Edeka, a supermarket chain in Germany, stated that they no longer sell kitchen knives any longer. This decision was made after an attack was carried by an asylum-seeker in Hamburg. This is, by all means, both incredibly stupid and a failure in service design on their part. It is also a failure on the German officials on not keeping proper tabs on the assailant after, especially considering how many attacks there has been in Germany and United Kingdom as of late, especially with crimes by migrant has seen an increase on German soil. The assailant was found psychologically ill, but it seem he was left to his own devices rather than given proper care. Whether or not he was actually psychologically ill is beside the point.
While the only person who is responsible for the attack that cost a life is the assailant, it does raise the question how he was able to just grab a knife and begin attacking people. I’ve seen no reports of what brand of knife it was. It could’ve given us a chance to see whether or not the knife’s package was properly prepared in order to prevent the incident to some occasion. I’ve criticised many knife manufacturers for not putting enough resources in their knife packaging, often simply opting to cover the edge of the blade in a cardboard sleeve, if even that. Sometimes it’s a plastic container that’s easily slipped away. Rarely there are packaging solutions that would require a heavy effort to forcibly open within the store, e.g. have a plastic screw going through a hard plastic housing that would prevent both damage to the knife during transit as well any sort of opening of the package without an external tool. One of those vacuum styled packages, that are bloody impossible to open without a knife or scissors, can only protect so far.
All this may sound rather extreme for just a kitchen knife, but a safe package does not only protect the product itself, but also the handler, and in Hamburg’s case, could’ve possibly caused more trouble for the assailant to gain access to a naked blade. Edeka probably never gave a second thought about this, and it is a bit too common to see stores of any kind selling knives of any kind on the open. Knives are a tool meant to cut, and even a kitchen knife is able to severely damage and kill. Edeka could’ve begin to demand their knife suppliers to create better casing for their goods.
Another here is one of safety. While hunting knives and such are often sold behind safety glasses, kitchen utensils aren’t despite of their sharp nature. Rather than pulling knives from sale, Edeka could’ve opted to create a supposedly safer environment where access to the more dangerous tools would’ve been restricted with a safety glass case. That, or an increase in security. Security of course is a problem, and not all smaller stores even have a security guard on-site all the time.
Edeka’s failure to foresee the event is understandable. Kitchen utensils have been sold in supermarkets for decades now without many incidents. However, Edeka’s on the issue is completely backwards, blaming the knife rather than the man wielding their knife. Knives really aren’t the problem here. The problem in cases like this are always the people wielding the weapon.
Edeka’s action is highly questionable, as it shows two things. One is that people still don’t get that slashing is more effective than stabbing. Second is that Edeka has not pulled their corrosive acids from sale as well. Considering an attack with a knife requires close physical contact in order to cause damage, an acid attack can be enacted from a distance. Hell, you could put acid into a slightly modified Super Soaker and start shooting people with it. You can find, for example, effective pipe cleaner sold openly in stores. It’s not uncommon to find sulphuric acid cleaning solutions either. An acid attack may not kill the target outright, but it certainly will incapacitate and damage can be severe. Especially if eyes have been targeted. The attacks in UK are on the news every other day, or so it seems. Where is Edeka’s kneejerk reaction to the possibility of their acidic compounds to be used within their store against other customers? They’ve made a solution that can’t fix the problem. If we’re going to be rather crass with the whole deal, there are few items in a supermarket’s utensils and tools section that couldn’t be turned into a damaging weapon of sorts.
Edeka’s solution is a terrible one, and barely a solution at all. It will cost them money to pull all the knives from sale and they will lose all the possible future knife sales. Depending whether or not this is permanent decision on their part is yet unknown, but I hope they will see the light of common sense and put them back on the shelves. As mentioned, if they want to ensure customer safety, they might want to implement better safety solutions rather than just outright remove the knives.
It also does not offer any solution to the core problem that is the people wielding the knives in order to attack. All these could do is to make it harder to gain access to a knife while out in the open.
Similarly to Edeka’s decision, ministers in the UK are considering putting some restrictions on the sales of corrosive liquids. This would not remove the problem either and would only require future assailants to be more creative in their attacks, or gain access to these items some other ways.
All this really reminds me to remind you, dear reader, to take care of your own kitchen knives. A monthly sharpening and using something like mineral oil (or the same oil you use in cooking) keeps them in a good condition and makes cooking much more enjoyable experience. If you’re looking for a sharpener, and would be willing to pay a bit more for a good one, I have a review up for Vulkanus sharpener. Be sure to store them in a proper manner as well, a manner that does not allow children to easily access them. After all, it’s not the tool that causes the damage, it’s the wielder.