On hammering/chiseling security tags

This isn’t a very sciencey post. In fact, I’m not sure why I am posting it here.  But, it does go to show that you can get inspiration for solving a problem from just about anywhere.  I guess it also could serve the shoplifting demographic, but they probably already know how to remove security tags by now…

A couple of weeks ago, I was on the west coast visiting friends.  While in Oakland, CA, I popped over to UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology for a few hours to do some background research for a project. Afterwards, I wandered into a thrift store when I went exploring around town.  I bought a cute dress.  Hours later when I got back to my friend’s apartment in Oakland, I realized that the sales girl had forgotten to remove the magnetic security tag on said dress.

Damn.

I didn’t have time to go back because I was leaving for Seattle the next morning. So I tried Plan A: sheepishly asking clerks at several stores around Oakland and at least one in Seattle to remove it, all while conspicuously clutching my receipt. Plan A taught me that magnetic security tags come in many shapes and sizes that are perfectly matched to their own removal devices.  None of the stores had the removal system that paired with mine.

Double damn!

So, back home in Brooklyn, I gave up on finding the perfect mate for my security tag and moved onto Plan B: removal via wrapping a shoelace around the pin that connects each side of the tag and somehow prying it apart.  A clerk at a store whispered this idea to me, swearing that it would work.  For the record, it didn’t and I felt really silly during implementation.

Plan C brought me to DIY sites on the internet, the best of which recommended horse hoof clippers or very strong wire cutters.  Having misplaced the former (just kidding, I don’t have those!) and owning only a dainty pair of wire cutters, I had to turn to Plan D, which was ignore the problem for a week.

Then yesterday, I did a follow-up interview with paleontologist Paul Sereno for a story that I’m doing on dinosaur fossils (stay with me here), and he told me that the two best tools for fossil hunting are a hammer and chisel.  Which gave me the idea for  Plan E, which turned out to be my final plan.  Because it worked!  So here it goes:

The offending security tag:

The tools:

Step One: pull the security tag away from the fabric as far as you can to locate the pin.  This is your target.

Step Two: Wedge the flathead screwdriver between the fabric and the tag so that it rests directly on the target.

Step Three: Hit with hammer repeatedly (not pictured due to lack of third hand). This should loosen the pin, but probably won’t break it completely unless you are really strong or really good at hammering.

Step Four: Wedge pliers or wire cutters in and twist the pin back and forth.

And voila!  JUST LIKE hunting for dinosaur fossils. The pin loosens, the dress is free, and I can find a new project to distract me from my deadlines.

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