Sunday, April 22, 2007

Remove a security tag redux

A month or so ago I posted a story about how I was forced to remove a security ink tag from a suit I had bought. You can read all about it by clicking here. The feedback I received from that post made me realise how common a problem this is. Little did I expect that so soon I would be faced by a similar challenge. Some top friends of ours bought us this lovely dress for our new born daughter Lucy

A quick look under the hem and there it is - our friend the security tag.

Aside from the fact that this device is neither green nor from Marks and Spencers, it is apparent that it looks different from the ink tag I documented in the previous story.

However, even though it is white and round rather than green and oblong, a quick look at the back shows that it is fundamentally the same. A bigger front piece that holds the "payload" and a pin clicking it onto the garment with some sort of clutch arrangement hidden in the middle somewhere holding the two parts together. Sadly there is not enough room to use my small pliers to cut the pin. It is in too tight.

The next thing I notice is the filthy big hole in the side of the device. Looking through it I can see that there is a similar but smaller one on the other side. This seems strange because it makes it quite easy to see that this couldn't be an ink tag. Firstly there just isn't enough room but secondly I can see through the device and there are no vials of ink there.

In comments from the last story, some folks suggested using a cigarette lighter to melt the top off the device. That may or may not work but I'm sure that it would stink and possibly drop melted plastic on the garment. Others suggest getting out their power tools to decapitate the device. But there is no need for that nonsense. It doesn't take a genius to realise that the weakest point is going to be that hole. Let's poke a thin screw driver in the hole and waggle it about a bit.

No great sup rise. The hole starts to enlarge. This takes very little effort.

In this photo you can see that the smaller hole below is very obvious. If you use a Phillips style screwdriver then this is the perfect anchor point for the end of the screwdriver.

My little screwdriver slices through the plastic like butter

The success of the thin screwdriver in starting to create a larger hole is unquestionable, but it makes sense to move to a bigger screwdriver to finish the job off.

Almost immediately using the thicker stronger screwdriver the top of the device pops off. Do I see a spring?

Despite the difference in exterior appearance it starts to look like the device is very similar to the Marks and Spencer device.

A quick disassemble shows that once more the core of the device is created by a one way clutch comprised of magnetic ball bearings which grab the pin if you try and pull it out but readily allows you to push it in against the pressure from the spring.

The main difference (aside from not using ink vials) is that the pin has notches in it to help the ball bearings grab it. However, just like the Marks and Sparks device, this should be opened by using a powerful ring magnet to pull the magnetised ball bearings away from the pin and release it. It's only a shame that the monkey on the till didn't do that and prevent me having to disassemble to device in order to use the dress.

Here you can see the bit of the security tag that will set off the alarm if you leave the store. However, I'm not going to explain anything more about it. If you want to find out how to deactivate store tags then go somewhere else. I have no interest in helping shop lifting scum. I post this article simply to help the many folks who get home with a legitimately purchased garment to find an annoying dongle has been left on it.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your child obviously sleeps longer than ours did if you have time to analyse tags still!!
Sue

Mary said...

So how exactly could one remove it with a ring magnet then? Do these magnetic ball bearings need to lift UP off of the pin or be pushed OUT away from the pin? In other words, Would you need a ring magnet that surrounds the dongle, or a ring magnet to place on top of the dongle. I'm sorry this happened to you again, but it is a great science experiment! I always seem to get the ditzy clerk that leaves the devices on. Learning how to do it at home with a simple magnet would be so much easier.

Mr Ports said...

Mary, if possible it is always best to go back to the store and get the ditzy clerk to remove the tag.

In an emergency you can break it open like I have described.

The ball bearings press against the pin due to the spring. The harder you pull the harder they "grab" because of friction. You can use a magnet to pull the ball bearings away from the pin thus freeing it. All the bearings need to be pulled away at the same time - hence the need for a ring magnet.

Christine said...

Thank you!! I just returned home from a trip to Rome, only to find a security tag on a red and white dress I bought at a store close to our hotel. I can't believe I didn't notice it when I bought it, but since I live in the US, there is no way to go back and have them remove it. I hope it is somewhat easy to remove!

Nihil Videmus said...

Thanks! I read your guide and managed to get the tag off of $200 coat I bought- I melted the top of the cone off then fiddled with the inside until the ball bearings fell out, which saved me an hour of driving to go back to the store.

strayinma said...

I was actively searching for help on removing a security tag that was left on a new shirt. Your post gave me hope. It was one of the rectangular/thin non-ink devices that rattled with ball bearings.

I grabbed the pin in one hand and a screwdriver in the other and gouged at the hole with a couple of loose screws (and not the ones my gf thinks I was missing) until I could get to a place near the pin. Then went perpendicular with the next screw along the pin and while I *just* got it in, my shirt dropped to the floor. Just one word -- AMAZING! Now I have the shirt as planned!

Thanks very much for the help!
Col

Mircea said...

I had the same thing happen to me while shopping in Italy. Using your instructions, I cut the top off the round mushroom-shaped security tag using a saw-like kitchen knife. 5min later the spring popped out and after shaking off the troublesome metal balls ta-daaaa!! A new pair of fancy shoes for my girlfriend :)

J_MO said...

Ok...I bought a shirt a a store in Dallas. Dallas is a 10 hour drive from my hometown. I was wondering if you could just use a magnet on the stupid thing because I really dont want to go through the hastle of completely destroying the stupid thing. I just think magnets would be much easier and quicker. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

I found a better mechanism when faced with the same situation. I called the store and had them send someone out to remove the device. I will shop there again!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks! A winter jacket bought in England has been unwearable here in Spain till I saw your tips.

Anonymous said...

Just as easy nettle nose pliers work just as well

Anonymous said...

Nose Pliers??

Goth Mistress said...

You're a life saver. My daughter bought a pair of jeans today and found the tag still attached later. Easter weekend makes it difficult to go back to the store soon. I'll get my screwdrivers....

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE AWESOME!!! I just bought a pair of shoes and they left the tag on. They are closed now, and after calling several stores, none are open or have this type of device in the store. After playing with it with magnents, I found your site. IT WORKED!! THANKSSSSS SOOO MUCH!! YOU ROCK

Kevin Leah said...

Thanks that really helped. I'd just returned from my bi-annual clothing shop - I would have had to travel 30 miles to get the tag removed. My solution was to use a BIC "Mega Lighter" (used to light gas rings and candles). I melted the top of the cone and the spring just forced itself through the melted plastic. After that gravity was enough for the ball bearings to release their grip.

Anonymous said...

I got a bag from a small branch of a chain store and they didnt have the alarms at the door so i had no idea till i got home. so i am about to attack it with an array of fridge magnets and if all else fails, a saw...

Ransh said...

great post, saved me a trip back to the store and it only took a couple of minutes. I knew it should be easy to find a blog post describing how to do this, don't you just love the internet?

ALex said...

This was a lifesaver. I thought I was gonna have to go back to the store and get the salesperson to remove it. Luckily they are made of terrible plastic. I had a few standard tools laying around. I paid for the shirt I shouldn't have to pay for gas to drive back out there. Thanks for the tips!

chailleles said...

Thanks - so simple when you know how! I was worried that it contained ink but then saw your second example and a few seconds with a hack saw worked wonders and saved us a 50km round trip. John

ben said...

hey, you may not want to answer this (i understand that you don't want to help shoplifters) but how does the tag set off the alarm? I know at old navy thee is a chip built into the tag in the jeans and that the stands by the doors send a signal that the chip picks up and sends back to the stands. They send a much stronger frequency at the counter to deactivate the chip by basically frying it. Thats all for now

Ben

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I were shopping in Rome and were already back to our hotel when we realized the security tag was still on her new coat. We returned to the store the next night but it was already closed. We ended up bringing the coat home with the tag still in but now maybe I can remove it! Thanks for your helpful tips.

Loss Prevention Store Security said...

It is the CUSTOMERS responsibility to be certain that the tag is off of the garment. If you leave with the tag still on the garment, then you have stolen property from the store which you did not pay for. A clerk's mistake does NOT EXCUSE STEALING THESE DEVICES. We now have orders from management to detain anyone who attempts to leave or leaves with the security tag still on the product. You did not pay for that, and so you are stealing! Ignorance or blaming the clerk will no longer be tolerated. It is YOUR responsibility to insure that you leave the store only with what you paid for. When you people start getting prosecuted and put in jail, then you will learn that leaving the store with a security tag is not some joke, not some sort of inconvenience, but a serious legal matter and a CRIME! OUR NEW CAMERAS SEE EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE IN THE STORE. WE GET BONUSES FOR BUSTING YOU SO GO AHEAD AND MAKE OUR DAY

Mr Ports said...

Hi "Loss Prevention Store Security", thanks for your erroneous and ill informed rant. The act of stealing requires "willful intent", accidentally taking something is not stealing. Look up the legal definition of steal.

Shop lifters should be caught and prosecuted. But suggesting that honest customers who have been disadvantaged and inconvenienced by a stores incompetence should be punished is unbelievably stupid as well as illegal.

And if you had read the original post correctly you would see that the dress was a gift so I coul not check for a tag in the store :-)

Mark Klein said...

I know this is an old post and this comment probably won't be read or understood by many if it is, but, I'd like to point out the irony of your position that shoplifters are "scum" when you yourself are being treated as a shoplifter each and every time you enter a retail store that employs such devices.

Anonymous said...

Hi
i got a shirt as a gift and it still has the tag on it.( it was a GIFT so dont freak out "Loss Protection Store Security" i didnt steal a security tag as fun as that sounds!) Ive been thinkng about it and this may be a dumb idea but do you think i could freeze the ink and take the tag of before it warms up?

Anonymous said...

wow. i can't belive that actually worked!!

thanks so much

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, I had exactly the same problem with this exact tag, except the pin was smooth rather than ribbed.
I used hard disk drive magnets to try and remove the pin but as you say this requires a circular magnet to remove the pin in one swoop.
I kept the magnets on the top and gently pulled on the pin, while rotating the top with the magnets slipping around the top and slowly but surely the pin eased out.
The store in question is a good 130 miles away, but the security tag is completely undamaged and I intend to return the tag to them, or have them collect the tag by mail, at their cost.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the help! However, finding myself without power tools, I simply ground off the top of the little bugger on the cement stairs, used a pen to pull out the plastic piece and the rest came tumbling out! Hooray! Now my daughter can wear her shirt that we purchased from Mervyn's before the went *poof*.

Nathan said...

Mess with the tag enough to get a little bit of space between the plastic piece and the garment.

Insert a beer bottle opener and it pops right off!

greattheif said...

you r all stupid just be carefull and take it apart they dont all contain bearings and a spring they are getting smarter just use caution and don't mess with the ink part

Anonymous said...

Used an ordinary magnet on one of these and it came apart with zero effort. The magnet was fairly strong - the kind used to open a hidden child-proof drawer lock. But no special "ring magnet" is needed (whatever that is).

RobG said...

Thanks so much! Got a pair of jeans as a gift that were bought overseas, and guess what? Stupid security tag! Since I wasn't sure if it had ink in it or not I used a lighter to carefully burn away the plastic, after which I was able to use a screwdriver to pry the mechanism apart. Wouldn't have known where to begin without this post!

thorgalson said...

Melting down the top of the cone (on the stove top!) proved to be the right thing for me (after trying with the screwdriver and digging up two deep holes in my fingers, which was obviously unsuccessful) - maybe the plastic was harder. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Loss prevention,
if your cameras are sooo good then you would have caught these security tag thiefs.. its ridiculous to say that it is the customers responsibility to check when infact it is not, so please dont patronize us!! As long as you have the receipt for paying for these items then you are not stealing a tag..what a muppet!! lol

Lau said...

Thanks loads! I attacked the tag left on by an online (!!) shop with the kind assist of 2 Japanese screwdrivers and ended the match 1-0 to my advantage.

Anonymous said...

Dear LOSS PREVENTION:
HOW is it OUR responsibility to make sure the clerk removes the security tag? Sometimes we buy more than one item, am I supposed to stand there and inspect each item rung in? There are many times that they are in an inconspicuous site that the clerk didn't notice..OR they are too busy chatting to pay attention to what they're doing. I can't count how many times I have taken back things (with the receipt to prove I bought it) to have that sensor removed. It is not the consumers fault that the clerk didn't do their job. Driving all the way home and leaving the store without any alarms going off is a pain in the butt to have to take the time to return to the store... DO NOT PUT IT ON THE CONSUMER! IT is part of their JOB to remove these devices. I have worked retail. Now I manage food service for many, many years. If we forget to bag something in a to go order, is it the customers fault they didn't check the sack before leaving???? NO!!!! It is our fault we forgot or made the mistake.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! It helped me out, works for some of the rectangular ones too, just stick the screwdriver in the hole connecting the round part to the sensor. i got it in thirty seconds.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me feel I had options! I was so depressed after buying an expensive bag from a museum shop in the middle of nowhere, absolute nightmare to go back in with 2 young kids just for that, and postage would make it more expensive for me - but the 'checkpoint' minitag was EASILY removed with one of those magnets for childproof cabinet locks, 30 seconds :)

Anonymous said...

wow thanks soooo much i couldnt believe how EASY this was!

I brought this lovely jacket and was in such a rush to get back home i didnt even think to check for a security tag and i had no time to get back to the shop before it closed.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Again an old post but just to let you know the magnet type cone security tags just need the top sawing off with a bread knife. The spring shoots out and then it is a case of twisting and wiggling until the tag comes off. The spring acts to keep even pressure and once removed the bearings are more free to come loose.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great tutorial on removing clothing tags. It saved me petrol and 30 minutes drive back to the store.

PERFECT!!!

Anonymous said...

i used a swis army knife saw blade cut top of and it fell to peices took 2 minutes

Cali369 said...

Ref my tweet, it worked, finally! had to melt the top off, wouldn't prize off with screwdriver or cut. I did manage to plier my hands several times but got there in the end!

Anonymous said...

I bought a lovely white clutch at a mall 2 and half hours away. When I got home and started unpacking all my goodies, I pulled the tissue paper out of the clutch and there was a security tag. I called the store furiuos and asked what to do since there was no way I was driving a 5 hour round trip. She was very blase and told me that it was my problem, maybe I could go to some stores in my hometown and see if their machines worked with their tags? Thankfully I found your blog, realized that it wasn't an ink tag so I pulled on the two pieces and they popped right off! Whoever had put the tag on had actually done a horrible job but I was so scared it was ink that hadn't pulled before. I actually laughed loudly, did a little jig and promptly threw the tag in the trash. Thank you!!!