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I live in a world where magic is common. Most people have enough magic to do simple tasks like lighting a candle or healing minor injuries. Higher magic is very rare, and those individuals mostly devote their time to the study of magical arts and science. In the last 100 years, there have been great leaps of scientific progress, which have improved the lives of everyone. Most devices harness an individual's magic power to perform complex tasks through technology. The most recent innovation was short range teleportation. Magic includes elemental magic, healing, limited psychokinesis, barrier spells, and other staples of the magic arts.

How it works:

Basically everyone has a Magically Amplified Common Application Watch (Macaw). The teleportation function runs off the Macaw. I imagine a location or punch it into the holographic display, snap my fingers and I'm there. At locations a significant distance away (5 miles+) the landing location starts to get imprecise. Teleports over 20 miles are discouraged for safety reasons. There is a "cooldown" time of about 10 minutes after each teleport to allow a person's magic to recharge.

Why it works:

Don't ask me, I'm a shopkeeper not a scientist. I asked an arcanist about it one time and all I got was science talk and magic theory. Way over my head. From my extremely limited understanding, it takes the common magic that everyone has and twists it through certain techno-apparatuses. Despite only being able to light candles with my own magic, I can now teleport like a master wizard. People can teleport with any goods they are carrying or wearing. Somehow the Macaw makes reasonably accurate decisions about what is "on their person".

The Problem:

While this new-fangled teleportation is great for day to day activities, it's a nightmare for security. I run a small jewelry store in downtown Technistadt. I sell a lot of small, lightweight, but high-value items, perfect for a potential thief. I want to be able to secure my items from a thief teleporting in and out of the shop while still remaining open for business. Several stores have already been hit by smash-grab-teleport robberies, and it's just going to get worse as this technology becomes more common.

Some options I've already considered:

  • I've talked to the Macaw manufacturers. They told me they are not only unable to prevent people teleporting to a certain place, but all teleports are also untraceable. Seems like a major design flaw if you ask me.
  • Teleportation will fail if the landing location is too small or otherwise unsafe. Not sure I can apply that to an open shop though.
  • Some warehouse owner across town swears by his robot watchmen and poison gas traps. Good for him and all, but I'm trying to run a shop here, not a bunker. Whatever security measure I decide on could be visible to my customers, but shouldn't impede my business.
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    $\begingroup$ This question becomes hilarious when read with the knowledge that a macaw is a (often colorful) parrot. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 12 '16 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I'm glad someone appreciates the time I spend thinking up acronyms $\endgroup$ – Kys Aug 12 '16 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ On a more serious note, we need to know how magic functions in your world, specifically how the teleportation works. I realize you want to keep your question in the layman's perspective, but answers would come from the specialist's perspective and require that information. Otherwise, you can just handwave it and say the thingamajig prevents teleportation. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 12 '16 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ There is no problem, because you're not the first or only shopkeep in the world to have encountered this problem, and you can buy the solution over at the corner store. How does it work? I don't know, I'm just a shop keep. Just put it in the room and turn it on. $\endgroup$ – user151841 Aug 12 '16 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @schil227 Besides the loss of window shoppers, I would also lose customers wanting to just tele to the store to shop. A hard-to-get-to shop is soon a bankrupt one. $\endgroup$ – Kys Aug 12 '16 at 17:21

40 Answers 40

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There is something that seemingly went unnoticed. MACAW is said to be using personal magic of the wearer/user and an advanced magical techno-device.

It means that there should be means for personal identification of owned magic on activation and during usage of the device as usually magic is considered unique for every single being.

Of course it may be hard to prevent actual theft, however shopkeeper should be able to identify (and register) their clients (in cooperation with local authorities and law execution against theft and forgery).

That would mean, any thief could teleport out, but once he does it, he will be noticed and locked on for law enforcers.

He may try to escape, but they will find him if he ever uses MACAW in public space and teleport-in on immediate notice. As result the thief would stand out proportionally to casuality of MACAW usage, which would pick up interest of normal people.

In fact that would also mean, any unknown customer going into any shop by foot would alert the staff. Maybe there would be some hand-scanners or gates?

Of course the shopkeeper should also implement some measures to actually prevent theft in case somebody will be able to fool M(agical)ID system and to keep own goods. Even more, it is easy to understand that simple shopkeepers wouldn't trust MID and would instead use some methods of their own.

Also, the MID system could be not implemented at the same time as other options of MACAW as it's inventors haven't thought about security in the first place. Still worried by stories of your (and other shopkeepers) experiences with new kind of theft they decided to develop MID, which also allowed for MACAW to miraculously solve problems of identification and forgery bringing them in result even more profit.

The ways of cracking MID would need some sort of modulator, which probably would be illegal and (lethally) dangerous combined with amplification provided by MACAW and those would be probably out of concern for simple shopkeepers who decide to keep their business save by own means.

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I know there are a lot of answers to this already.

But there is a very simple, mundane solution that is being overlooked.

The question expressly states that these Macaw things are wearable. Why not just ask people to remove their Macaw when they enter the shop, and then give them back when customers leave?

Sure, people could try teleporting in so their Macaw isn't confiscated at the door, but then they would be on cooldown for ten minutes and could easily be detained. It's a small jewelry store, so there's really nowhere you could teleport in without being seen.

On top of that, even in a world with zero magic, small stores that sell valuable items are very likely to have a security camera. Sure, robbers can teleport every ten minutes, but so can the police.

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@Twelfth's answer makes the most sense to me, but as @vsz and @JoshPart point out, in any case you need to prevent someone from teleporting out with a piece they're examining, admiring, etc., during normal hours of operation.

To this end, I would say a barrier or spell could disable use of Macaws within the store's bounds. Even simpler, a notice that "Macaws are not permitted in the store" is an option, similar to "Gun free zone" in our world, although that doesn't actually guarantee anything whatsoever, as it does not in our world either. It's cheaper though, until you rack up the capital to rent one of those expensive wizard's skills.

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  • $\begingroup$ The original post specifies "they are [...] unable to prevent people teleporting to a certain place," so I don't think a spell could actually disable use of Macaws. Signs are an option though. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Aug 14 '16 at 3:28
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Simply seal the shop and fill it with nerve gas. Then you can sleep knowing that anybody coming to take your stuff won't be leaving with it. There are numerous roughly-equivalent ideas, such as electrifying the floor.

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    $\begingroup$ Nerve gas would negatively impact my sales during the day. Any ideas for daytime protection? $\endgroup$ – Kys Aug 12 '16 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I left it unstated that you should obviously only fill the shop with the gas at night. Electrifying the floor is probably a lot more easily controlled. $\endgroup$ – Puppy Aug 12 '16 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Kys You can rob the sleeping customers to compensate the lost sales. $\endgroup$ – Peter - Unban Robert Harvey Aug 13 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ One does not simply seal a shop and fill it with nerve gas... $\endgroup$ – Jammin4CO Aug 15 '16 at 18:47
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Not sure how much technology you have, but assuming it's advanced enough, you could use something like this, which was used in Agents of SHIELD to stop their teleporter. The episode seems to imply that it keeps teleporters out as well as trap them inside.

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custom teleportation devices

Your wares are somewhere safe. When someone wants to buy at your store then you ensure that this person doesn't wear a macaw and then grab the hand of the customer and teleport him with you. Just like porting in the Harry Potter world (i. e. Gandalf at the metro).

Of course this assumes that one can not only grab priceless gems and teleport away but also people.

Because you teleported these people to your secret location and you ensured they don't have any teleporting/tracking device with them they cannot simply grab and port away. Plus someone from outside doesn't know where you actually put all those valuable gems.

If you cannot port other people you could provide your customers with specially-fit Macows. Instwad of having access to arbitrary many functions they only got "goto shop" and "go back" Buttons. Thus they can port themself without actually having to know the locations themself. Of course these devices would be handed out by clerks under the above stated conditions and taken away once the customer wants to leave the shop.

Of course this is Security by Obsurity. Meaning that once someone knows your "secret" location they can pretty much work around the whole Custom-Macow-Thing.

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My idea is similar to what is already proposed here. For the working hours you just rely on the normal safety measures - locked cabinets, shatterproof glass and so on. There is no appreciable difference between someone teleporting in your store and grabbing something and someone just quickly running in and out.

In fact, due to the 10 minute cooldown on teleportation, the main problem during the walking hours is a thief walking in normally and then teleporting out. There is a number of precautions you will take - not giving precious rings to try on to suspiciosly looking clients, using thin metal wires to secure the items you give to try on, etc. But in the end you will just have to try to risk it, and remember the faces of your clients. It's just the same risk that someone will grab a ring and run away with it, and not much you can do with that.

The biggest problem, as I understand, however, is someone teleporting inside when the shop is closed and quietly robbing it from the inside. So here is my idea - you plan a shop in such way that it is possible to completely change the layout of the place in short time. The cabinets and shelves can move - either on wheels, or on rails, or magically. There are curtains of different colors that you can pull up or let down, there are movable lightweight walls and sliding doors. In short, with comparatively little effort (the effort spent should be not much bigger then lock and secure each cabinet - something that a person running a jewelry shop would already do) you make the place unrecognizable.

Since the inside of the shop now looks much differently then when it was open, the shelves and cabinets are where open spaces were, and, conversely, the open spaces are where shelves and cabinets were, the curtains and walls are of different colors and half of the walls are in different places, nobody who was in your shop by day will not be able to teleport in at night, going by the memory.

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History has a solution, sleep in your shop.

Just do what medieval shops actually did, shops were one room buildings, buildings you were not allowed in, you bought things through an open window. You rarely could even enter shops, shops you could enter kelp everything behind counters and out of reach. The idea of shops you could just walk into and wander around is completely modern. Purchases were up close and personal. This design also meant craftsmen could work while selling, essential for craftsman.

At night you have even less of a problem because most shopkeepers slept in their shops. A separate room for sleeping was for nobility not craftsmen. You don't even need to fight them just see their face and go to the guards, punishment for thieves was brutal.

If your shop is so large you can't watch all of it, you are doing so much business and have so much money you can easily afford a few guards to watch it around the clock. the only other way craftsmen would sell things was orders (no theft risk) or booths in which case everyth applies to the normal shop just more so, the booth is small and easy to keep an eye on and the workshop is even more secure since again they would be sleeping in it. The exceptions are shops you could not sleep in like tanners or blacksmith forges, in those cases the finished goods would be in room people slept/lived in and only unfinished goods in the unoccupied rooms.

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As a bonus this works on normal thieves as well.

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How about a simple set of rules to prevent this?

Teleporting inside and then out takes 10 minutes at minimum. So the easiest way is to have a safe destination pre-coded into the Macaw, run in to grab stuff and teleport out to circumvent the cooldown and you are home free.

So the first security measure is that people have to leave their Macaw at the door when they come looking at jewelery, with one of those security doors that can only be opened from the inside so that anyone with a mask can be stopped or forced to teleport inside and take 10 minutes at minimum.

At night you lock the stuff behind things that take time to open and expand security measures to have a lasergrid across the entire floor and other standard security that gives you a minute to punch in the code before it goes off (even better, only you know where the securitypad is and teleport there directly each day). This stops the more opportunistic thieves from just teleporting in and taking stuff. It also helps against more determined thieves that will undoubtedly pick the faster option of using a vehicle to smash your shop and get at the jewels. There is never a guarantee, but it could help.

Naturally police would have Macaws with pre-coded destinations for risky businesses. Police would only need to drive to within 8km of the destination, and looking at London for example then on average you have 1 to 2 entire stations within range... so basically the moment an alarm goes off you are knee-deep in police that want to have a word with you. Your Macaw would mean crime has it tougher, rather than easier for large scale crimes like these.

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Use the cooldown time to your advantage.

So, the MACAW allows you to teleport pretty much anywhere you like, with a cooldown of 10 minutes.

All you have to do is make the shop's entrance inaccessible.

This forces customers to enter your shop by using their teleportation, which means they cannot teleport back out until 10 minutes later. This should significantly raise the barrier of entry for thievery.

Have a mostly-empty waiting room attached to the shop, where customers go if they want to leave. Have security give them a patdown to thwart shoplifting, then allow the customers to teleport out once their cooldown ends.

Nighttime thievery

Now that the shop's entrance is inaccessible, would-be cat burglars are required to stay in your shop for at least 10 minutes because they have to teleport in. Have a security member patrol the interior, or cover the area with CCTV and have security teleport inside when needed.

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