The Dark, Totalitarian Hand of Häägen Däzs [UPDATED! With photo! Even more totalitarian!]

If you follow my tweets, you already know about this. But if not, well, here’s the deal. Yesterday, for reasons that I’ll explain in coming days, I stopped into a local Häägen Däzs. While there, I decided to take a photo of the store’s large Christmas tree. As I did so, I was gang-rushed by a rabid employee who succeeded in blocking my shot. Below, the photographic evidence.

I was asked to leave, and when I argued the point, I was pushed out.

Now, I don’t want to make more of this than really should be made of it. But, I can’t help myself and note that during the several years I’ve covered religion in contemporary China, I’ve never once been gang-rushed out of a church, mosque, or temple for taking a photo. And that raises a question: just what kind of jack-booted thugs have been hired to train/traumatize the beleaguered ice cream workers of Häägen Däzs? Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it: there’s a Dairy Queen just up the street, and they didn’t argue when I took a picture of their Christmas tree. Let the boycott begin.

[UPDATED 12/24 – Since posting this item, I’ve heard from three people who have been prevented from taking photos in Häägen Däzs by company employees. In all three cases (and the one mentioned in comment #4 below), the individuals were taking photos of friends and family – not Christmas trees. So, on this basis, it appears that Häägen Däzs has a “no photo” policy, and I suspect – in agreement with a couple of the comments below – that they are inordinately concerned about their intellectual property, so much so that they make themselves less appealing to customers.]

[SECOND 12/24 UPDATED: A friend just reminded me of a July 2005 Häägen Däzs in China story that I did. You can read it here, but the relevant fact – for the purpose of this post – is that a Häägen Däzs employee tried to prevent me from taking a photo of a Shanghai store’s exterior. Don’t believe me? Then click the June 23, 2005 image, below, to see the masked ice cream man come chasing out of the store, hands waving. Just what kind of paranoid dictatorship is at work inside that high-end ice cream empire?


  1. I think you should organize a time where 30 people show up and take pictures of the tree in an act of just random confusion.

    Maybe they will take it down and give up

  2. You did something out of the ordinary, so the employees were unable to process what it meant and got scared.

  3. I don’t think it is about the Christmas decorations. I was there a couple of summers ago and took a picture of my husband enjoying his ice cream on a hot summer day, but the employees did the same thing, rushed over, told us “no photos” and asked us to leave. Seems like a corporate policy. Stupid one though. I won’t be back.

  4. Never trust anyone or anything that goes by a name involving three or more umlauts. Especially consecutive umlauts.

    I’ve always thought HD sounded like a name JRR Tolkien or perhaps HP Lovecraft came up with for the bone-strewn lair of some kind of ancient monstrosity, anyway.

    They’re hiding something….

  5. You could also use your powers as a journalist and call up Haagen Dasz regional offices to ask what the policy is on photography inside Chinese stores. Just a thought. Merry Christmas!

  6. Häägen Däzs need to be reminded that Christmas is supposed to be a time of good will to all men… including those taking photos!
    On a positive note, the photo does highlight the rather nice coordination between uniform and tree decoration colourings.

  7. Is this about paranoia about copyright protection or design copying? I noticed the security at Plaza 66 preventing people from taking innocent snapshots in their mall. But at night I noticed people sneaking up to the show windows outside Plaza 66 and taking closeup photos of the goods on display.

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