Don’t mess with Videotron or they’ll punch you in the face

The Videotron Store in Carrefour Agrignon. Thug No. 1 is all the way on the left.

Whoah. Adventures in retail this morning in Montreal. I ventured out in to the semi-suburbs this morning (LaSalle & Carrefour Agrignon) to buy a couple of video games, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, both for the Wii, which are getting pretty solid reviews. Little did I know just how much of a hassle this was going to turn into.

First, I stopped at GameStop. There, the employees tried to sell me opened games as new (A common practice for them well described here, here, and here). Having struck out once, I went to Zellers, since it was closest, and in typical Zellers fashion, they didn’t have them. Why I even tried Zellers, I don’t know. Strike Two. So I decided to go to Best Buy, knowing they’d most likely have the games in stock, and new to boot.

Here’s where the fun starts. Walking to the Best Buy, I noticed the Videotron store, which has recently been remodeled as the company focuses more and more on its new cell phone services. Not only was the store remodeled, but there was a ratio of about 6 employees per customer in the store.  This was hilarious to me, and even more so when I think about how Videotron’s parent company, Quebecor, has locked out 253 Journal de Montreal employees for almost two years now. Apparently the company can’t pay for journalism but can afford an army of numbskulls selling cell phone contracts.

So I took out my phone and snapped one picture of the store from about 20 feet away. Put my phone back in my pocket and walked to Best Buy. About a minute later, I feel a hand on my back.

“Why did you take a picture of me?”

I was floored. “What?” I said, realizing that it was a Videotron employee from the store. He asked the same question again. I looked at him, flabbergasted that he even cared. He looked very nervous, like he knew he and his store was incompetent. He told me not to take pictures of his store, or else. I stared at him, realized I didn’t have to tell him a thing, and walked away, although not before I must have gave him the most confused look in my life.

I get to Best Buy, walk to the games section (major cutie working there today!) and found several new copies of both games. I was happy. I picked both games up. Then, out of nowhere, this guy approaches me.

“If you take another photo of my store, I’m going to punch you.”

“Another Videotron employee? Really?” I was thinking. This goon wasn’t wearing the familiar button-up black shirt that most Videotron employees wear. It was a brown shirt, so either this guy wasn’t on duty or was a manager of that same Videotron store. “Are you threatening me? In a Best Buy?” I asked. He repeated the threat, except this time he said “me” instead of “my store.”

Incredulous, I said “You realize if you do that, I will have you arrested?”

He began to ask why I was taking photos. I could have gone on and told him that it was just one photo, the reason, etc., but stunned that I had been threatened by two Videotron employees within 10 minutes, I simply shut my mouth and took out my phone. “If you don’t get away from me,” I said, “I will call the police.”

He heard that and took a b-line out of the store. Mr. Physical Threats was not a fan of the police, it appears. I went to the cash and paid for the video games. I was going to leave the mall, I really was, but I couldn’t believe I was just threatened twice by a couple of Videotron thugs. So, since I had to walk to my car anyways, I went back past the Videotron store to take one more picture, because intimidation isn’t cool.

Walking to my car, the first videotron thug starts following me again, talking on his cell phone. I look at him, and he shouts “I have the right to follow you!”

I keep walking to my car, but then I see him dart to go grab two mall security people. Again, not willing to be intimidated by punks who sell cell phones for a living (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I go right up to the security guards. Before Mr. Moron can start talking, I tell the guards what happened. The initial photo, the two threats, the next photo. I ask the guards if there’s a problem. They say I’m not allowed to take photos in Carrefour Agrignon, to which I respond, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”

The guards then ask me to DELETE the photos from my phone. Realizing I was in Canada and had rights, I ask “Have I done anything wrong, and are you holding me here?” By then, there’s several people watching this play out right in the middle of the mall.

Videotron’s thug yells “You took pictures! Of me! At work!” The security guards didn’t say anything, but ridiculously ask me again to delete the photos from my phone. I turn around, and start walking to my car. They just let me go, because they knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on.

My return trip to Videotron.

So I walk to my car and go home. As they say in the military, it was a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot kind of morning. So if you find yourself at Carrefour Agrignon this holiday season, show some solidarity with me and take a picture of the Videotron store. Send any pics to and I’ll post them up here in a future post.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play with a Mii version of Alex Trebek.

UPDATE: I’ve added my final thoughts about this debacle here.


By eliasmakos

Host of The Elias Makos Show on CJAD 800.

47 replies on “Don’t mess with Videotron or they’ll punch you in the face”

Surely they know that Canada is no spelled N-O-R-T-H-K-O-R-E-A but then again, if they’re unionized, the mentality of je m’em foutisme is probably kicking in.


no, they are not unionized. Most Videotron stores where they sell or rent movies, games and/or cell phones are franchises. I know, my daughter works for Videotron to pay her way through university 😉

But it does not reflect well on dear PKP. Locks out the journalists, and underpays the small fry that works in the stores.

I have to be careful here, PKP has a tendancy to sue people that say he’s not nice!

Have a great day youall!

The same thing happened to my father at the Eaton Centre a few years ago (although not with Videotron). A retailer refused to fulfill their services, my dad snapped a photo and said retailer went postal. Mall security also insisted that the photos get deleted and he responded the same way as you.

Of course, all the 15-year-olds with iPhones are gladly allowed to snap away in the middle of malls.

The interesting guerilla twist to this is to not take the picture using a phone “photo” application, but with a twitter client instead. You walk to it, snap the pic, and by the time the guy approaches you, the picture is on twitter, being re-tweeted and copied everywhere else. Delete the picture? Well that’s a “concept” I can’t really do, mister mall security representative.

I wouldn’t like to be photographed at my job without knowing the reason. You should’ve tell him why you took the picture, so the guy would’ve leave you alone. If somebody took a picture of me at my job without telling me why, I would’nt like it. With Facebook and all the blogs, you never know what would somebody do with a picture of you. Think about that: how would you react if somebody took a picture of you without telling you why? You would wonder why the f*ck this person wants your picture. And if that person doesn’t tell you why, you would think it’s for a bad reason.

In your story, you didn’t take the picture for a bad reason, so you should’ve tell him why. Even if you hat the «right» to do it, it would’ve be normal not to tell them «Hello, I’m taking a picture of you right know», but at least tell them why you do it if they ask you.

I would have gladly told him – if he acted in a reasonable manner. A friendly approach, saying “Hi, my name is ____, I work at Videotron, can I ask a question?” would have certainly led to a much different end result.

These were two disrespectful & dumb people coming at me with veiled and not-so-veiled threats. Big f***ing difference. And I didn’t go in to the store, put a camera in their face and yell “Gotcha!,” I took a photo from 20-feet away, outside the store.

One thing I didn’t mention in my initial post, the Best Buy store isn’t next to the Videotron outlet. It’s at completely different ends of the mall. Absolutely insane what they did.

The problem isn’t the picture, it’s the attitude.

I’m pretty sure that, should have “the model” approached “the photograph” in a polite manner such as “Oh hi, I notice you took a picture of me. Would it be possible not to do that?”, he would have most probably be met with an acknowledgement, and then the two would have had tea and become BFFs.

But he didn’t do that, he verbally assaulted and threatened the photographer.

This is just like the large police officer at the Toronto G20 summit (not sure?) that went crazy after receiving BUBBLES from a small woman protester.

Acting unreasonable isn’t really a justification for equally unreasonable behaviour. I realize that this probably isn’t what you’re saying, but it sounds a bit like it. Sure, the guy was a giant dickhead for threatening you (which, by the way, is pretty much illegal), and the fact that he touched you at all is an issue, and the response he and his buddies gave for this was completely disproportionate, but his initial question is totally understandable. If some random person took a picture of me, I’d want to know why.

Last time I checked, you still had to ask permission to take photographs of people, or on private property, or both. I suspect that this rule is rarely enforced anymore, but I used to get hit with it when I was shooting on a regular basis. I think some people like to enforce it selectively. I’m pretty certain that there’s no reason for the enforcer to ask the photographer to destroy the photographs- the issue is mostly about libel, copyright and property. So yes, Videotron employees can ask you to not take a picture IN their store, and mall securirty can tell you to put the camera away while you’re under their roof. Most malls don’t have an explicit policy about this, though, and you were outside the store, so it’s dubious, which probably explains why security did nothing when you walked away.

@ Laurent- “This is just like the large police officer at the Toronto G20 summit (not sure?) that went crazy after receiving BUBBLES from a small woman protester.”

See above. This is nothing like that. One was an authority acting out of line and responding with unreasonable force. The bubble blower did nothing wrong, the officer, ont he other hand, abused his power. The other was a non-authority assuming he was one, attempting to respond with force, and getting depantsed in public by a cameraphone weilding blogger. In this case the blogger is guiltiy of taking a picture without asking, and including a few people in it. It’s a slightly more incendiary gesture, and while the vidoetron employee’s reaction was wrong (and probably violates a few laws), it’s a little more understandable than a cop overpowering a bubble blowing “small woman protester”.

While I agree that the problem here is the attitude, I doubt that you’d be friendly after someone snapped a photo of you, and then didn’t tell you why when you asked them for a reason in the first place… Of course, I also expect you wouldn’t respond with threats and manhandling, either.

People take photos of me every time I go into public. Retailers are the worst for this. All of them have cameras, most have multiple cameras. Why is it okay for Videotron to photograph me, but not the other way around?

Probably because the stores and malls have signs warning you there’s video surveillance, so if you don’t want to be photographed you’re aware of it beforehand and can avoid that store/mall.

Individuals snapping random photos with their phones is not as straight forward. You could always argue the first photo of the new store design was newsworthy but Videotron’s lawyers might argue the second photo was simply provocative.

Good luck if it comes down to that!

The second photo, the only one I did have an intention to back out and snap, no one could be recognized from it.

No, they are not required to post signs. If they do so, it is merely a courtesy. Likewise, I am not required to inform anyone if I wish to record what I can plainly see.

Mike, I don’t mean to be picky, but that applies in public space. Last time I checked, Malls are not 100% public space, they’re basically private. Besides, the security camera is there for evidence collection, not publication. The employees of retail store XYZ don’t take camerphone pictures of their customers at random; it’s rude, and generally frowned upon.

“I am not required to inform anyone if I wish to record what I can plainly see.”
I’m not sure how true that is. Either way, the moment you publish it, I suspect you are required to inform the subjects of the recording. Again, it’s been a while since I checked, and this has always been a murky area, but I think the legality of this revolves around application and use of the images, not whether or not they were in public or private, etc. However, this is the reason that the last editor I worked for had a budget for legal defense- it’s really grey. Someone below cites PIPEDA for this, and that’s a really good, vague starting point. It’s nowhere near as precise as the years of jurisprudence about photographic publication, nor is it effective as a guideline in this case, since the mall is NOT a public space by definintion, it’s a privately owned building with it’s own security and policies. You can call it semi-public, and you can claim that people in publich should have no reasonable expectation of privacy, but that argument may fall flat when it gets to a judge.

I still say this goes back to the question of whether you’re being reasonable or not- it’s not really socially acceptable for individuals to just record video of random strangers; you are a total stranger taking video of another total stranger, without consent. Even in public, that’s not really considered normal. If you’ve got a reasonable explanation, great. People still have every right to politely take issue with it. Filming or photograping strangers is still something that a good portion of the world has an issue with.

I guess the question is whether the mall is public or private? In a public place you pretty much take a picture of anything that’s publicly visible. On private property it’s up to the owner. I’m guessing if the mall, or at least the store, don’t have signs saying “no photos” then you’re safe.

On the other hand, if two employees are so self-concious about having their picture taken you have to wonder what they’re guilty of? Maybe you just took the photo ‘cuz you loved the new design, or were so impressed by the service – nothing negative. For them to perceive it as negative makes you wonder what they were afraid of!!!

Your story is a reminder of how work culture in the land of oligopolies is not very healthy. The disconnect between the worker on the floor and the ownership interest is so profound that people can lose all sense of perspective. The rage of the uniformed employee is really meant to be directed at the people who run and own Videotron, but is referred instead onto you because you and your iPhone represent freedom of movement and thought. There’s a reason why zookeepers keep the gates locked.

Well, if you notice, on the picture there is a guy from public mobile standing and talking with the Videotron sales man , that i beleive can give him trouble. The new videotron service is growing so fast that they cannot , i beleive, keep up and hire the best but everything that comes to town. That kind of attitude should be strongly repressed.

Have you thaugt of taking a picture of that guy with one of is own products ?????

Look at the exact oposite reaction !

and for Zellers, i wonder why they are still doing business, each damned times i went there, they never had what i wanted. Sorry for the canadian side of the business but i rather go elsewhere than stop by a Zellers and then go else where…..

I took a photo of an aquarium inside the pet shop a few weeks ago. I was thinking of buying it but wanted to consult my wife. I took another of the big cute iguana. A woman working there came over and grumpily told me not to take photos.

A similar thing also happened at Home Depot where I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars.

Worker approaches me:, “I don’t want to seem like an an asshole but you’re not allowed to take photos.”
I said “Then don’t!”
He said “don’t what?”
“Don’t tell me not to take photos.”

The no photo policy causes a no-buy policy when I am confronted with it.


Now that I have a camera phone I take photos of products in stores all the time. So much easier than writing all the info down so you can go home and look it up on the web to make sure it’s what you want and works the way you want to use it. Given most salespeople have zero technical knowledge or experience with a product these days you have to do most of the research yourself.

“Quebecor, has locked out 253 Journal de Montreal employees for almost two years now. Apparently the company can’t pay for journalism but can afford an army of numbskulls selling cell phone contracts.”

Just to be clear on one thing, the only thing that the Quebecor and that store have in common is the name “Videotron”. Those employees are probably not on Quebecor’s payroll because that store is a franchise.

It’s operating under the same structure as cars dealers. Ford doesn’t own all the Ford dealers in Quebec, they are owned by individuals allowed to use the name “Ford” on their building and selling their products. Same thing goes for Rogers, Videotron, Bell…

BTW, for the record, if you would expect the guy to ask politely to delete the picture, why didn’t you politely ask if you could take the picture in the first place?.

I wouldn’t appreciate being taken in a picture without being asked first.

You would’ve come and see me asking if you could take the picture of myself or even my store if I owned it, I would’ve probably say yes, just because you were polite and kind enough of asking first. The other way around, I would probably ask you to delete it.

I’ve been told that those videotron stores are NOT franchises. Are you sure? In any event, that was biting commentary on Quebecor’s treatment of journalists, not a serious statement.

It never occurred to me to ask permission for a quick photo from yards away. And they could have easily gotten an answer if they approached me with a smile and not threats.

Ben non lol Jme demandais juste pkoi il prenais des photos de boutique videotron a moin qu’il y avait une belle fille a l’interieur 😉

@Math: Wow si tu n’es pas capable de lire l’article au complet pour comprendre la raison de la photo, viens pas commenter n’importe quoi!!

Ok, if you are in the common area of the mall, you can do whatever you want. As long as you aren’t naming a person in a picture, and that person is in a public place, he has no expectation of privacy and cannot prevent you from taking his picture (think person in a crowd at a sporting event). IF, you publish and name the person, then you are in the wrong. So from what I’ve read, the jerk in the Videotron store was wrong, especially since you were not even in “his” store when the pic was taken.

I think I’m going to send this to Videotron customer service and see what they say.

@ Caspian

“Last time I checked, you still had to ask permission to take photographs of people, or on private property, or both”

Nope. Check out PIPEDA.

Yeesh that’s a hairball of an act.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find anything that applies to individuals and the private sector, although I did come across this

Individuals have the right to know who is watching them and why, what information is being captured, and what is being done with recorded images.
Give individuals access to information about themselves. This includes video images.

Kaved- It’s a hairball that isn’t even applied universally. The section you cite is, in principle, why recording images in public is still shaky territiory. Doubly so if you’re selling them or gaining something comercially from their publication. This is why stock agencies ask for release contracts for ALL of the models in the shot whose faces are visible. It’s also why photographic training often includes a little discussion of where and when it’s ok to take pictures. An older journalist I know basically summarized it as “if it has a roof and walls, you need to find the owner and ask permission.” Regardless of the law, it’s civil to ask permission.

Mungo- PIPEDA’s purpose was really for personal data, which doesn’t necessarily cover photographs of video recordings made by individuals under most circumstances. Take a look at the number of legal battles (dating to before PIPEDA) fought over this, including the link to ambientlight below. The case they cite- Aubrey v. Edition Vice-Versa Inc. is only one example of how this law is interpreted.

Hold on a second! Everyone, keep in mind that he was taking a picture of THE STORE, not THE GUY IN THE STORE. Big, big difference.

A couple of things, First a shopping mall is a semi public place, i.e. it is private property, but it is considered public, therefore the owner (or an agent – the security guard) can ask that you not take pictures. Most don’t unless you are causing a problem or a disruption.

Second, it is true that pictures of people in Quebec (in public) cannot be published without permission, if the picture is newsworthy it CAN be published without permission.

What was a going to be in interesting photo in someone’s private collection, or in the trash, have itself become newsworthy and can be published.

For more information about Canadian photography laws, have a look at Not a legal site but a compilation of Canada’s rights and obligations of photographers. Of particular note, the section about Quebec

Oh yeah, to the Videotron bully,
“Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person’s divisive dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer.”
~Tim Field

I hope your bosses take notice

Hi all,

This link explains a bit about the legalities of photographing someone in public for various regions, including Quebec

Scroll down to the sections for Quebec. The Supreme Courts interpretation was:
“The Court limited this requirement to exclude persons whose photographs were taken during an event of public interest. That is, a person of public interest or equally an unknown person who is implicated in a public matter cannot claim image rights. Consequently, anyone’s photograph that was incidental to a photo of some matter will be treated as part of the background and will not be able to claim their rights were violated.

As well, read the “Recap/myth dispelled section. A camera can’t confiscated, and your pictures destroyed. A threat of physical injury is totally against the law for whatever reason.

It sounds like the store and mall guys were thuggish, but people should be aware in Quebec you need the permission of someone you are photographing on private property (and a mall is private property) if you are going to publish it… like post it on a blog. See Aubry v. Éditions Vice-Versa inc., [1998] 1 S.C.R. 591, 1998 CanLII 817 (S.C.C.), the precedent ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998. It applies only in Québec and is based on Québec’s Civil Code.

RE: Videotron Photo
I had a similar experience last summer at Premiere Moisson on Monkland Ave. I took an out of town visitor there for a pastry and coffee. She couldn’t believe the beautifully decorated cakes and said that her friends back home would be impressed. So I had her pose in front of the glass case and took a photo of her pointing to the display. A very angry employee came running over and said I couldn’t take pictures. I explained that it was simply for her to show the folks at home. She became very crabby and wouldn’t explain why photos were not allowed. Perhaps she thought I’d be copying their designs–as if!
Unfortunately, not a good impression for my guest about Montreal hospitality.

Ha, that’s funny stuff. I would of creamed the guy and thrown him through the store front glass but I like the way you handeled it. You are allowed to take pictures of anything you want. if there’s a problem after its up to the courts to decide. You see it all the time with journalists. if he said he was going to punch me, I would of layed him out in the best buy and proceeded to drop a computor on his head. Cheers.

I have been trying to figure out the law and practice in Canada for about two years- most information on such things is out of the US. I wish our legislators would put things down in black and white- grey areas of law are useless, especially when dealing with ubiquitous cameras/cell phones. What I have gleaned in such situations is this: With the exception of ‘reasonable expectation of privacy”, you can take any photo you want. If you can see it form a public place you can photograph it. However, for instance, you could not stand in a public street and take a picture of someone if their bedroom or even living room- they have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. You could take their photo as they stand in their driveway- unless it was in the back yard.

Now, the mall is not a public place or even a semi-public place. It is private property. They have no right to stop you from taking pictures and they have no right to demand that you delete the photo and certainly have no right to confiscate your camera or memory card (this includes the police). However, they do have the right to demand that you leave their private property and they can, if they wish, ban you from entering their property again. It amounts to stopping you from taking photos in the future but the mechanism is different.

But…taking photos and *publishing* them, in print or on the web or tweeting them, is different from taking a photo for your own private use and it opens up a whole different can of worms. If an event is “newsworthy” or in the public interest (ie: an arrest, or gas leak in the neighbourhood) you can publish as you wish. You can take a photo of someone in a public park but not necessarily publish it without their permission. (You can even take -not publish or distribute- a child’s photo in a public place without permission but I think that would be a very unwise thing to do!) Grey areas abound in this kind of situation. Is someone playing chess on the first day of nice weather after a long winter “newsworthy”? Or just someone playing chess? Incidentally if you take such a photo and the person cannot be recognized- perhaps from such an angle that the face doesn’t show, or is blurry, that should be alright- unless they had a big “Hi- my name is Joe Blow” tag, or similar identifying information, it could be published.That person is not identifiable.

I ran into a situation years ago but it didn’t become an issue for me because I didn’t have a camera with me anyway. I was walking home very late one night in a low rent part of town and saw, in public view but at the back of a building, a prostitute with her client. Nothing explicit was visible from that distance and in that lighting. They were in a public parking lot, around 2 AM and had tried to conceal themselves somewhat… but failed. I could see them from a public sidewalk but they may have thought they had privacy. If I had taken the picture and published it… was there a reasonable expectation of privacy since they tried to conceal themselves? If the photo was clear enough and it got published, could either person sue ? Was it newsworthy – a sign of the decline in the neighbourhood- or not newsworthy? Legislators should clear this up. In my opinion, if someone is in public they should be open to public scrutiny and the camera and publishing of the camera’s result should be an extension of the public eye… publishable with the existing exceptions that prohibit publicizing photos that damage someone’s reputation, slander them or humiliate them. I’m not even sure that last one should be excluded- in the case of the prostitute’s client, for instance, if he was an average guy and publishing could have ruined his marriage… that would be bad. On the other hand it may have protected his wife’s helath if she knew he cheated with a hooker. Where is the most public good? What if the man was single … but the mayor? Is that newsworthy?

Finally (if you have stayed with me), retailers who videotape for security reasons should notify you. Check the Privacy Commisioner of Canada’s site. (This forum seems to reject my psot if I have link in it.)

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