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May 18, 2012

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Anti-theft chips inside shampoos rattle consumers

DON'T take it for an accident when you discover an anti-theft magnetic chip mixed inside your bottled shampoo, cream or lotion products, because it has already become a common practice by some supermarkets seeking tougher measures against store pilfering.

Consumers are raising concerns about health hazards but there are no rules to ban it. A local consumer found that out when he filed a complaint against a Lotus supermarket outlet this week after discovering an anti-theft chip that blocked a shampoo container.

The consumer, surnamed Lin, said the metal-like chip was partly exposed from a white plastic wrap. Since the chip surface looked black, he was worried that its contact with the liquid already caused it to turn rusty or triggered some chemical reaction.

The customer said the supermarket had violated his consumer's right for placing the theft-control chips inside the products without the buyer's knowledge.

Anti-theft chips are widely used by supermarket managers to prevent pilfering. They are usually pasted on the surface of the goods and will be demagnetized during check-out. The chips activate the alarm sirens when attempts are made to bring goods outside that have not been paid for.

"If I ever noticed that the shampoo contained such a chip inside, I would never have bought it in the first place," Lin complained.

Despite the complaint, the Lotus outlet on Baode Road in Zhabei District said it knew of no potential harm.

"All the magnetic chips are protected by magnetic covers. It's impossible for them to become rusted," a worker with the store's customer service department said yesterday. She said the chips served as an additional anti-theft effort and were placed inside only relatively pricey skin and body care brands.

"The practice involves absolutely no food products at all," she said.

An industry insider confirmed that such practice was popular inside the supermarket industry.

The Chutian Metropolis Daily reported last August that a consumer was shocked to discover an anti-theft chip in a 20-yuan tube of toothpaste he bought from a local supermarket. He suspected the supermarket had squeezed it into the toothpaste to avoid thefts. The newspaper said 17 of the 20 shoppers it interviewed in supermarkets said they had made the same finding inside shampoos and facial creams.

Some Shanghai consumers said they were surprised to learn of the practice since few opened up containers that mostly work through push tubes and buttons.

The Shanghai Chain Enterprise Association confirmed that some supermarkets had been practicing the method for a long time to prevent losses.

"There's no specific market rule to monitor or ban such practice," said an official.


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