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Taking photos inside WalMart

Tom Hieb , Mar 29, 2000; 10:41 p.m.

I am interested in taking photos for personal use in businesses such as WalMart (huge landscapes - at the Super WalMart, great colors, interesting folks), convenience stores, such as 7-11 or Circle K (shrines to soft drinks, junk food and bad habits)and grocery stores (good stuff in the produce department). My question is, who do I approach and what do I say so I can do this without getting thrown out of the store for being a pervert or industrial spy? Does anybody do this? I thought of getting a Canon Elph and just taking photos covertly, but where's the fun in that. Any advuice would be appreciated. BTW, this doesn't sound weird to you, does it? Thanks!


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Matthew Smith , Mar 29, 2000; 10:57 p.m.

Ask the manager. If he says no, there's nothing you can do. This fall, during the big hurricane in North Carolina a paper I was writing for wanted to photograph the local Wal-Mart helping people get ready for the storm and the long lines they were waiting at. The manager said no to several different people with cameras. It seemed to me, however, the Wal-Mart was doing a service, staying late to help people while undoubtedly they all had worried families at home that needed them, and the photo would have showed that.

I would recommend saying, if it's true, that you're a tourist and you want to take some pictures to show the folks back home what this local landmark is like. I wouldn't recommend having a "big fancy" camera." That is suspicious. And what ever you do don't take photos without asking for permission first. If you ask a lot of stores, one or two will let you.

I can't say I understand why stores do this, but I'm not sure I blame them either.


Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , Mar 29, 2000; 11:07 p.m.

My wife, a very circumspect sort, would not agree with me, but this may be a case of 'shoot first and ask questions later.' When I visited Japan I shot photos of some of their interesting stores and their pastry and food departments. No objection. I have seen Japanese tourists do the same here and no bouncers come to grab the camera and rip the unexposed film out, mafia style. If you are not obstructing the traffic and do it casually, why should you feel the need to ask permission in an open to the public venue. (Hey Walmart has cameras watching me up there on the ceiling, you know) Is there a sign that says Photography Not Permitted as in our symphony hall. If photography is not specifically prohibited then I submit you have no obligation to talk to anyone Tom. Chances are they will do a CYA and say no. Anyone really disagree?

Scott F. -- , Mar 29, 2000; 11:17 p.m.

I know the local Walmart routinely chases off "spies" from a rival local retail discount store who are checking out the pricing structures (I suspect that Walmart may have the same practice). Perhaps store managers are sensitive to anyone who they think might be working for the competition.

Josh Root , Mar 30, 2000; 12:29 a.m.

I'm not sure that Gerry's comments apply. Walmart may be open to the public, but it isn't a public place. You are on private property when you are inside their store. So I would believe that they have a leg to stand on if they wanted to keep you from shooting photos.

If it were me, I might just go ahead and do it. The worst that is likely to happen is that they will ask you to leave. Another good way to go about it is to find a friend of a friend who works at the Circle K or what have you. Then bribe him with a six pack or two to let you hang out on his shift and shoot (as long as his manager isn't around).

Andy S , Mar 30, 2000; 09:56 a.m.

No, it doesn't sound weird. Well not in another photographer's view. However I can tell you now that there is a rule that Wal-Mart has prohibiting pictures taken inside the store due to loss provention and competitor reasons. I've taking pictures in one store with no problems (mainly because I know the people who work there), but yet was informed of this rule in another store. So I hope that helps you, good luck!

Michael Fuhrmann , Mar 30, 2000; 10:38 a.m.

For surreptious photos, consider the Yashica T4. Its "superscope" is useful for this.

Gary Milner , Mar 30, 2000; 01:40 p.m.

The reason stores don't allow photos to be taken in the store is because they are worried about robberies. While people could get the lay of the land simply by walking through the store, they couldn't openly discuss how they were going to rob the store while they were there, and it would be more difficult to discuss it somewhere else without visual aids. My wife worked in a store similar to Wal Mart and she said that the managers would routinely take $5000 or $6000 out of her till halfway through a 6 hour shift. Don't foget that there is probably $1000 in cash there just to make change! While the employee's probably don't care if someone takes pictures or even robs the store, in the long run, they don't want to get fired for not telling someone to not take photos. An example of this is when I was in Argentina, in a parking lot of a mall. I was taking a photo of my friend in front of the sign that says "bienvenidos a Wal Mart" and the uniformed securtiy guard at the front gate (there is a 6 foot iron fence around the whole mall and parking lot) told me that photography was not allowed, and that if it had been someone other than him there they could take away my film (a disposible camera) ie. he could see we were tourists, that the photo we took was a souviner, but that the guards inside the mall might not see it that way. I realize that this is a bit of an extreme idea, but the bottom line is that businesses don't want to be robbed. What you can do is explain your intentions to the manager. Most people are reasonable if they are treated reasonably.

paul soohoo , Mar 30, 2000; 06:25 p.m.

Interesting because this is exactly what happened to me as a tourist in Florence Italy i.e. I was in a department store with all sorts of stuff that was very colorful and stuff I don't see here in the US. So I took some pictures no problem. I happened into another store and wanted to do the same thing and a clerk politely told me no photography so I stopped and left (needless to say they didn't get any of my busines). so no I don't think it's weird I've done it albeit in another country.

Ellis Vener , Mar 30, 2000; 06:38 p.m.

You should contact the corporate headquarters for the different companies and work through the public relations department and get a letter from them saying that you are okay. Take this letter with you and explain to the managers what you are doing. Get one firm to agree to help you with your project (you'd better have a damn good letter spelling out why you want to do the project!) and others will follow.

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