CHOICE membership

Bag searches: Are they allowed?


It does not surprise me that you work in an outlet that has a problem with customer theft, as it is a serious issue for some stores. I stand by the rest of that comment too though - it is nowhere near what the business council and various retail associations/companies put it out to be.

Let’s look at two lines that could be fed to consumers by retail businesses regarding price rises - one has been used in various forms for decades and the truthful one has never been used for obvious reasons:
1. We understand at this uncertain time in the economy that our customers will not be happy with the noticeable rise in price of many products across our range. It is not a decision we came to lightly, but the continuing rise in customer theft from stores when added to other business costs has meant this change was unfortunate but necessary. We appreciate your understanding.
2. We understand at this uncertain time in the economy that our customers will not be happy with the noticeable rise in price of many products across our range. It is not a decision we came to lightly, but the continuing rise in our staff stealing from our stores along with stock breakages from mishandling by our staff has meant that this change was unfortunate but necessary. We appreciate you understanding that it’s common business practice for the consumer to pay for company failings, such as cutting costs in staff training in loss prevention or ensuring our employees feel so valued they would not think of stealing from us.

On your comments regarding the South Australian Office for Consumer and Business Services thank you for putting that up, it’s a great link for people living in/visiting South Australia so they can check what rights they have. Unfortunately due to the makeup of our nation we will never have national laws covering these types of issues, it will always remain a hodgepodge of state regulations based on the whims of whoever is in power at a given time, like our road rules lol.
P.S. If I was working in any company dealing with easily portable goods (not just retail) and saw you checking the bags of EVERY staff member including management, I’d be telling you good job too! :slight_smile: Believing in the inherent goodness of all employees in a company is just as stupid as believing in the inherent goodness that capitalism instills lmao;


Just out of interest, how are bans enforced? Do staff have to memorise the faces of people who’ve been banned? Is this effective?


I’ve never actually heard this as a reason to increase prices. Only things like, increased production costs from the manufacturer etc. Not saying you’re wrong just I haven’t heard it. The only time I’ve heard any discussion about theft and retail prices was back in the 90’s while doing a retail pre-voc type course as part of a government jobless program run by a RTO. And that was to say that if all shoplifting stopped overnight that prices would drop 10%. This was a good 10 years before I even started working in retail.

Fair point. Actually looked up other states and found they were pretty much similar. Found out there is no federal or state law re bag checks, only recommendations from the Australian Retailers Association, which actually surprised me. Maybe there could be room in the ACL for a nationwide agreement on bag checks.

NSW Fair Trading:

Consumer Affairs Victoria:

WA Department of Commerce Consumer Protection (at the end):

Queensland Government:

Tasmanian Consumer, Building and Occupational Services:
ABC reported last year Tasmania was actually looking at a bag check law:

Northern Territory Government:

I couldn’t find anything for the ACT. Did notice that Victoria, NT and Tasmania, say that stores are private property and not a public place, “so if a store employee instructs a consumer to leave, they must go.” (Victorian wording)

Thank you both for this. Just yesterday I had someone go off at me after telling them that if I did what they wanted I would be breaking the law. A colleague who has more responsibility than I do was standing next to me and said I was correct, but the customer wasn’t having any of it. My colleague actually asked if I was ok after the person left. And today I had a person swear at and insult me for doing something the company requires me to do that takes all of 5 seconds.

In simplistic terms, yes. There can be more to it, but I won’t go into that. Most of the time those banned won’t actually come back. Some will be seen again and if noticed will be told by those that get paid more than me to leave immediately and be escorted out.


Real incident: staff member asks to see inside the bag of a shopper in queue at a check out; shopper opens their bag and at the same time asks “why aren’t you asking to see inside the pockets of the person two ahead of me?”
… yes they were large pockets (larger than the small bag)
And the staff member did not know what to do.

As pockets can be used just as easily to “drop something into them without paying” where does the law sit on this issue?


Well it would be the same deal. Sure the shop could ask, but if the person refuses they can’t do anything.


… saw one very recently in a liquor store - staff member confronts two people with a loaded trolly about a disappearing bottle of spirits. Typically there is one or more PALI at every liquor outlet - a PALI is a Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspector, primed with a full 13 weeks of training and carrying the same weapons, comms and surveillance as a Police Officer but with a yellow sleeve to set them apart - and this was no exception. When I left, there were at least 3 PALI’s, 3 Police Officers and 4 more seen ambulating with urgency from the car park in the direction of the shop from two more vehicles … oh, and one on a bicycle … it wasn’t clear where he was headed (he didn’t seem clear on where he was headed either) but he was cycling with urgency …

The alleged offenders were two mature age ladies who, to be fair, were behaving in a way that raised more than a passing suspicion on my part.

You just can’t make this stuff up …

On the plus side, due to the ongoing engagement of the PALI when I entered the store, I wasn’t required to show photographic identification twice two buy alcohol, just once at the point of sale, and I didn’t have to provide my home address, the address of where the alcohol would be consumed (if not my home address) and whether I would be sharing the alcohol with other people (if so, being required to divulge their names and any details requested) as would normally be the case when stopped by the PALI :rofl:


After all that, one would need a drink.


Wow. This is on a whole new level of experience compared to the ease of buying alcohol on the eastern seaboard.


Does the extra scrutiny really reduce the problem that much. I am sure it helps like “Thirsty Thursdays” did while I was there in NT but the rigmarole involved in this scheme seems overkill to the issue. Why not really start really educating and supporting the youth so that as they age the prevalence of alcohol abuse reduces. The abuse in communities of alcohol, other drugs, solvents and petrol is a reflection of much larger problems than the simplistic approach this current system would ever hope to address.


I was asked most politely (and rather timidly) by the 13-year-old girl on the checkout at a major supermarket if she could check my bag, something I am always more than happy to comply with since I do believe shoplifting adds significantly to the price of groceries, and therefore all shoppers benefit from any policy that reduces shoplifting.

But on this occasion I had a gentleman not quite of my advanced years standing in the queue behind me, and he got quite irate on my behalf, admonishing the poor girl for her “stupidity” in thinking that someone as obviously respectable as me could possibly be a shoplifter.

I thanked the gentleman for his flattery, but assured him you simply couldn’t tell from appearances, and that we all paid for shoplifting through higher prices. He was barely mollified, announcing that he was tempted to abandon his trolley of groceries and walk to the other end of the shopping centre to shop at the other major supermarket. Meanwhile the poor girl looked like she would quit on the spot if he was to do so!

I asked him please to indulge the girl for my sake, and told her I was very impressed that someone of her tender years was willing to do the job she was being paid for even when it involved taking on a terrifying man who was old enough to be her grandfather, and that if she were to give me the name of her manager I would tell him or her what a splendid job she was doing.

The man behind me was pretty much completely unabashed, saying he couldn’t believe I was allowing myself to be insulted in this way, but since I was asking him to do me a favour he would pay for his shopping, but he was not guaranteeing he would ever come back…

I don’t suppose that was you, was it?


I agree. When people cannot see a positive future, they will often develop mental illnesses and ‘self-medicate’. Our current approach of punishing ‘bad behaviour’ is in fact counter-productive, a point made by Johann Hari in his book about drug criminalisation Chasing the Scream. Sending drug users to ‘detox’ doesn’t address any underlying issues. Jailing them for drug-related crimes simply messes them up even more - and of course once they get out they need some form of ‘support’ to help them in coping.

Until we treat all mind-altering drugs equally (including alcohol, tobacco and caffeine) and sensibly by addressing the underlying issues, we will continue to have to deal as a society with addiction and the crime that goes with black markets for illicit products.


While at work the other day thought that I should also add that individual staff also have the right to refuse to serve an individual customer too. That can be down to how a customer reacts to a request for a bag check or other things such as inappropriate questions, comments or threats.

In cases like that the line manager is informed and the customer will be directed to another checkout, or the staff member will be immediately taken off to go on a break, do some other task, or a direct swap out for another staff member.


That would depend on your workplace I would think, although at least one retail union is pushing for a ban on asking untrained staff to check bags


He didn’t just lash out at the ‘alleged criminals’;

“It’s really bad when in the middle of the day, six little hoods can come in and ransack and rob, and staff and everyone else just lets them go — which is fine, but they know they can get away with it,” Mr Harvey told 7 NEWS.

I guess theres a number of Harvey Norman staff who won’t get pay rises any time soon just because they didn’t risk life and limb to protect his merchandise … ‘shame on them’ :wink: I wonder if he’d have paid their medical expenses? … and who is the ‘everyone else’? customers?


The moral of the story is “Do not steal”…

Harvey Norman does not like competition.


Well said. If security is that important to them, then hire a bloody security guard! Don’t come on TV whining about how customers and staff didn’t sacrifice themselves for your wealth.