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Tired of being treated like a common criminal

Can you see that? You probably know what it is, even if it's difficult to see. That's a security tag. You can find them in random packs of baseball cards. They're about the worst kind of "hit" ever created.

One of these was in a pack of Heritage that I bought last week. It caused the security alarm to go off as I exited Target.

I hate that, because even though I don't bother to stop and turn around after the bell goes off, and no security guard comes running after me, and everyone seems to know that those things ring for random, innocuous reasons, I still feel like someone, somewhere thinks I'm getting away with something, like I'm shoplifting, like I'm a common criminal.

Security devices are familiar instruments used by department stores in loss prevention, and employees are forever removing them from clothes, etc. But I don't know why they're still in baseball card packs. The majority of baseball card packs cost between $2 and $6. Are we attaching security tags to candy, toothpaste, lipstick, pencils? They're just as costly as a baseball card pack.

The fact that they show up in relatively inexpensive baseball card packs leads me down a path of reasons that I don't want to travel:

1. People still believe that retail packs of cards are valuable
2. Topps and other companies are still experiencing significant "loss" in the baseball card aisles and taking measures to counter that.
3. I'm involved in a hobby filled with hoods.

I don't like that because I'm not a "hood". Not once -- not since I was 9 anyway -- have I felt the desire to walk off with a pack of baseball cards. I work hard -- way, way, way too hard -- in order to buy a stupid $4 pack of Heritage to shoplift it, or to have that blasted beeper go off even after I spent my cash.

But perhaps this is still a problem for Topps, I don't know.

When I go to the card aisle, 98.9 percent of the time, I'm the only one there. I'm sure part of the reason is because I'm usually there during "off hours" -- lunch time, overnight hours -- I'm not there when people traditionally do their shopping.

But, still, the card aisle can't possibly be a hot-bed of activity, teeming with so many people that cards are disappearing constantly, can it?

But look at all the measures that are in place to battle us hoodlum card collectors. There are the security tags, there is the fact that the card aisle is near the front of the store, by the registers, where most of the employees are; there are almost always carts full of stuff blocking the card aisle so you must weave in and out of aisles to get to the cards that you want. I still don't know what the jammed cart is supposed to deter -- a quick getaway?

And then there is my sweet, helpful Walmart. The sports section of the card aisle has grown smaller and smaller so that baseball cards now take up about an eighth of the entire aisle devoted to trading cards and their ilk.

But guess what is directly over the baseball card portion -- the whole three tiny rows?

It's not that sign exactly, but the message is the same. "Be on guard, card stealer, we're watching YOU."

It's hung right over the hanging baseball card racks. When I move to take a pack from the rack, I hit the sign with my hand. It is so close and so near what I'm trying to buy that I can't help but feel it's directed at me.

I don't like feeling like that when all I'm doing is buying picture cards.

I know that there are pack searchers -- if people still care about relics, that is -- but, again, is it that much of a problem in comparison to other store items?

Here is a list of the most shoplifted items at stores according to a survey by the National Retail Federation in 2012:

Cigarettes, energy drinks, high-end liquor, baby formula, pain relievers, weight-loss pills, allergy medicine, diabetic testing strips, electric toothbrushes, lotions and creams, pregnancy tests, jeans, designer clothing, handbags, cellphones, digital cameras, digital recorders, laptops, GPS devices, LCD televisions, high-end vacuums, Kitchen-Aid mixers.

Nothing in that list resembles a baseball card to me.

But I'm willing to bet that some of those things don't feature a security tag.

Perhaps my problem is affiliating myself with the ne'er-do-wells in Walmart and Target. But you know my thoughts with a lot of hobby shops. It's as if they think there's going to be a crime at all times. That's why cards are under glass and way up high behind the register.

I just want to say to them -- and to the folks at Target and Walmart, too -- that I'm just a guy who likes baseball cards. I like them so much that I will pay money for them. And I'll give you the money and be on my way. No funny business. I'll even come back and do the whole thing again.

Maybe I'm a rare breed. I'd like to think I'm not, but with all the alarms and angry watchdog signs going off in my face, I'm wondering if I am.

It's enough to make me want to buy all my cards online.


Billy Kingsley said…
Now...imagine all that while looking like me.

Also...why would anybody steal diabetic test strips? You can get them for free if you ask!
Zippy Zappy said…
The last part of this post reminded me of what basically ever vendor I've ever spoken to has told me. "People always want something for nothing." Now you can interpret that in a fair number of ways, but relative to this post, it appears as though some do not share your views on liking baseball cards so much that they'd be willing to pay for them.
I recall at the last card show I went to, a vendor set up a pretty elaborate security system using some handheld cameras and an iPad. Underneath the glass were cards like the '39 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio, '39 Play Ball Ted Williams, T206 Cy Young, and a few other big dollar cards I'll never have. Considering how someone once tried to rob a '52 Mantle at this same show, it wasn't all that surprising. I'm also reminded of several scams that have occurred on eBay throughout the years when it came to really expensive cards going for, well, enough to pay off every middle-incomer's mortgage on their house.
Fuji said…
It's my fault. Back in 1986, I talked a girl who liked me into stealing a box of Topps baseball cards for me. She got caught and was never allowed to shop at Long's again.
capewood said…
Maybe baseball cards aren't on the shoplifting list because the security works. Ha ha ha ha
Josh D. said…
Almost every time I go to Target, I see one of the Fairfield repacks with the "guaranteed hit" has been ripped open. I wish I could see who was doing it -- if a Brad Radke jersey card means that much to you, I'll buy the darn thing for you.

hiflew said…
Some of the things on that list I understand because of their size and their appeal to teenagers, but how exactly are people shoplifting LCD televisions and vacuum cleaners? If you are talented enough to get a 60" TV or an Dyson vacuum out of Wal Mart without anyone noticing, then perhaps you deserve it more than Wal Mart does. And secondly, why on Earth would anyone shoplift a mixer? If you are steal kitchen appliances, it might be time to reevaluate your life.
Corky said…
I worked as a retail manager for over a decade and cards were always an easy shoplifting item but the product markup is quite significant so the cost to the company was very minimal and the category was so low on the P/L report that we didn't really worry about securing the card section besides placing them near the registers or customer service area.

Usually when it comes to stealing cards most thefts are done one of three ways; the packs are opened and the cards wanted are taken, the packs are just pocketed and while the EAS tower sounds off nobody responds if they don't see a bag or they saw you go through the register and finally the packs (or blaster) are put inside a larger box like diapers, Legos or car seats. Again the tower goes off but the staff don't respond because they saw the thief purchasing the item (which they may even return for a refund later).

Sadly some stores (WalMart I am looking at you) will take ripped open packs and blasters, shrink wrap them and put them back on the shelf, often at full price. Whenever I found open packs I marked them as pilferage and handed out the cards to kids in the store or bundle a bunch together and hand them out around the holidays to shoppers.
Big Tone said…
Those cameras are there for facial recognition purposes.They will now file your info and identity,into a database that will categorize you under the label "collector".Next ,you will begin to receive Wal Mart adds and Baseball Card promotions In your E-Mail's and then you'll ask yourself "How did they know?" I will remove my tin foil hat now.
CaptKirk42 said…
I noticed sometime ago with Target it seems that I have two things that possibly set off the security things when I get stuff:
1) If I go there after work my ID badge or one of them sets it off.
2) If my cell phone is powered on.

The last time I was in target was after I had been home from work so I didn't have my various work ID badges, but my cell phone may have been on. I got a bunch of things for the runner-ups in my last blog give-a-way and something common like a six pack of soda or some such silly thing that I should have gotten at a grocery store or dang Sleven.. I checked out and when I walked through the security thing the thing buzzed. I did the obvious deliberately looking into my bag to show I was aware the thing went off but nobody stopped me or said anything not even the cop I had seen guarding the door some 15-20 seconds earlier.

When I worked at a toy store in the late 80s early 90s we had kids and even some adults who would shoplift. I don't recall the store ever having any "detector" machine, but I do recall there were some security cameras, although there were several blind spots since the cameras were mostly just at exits. I don't know how many attempted thefts we caught vs how many got away with things, but sometimes they took trading cards. As with action figure thefts and other shoplifted things they would often leave the packaging behind as evidence. The isle with the plush toys was a favorite stashing place for leaving the evidence of empty wrappers boxes. When we found the packaging we would toss the stuff in the "returns" cart (at least I would I think some of the staff would just outright toss them) which had the damaged and returned stuff that we would box up and send back to our warehouse and from their they either shipped them back to the manufacturers for credit, or more likely just inventoried as a loss and trashed. The only time I would reseal stuff is if all the contents were there, trading cards I'd put in the returns cart/box. I think there might have been a loose cards box int he stockroom but I don't recall what was done with them after that.

IF I recall correctly if a kid was caught shoplifting, the kid would be held/watched by an employee usually one of the stockroom guys or a manager in the front of the stock room by our bulk/special item pickup window. The cops were called they would come and handcuff the kid. I remember seeing kids sitting on the floor or on boxes/whatever sometimes handcuffed waiting. I don't recall seeing them hauled off or parents coming by. I never saw the end result just them sitting around waiting. I think if it was a first offense they would be handcuffed and held for like an hour or so then released with an official warning and banishment from the store? It probably depended on the kids age. They always were looking down and had a sad look on their faces.
GCA said…
That's the annoying part - seeing opened packs sitting behind a row of blasters. Hope the scumbags enjoy the $1.75 relic they got. Only upside is if it's a product I haven't seen, it's cool to see what the cards actually look like since the ads or packaging won't show the base cards...
Though now that will only happen in Target, since my closest WalMart is going out of the sports card business like yours. I looked a couple nights ago and they had a few Topps flagship blasters, one Heritage, and one or two football blasters. That's it. It is only a five foot section at the far end of the express checkout lane, and now it's all YuGiOh, stickers, and game cards and those few sports products.

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