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August 6, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Bathroom sign

controlJonas Luster points out the following sign at a Borders book store: "Due to circumstances beyond our control Backpacks [sic] are not allowed in the rest rooms." What circumstances, I wonder?


They could be used to smuggle in one of them fancy doodad phone camera things, possibly.

Posted by: Alden Bates at August 6, 2004 01:49 AM

Isn't it to stop you loading up your backpack with books? But yeah, that's not "circumstances beyond our control."

Posted by: Yeskin Gallen at August 6, 2004 04:43 AM

Just out of curiosity: what's wrong with the word 'backpacks'? Or, is it just the lack of a comma in the original sign?

Posted by: scott lewis at August 6, 2004 09:55 AM

scott: "Backpacks" is not a proper noun, hence the capitalization on the sign is odd. That's my guess, anyway. :)

Posted by: Citizen Of Trantor at August 6, 2004 10:32 AM

If this Borders is in a mall, it could be that the mall has a policy disallowing backpacks in the rest rooms, which would explain the circumstances being beyond their control.

Who knows if this is actually the case, but it is a possible explanation for the wording.

Posted by: badpenny at August 6, 2004 11:34 AM

Here's my guess: Someone made up the sign saying "Backpacks are not allowed ..." (hence the capital). Then they decided (or were told) that it sounded a little unfriendly, so they added the first phrase to soften it up a little. "Due to circumstances beyond our control" is such a cliche that many people don't stop to consider that it actually has a meaning.

Posted by: E.T. at August 6, 2004 01:54 PM

way too much thought put into this one.

Posted by: jackaroe at August 6, 2004 02:24 PM

I saw a sign on a gas pump that did the exact opposite thing.

"Please pay before pumping, because of people not paying for gas".

Posted by: Alex at August 6, 2004 06:00 PM

The Borders location I frequent does pretty much the opposite: there is a theft-prevention device installed outside the restrooms (same system installed at their front entrance and the doors which lead to their outside patio) with signs that indicate "No merchandise beyond this point".

Other book or record stores I have shopped in the past (and even some K-marts) will ask those wearing backpacks to leave them at the front counter while they shop. (For some reason, this suggests to me that whatever their anti-theft measures are, they don't trust them.)

Posted by: Thom at August 6, 2004 10:59 PM

Not only does this prevent shoplifting, it also bars the practice of "flagging", i.e. reading a book in the bathroom. But, seriously, how else are you going to try a book out without taking it "into the field"? Plus, aren't there some sort of anti-theft detectors at the door to stop shoplifting? Not only is this sign broken, but this way of thinking is broken as well.

Posted by: sherlock1616 at August 7, 2004 04:31 PM

Maybe they are frightened that the sink and toilets seat, etc will get stolen and put into the backpack.

Posted by: ok at August 7, 2004 05:43 PM

I am thinking of security measures here. Maybe they are afraid of bombs being left in restrooms ;-)

Posted by: dusoft at August 8, 2004 12:16 PM

>Plus, aren't there some sort of anti-theft detectors

>at the door to stop shoplifting?

I've never seen a security device that could detect a paper brick and differentiate between "stolen", "paid for", and "brought into the store by customer".

In fact, I've never seen a human that could do that either, unless they actually witnessed the theft.

(Heck, I hate returning books if I get dupes as gifts because how do they know I didn't bring in the receipt and grab the book off the shelf if they're not watching? I always try to be extra obvious when entering the store with an unread book.)

Sure, some or maybe even all books in the store might have anti-theft stickers on them, but I'm not sure how that will help when the thief takes the stickers off as he puts the book in the bag while in the bathroom.

Posted by: icouldbeanyone at August 9, 2004 03:34 AM

If we want to justify the wording, 'icouldbeanyone' is on the right track. Security devices on books tend to be *attached to* the books, as opposed to embedded within them. This means that evil doers can take the books to the bathroom (hidden in their handy Backpack brand backpacks), peal the security stickers off, and stroll out through the front doors.

Since Borders can't control the behaviour of thieves, and since they can't get all publishers to embed secruity within the product (in the binding? in the ink?!?), the circumstances are indeed beyond their control.

That said, I think the reality is that the sign-making is a fool.

Posted by: brian at August 13, 2004 03:32 AM

I bought a book from B&N a while back, and after I got home I noticed a little plastic doo dad placed between the pages. I took it out, cut it open, and found a little bit of metal curled up in a coil. It must have been an anti-theft device. The problem is, it fell right out of the book!

Posted by: ssssmemyself at August 14, 2004 09:15 PM

To stop theft. People will steal anything not nailed down just for the pleasure of it.

Posted by: Paul Julian at August 14, 2004 11:17 PM

Wasn't this a Seinfield episode?

Posted by: Gary Crowell at August 15, 2004 11:42 AM

The only really valid reasons I can see are:

1. To prevent hidden cameras being placed somewhere

2. The possibility of bombs and/or bomb threats

I can't see the theft thing because they should have rules that prohibit people from taking store books into the bathroom anyway (that's just wrong and anyone who does it should be banned from the store ... all stores ... and from reading ... and from ever going to any bathroom again!)

Posted by: MC at August 28, 2004 02:40 AM

As said here and on the linked-to site, it's an anti-theft measure. Other Borders' stores I've been in have better-worded signs, but the same idea. Sounds like there wasn't a sign up, someone needed to put up a sign quick, and couldn't be bothered to come up with something better.

Preventing cameras or explosives would just be a fringe benefit. ;)

Posted by: yada at September 1, 2004 12:19 AM

It's all the fault of those damn toilet paper thieves!

Posted by: TimB at September 8, 2004 10:01 PM

Backpacks are obviously some group of people since it is a proper noun. Too bad they can't use the restrooms :(

Posted by: ben at November 19, 2004 09:54 AM

Just thought I'd drop a line saying I frequent this borders and remember the first time reading this sign thinking it was hillarious. For those curious, there is a sign posted outside both the womens and mens rooms.

Posted by: Corbin at December 9, 2004 04:53 PM

The rule could have been forced on them from corporate head quarters, and the local employees are very embarassed at having to be the bad guys. Try working for a retail chain, (no wait don't, but if you do) The rules the coporations make you follow are all encompassing and totally bizarre, in comparison even government regulations seem sensible and minimal. Hence the phrase "circumstances beyond our control." They truly feel that way, hey don't blame me, I just work here for my $5.65 an hour and if I get caught not following every one of these 962 rules no one understands I wont get my $0.15 third year raise.

Posted by: billc at December 14, 2004 09:27 PM

i work at a waldenbooks (borders group inc branch store) and yes, corporate can be a bunch of fools. Putting into rules that seem completely ridiculous and outrageous that we have to follow. No sitting, period, when your on shift, you dont get to sit down, even if the store is barren of people. No reading (OMG!!!! its a bookstore for crying out loud!!!)

Posted by: Dragon at December 24, 2004 09:54 PM

As a Store Detective that works for Borders i can assure you that this sign has a dual purpose. After 9/11 terrorism became a very real threat hence backpacks were the perfect place to hide small incendiary devices. Like many retail outlets with a worldwide brand there is always a chance that as a group you will be targeted. The second reason is theft, despite my and my colleagues best efforts occasionally there's the one that got away.

Posted by: Freddie light fingered at April 7, 2005 04:52 AM

I think its for anti theft reasons.Theres no way they can hide the security tags on books anyways so people can jus go in the bathroom pik the stickers off and put em in the back packs is wat they think(unless they can get em in the spines).But thats pretty stupid wen people could easly put them on there belt!

Posted by: darklordster at May 12, 2005 05:33 PM

Toilet/restroom signs

Does anyone have any more strange toilet signs for ladies and gentlemen or know of where i can find some. I need images and/or contact details. The stranger, funnier, more beautiful, wierd or odd the better.

There has to be one for the gents and one for the ladies-a matching pair.

I'm a graphic designer and I'm putting them in a book. I have a publisher lined up.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

My email is, please post them or send them there.

Thanks for your help. All contributers will have their name in print and a huge thanks and details of where and when they can get the book (so dont forget to include your details when you send in the signs!)


Lee Newham

Posted by: Lee Newham at June 9, 2005 05:32 AM

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