Why I won't be buying Kathmandu Shares

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 7-Nov-2009 16:12

Theft is a problem every retailer has to deal with in the modern world. Whether it be theft from staff or customers, it is a financial loss that has to be absorbed by the business, and ultimately passed onto customers.
One of the most common methods used to prevent shop lifting in retail stores is the use of EAS tags. These are security tags attached to products, and if the goods are removed from the premises without the tag being removed or deactivated barriers located at entry/exit points of the store will sound an alarm.
There are two types of tags in use today, hard tags that are attached to goods and removed from the goods during the sale process with a detacher, and smaller (typically) single use tags that are left on the product and deactivated when passed over a deactivator pad which is normally built into the shop counter or barcode scanner. Two main technologies exist in the marketplace today, AM (acustomagnetic) and RF (radio frequency). Both systems are used extensively throughout the world however I've spent most of my time playing with AM based systems which I believe are technically superior.
False alarms from EAS systems are extemely uncommon - common misconceptions are that car alarm remotes or other electronic devices will set the alarm of, this is something that is untrue. The reality is that the technology is exceptionally good and it is very rare for anything but an EAS tag to set of a barrier. If you set off a barrier odds are you are wearing or have in your possession a product that still has an active EAS tag attached to it.
Virtually all goods sold from Kathmandu stores are source tagged. This means EAS tags are sewn into clothing or inserted into the packaging at the time of manufacture, a process that saves time as there is no requirement for retail staff to have to attach tags to goods instore.
What they are doing makes perfect business sense. It's what they aren't doing that is causing every other retailer in NZ using an AM based EAS system significant grief.
So what are Kathmandu doing that is so bad?
Quite simply Kathmandu are doing a very poor job ensuring that products sold in their stores or via mail order have the EAS tags deactivated at the time of purchase.
How many people reading this blog have set off the alarm in EAS barriers while entering or exiting a store? If this did happen to you, were you wearing any clothing manufactured by Kathmandu or carrying a Kathmandu bag? The odds are pretty high that you are.
The integrity of EAS systems has been damaged by Kathmandu's failure to ensure that ALL goods sold by them have the tags deactivated. This has created a nightmare for all other retailers operating RF based systems as "false alarms" are being created by people who are setting off barriers, not because they have attempted to steal goods, but because they are wearing clothing or have a bag or other product that has a tag that is still active. Not only does this create a nightmare for retail staff it's also highly embarrassing for customers who are being singled out when they have in fact done nothing wrong.
Stores other than Kathmandu may be guilty of of the same thing but the shear number of Kathmandu products in use now in NZ makes them by far the biggest guilty retailer.
So what can be done about it?
If you buy any products from a retailer and set off the barrier when leaving don't just let them ignore it - make sure they take the goods back and deactivate or remove the tags. This will wave you the embarrassment of having barriers alarms go off in the future.
If you have items that continually set off the barriers now it's potentially worth asking the store staff in the store where it goes off if they can deactivate the tag(s) for you. Deactivating the tags is very simple and I'm sure they'll be happy to do this, after all it's benefiting both you and them.
If you have Kathmandu goods that set off exit barriers then visit your local Kathmandu store and explain that you'd like the tags deactivated and are sick of feeling like a criminal whenever you go shopping.  Hopefully this will get the message across to their staff that failure to follow their own internal procedures doesn't actually save time, it simply antagonises valued customers.

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Comment by Byron McLean, on 7-Nov-2009 17:45

I had a Kathmandu bag years ago, that in hindsight would have been the cause of much grief when entering and exiting different stores.

Comment by Datacraft, on 8-Nov-2009 20:20

Your knowledge of trivial technology amazes me.

Comment by wmoore, on 9-Nov-2009 02:40

I have owned a number of Kathmandu clothing over the years. In fact I am wearing one right now. In alll those years I have not had one preoblem with store alarms going off. Maybe I am just lucky.
If this is such a major problem, then Kathmandu need to look at staff training.

Comment by paradoxsm, on 9-Nov-2009 12:24

The "Senelco" (Now sensormatic) electromagnetic tags are usually embedded in a sub label inside the product, usually a larger black label down in the side seam of the garment.

Kathmandu are known to be overpriced and best to await their regular 50% off sales if you actually want anything.
I have bought two things off them, one was crap (mobile phone charger) and the other has done me well (1 AAA led torch)

I'm certainly not a fan of their clothing styling!!!

Comment by nzsouthernman, on 9-Nov-2009 18:53

Slightly off topic, I know, but I've always wondered if a faraday cage would block the tags from being "seen" by the sensors at the doors. As you've played with these, what do you think?

Author's note by sbiddle, on 9-Nov-2009 19:30

I'm guessing it potentially would. RF based systems operate at 8.2Mhz and the AM systems operate at 58KHz.

Comment by lapimate, on 9-Nov-2009 23:10

This article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_article_surveillance explains:

"... The most common source tags are AM strips and 8.2 MHz Radio Frequency Labels.  Most manufacturers use both [my bold] when source tagging. One significant problem from sourcetagging is something called "tag pollution" whereupon non-deactivated tags are carried around by customers causing unwanted alarms. The problem is that no store has both systems. Therefore if a store actually has an anti-shoplifting system to deactivate a label they will only deactivate one of the two. This is often the reason why people make an alarm entering a store and can cause great frustration for both customers and staff ..."
and in regard to Faraday cages:
"... Most systems can be circumvented by placing the tagged goods in a bag lined with aluminum foil. The booster bag will act as a Faraday cage,... some shoplifters use clothes lined with aluminum foil ..." (!)

Comment by josh fisher, on 13-Aug-2010 06:52

Having spent a good amount of time working in 3 seperate kathmandu stores i can tell you that about 99 percent of all security tags on items leaving the store are deactivated, the actual problem with these particular tags is that they are extremly easy to reactivate. ALL THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IS FOR THE TAG TO COME IN CONTACT WITH SOMTHING MAGNETIC, cell phones etc, and airport metal detectors, which considering kathmandu products are travel products is quite common. So if you are beeping when entering stores the only actual way to permanatly get rid of the problem is to cut out the tag.

Comment by Theresa Chan, on 14-Aug-2010 18:15

Hello, I bought a Kathmandu downs jacket a year ago and took it to HK and Korea with me last Christmas. When I was in Korea, I set off every single barrier alarm and to make it worse, I don't speak Korean which made the scenes even more embarrassing. I went shopping at Dressmart today in Auckland and again, set off all the barrier alarms. A retail staff asked if I was wearing something by Kathmandu and yes I was. Funny enough two days ago I was wearing the same jacket and set off the Boarders alarm and was asked the same question. Okay so now I know it was the jacket and got it deactivated at Kathmandu. However I'm curious whether Josh's comment is true that Kathmandu's tags are easily reactivated? If so I better find that soft tag and get rid of it. Although I wouldn't have a clue where that soft tag is.

Author's note by sbiddle, on 15-Aug-2010 12:09

Your understanding of your tags is incorrect - and probably explains why Kathmanu have so many issues if that's what they teach you. Having worked on the implimentation of EAS systems and in staff training I'd like to think I know a thing or two about them.

Kathmandu products with sewn tags use single use soft tags. These CAN NOT be reactivated. These differ from the hard tags that are attached to products and can are typically removed rather than being deactivated but can be reacticated or deactivated multiple times.

There is NO way a single use tag can be reactivated, it doesn't matter what you place it next to it will not reactive once it has been deactivated.

Comment by 04fuxake, on 26-Aug-2015 23:53

I think this might still be happening today, in 2015!  I bought three shirts on special over a week ago and I've been setting off alarms at both the local supermarkets.  It happens on entry and exit.  I even had a staff member pass my keys, phone, wallet through to me to try and isolate what was doing it.  After reading this, I'm wondering if it is indeed the Kathmandu shirts.  It's weird though that they didn't set off the alarms as I left the Kathmandu store though.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at stevenbiddle@gmail.com