Up until now, we thought the worst public punishment for shoplifting we'd heard of was the fictional stoning Larry David received in the 2nd season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but that seems almost quaint compared to the ruthless tactics currently being employed by some local Chinese emporiums. Some shopkeepers have been taking the law into their own hands by demanding money from shoplifters they have caught.

The Times reports on the system, which is an import from China according to "experts in retail loss prevention," derived from a traditional slogan that some storekeepers post: "Steal one, fine 10." At the A & N Food Market on Main Street in Flushing, Queens, which has a predominantly Chinese clientele, owner Tem Shieh said he usually fines customers $400 when they are caught, and holds their identification hostage until they procure the money.

What's at debate is whether this is legal or not in the United States: "New York State law allows 'shopkeepers’ privileges' that fall somewhere between the police and a citizen’s arrest. The law also details 'civil recovery statutes,' by which retailers may use the threat of a civil lawsuit to legally recover substantial settlements for even minor thievery. But threatening to report that someone has committed a crime can be considered a form of extortion."