Damaged goods found at department store in Malaysia in 2020, not Shanghai in 2022

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As Shanghai emerged from a two-month lockdown, social media posts shared photos of mouldy shoes and bags that they claim show products at a department store in the Chinese megacity. However, the pictures were taken in Malaysia in 2020 at a store that was preparing to reopen following a Covid-related closure.

"The leather goods at Shanghai Parkson have become mouldy," reads a Chinese-language tweet posted on May 25, 2022.

The photos show shoes and bags covered in white mould on shelves in a store.

"Parkson is preparing to reopen; when they opened the door, the products on the counters looked like this," reads text superimposed above the photos.

Parkson is a Malaysian department store chain, which has two branches in Shanghai.

Screenshot of a tweet sharing the false claim, taken on May 27, 2022.

Shanghai eased a range of Covid-19 restrictions on June 1 and began allowing residents in areas deemed low-risk to move freely around the megacity.

The commercial hub of 25 million people was closed down in sections from late March, when the Omicron virus variant fuelled China's worst outbreak since Covid first took hold in 2020.

Photos of mouldy goods, from vegetables to cars, surfaced online during the two-month lockdown that battered China's economy.

The pictures of damaged bags and shoes in a department store circulated in multiple posts, including on Twitter here and here and Gettr here and here, which claimed they were taken during the Shanghai lockdown.

Some people appeared to believe the photos were taken in Shanghai.

"Was this caused by disinfectant spray?" one comment read, referring to a coronavirus control method lauded by Shanghai authorities.

Another wrote: "It gets humid in Shanghai, it's normal [for products] to become mouldy. And it means they're genuine leather!"

Shopping mall in Malaysia

However, the claim is false. The photos of mouldy shoes and bags were taken in Malaysia in 2020.

Keyword searches on Google found the photos in a report by Malaysian news site SAYS from May 12, 2020.

The report is titled: "Department Store's Items Grow Mould After Left Untouched For 2 Months".

"On Sunday, May 10, photos went viral showing branded items covered in mould at Metrojaya Suria Sabah Shopping Mall," SAYS reported.

"Twitter user @ikhbalsheikhali shared images of shoes, bags, wallets, and belts that had been left untouched due to the pandemic."

Metrojaya Suriah Sabah department store is located in Kota Kinabalu on the Malaysian part of Borneo island.

Screenshot of SAYS's article about the products found at a department store in Malaysia, taken on June 1, 2022

The tweet from @ikhbalsheikhali, which is dated May 10, 2020, shares various photos of mouldy goods, with a Malaysian-language caption that reads: "The result of not opening the shop for too long during the duration of PKP."

PKP refers to Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (Movement Control Order), which was a series of Covid-19 lockdown measures implemented in Malaysia from March 18, 2020.

Reacting to the posts, Metrojaya said the photos were taken as the store prepared to reopen following closure in compliance with the PKP.

"There are various reasons how the goods came to be in that condition, and we are still in the process of investigating this," it said in a statement posted on Facebook on May 11, 2020.

It said the photos had been taken "solely for internal use".

Metrojaya also posted videos of staff throwing away mouldy products and disinfecting the store.

Various Malaysian media outlets reported on the damaged goods found at the store, including Harian Metro and Coconuts KL.