You take a picture of it, you buy it. How is this sort of rule enforced?
July 23, 2013 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I visited a hip re-thrift/retro collectables shop in Chicago (not naming names) that had signs posted around the store claiming "you take photo = you buy" indicating that if a customer photographs an item they are obligated to purchase it. I understand how the "you break it, you bought it" policy works, but how exactly would this "no photography" policy be enforced? The items are not copyrighted as they are second-hand, and the customer has not stolen/damaged the property by photographing it, so I am assuming they couldn't get law enforcement involved. They certainly can't legally detain a customer either and I doubt they would jeopardize their safety to try. I am under the assumption that all they can do is ask the customer to leave and then deny them entry later. Any ideas? I am super curious!
posted by Young Kullervo to Law & Government (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's no possible way that would be legally enforceable, barring a huge heaping of insanity.
posted by wrok at 1:59 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think it might have been a joke.
posted by mani at 2:00 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I really can't see how it woudl be enforceable, no.

I am under the assumption that all they can do is ask the customer to leave and then deny them entry later.

Pretty much, yeah.

I figure they've had a problem with people coming in, trying on waaaacky retro clothes, taking a photo, and not buying anything, and maybe they put up the sign to deter that.

The sign isn't legally enforceable, but you'd be surprised how many people won't know that, and I expect it would indeed act as something of a deterrent.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Though it's not enforceable (they can't make you buy an item), it does mean that photography isn't welcome in the shop.

FWIW I sometimes have even gotten flack from farmer's market vendors who don't like photography of their produce. Some people just don't like you taking photos of their stuff.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:11 PM on July 23, 2013

My folks own beauty supply stores -- busy beauty supply stores with tons of women buying high-end wigs, hair extensions, etc. We pride ourselves on personalized service so when we get a gaggle of giggly girls who want to come in, try on fifty wigs and take pictures of themselves in them (read: waste our time), we tell them that we have a "no-photo" policy. We enforce it by kindly asking them not to take photos and then barring that, ignoring their requests to try on the next 50 wigs. So we don't call the police, just throw shade. I imagine that a busy thrift store probably gets its share of giggly iphone picture-taking girls and boys. The sign is probably there just to discourage their store from turning into "Project Runway."
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:17 PM on July 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Fun fact: "You break it, you buy it" is usually not enforceable either.
posted by theodolite at 2:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

There are also plenty of people who will take photos of things and then shop them around to find a better price on a similar item. Or take pictures of a craft item to try to replicate it later.
Store owners who are trying to sell things might not welcome this activity.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's just a way of saying NO PHOTOGRAPHY with some slight consequences attached.

I'm sure if they caught someone taking pictures, and they say, "you gonna buy that?" And the person says no and runs like hell, that's probably the end of the exchange. But it's a low-stakes way to deter most people from coming in just to take pictures of the weird stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2013

When I worked retail, our store policy was "no photos." I don't know how enforceable it was, but all I know was that if we saw someone taking pictures we would say "Hey! You can't take pictures of our stuff." Then they would either stop or just not get caught. We never had it escalate.

I think the only enforcement would be to kick the person out of their store or refuse service. They can't make you buy something.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:33 PM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: Oh I understand the reasoning behind the policy quite well. I tend to respect store policies outright but I understand that some folks need consequences to be courteous. This wasn't an attempt to have a reason to ignore said policies, I just wasn't aware of the legality of the signs. And I doubt it was a joke, these signs were all over every mirror. Seems as though they are not enforceable. They also had "break it, you buy it" signs everywhere, which I assumed were enforceable. I know these policies are rarely mentioned because businesses tend to have insurance, but perhaps I am wrong?
posted by Young Kullervo at 2:43 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sounds like a misguided anti- comparison measure. I don't have to take a pic of something to check the internet for actual value of the same or similar items on various online auction sites.

Could very well be because they are over pricing stuff, and got tired of people saying "Item x here is selling for 20 bucks less on Ebay..."

A second hand store is essentially selling someone else's garbage, never forget that.
posted by Max Power at 2:54 PM on July 23, 2013

If the signs were "all over every mirror", with maybe just a sprinkling around the rest of the place, then it sounds like the problem they're trying to solve is indeed the teenagers playing dressup.
posted by easily confused at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2013

I agree it seems pretty unenforceable.

But it sounds like a truly awful place to shop, so we'll see how the market treats them in the long term.
posted by gjc at 4:45 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I took a photo once of a vendor's wares at an arts/crafts festival in a public park.
Him: "We don't allow pictures of our stuff."
Me (snapping another): "Call a cop."
End of incident.
But that was on public property. A private space can ban photography as a condition of entry. They do it all the time. But no, they can't force you to buy anything.
posted by LonnieK at 5:30 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My conclusion is the same as everyone else's; probably not enforceable.

For starters, we can dismiss out of hand the idea that they'd be enforcing some sort of criminal penalty; it's not a crime.

If we wanted to try to go down the rabbit hole a bit, I suppose they could try to argue that contract principles apply, and that by taking a photo, the person, we'll call him Defendant Dave, has accepted the contract, and once that occurs the store is entitled to enforce the contract and make Dave cough up the $50 for the Twee Hat. The argument fails though; in order for there to be an offer and acceptance, the offeree must objectively manifest his intent to accept the terms of the contract and be bound by them. The contract also must be supported by consideration on both sides; each side needs to do agree to do something to their detriment if the contract is executed. This sign doesn't create an enforceable contract any more than I could run about the street saying "If anybody crosses the street at this intersection they agree to pay me $100!" Neither I nor the store has offered any consideration. Moreover, if somebody crossed the street in my hypothetical, no reasonable person would understand the action to be an acceptance of my offer.

They could switch gears and argue that a quasi-contract has been created; those result if one party confers a benefit on another and has a reasonable expectation of compensation, but in that situation a court will only imply a contract to prevent unjust enrichment. Here, Store could argue that it conferred a benefit on Dave by presenting the pretty Twee Hat for Dave's picture taking and the sign showed it expected compensation (the Hat's purchase price), but no court is going to find that injustice will result if Dave isn't forced to buy the hat. The hat's purchase price is compensation for the hat's possession; the value of the photo is next to nothing.

Now, as others have mentioned, you're right in supposing that they can kick you out. But they can't make you buy it.

As for the "you break it you buy it" issue, there the store has a much better argument. Both trespass to chattels and conversion are intentional torts; trespass to chattels is the intentional interference with another's possessory interest in their property that causes damage; conversion has the same elements but the damage is so serious the property cannot be used. Both are compensable in tort, so Store could sue for damages (and recover the cost of replacement, the diminuation in value, or replacement costs) if the act was intentional. Even if the act wasn't intentional, Store has a pretty good negligence claim; the elements there are duty (here, Dave has a duty to use reasonable care to avoid breaking the property of another); breach (didn't use reasonable care); causation (broke the thing), and damages (replacement/repair of a broken thing). So, while the store may not actually be able to force Dave to buy the broken thing, it's sort of a convenient way to skip around going to the process of suing Dave for damages.

....and now it's time to go back to studying for my second Bar exam....
posted by craven_morhead at 5:38 PM on July 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

" these signs were all over every mirror. "
Because they're tired of fashion bloggers coming in, trying the stuff on, and then posting the photos.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:55 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

If the sign simply says "you take photo = you buy" that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to buy what you photograph. It seems to me they just want people to come into the store to buy things and not just to photograph things. I can tell you that it is easier to decide if you want to buy some vintage furniture if you take a picture and compare it in your home to see if it will fit style-wise.

If you are just taking pictures for your blog then you get what you deserve.
posted by JJ86 at 11:22 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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