason why I think many consumerist posters here are NOT upset by this policy is just that ultimately, it’s not important. as Joe pointed out, write it down, text it and save it in your drafts or use the ‘notepad’ feature a lot of phones have. That is what I did when I went digital camera shopping. The gripe should be if you were treated horribly by customer service, not by the policy itself.

  87. @tkozikow, @rmz: : $3,150, yes.

    In my defense, I wasn’t really in charge of the wedding. It was a super-lovely wedding, but I didn’t really have much to do with planning it.

    (It was a kick-ass awesome, made in USA, sewed-and-beaded-by-hand, haggled-price-with-designer-personally dress, though. I think the CHEAPEST dress we looked at (I say we, but really it was “relatives paying for wedding drove me to go try on”) was around $800, and the cheapest one that received actual consideration was $1600, which was the one I liked, but nobody else did. I liked the one I got better in the end anyway.)

    I realize people have entire weddings for less than half of what my dress cost, but, like I said, it wasn’t really my party. I was just the EXCUSE for the party. :)

  88. MMD says:

    A store may be privately owned, but it’s open to the public, is it not? Anyone who claims that a store display is a “trade secret” needs to double-check the definition of “secret”. Anyone who prohibits me from taking a photo a place that’s open to the public is going to hear about it and is going to lose my business – permanently.

    Photo bans are just another part of the creeping culture of censorship and the erosion of civil liberties in this country.

  89. BearTack says:

    Prices are not intellectual property. Few floor displays are even original, never mind worth stealing. Any commercial spying will be done with a hidden camera.

    I suspect that the reason a lot of stores like to prohibit photography and recording is to prevent consumers from documenting illegal practices and the presence of dangerous conditions.

  90. Lazlo Nibble says:

    I think we can conclude from this conversation that most retailers are hypersensitive weenies with too much time to worry and not enough real things to worry about.

    1. Layouts may be copyrightable, but the most you’re going to be able to do if another store “steals” them is make them stop, unless you’re actually registering the copyright on every new shelf layout. (Though I guess if you have time to bust on customers who take cellphone shots of coffee grinders, you have time to file lots and lots of copyright paperwork.) Your mannered juxtaposition of hand towels and liquid soap may be fascinating, but its actual dollar value is negligible, no matter what chaos you imagine might spring from its usurpation by Snidely Whiplash and his spies down at the Eastmont Shopping Slab’s Teri-Cloth-A-Porium.

    (By the way, I would love to know what intellectual property interest people think Subway has in their well-practiced fusion of nasty cheese, wilted lettuce and soggy bread. The answer will no doubt be riotously funny.)

    2. “Trade Secret”? Nuh-uh. If anyone can see it, it’s not a secret anymore. (That’s not just a flip comment on the dictionary definition of “secret”, it’s a flip comment on the actual legal meaning of the term.)

    3. Retailers have the (legal) right to throw you out of their store for photographing/noting/memorizing/thinking bad things about anything in the store. This isn’t because they have a legitimate intellectual property interest in that information, but because they have the (legal) right to throw you out of their store for ANY reason not covered by anti-discrimination laws. It could be your camera, it could be your haircut. Customers, on the other hand, have the (legal) right to tell their family, friends, and online strangers when an establishment has such an overinflated sense of its own importance that it’s willing to make a customer’s life difficult over it.

    Yeah, I could write it down, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Tell me to write the thousand words, and I’ll just shop somewhere else that actually wants my money.

  91. Joe says:

    “…Yeah, I could write it down, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Tell me to write the thousand words, and I’ll just shop somewhere else that actually wants my money…”

    and that’s the point, a retailer can and will do what it needs to protect its store identity, whether its pricing, layout, etc…

    Complain to Corporate, tell them how you feel about their policies. Make sure you use a few of the techniques Consumerist have mentioned in the past to get to C level exec’s, (CEO,CFO,COO) not the hourly people that can’t do dick.

    And if you’re still not happy, you, as the consumer, have the right to give your dollars somewhere else…

    That’s not a cop out – that’s reality…

  92. Neuro223 says:

    I have to say that I used to work for Fred Meyer and they had this same policy in effect. However I was always told that it was mainly to prevent the media from coming in and running a story that could possibly hurt FMs reputation. We were never told to run around and stop customers from taking pictures with cell phones, that just seems ridiculous to me… Just my 2 cents.. Thanks…

  93. royal72 says:

    “You can’t take photos of merchandise. It’s store policy.”

    you can’t have my money for your merchandise. it’s stupidity policy.

  94. stancey says:

    I used to work in retail and this is pretty much the policy everywhere. Another one of the reasons why you can’t take pictures inside of a store is for security reasons. You never know if someone’s scoping the place out to see what security measures are in place before they steal from it…

  95. Shmonkmonk says:

    Wow, so much anger over such a silly little policy. You guys are all angry over a very valid policy for no reason. How often do you really take pictures anyway? Instead of taking a “screw you and your stupid policy!” renegade attitude, why not just ask an employee? I work retail and we have a no picture policy (for all the very valid reason already mentioned: retail spy, theft, ect.) but if someone asked to take a pic of a shirt so they can show their mom what they want for Christmas, I’d let them. Retail folks are people too, people who (for the most part) take their job and their store seriously. Treat us like humans and we’ll treat you like humans. Treat us like idiots who can’t do better in life and guess how we’re going to treat you (and if it comes to that, you really have yourself to blame).

  96. FMulder says:

    LG cu500 phone — I can take pictures without opening the phone handset at all.

  97. obricko says:

    This past July I was shopping at a Coach Store to buy a purse for my girlfriends birthday. Being a guy I have little to no knowledge of what my girlfriend would like in a purse. So I snapped a picture of the item I thought she would like and sent it in a message to her sister to get a final approval. as soon as I hit the send button the store manager came up to me and told me it was store policy for no pictures to be taken in the store, and that she would have to watch me delete the picture off my phone (keep in mind I have been in the store for 15 minuets at this point, and knowone has offered to assist me). I laughed and asked her “you must be kidding?”! She said no please delete them from your phone… I politly said no, put my money back into my wallet and left the Coach store and Purchased one a purse for her from Burberry hours later.

    So when i hear comments like…

    “Simply put, there is no real advantage to allowing anyone to take photos of products and prices. It is only advantageous to price shopping consumers, who are more likely to take that price to another store and purchase it elsewhere.”

    Simply put, my girlfriend likes purses… lots of purses… So I can buy her one for any ocasion and she would be happy… However becuase of store policy they lost my business. And not only do I keep this to myself but everyone in my family and my girlfriends family knows why I won’t shop at their stores or purchase their murchandise anymore.

  98. JRinPDX says:

    @Neuro223, @BEARTACK I think your comments are right on. They don’t want evidence of anything embarrasing. The answer to that problem, though, is to not do anything embarrasing to start with.

    Depending on where you are, that could be spoiled product, unsafe conditions, illegal workers or practices. Nobody’s perfect and with organizations that big, it’s just a matter of where and when, not whether. So the concern is real but they should still concentrate on prevention.

    My own opinion, this is probably behind the policy everywhere… it’s just easier to tell people it’s to prevent spies than to say we might have problems and we don’t want to be caught. Spies? Come’on. If the place is open anyone can come in and observe layouts, shelf space and pricing. Do you think anyone really WANTS to copy Best Buy or BB&B or Walmart? Gimme a break!

    I do think there’s a legitimate argument for preventing people from casing the place.

    But for the rest, I’m calling, ‘bullshit’ (as a ‘reason’)

    That said, it IS private property and they have the right to ask you to leave. (not take your camera or film or memory card).

    And I think the best approach is to avoid the physical stores altogether. Thanks to technology, the shopping paradigm is shifting. Shoppers don’t need stores as much as they used to… to pre-select, display, consult, etc. They can get that info on the web, can shop online and probably get a better price.

    Look at Amazon… you can buy almost anything from them and they have huge purchasing power and great prices. With Amazon Prime, shipping is removed as a consideration. Example: the decision to buy a potato peeler completely changes. Instead of going to the store, looking, choosing, I can read reviews online, decide on brand X because their grip had rave reviews, buy it with one click and have UPS deliver it in a couple of days.

    We’re talking about $2-5 dollar transactions here, where consumer behavior is changing, not just the big ticket items. The whole point SHOULD be to facilitate the shopper, not make it harder. And if the culture is changing, well, adapt or die. Stores that stand in the way, because you might price compare, deserve to lose your business.

    Sounds a lot like stories about the RIAA & MPAA doesn’t it?

  99. fejjnagaf says:

    @MMD:
    Hilarious.
    According to your reasoning, this is part of a ‘photo ban’ and is part of a ‘creeping culture of censorship’ and an ‘erosion of civil liberties’.
    Um, I applaud you for knowing some cool sounding buzz words, but how are they ‘censoring’ you? What ‘civil liberties’ are being eroded?
    They didn’t limit your speech or expression, nor did they violate any civil liberties.
    I love hearing people talk out their keester, but you need to do more than drop buzz words, especially when they are completely not applicable to the situation.
    Definition of civil liberties:
    Freedoms that protect the individual from arbitrary government interference
    Interesting, especially since I wasn’t aware that bed, bath and beyond was a government….
    Definition of censorship:
    Censorship is the removal or withholding of information from the public by a controlling group or body. Typically censorship is done by governments, religious groups, or the mass media
    ?????
    A nice try, but I would hope that the people who frequent the consumerist are smarter than that….

  100. stanleyk says:

    Having worked in retail for many years, I constantly find myself explaining policies of retailers (usually not mine) to friends and family. Policies are put in place to protect retailers, or any business from people who try to take advantage of that business. Think of them as the warning labels on the sides of products. Most of us know not to do the stupid things that are written on the labels of products. But at some point, someone did that stupid thing and it came back to hurt the business in some way. Store policies start out the same way. The business got taken advantage of, stolen from or hurt in some way that prompted someone to create a seemingly customer unfriendly policy. Agreed, some go way overboard and the policy is counterproductive, but the point is that there is a reason behind that policy. If you feel it is too restrictive, there is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion. But just because you were told not to do something that you wanted to do, doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

  101. peggynature says:

    You know, I was treated with similar suspicion on a day that I decided to go on a clothes-shopping quest, taking notes about the type of clothes each store had to offer as I went along. Because, well, I’m nerdy like that and also not made of money, and have a bad memory. I wanted to shop around a bit before I dropped significant jing on a new wardrobe, and also have notes to jog my memory in two years when I’d have to do it all over again.

    It pissed me off when the store clerks got all up in my face at one store (the other eight stores I went to didn’t care), and made a special point of snottily telling me that the shirts I was looking at weren’t even my size. Excuse me? How do you know I’m not looking for clothes for a friend, or checking out the general quality of the workmanship before I start serious shopping?

    It occurred to me later that they probably thought I was a company spy, rather than just an overly-thorough consumer. But that whole argument is rather ridiculous, isn’t it?

    Let me get this straight: if a spy can just walk into your store anyway, it really makes a huge difference if they take notes or photos while they’re at it? If they’re professionals in the relevant industry, they’re going to know what the fuck they’re looking at and probably remember a whole lot more detail just from BEING THERE than the general consumer who takes a picture to remember what the doohickey they wanted was called. And if someone really IS a spy, don’t you think they’re going to at least ATTEMPT to conceal what they’re doing and to lay low? Secret-shopper sort of thing?

    All I can say is, stores who treat customers like they are spies lose customers. And in my opinion, the ‘possible spy’ argument is mostly a canard; what they’re really doing is trying to discourage people from comparison-shopping. Slimy business, if you ask me.

  102. peggynature says:

    @CoffeeCup: Unfortunately, even writing it down can get you in trouble! See the comment I just posted above.

  103. erica.blog says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: hilarious, I’m picturing frantic dress designers badgering wedding photographers to stop taking pictures :D

  104. bbyboy says:

    Wow, that’s crazy. I don’t even know if BBY has a policy like that, but we have never stopped anyone from doing it (at least at my BBY). I once even took a pic with a display cellphone of an item and used our photo printer to print it off for the customer. Makes sense to let ppl do this.

  105. hyperspastic-superhero says:

    No, seriously, it is NOT to prevent comparison shopping. I work for BB&B. I have seen this at many retail locations I’ve worked at: Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, all top grossing companys. It is PURELY a merchandising issue. Companys shun photos in the store for that reason and that reason only. i get very frustrated when people attack my company for incredulous reason. We bend over backward for our customers. I have never worked anywhere with as strong a commitment to customer service as bed, bath, & beyond. I am not saying there isn’t stores, or even associates, that fall short on occasion. Simply put: some stores are run better than others, as with any national chain.

    I am saying that is is a merchandising security issue. We always match prices with other retailers. We take competitor and expired coupons. We have one of the best return policies in the business (we’ll take back your ten year old “I dropped this porcelin enameled casserol dish and it broke so I want an exchange” item… even when you leave the dried on, smelly, week old food in it. We do the things because we appreciate our customers. But please understand that Bed bath and Beyond is part of a VERY competetive business, and like all company’s desire to protect our place in commerce and our ideas, so that we can stay successful and ABLE to provide the customer service we do.

    P.S. If you want to comparison shop, just take a pen and paper. Write down the brand and product as specifically as you can (inc. color because stainless steel items like the coffee grinder in the picture would run a tiny bit more than a plastic one). To get really specific, write down the model number on electric items by checking the bottom of the displays (it is usually imprinted in the material or on a sticker). If you plan on checking stores in person, not online. Use the Universal Product Code, commonly called the UPC (which will be the same with every retail company that carries the exact item (the color counts on this as well) which is always printed on the back or bottom of the item packaging, or on the back of the display sign. And if you have any trouble finding this information an employee can easily help you write down the pertinent info.

    An example using the picture at the top of this thread would be as follows:

    Brand- Cuisinart
    Item- Grind central coffee grinder
    Color- Brushed stainless steel
    UPC- located on the bottom of this box

  106. hyperspastic-superhero says:

    BTW- writing it down may cause a stir some places, but there is no policy of this at bed bath & beyond. I mean i stick notes of upc numbers in my pockets and forget about them until i get home every day. No big deal.