Wednesday Weirdness: The battle for power

One of the biggest frustrations for today’s traveller is access to power to recharge devices. Considering how much we need to keep powered, I am surprised that no one has set up a charging station network across the globe. In the meantime travellers have to earnestly ferret out power outlets, share, negotiate, bargain and beg.

On January 1st, I was in Queens Plaza Shopping Centre in Brisbane, Queensland eating my lunch. It is a shopping centre with the David Jones Department Store where I planned to do some shirt buying.

As I sat in the food hall, I plugged my laptop into an electrical outlet located right next to my seat and began typing. There were many such power outlets scattered around the food court. After a few minutes, a security guard called Omar, approached me and told me I was not authorised to use the Centre’s power. I advised him, that I did not realise this as I had not seen a sign. He told me to remove my power cord or he would do it for me and throw me out of the centre.

Annoyed at this inappropriately heavy handed approach, I asked him for proof of such a regulation. He looked like he was going to pick me and throw me out on the spot. He told me that the Centre could not put in writing every regulation that he had to enforce. I complied but left the centre and did not do any planned shopping there.

What is the etiquette here. In a public space are electrical outlets out of bounds?  Could not a small sign be placed, advising customers that this indeed the case?

I also wonder in this time of great competition in the retail sector, wouldn’t shopping centres be doing all they can to make customers feel welcome?  I felt most unwelcome at Queen’s Plaza and won’t be going back.




  1. I dont think they need to post signs for everything as well. However, the guard could have approached tou in a more customer friendly manner.

  2. I agree re he guard…but also if plugging something into a power outlet is against the rules…then a sign saying “For authorised staff only” would help?

  3. Martin, you can’t realistically expect a shopping center post a sign above/on/around an outlet.

    The guard is properly poorly trained re: handling such a minor issue however I wouldn’t have escalated it after he asked the first time as after all, a shopping mall is a private property and they are fully whit in their rights to refuse to allow access to their power plugs.

    You did the right thing by taking your business elsewhere though. I’d even go a step further and write to the mall management seeking clarification and perhaps letting them know some retraining is probably in order for the guard if they care about Customer Service and keeping patrons happy.

  4. Sorry I meant to say: on every outlet. There must be thousands of them in a decently sized center.

    Sorry for the few typos on the message above.

  5. Surely you’ve got this the wrong way round. These power outlets aren’t public property. They’re owned by someone, who pays the bill for the elctricity used. It’s not for them to have to say they’re not for public use. The assumption must be that they’re not unless stated otherwise

    If I saw your laptop on a table and you weren’t using it, you’d be a bit peeved if I just turned it on and started using it. And even more so if I replied well, you didn’t have a sign saying I couldn’t use it.

  6. Good points. – yet shopping malls have set themselves up to be public spaces with great efforts to encourage people to feel at home in them.

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