A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from September 27, 2011
Shopdropping (reverse shoplifting)

"Shopdropping” (also called “reverse shopping") is when someone adds a product to a store. Although any sale of the product not in a store’s computer system generally doesn’t generate revenue for the “shopdropper’ or “reverse shoplifter,” a book or a music CD or a “9-11 was an inside job” T-shirt can gain exposure for that product or idea. “Reverse shoplifting” has been cited in print since at least 1986 and 1993; “shopdropping” has been cited in print since at least 1993 and 2002.

Unauthorized “shopdropping” is not always harmless. In the 1980s, tainted bottles of Tylenol were “reverse shoplifted” on to store shelves, causing the deaths of several people. False labels and defective products can create a hazard for unsuspecting store employees and shoppers.

Google News Archive
17 February 1986, Fredericksburg (VA) Free Lance-Star, “Tylenol scare: Capsule ban called premature” (AP), pg. 4, cols. 2-3:
O’Rourke, interviewed with Burke and FDA head Frank E. Young on ABC’s “This Week With David Brinkley,” said a bottle of tainted Tylenol capsules found in a Woolworth’s store in the Westchester community of Bronxville came from a batch different from others around it.

‘That would appear to be reverse shoplifting, somebody came in and actually put it on the shelf,” O’Rourke said.

7 March 1993, Boston (MA) Herald, “Mystery shopper making `bird drops’ at Cape stores” by Gordon Bonin and Beth Teitell, pg. 3:
“Shopdropping” is the term coined by workers at Bird Watchers General Store in Orleans.

Google Books
Dr. Dobb’s Journal:
Software tools for the professional programmer

Volume 18
Pg. 119:
I don’t know whether to confess this one or not: I’ve been reverse shoplifting again, and I just can’t stop myself. I go into CompUSA or Bizmart or someplace likethat with three or four copies ofthe magazine I publish under my arm.

Google Groups: alt.shenanigans
Newsgroups: alt.shenanigans
From: ()
Date: 1998/02/11
Subject: Re: Happy Fun Supermarket Shen

Years ago I was involved in a small poetry magazine, The Cheap Review, and related cheaply produced books, all poetry.  It’s really hard to get new poetry into bookstores, unless you put it there yourself.  Sort of reverse shoplifting, and to the best of my knowledge, not illegal.  We had real ISBN numbers for the books and prices printed on the covers, but no bar codes.  Subject matter was definitely not what you would normally expect.  We used to do this repeatedly.

Google Groups: rec.arts.sf.written
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
From: Mark Atwood
Date: 13 Jan 2002 23:08:14 -0800
Local: Mon, Jan 14 2002 2:08 am
Subject: Re: Returning Books?

A well known “culture jamming” trick, is to “reverse shoplift” magazines and other items into stores that dont stock them, causing a bit of confusion when a clerk tries to ring it up when someone does buy it.

Google Groups: rec.arts.sf.written
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
From: Mark Atwood
Date: 14 Jan 2002 10:06:49 -0800
Local: Mon, Jan 14 2002 1:06 pm
Subject: Re: Returning Books?

A related trick used by some indy and garage bands is to “shopdrop” their CDs into record stores.  The clerks apparently find them, think that someone has torn off the strinkwrap, and rewrap them. Then someone buys them, the clerks dont find them in the DB, but hey, they have a price code on them,...

What does the band get out of this?  Shelf space and exposure. That shelf space that is bid for by the square inch and buyer bribed by the kilobuck by the labels.  The bands and microlabels that do this trick consider themselves as coming ahead giving their CDs away to get on those shelves.

And if the store catches them, what could they charge them with?

Artists drop while they shop
“Shop droppers” alter packaging of retail goods to spread messages

July 20, 2005: 11:35 AM EDT
by Amanda Cantrell, CNN/Money staff writer
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Ingenious guerrilla marketing or retail sabotage?

That’s the question surrounding “shop dropping,” a new movement that a handful of prankster artists are perpetuating throughout retail America. Shop dropping, also known as “reverse shoplifting,” entails altering the packaging of retail merchandise and depositing the products back onto the shelves.

Ryan Watkins-Hughes, a Brooklyn-based photographer who operates a Web site about shop dropping, conceived a project in which he replaced the packaging on canned goods with labels containing his original photographs and an address for a Web site containing more of his artwork.

New York (NY) Times
Published: September 25, 2005
Zoë Sheehan Saldaña routinely returns merchandise to stores. But that doesn’t mean she collects a refund.

Ms. Sheehan Saldaña, a West Village artist and Baruch College art professor, is a shop-dropper. Shop-dropping, also known as “reverse shoplifting,” involves the addition of hand-made imitations of generic merchandise to a store’s stock. It is a nascent artistic phenomenon with a nationwide network of devotees.

New York (NY) Daily News
Peace and love and treason
Sunday, October 15, 2006
LOS ANGELES - As a 1960s-era underground musician, Phil Pearlman Gadahn had a cult following. Now his funky homemade recordings are hot commodities again - thanks in no small part to his son’s notoriety as an Al Qaeda mouthpiece.
Pearlman also had a strong anti-establishment streak. “He invented a prank called ‘reverse shoplifting’ where he would walk into a record store with his own LP and unnoticed, place it among the other albums for sale” said Lundborg, editor of the Web site Lysergia.com.

New York (NY) Times
December 24, 2007
Anarchists in the Aisles? Stores Provide a Stage
This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it’s also the season of spirited shopdropping.

Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between the pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

The Consumerist
Shopdropping: The Anti-Shoplifting
By Carey Alexander on December 26, 2007 7:05 PM
Have you heard about shopdropping? It’s the big new fad among burgeoning anarchists who, instead of stealing, spread havoc by smuggling unwelcome items into stores. Think Che shirts in Target’s clothing department, or unwanted bunnies roaming the pet store after Easter. It’s all very badass and has several stores in a tizzy.

Mark Dice: Reverse Shoplifting at Kohl’s Department Store
September 27, 2011
Getting out the truth in a new and unique way.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • (2) Comments • Tuesday, September 27, 2011 • Permalink