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How Comparing Headphones Ended In Me Being Strip-Searched: A Lesson In Stupidity

post #1 of 85
Thread Starter 

I was on trip to Europe with Hamburg, Germany as my home base, and I brought along my M50s because they work well with my mp3 player and I also wanted to do some more serious music composition in a studio while I was overseas. I got word that the downtown Saturn (the largest electronics store you'll ever enter) had a large stock of headphones across all price ranges, with all the mainstream headphone brands. I had been looking for a new portable pair recently, which was my excuse to go, but I also wanted to try out some Sennheiser, AKG, Shure, and (dare I say it) Beats cans to compare with my Audio-Technicas. That's when I made my first major mistake.

 

You see, I told myself that I could bring my M50s into the store and compare them to all of the similar-price (or, in the case of the Beats, much more pricey), similar-sound cans on offer there. It would be the best straight-up test I could devise without borrowing headphones from a dozen people. I assumed that the staff at Saturn would realize that they don't even carry Audio-Technica headphones and that I posed no threat. I assumed very wrong.

 

My second major mistake came in pretty much doing everything that tips off security towards suspicious shoppers. I brought my M50s with some other personal items in a backpack, then promptly opened that bag as soon as I got to the headphone section. I spent half an hour testing about 10-15 headphones against the A-Ts. It was useless anyways. None of them but the teen-obsessive Beats Pro were burnt in by any judgement. After testing the cans, I slipped my M50s into its little leather bag, which I then placed in my backpack with much shuffling around of items.

 

Here comes the other thing that tips off security. After testing the cans, I noticed a Billy Talent CD that I can't seem to find anywhere stateside, and quickly picked it up on my rush to the counter. To any seasoned security personnel, that can be a sign of somebody who's stolen something large, but wants to pass themselves off as innocent by buying something cheap and small instead of rushing out the door empty-handed. Add that to my backpack and fiddling around with my headphones earlier, and I was a target.

 

After checking out, I was confronted by a security guard who was never anywhere near the headphone section. Soon I found out how he knew to talk to me. Two shoppers randomly materialized out of the crowd, and stood at his side to question me. I recognized one of them, who had earlier been browsing the headphone section near me. Then, I saw that they both had skin-colored earpieces and near-invisible microphones. This was a class act, and I was in trouble.

 

I don't speak much German, so attempting to be cooperative with the security was hard. I knew the word "Kopfhorer" (headphones) because I'm an obsessive audiophile like that, so when the door guard said to take them out (luckily I know the verb "ausnehmen"), I politely did. He asked me something I didn't understand, so I said that I only spoke a little bit of German. The plainclothes man from the headphone section asked me in English "These look new. Where did you get them?" I explained that I had bought them two months ago online, and then mentioned to them that they didn't even carry that brand in their store. That got my some angry looks once it was translated back into German.

 

Since the security personnel didn't know the products they were protecting, the other shopper, a woman I didn't recognize, went back to the headphone section to check with other staff there. She took my precious M50s with her. It would take awhile for her to complete this, because the Saturn store in downtown Hamburg is 6 stories, each the size of a small Wal-Mart. Great. Meanwhile, my bag was being searched by the other two. They discovered my iPod, which is in fact carried by the store, and my digital camera, which is also. Despite the fact that none of them saw me go to any other floor than that of headphone (and that both of the items had noticeable wear on them), they took those from me too. Next, I had to empty my pockets of my wallet, my ticket to Hamburg's awesome auto museum (look it up, it's amazing), my broken watch, and my chap stick. They actually opened my chap stick to see if I had smuggled something in it. Then, the English speaker turned to me, and told me to follow him.

 

I was escorted to a small, near-empty room, with everything (including my bag itself) taken away from me at the door. The door security guy said something to the second one, who translated. I had to strip to my underwear now. A few minutes later, I had my clothes back on and was out in the main store again, following the door security guy to the entrance. I had no clue where my stuff was.

 

After a five-minute guarded wait at the entrance, my bag returned, filled with the contents of my pockets and whatever was in there before. Three minutes or so later, my Audio-Technicas came back to me, dropped by the female "shopper" as she headed down the stairs. Well, this sucked. The door guard said something, and the other guy translated: "You may leave now". As I turned around, he added an ironic "Thank you for buying at Saturn."

 

 


Edited by ssrock64 - 7/26/11 at 7:21am
post #2 of 85

Heya,

 

And this is why I shop online.

 

When a business is able to treat you like a prisoner instead of a customer, they don't deserve business.

 

I like mom & pop type places that know you when you walk in and online retailers with good policies for return/exchange/warranty. I'm so over the `in store' mega places that mass consumers are being lured into that basically don't care about you.

 

Sorry to hear about your experience, that's awful. I can't believe you didn't give them an earful, I would have had to have had a conversation about it with someone after being strip searched.

 

Very best,

post #3 of 85

The store strip searched you?  I can only imagine the outcome of something like this in the U.S.

post #4 of 85
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Heya,

 

And this is why I shop online.

 

When a business is able to treat you like a prisoner instead of a customer, they don't deserve business.

 

I like mom & pop type places that know you when you walk in and online retailers with good policies for return/exchange/warranty. I'm so over the `in store' mega places that mass consumers are being lured into that basically don't care about you.

 

Sorry to hear about your experience, that's awful. I can't believe you didn't give them an earful, I would have had to have had a conversation about it with someone after being strip searched.

 

Very best,



I've always shopped online in the past, and I have a high-end audio shop in my Wisconsin hometown if I want to try out some of their limited range, but neither of those could get me a test of the actual sound of a Sennheiser or an AKG (my local shop carries Shure, Beyerdynamic, and Grado). It wasn't worth it in the end, but it was worth a try before I knew I'd be strip-searched.

post #5 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by sidel View Post

The store strip searched you?  I can only imagine the outcome of something like this in the U.S.


In the US, you would own that store afterwards.

 

(or experience police brutality and disappear)

 

Very best,

post #6 of 85

Woah that's pretty intense.. You should have asked the security personnel to provide you with their contact information, a report of the search etc. You never know if they are actually allowed something like that and even if it is allowed, you should have been compensated for your time and distress caused to you (no shopping mall wants to lose customers and forcing someone to strip down to their underwear, esp. if no alarm actually went off is something I never ever heard of in Germany.. I grew up there and Germans are some of the most correct, bureaucratic people ever and consumer protection is also pretty good across the whole of EU). This story would actually cause a lot of stir with people in Germany.

post #7 of 85


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post




In the US, you would own that store afterwards.

 

(or experience police brutality and disappear)

 

Very best,


Don't forget the media frenzy and onsalught of enraged people. tongue.gif

 

Man, what a crazy experience though.

post #8 of 85

Wow, if this is real, that must have sucked.

Couldn't you have explained the situation to the person who did speak English?

 

If it was me I would've probably just made a scene though and tell them to call the cops.

post #9 of 85

Crazy story, sorry to hear this happened to you! At least you left with everything you came in the store with...besides your dignity I guess. 

post #10 of 85

In the end it left you with a story to tell. I'm sure a story you'll tell many times. One that's far more interesting than if you went there and it was uneventful. Luckily you're no worse for the wear.

post #11 of 85

That's BS man. I swear if anything like that happened to me I would sue their @ss. :P

post #12 of 85

Any theory that you'll avoid any trouble that centres on security staff recognising the exact brand of headphone you are wearing and mentally comparing it to all the headphones sold in the store is a bad theory.

It is depressing that half the people on this thread seem to turn to lawsuits as the solution or consequence. The staff did their jobs - Germany is not quite so litigious as the US.


Edited by Willakan - 7/26/11 at 11:10am
post #13 of 85

ssrock64, you shall go down in the annals of history as the first head-fier to have really lost his dignity in the quest for aural bliss. I feel for you.

 

I know, I  know, horse has bolted from the stable etc. etc. but next time, as a general tip for everybody - whenever one brings IN any electronic goods into a mega-store, always declare them to the security personnel located at the entrance, and ask them if they don't mind. Acting like you need help to find what you want always helps, even if you really don't need some sales representative to regurgitate his marketing all over you. Act dumb and stay smart.

 

 

post #14 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by dxps26 View Post

ssrock64, you shall go down in the annals of history as the first head-fier to have really lost his dignity in the quest for aural bliss. I feel for you.

 

I know, I  know, horse has bolted from the stable etc. etc. but next time, as a general tip for everybody - whenever one brings IN any electronic goods into a mega-store, always declare them to the security personnel located at the entrance, and ask them if they don't mind. Acting like you need help to find what you want always helps, even if you really don't need some sales representative to regurgitate his marketing all over you. Act dumb and stay smart.

 

 

...but he did not say anything about cavity search. biggrin.gif
 

 

post #15 of 85

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ACDOAN View Post


...but he did not say anything about cavity search. biggrin.gif

 

DISTURBING, your mind is.

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