Stop That Paying Customer! The Legality of Compulsory Receipt-Checking

Written by: Steve Glista
Researched by: Matthew A. Schroettnig
Edited by: Lauren E. Trent

When Michael Righi heard someone running up behind him, he thought he knew what would come next. He expected a difficult conversation, maybe even some shouting or threats. He certainly didn’t expect to get handcuffed — but that’s exactly what happened after Righi walked out of a Circuit City in Cleveland, Ohio withoutHandcuffed Consumer showing his receipt to the security guard at the exit. He’s not the only shopper in recent months who has experienced frustration or met with open hostility after refusing to show a receipt on the way out of a store. Customers like Righi claim that the Fourth Amendment protects them from unreasonable searches, that it’s wrong for stores to treat all customers as suspected criminals, and that stores have no right to demand a receipt or anything else from every customer. Since so many stores are checking receipts, it can’t be illegal…can it?

The American system of law values few things more highly than the freedom for people to come and go as they please. The idea that retailers may deny that freedom to paying customers over a simple matter such as refusing to show a receipt offends privacy advocates in a fundamental way. One of the beautiful things about the law is that it seldom identifies an offense without creating a corresponding legal remedy. When a person is wrongly held prisoner, the victim can seek redress against his captor in a civil suit for false imprisonment.

Why check receipts?

Before considering whether detained customers like Michael Righi have grounds to sue, it helps to understand what motivates retailers to risk such liability. Today, nearly every retail outlet from Wal*Mart to Neiman Marcus offers at least one pocket-sized digital toy worth several hundred dollars. The 32 GB iPod Touch for instance, which Apple has priced at $499, is smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Without loss-prevention measures, a store like Costco could not afford to display an open rack of iPods without exposing itself to daily risk of substantial theft.

One approach retailers take to combat shoplifting is to keep small but valuable products in a locked display case. This method has the disadvantage that it may reduce sales, as customers are forced to obtain assistance before they can purchase the product. Another common approach is to wrap small and valuable items in large, difficult-to-open packaging. Unfortunately, packages designed to prevent theft can also frustrate legitimate buyers. The tough plastic used has proven dangerous enough that inventors have created specialized tools to help people open their new possessions without injuring themselves.

Receipt-checking is an increasingly popular loss-prevention method which retailers use to stymie would-be thieves. The brief stop discourages shoplifting by forcing each person to face down a guard before exiting the store. Unlike the locked display case, it doesn’t interfere with the customer experience until after the purchase is complete. The drawback to aggressive receipt-checking programs is that unless they train their employees carefully, retailers can quickly find themselves on the receiving end of a civil complaint.

Just Keep Walking

The customer who objects to showing a receipt wonders, “I haven’t done anything wrong, so why is this store treating me (and everyone else who shops here) like a suspected thief?” Many shoppers have a vague sense that mandatory receipt checks intrude upon some kind of Constitutional right. While a general right to privacy may emerge from the “penumbras, formed by emanations” of the Bill of Rights, one Amendment is frequently cited as protecting citizens from compulsory searches. Many people believe that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution always requires agents of the U.S. Federal and State governments to obtain a warrant before making an arrest or searching personal property. However, the Supreme Court has found leeway for law enforcement officers to act without a warrant in some common-sense situations. For example, an officer can arrest and search a suspect without a warrant when there is “probable cause” for the officer to believe that the suspect is in the process of, or has just finished, committing a crime.

Since the Supreme Court’s 1967 Terry v. Ohio decision, police officers must merely identify “specific and articulable facts” which motivate them to apprehend a suspect. After an officer has made such a “Terry stop,” he may conduct a cursory search of the suspect, generally including a pat-down for weapons and an examination of any personal property not concealed in the suspect’s clothing. Searches incidental to Terry stops are justified on the grounds that police officers have a compelling interest in their own personal safety, and the failure to discover a weapon could present an unacceptable risk.

If the receipt-checker were a government officer the Fourth Amendment would generally allow customers to refuse to show a receipt, because presumably at least some customers visit Circuit City but don’t try to steal anything. If the officer detained every customer and conducted a search, a court would bar the use of any evidence obtained, unless the officer had probable cause to believe either that he was personally in danger or that a particular customer had taken a five-finger discount. In reality, the responsibility for checking receipts usually belongs to a store employee rather than a police officer. Consequently, the Fourth Amendment does not restrain those private citizens as it would agents of the government.

Some members-only discount stores require their customers to give consent to be searched by an employee as a condition of membership. For example, the Costco membership agreement contains an unconditional consent to search on page 29. Customers who sign such an agreement (as all Costco customers must) would seem to have no grounds to complain if they are later required to submit to a receipt-check.

You’re not going anywhere!

As all first-year torts scholars know, “false imprisonment” is a legal term that describes the act of unlawfully confining a person against their will. Unfortunately for retailers with a nationwide presence, the actual details of the law vary by state. In most states a plaintiff must prove the following elements in order to make out his case. The offender first must have the intent to confine the victim, and second, must take action to actually confine them. Third, the offender must act without a legal justification for doing so. Fourth, the victim must be aware of the confinement while it’s happening, or be harmed by it. Finally, there must be no reasonable means for the victim to escape (or at least no means that the victim is aware of). If the offender physically blocks the exit with his body and refuses to move, that may be enough of a confinement to satisfy a jury.

Even if an accused shoplifter can prove all the elements of a false imprisonment claim, the retailer might have an out: most American jurisdictions recognize a limited “shopkeeper’s privilege” exception to the false imprisonment tort. Many states have enacted the common-law privilege as positive law (for example, Oregon’s law is ORS 131.655). In either form, the shopkeeper’s privilege allows a retailer to detain suspected shoplifters and inspect their personal property for stolen items. Such a detention will not be punished as false imprisonment as long as it is limited to a reasonable (short) time, takes place in the store, if the force used to detain the suspect is reasonable, and if the retailer had the reasonable belief (often defined in this context as equivalent to probable cause) that the suspect was attempting to steal or had already stolen something from the store. In practice, this last condition generally means retailers must actually see someone take an item and exit the store without paying for it before they attempt to confront the suspected thief.

So where does this leave Mr. Righi and other potential plaintiffs? In Mr. Righi’s case, he actually made it into his car before the security guard accosted him. Once he was in the car, the guard told him he couldn’t leave the premises, which is evidence of the guard’s intent to restrain him. The guard prevented him from leaving the parking lot, which satisfies the second element. Mr. Righi was also aware that the Circuit City employees were physically preventing him from leaving (element three). Before the police handcuffed him, he might have been able to escape from the Circuit City parking lot without injury to himself or to the security guard, but if he believed that he was effectively restrained, that may be enough to prove the fourth element (no reasonable means of escape). Assuming Mr. Righi gave a true account of all of the facts, it would seem his situation meets all the necessary elements for a false imprisonment claim against Circuit City.

What of the shopkeeper’s privilege? Most of the circumstances satisfy the conditions necessary for Circuit City to claim the detention was privileged. The defense would turn on whether the guard had probable cause to detain and search Mr. Righi for stolen goods. However, Circuit City does not have the power to forcibly search all of its customers, and the only specific and articulable fact that brought Mr. Righi to the guard’s attention was that when offered the opportunity to submit to a search, Mr. Righi politely declined. It is circular reasoning to suggest that the refusal to submit to a voluntary search is itself justification for subjecting a customer to one that is compulsory.

Should you show? Or should you sue?

Even though typical customers who refuse receipt checks might have the law on their side, it seems odd that a consumer electronics store was the place where Michael Righi chose to draw a line in the sand. Picking a fight with a retail security guard over a $20 receipt seems quixotic at best. Righi’s resistance stands out because, for most customers, the injury suffered from such a minor intrusion just isn’t significant enough to incur the cost of failing to comply with the guard’s request. But how should a customer who refuses to show their receipt expect to be treated by the law?

Litigious customers facing off against the police or Costco might not have much luck. Police need probable cause to conduct a search, and Costco members have voluntarily agreed to submit to searches. The question of law is more interesting when a retailer like Circuit City attempts to implement a receipt-check policy without the benefit of a member agreement. In states where the shopkeeper’s privilege exists, stores like Circuit City may only claim the privilege to search customers when the store agent has a reasonable belief that a customer has engaged in unlawful activity. It seems implausible that store agents could honestly claim they need to check every receipt on the grounds that they have a reasonable belief that every one of their customers is a thief.

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100 Responses to Stop That Paying Customer! The Legality of Compulsory Receipt-Checking

  1. Viper says:

    My question on membership clubs / stores…

    usually anywhere in a contract if they cancelled my membership for not showing my receipt I’d file another lawsuit..

    Their agreements and contracts all have the little nugget – something to the effect of any part of the agreement that is not legal is not expected to be upheld. all contracts have this.

    So even if agreed upon to save money … any part of the process that is illegal or grey would then be mute and if they cancelled a membership due to a grey area on the contract they lose a customer and possibly a civil claim as well.

    A line to exit is stupid… a line to purchase and patronize is fine… but not to exit.. even if it is for one minute or less… that is forced detainment…

  2. Phil says:

    One of the reasons given for the receipt check is to help prevent the customer from being over/under charged. Does that mean that the checker has a photographic memory and know the price of every item in the store? If I purchase a $13 DVD but the price is actually $12, will the checker know that? Probably not.

  3. Gendo Ikari says:

    It amuses me greatly.

    Two years later, after we’re worried about being asked to show a simple receipt, we’ve been reduced to a choice of a nude scan or groping by armed guards before we’re allowed on an airline.

    A right that the Government says you gave up “because you bought your ticket.”

    The sign on the wall says the stores check receipts. You know this. You knew the policy you’re so proud to ignore. Your ‘rights’ are set aside because you chose to shop there. If a TSA agent can legally cup your balls checking for explosive underpants the clerk at Best Buy damn well has the right to make sure you paid for your DVD player.

  4. Jake says:

    The truth is, most of these exit receipt checkers just go through the motions to retain their $8 an hour job. I’ve never seen a single one of them stop anyone for “being over charged” or “finding a missed item that wasn’t paid for.” Walk out with a full cart load of maybe 50-60 paid for items, they take a peek, put a couple check marks on the reciept and with 5-10 seconds you’re on your way. They aren’t really checking anything. I would have to spend 10 minutes checking a receipt with that many items. They are on hidden camera. They do what they do to keep their job. It’s nothing but a psychological ploy to reduce shoplifting and a way to harasss paying customers while the real shoplifters have figured out other ways.

  5. Jake says:

    Real shoplifters have already figured a way around the exit receipt checker.

  6. Dan Hughes says:

    I live in Champaign, Illinois. My wife often shops at the local Wal-Mart. There is one particular employee who stops her at the exit to compare her receipt to her buggy contents EVERY SINGLE TIME she sees my wife. We have not seen her detain anyone else.

    My wife is a retired teacher and does not look the least bit shady. It just seems that this woman has it in for my wife.

    How much of this do we have to take? We don’t want to stop shopping at the store; they do have some things we can’t find elsewhere.

    Thank you!

  7. Nick says:

    Real shoplifters don’t get their receipts checked, Because they don’t have one! Oh the irony!!!!!!!!!

  8. Bergman says:

    Once you have offered money for merchandise, and the store has accepted your money, that money ceases to be yours, and the merchandise ceases to belong to the store. A store has just as much right to search, seize or inspect your private property, as you do to search, seize or inspect theirs. The store has just as much legal right, barring evidence of theft, to look in your bags as you have to look in their manager’s office. Of course, it all changes if the store actually can prove you stole from them (in some states, you need to be witnessed stealing, moving to the exit, and exiting, without loss of contact; In others, simply pocketing the item or putting it in a bag suffices to prove shoplifting, whether you intend to pay for the item or not (let this be a lesson to those of you who don’t bother with a shopping basket, and hate carrying stuff in your hands)).

    I’m not a lawyer, but I have read the shopkeeper’s privilege laws that are available online for all of the west coast and pacific northwest states as well as a few others, and while my own research doesn’t get much into case law, it’s pretty clear, at least to this layman that in those states, if a store has sufficient evidence to invoke the privilege, then a receipt check is redundant to the point of absurdity. They wouldn’t need to check a receipt in that case, since they already know who the thief is; If they lack that level of evidence, they generally can’t lawfully compel a detention or search.

    While The Legality has gone into tort law, there’s also a criminal law side of the matter. Exactly what a state calls a given offense varies by state, but in general, compelling a receipt check involves assault and/or menacing. Actually forcing a search adds battery to the list, and taking items from the customer constitutes robbery (theft is done by stealth or with the owner not present; Forcibly taking items from a person directly is unarmed robbery). Stopping someone from departing is indeed a tort, but in many states, false imprisonment is also a felony. There’s a limited defense against such charges under shopkeeper’s privilege laws, providing the store and its employees can prove they had adequate evidence under state law to invoke the privilege. But without such proof, the fact remains that crimes are committed in such a compulsory stop. This, by the by, is why many stores absolutely forbid anyone but a specially trained Loss Prevention Officer from stopping a customer for any reason — It’s far too easy to commit multiple felonies in this sort of situation.

    Now, in many states, you aren’t limited to just a lawsuit after the fact. Most states have some form of citizen’s arrest law on the books. Some limit it to just felonies, others allow citizen’s arrest for misdemeanors as well. Shopkeeper’s privilege is essentially a citizen’s arrest, executed by the shopkeeper. Unlike a citizen’s arrest, a shopkeeper exercising the privilege may (depending on the state) be able to search as well as simply arrest. But if you’re the victim of a crime, you may well have the legal authority to arrest the criminal yourself; Generally this takes the form of notifying the person they are under arrest, then contacting the police (typically via dialing 911) to notify them that you have performed a citizen’s arrest and need an officer to take custody. It’s worth noting that fleeing or resisting a citizen’s arrest is almost as severe a crime as resisting or fleeing arrest by a police officer (though much less likely to result in a gunshot to the spine).

  9. Dennis says:

    Bergman – Good post. I am amazed at how so many people are so willing to surrender rights so central to being an American. Our fourfathers gave their lives so that we would have these rights, we should be ashamed to submit so freely. I do understand the principle of picking one’s battles, and learning to fit in but I also see where once a social security number was “not to be used as ID” and now it is. Rights are won in battle and relinquished by submission. The other side just needs to wait for the old to die and the young to sleep………..

  10. Muawiyah says:

    Circuit City went bankrupt.

    They had a poor business model and didn’t ever get real control of their receipt flow. Fur shur the shoplifters ripped them off blind.

  11. jon girodes says:

    what about target? they made me stop and show receipt and wouldnt let me go if i didnt

  12. Hipcato Fazz says:

    The constitution I went to war for says I am innocent until proven guilty.
    This blanket reciept check policy, smacks of guilty until proven inocent..
    Maybe Wally World bought a new constitution from the chineese?

  13. ennui says:

    When I refuse to give my receipt the Walmart nazi puts me on blast with his Walki Talkie that Comes on the store intercom for all the customers to hear “we got one leaving no receipt”.

  14. greg hines says:

    COSTCO just did it. After leaving their store, a number of them stopped and detained me for not showing my receipt. Can they do this for a breach of their contract or is it false imprisoment?

  15. greg hines says:

    I left a post at:

    http://www.costcoinsider.com/does-costco-have-the-right-to-check-your-receipt/

    stating:

    “Interesting, you say the policy has an unconditional consent to search? It states: “Costco reserves the right to inspect any container, backpack, briefcase, etc., upon entering or leaving the warehouse.” This statement is listing types of property (etc. infers any other type of property), NOT your person, nor does it mention detention. And, this states INSIDE the warehouse, not outside, as you state. Also, detention for a breach of contract (the COSTCO policy), not for a lack of probable cause, is considered false imprisonment in most states.”

    ..which was removed!

  16. Benjamin Carey says:

    I disagree with the sentiment that a Costco member is oblidged to submit to a search. Costco has no more right to search it’s customers than any other retailer, infact, should I want to walk right past the reciept line I have every right to do so.

    The difference between Costco and Walmart is that Costco can terminate membership at their discression and can use refusal to show receipts as reason to deny access on any future occasions, but they still cannot oblidge a search on shoppers.

    Every retailer has the same right, they are able to deny access to their store. In essence this means they can block entry to their store at their discression, however they cannot block exit from their store. Costco’s legal standing on blocking entry is even stronger, because they have a a requirement for membership and signed agreements as a standard policy for granting of access to their store.

  17. Benjamin Carey says:

    Quite obviously there is some legal precident for Shopkeeper’s privledge, however should someone skip the receipt line, this is not enough to offer reason to search a person’s bags or belongings.
    Secondarily, even if they do suspect a person of stealing an item, physically restraining a person might not be sensible. They could be wrong, and thus open themselves to giant liability, far exceeding the value of the item they believe to be shoplifted, and even if they are right, expecting a young clerk that might be working 10 hours a week as a summer job to make the correct split second decisions when attempting to block exit to a store is dangerous in and of itself. You would be putting a great deal of expectation that the clerk will make the correct decisions in what is acceptable and unacceptable, and what is the appropriate reasonable level of force, and in this game the payoff might be the return of a $400 iPod (Which is probably only a cost of $300 to the store before markup) but at the same time the risk could be a civil suit in the tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously the will and means of the shoplifter to file a civil suit gives certain probabiltiies less than 100% but the risk/reward is still leveraged against the store owner.

  18. So many Retards here says:

    So many idiot sheep. Never show your receipt even at Costco.

  19. Fred B says:

    The more I read, the more I think it’s better to shop online. Sam’s Club: I went there with several friends and forgot my card, the greeter wasn’t going to let me in the store – I think the policy is you can only get 2 guests in with you on a single card. The greeter sent me to the customer service desk and said I would need to get a replacement card, but I just told them at the desk that I wanted to look around and see if I wanted a membership and they said to go ahead. I don’t get the point of it all because I’ve had a greeter let me in with an expired card before. Another time after I went in and went to put my card away, I realized in my haste I held up the wrong card, but still got in. Going out a couple was ahead of us, she went to sack the stuff while he went out to get the car and took the receipt with him since he paid. He walked right past the line and nobody tried to stop him. When she got her cart to the door, the checker wouldn’t let her leave because she didn’t have a receipt. The checker plainly told her she couldn’t take the stuff she just paid for a couple minutes ago out the door without a receipt. She finally had to ask someone to go out and get her husband to come back in the store with the receipt. The checker looked at the receipt, then looked at the cart full of stuff, marked the receipt and they went out. If you don’t think they are paying attention, try handing them the wrong receipt next time and see if they catch it. Hey, you’ve been to Target, Kmart, Bestbuy and ? and you had all the receipts in your pocket.

    Sam’s club will argue you know you have to show your card when you go in the door, so you should have your card ready and you shouldn’t be so careless as to leave it at home. From the registers to the door is no more than 20 steps, there’s really no excuse not to have your receipt in your hand ready to show at the door. Since you know you will need to show it, there’s no excuse not to keep track of it for 5 minutes. Yet, some lady puts the receipt in her purse and has to dig through her purse for it while holding up the line or several times it’s ended up in a shopping bag. Others have tied their bags shut and had to untie them at the door so the checker can see what’s in them.

    Here I’ve never seen them catch a mistake checking receipts, it’s more like you have a receipt and that looks like about the right number of items for the receipt. You have one person at the door and 15 people waiting each with about 100 items in their cart. I see lots of people pile their carts high or a couple might take 2 or more carts. They look at the receipt then in your bags. Now if someone has 50 cans of soup, they don’t have time to count each one, you could have 48 or 52 and they would never know.

  20. glenn stewart says:

    Take your chances and say “No thank you” when they attempt to check receipts or inspect what is now your personal property. A good shoplifting stop requires at least 5 elements…the store must see the theft happen, the surveillance cannot be broken, the customer must clear the opportunities to buy, the merchandise must be on the person, and it must be identified as belonging to the store…a designer scarf might have come from any store—it must be marked some how…”we carry those” isn’t good enough.

    I worked for a national retailer in Texas who lost a lawsuit for $500,000 for a bad stop…the key to the suit? The store could not identify the merchandise on the shoplifter (yeah, she did it) as theirs—there were no tags. she had pulled them off (no doubt when another element was missed—unbroken surveillance.

  21. SM says:

    I am one of those $13.00 an hour employees in a ‘club’ warehouse. Our training and job descriptions are to search all incoming backpacks, briefcases and laptop cases. If there is merchandise similar to what the store carries we are to put a sticker identifying it came in and was inspected. The same courtesy on the way out is granted.

    The most common mistakes of cashiers are items at the bottom of a basket/cart like bottled water, paper goods, and stamps. For example, a customer may pay for stamps at the register but its so busy the cashier does not hand over the stamps or a customer (so rushed glued to their cell phones) leaves it somewhere near the register. A check of the receipt and we ask “Do you have your stamps?” Some don’t and we make sure they are ‘reunited’ with the item they purchased.

    For those who have not been charged for an item its not a matter of assuming ‘theft’ its a matter of not being charged. There is a special register with no waiting nearby for those corrections.

    Generally the rule of thumb is to ‘count’ items and match it against the receipt. If there is an error the member should want to know about it and be refunded if over charged or know of an error if under charged. Any loss drives up the cost of services at some point.

    Members also leave merchandise all too often somewhere between the cashiers lane and the exit. Generally in a food area, bathroom, or kiosk stand for something they just ‘had to see.’ We reunite them with those items as well.

    In Club stores there are no RFIDs or security tags or security devices such as department stores. This too times 600+ stores is what drives up prices. To keep prices balanced checkers check items in the basket with the receipt.

    In our chain there is NO profiling. In fact, the company goes to redundant extremes to make sure it does not occur. And we are technically NOT loss prevention. There are those who are in the store undercover but not the paid people working at the doors. Most of us are part time employees there for access to affordable health insurances we cannot get in our primary employers or as small business people. We moonlight for part time additional 2nd incomes and insurance. I can’t tell you how rude and obnoxious it is to have some jerk not show their receipt or make a ‘constitutional’ issue at the door with some poor retiree, kid there for college income, or professionals like myself in this economy just trying to survive. True, there are a limited amount of cameras pointed at us and we get only a few seconds to hopefully get the job correct both for the store and for the customer.

    If you are stealing something we have no instructions to do anything than call a manager. Its the managers discretion to verify a receipt and merchandise. But people do the strangest things. Why would a woman buy $500 of products and steal a salmon inside her purse? Or a family buy the staples of food but hid a dozen blue ray DVDs under their baby in a stroller? We don’t stop those people to look. Loss Prevention has seem them personally in the store and waits till they leave the doors to detain them – and our PD in this city is PROMPT at arriving to make an arrest. We at the door have no idea what is going on and are not alerted to do anything other than verify receipts.

    Another trick of real thieves is to take a receipt from another store that has not been verified with a florescent line through it and come back into another store for the same items and claim constitutional rights to make a scene with hourly paid employees when in fact the codes for the store do not match (receipt says store 4321 and they are trying to leave store 1234. Or the dates do not match. Those are the ones we sometimes catch if we can look at the receipt for longer than 3-5 seconds. Even so, we ask people to move to one side and have a supervisor check the receipt further. Its not our job to arrest or do anything other than alert management.

    Those who just bull through and run over us with their carts are perpetrating a crime of assault and battery. I’m standing there wearing a urinary catheter. Run over me and YOU will be paying a higher crime for assault and battery or aggravated assault with a cart or flatbed. And I WILL press charges by calling the police and use the Camera security video at the exit door in court against you. Or the person you cause to have a diabetic response, heart condition or some other issue.

    The problems you have are with the Store. Its not with an employee who is probably just like you and trying to survive with a lousy job just to have access to health insurance or pay their bills. There is no profiling. 99% of the time we’ll try to make conversation with you and thank you for shopping at the membership club where you’ve poked down annual fees to buy cheaper than other retail and a store experience less than the masses at WalMart where it gets really weird and full of nut jobs.

    Most times it is hard to read a receipt. Someone bought 3 bottled waters but the receipt looks like 4 until pointed out the cashier caught the mistake, added a correction and it was take care of. And it saved you 20-30 minutes in the return line to find out instead on your way out the door. Or how about when we catch your produce has mold on it and call for someone to get one that is healthy or suggest you get a refund? Or the fact you bought one bag of bagels when in reality you paid for 2? LIttle things we catch to try to help a customer.

    How about the employee who runs after you who brings an item you left behind somewhere like at the register. Or like your membership card or ATM card or credit card? Or the cart person who finds you left a full front seat top of the cart full of merchandise after you’ve loaded the larger section and are ready to drive off.

    Some go nuts they have to show their card on the way in. Many assume their arrogance means nothing but it does hassle the persons paid to see and click you have entered. The click on the card and not the ten other families you brought with you to all shop on your card. That to provide half hour updates of how many have entered to management to keep the number of lanes open to accommodate those crowds. And to stop any who do no have cards from coming in to shoplift or fill a cart with everything and then choke up a register because they have no card to be processed. How would you like to be behind them while it takes forever to clear the conveyor and get them processed and voided out to ring up your valid membership card and purchases?

    The discount clubs are not like being in a WalMart. And Thank God they aren’t. They are fast, a frenzy and sometimes gruff. But they do save you something that caused you to sign up, agree to the terms and conditions, and shop there often. And their return policies are so graceful contrasted to returning anything almost anywhere else. Especially if it really doesn’t work verses the ones who use the discount stores like free rental companies for TVs for the SuperBowl or just trash something till it stops working and wants to get another free one to replace what they did to theirs.

    The only one you really screw is the one who is fired because you wouldn’t show your receipt on the way out a damned door as per your contract with the store for membership. Usually its some single mother trying to feed her family, have insurance and you somehow made cry because you assumed your arrogance was more important than complying with the store’s rules. We have words for people like you and hope that on your way home you just piss off the right person who does something about it.

    And the loss of the good employee who goes above and beyond for the seniors, or the physically challenged, or those who leave something behind, or are overcharged, who went above and beyond are replaced by someone who really doesn’t give a damn doing the bare minimums to get by. Or they are the ones CPR certified and keeps you from choking on a hot dog for .99 cents in the food court because you are glued to your cell phone yelling at someone while trying to bulldoze your way out of the store without showing your receipt.

    Just do what you agreed to do when you joined the club. And if you hate it so much why did you join in the first place? Quit. Go to Sam’s and find out how bad service really can be. If there’s anything worse than Sam’s its Fry’s. Try returning something there.

  22. Kathy says:

    I work in a large retail store which I am one of the receipt checkers. If we didn’t check receipts, people would walk out with TV’s, Computers and anything else they could carry out. That is one way of saving the consumer money. The shoplifters is stealing from the customer. A customer should show respect and be an example for the shoplifter that might be watching them. Also we find customers that have been overcharged. They are very thanksful when we find that they have been charged twice for an item. For instance a lady bought several items and she had a box of diapers which was 19.77 and the girl had charged her twice for the diapers. Her bill was 82.00 and she didn’t realize it. I pointed it out to her and she went back to customer service and got a refund. It saved her a trip back to the store.

  23. Steve says:

    I’ve been reading both the RCW and Costco pdf linked regarding the policies. I find this amusing, while I do agree with bag searches into and out of the store (for facilitating item returns without thieving), and have been a cashier/door receipt checking greeter (walmart), I am aware that the UCC states that the items are mine when I buy them. I do not want to wait in that horrendous line.

    Thanks to your article, which basically pointed me where to go (as it is not a definite conclusion, although I’m unsure if Kathy read that far even, or if she has any idea what logic is), I now know my rights… I think.

    Basically, costco states that “To ensure… all receipts and merchandise will be…” This does
    NOT SAY
    1) I have to stop.
    2) They have to inspect my physical goods. (The SQL Database and register contains both my receipt and what I purchased, this is in their possession)
    3) That they inspect “my” goods, but they will inspect all of them somehow.

    As stated above, to ensure the customer is not overcharged is bull, I may have gotten bored and decided to memorize all the prices I could at walmart, but even I couldn’t get all of them, and I doubt costco employees get that bored, much less push their brain because they have actual skills beyond retail.

    They have both CCTV and SQL, a simple SELECT statement will let them inspect my goods. I was not detained, but guess what..

    The policy doesn’t state you have to show your card upon entering.
    It does not state who represents costco if they do say “give it up” to your card.

    My state laws 4.24, 9A, and 65A are the other relevant ones, which basically say “You can’t stop me if you have absolutely no reason to suspect me of anything”

    Now, my main point to drive home is do not take a stance “against” this idea. What if you owned a biz, how would you like to be able to protect your earnings? Do not hate costco, and do not drive “You’re being bad to me!” Instead, argue that you, and them, should both exercise your rights, and not allow others to step on them.

    Take an intelligent stance either way, and put yourself on the other side of things. Even if it seems reasonable, eg. Kathy’s logic… she did not consider “What if I had to wait 25 minutes.” or “What if my son is sick” Also, final note to Kathy: THEY DO NOT USE THE MAIN EXIT IF THEY ARE DOING THAT!

    I’ve seen a lot of empty packages, DVD’s and CD’s missing from packages left in automotive, baby food packages ripped stuffed between pet food, I’ve seen tons of _ethnic group_ just put on baseball gloves and walk out of the store. I’ve seen that same group also pay for things, I’m not biased, just observed this with my own eyes, although if you don’t know the difference between judgement and observation, you’ll think I’m racist. This somewhat irrelevant paragraph explains how people really steal stuff,…

    Yes, they can shove it in a box and buy the box, but how is a “receipt check” going to spot that? We had a policy called Look Inside Always (lisa), but that stops theft at the register.

    Long story short, if you have a receipt in hand and walk out of the store, clearly showing that you paid… then there is no reasonable cause to detain you.

    I just stumbled here when searching, do not take anything I say as fact, as things may have changed or you may not be in my area.

    Good article! Awesome comments, the CA police officer drove home an interesting idea, along with the “I thought you guys were in a free country” person

  24. Cedric Bruin says:

    There is certainly a great deal to know about this. I can see you made nice points in the features as well.

  25. V says:

    My question is a bit of a twist on this issue. Can an establishment such as a hospital or university prevent me from leaving for what they cite as safety concerns?
    Recently my university hospital had a gas leak. They locked down the entire campus until the problem was fixed. Can they legally prevent me from leaving?
    Thanks

  26. Roy Sutton says:

    I frequent a Store similar to Costco in NYC, NY They have a stipulation where they can check receipts and personal property when you sign to join. When I frequent the store I bring a backpack along to store my belongings cause they don’t supply bags. I stand in line to leave and show my receipt and purchased goods like everybody else. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT STORE SECURITY CHECK ETC. MY PROBLEM IS WHEN THE SECURITY GUARD INSISTS ON CHECKING MY BACKPACK. I TELL HIM. THAT HE CAN’T AND HE DOES NOT LET ME LEAVE CITING STORE POLICY AND A SIGN POSTED BY THE EXIT SAYING THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHECK ALL PERSONAL BAGS ETC…. IS THIS SEARCH LEGAL OR SHALL I RISK ARREST BY REFUSING TO HAVE MY PERSONAL PROPERTY CHECKED ???

  27. john says:

    I am really hot when discussing this. Firstly I am an 8 yr Correctional officer and am familiar with some parts of the law and searches. I frequent Sams club as well as walmart and circuit city. A few cristmas’s back i went to circuit city and bought well over 600.00 dollars worth of product. I had my young son with me as most of the presents were for him. I walked from the cashier litterly 5 paces away, and watched as the door goon watched me pay for it and start in his direction. I got to him and he put his Nazi gastapoe mode on, and aske me for my receipt. Of course I said you just watched me pay for it, if you dont trust your cashier thats you folks problem not mine. I tried to leave and was met with a more aggresive verbal. My young son whom was later to become a Marine, said dad, what what did we do? I told goon squad greater, if he attempted to touch me and or my son, he was going to have his hands full from this ex Marine. He called the manager over whom attempted to apologize, I said no way! Take me to the returns desk, i want my money back now!! I also told him that he just avoided getting one of his employess serious hurt. I have never been back since! Nor will i comply with any other illegal searches. To all those that say dont shop their, I am sure they have had loved ones in jail and gone through that process. It stinks. Remember we havent been convicted of any crime. You liberals that cry dont go there, remember that when you start losing more right. they have cameras everywhere nowadays, they dont need to be harrassing honest paying citizens!!!!!!!

  28. Steve says:

    The main problem I see with this sort of behavior is the slippery slope that it will lead down. Years ago I was able to walk out of a store without being harrassed for my receipt but soon I believe they will not only want to see my receipt but check my pockets and give me a pat down as well. At what point would you consider it too much? For me I draw the line at showing them proof that items that I own belong to me but maybe that doesn’t bother most. However if you accept this now, at some point in the near future leaving a store like best buy will have roughly the same screening process as trying to get on an airplane.

  29. Miles T. Madison says:

    I have a very interesting question regarding the membership clause within Costco’s policy.

    If an autistic child passes the exit and does not show a receipt can be subject to a search or detainment?

    Given the circumstances in this situation, the child says “this is heavy I need to put it down” and does not stop until he has exited the store to the front loading area. At this time, an employee unlawfully surrounded him and grabbed him to detain him. After this a struggle ensued, and lets say the employee punched him in the neck even though he had no reason to believe he was in imitate life threatening danger.

    Then, if he is tackled by four employees of Costco can he be still held liable under the membership contract if he is 15 and did not sign any contract? If he was only carrying heavy items for his parent who was behind him with the receipt?

    Other slight circumstances could exist in this question and it is not based on any real event, per say.

    I truly anticipate what comments you might have on this.

    Thanks.

  30. Mary says:

    The poor, old Fourth Amendment has sure been taking a beating the last few years. This receipt-checking ridiculousness is just another abomination in a growing list. Do you really want to give your business to an establishment that treats you like a suspected thief? I never show my receipt, but I don’t make a big deal about refusing to, because I understand the poor sap who’s asking to see it is only doing what MANAGEMENT requires him (or her) to do. Along these lines, how about pre-employment drug testing? Where’s the probable cause? Do you really want to work for a company who treats you like a suspected felon when you’re simply trying to make a living? Please don’t say, “Well, I have nothing to hide.” Stop for a moment and think: Perhaps, they’re not looking for “drugs” at all. It’s all about control and I wouldn’t be surprised if “drug tests” are actually pregnancy tests for female applicants of child-bearing age. Always follow the money, my friends.

  31. Jay Reese says:

    I purchased my a items and want to leave the store because I am done. Being stopped by some idiot at the door really chaps my ass. I am not a thief and the cashier checked my cart which was empty. Today, Sam’s club stopped e and asked me for a receipt in which I refused. The idiot door boy had to call a manager to remedy the “situation” when I already paid for my merchandise. I refused to talk to the manager and left the store with my purchases. The manager stated that she was going to call the police and I advised her to do so but I was leaving anyway. What repercussions would the store Have if I would have been stopped illegally for wat they call a theft just because I left without being inspected by some idiot door boy at sam’s. I am not a thief, I am not a drug user or drug dealer. I am a father to a 12 yr old daughter and to a set of twin boys who are 9 weeks old. I don’t have time to stand in line for a door boy to review my receipt on shit I paid for. I will continue to refuse inspection by these stores because I feel that my rights as a citizen of the United States is being violated.

  32. Dan D. says:

    This article is not entirely correct. The bottom line is this: No private citizen has the legal right to detain another without reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed. PERIOD! Anyone can stop you and make a request of you in public, and you have every right to deny that request and proceed on with your business. In retail law across every state, an employee of an establishment cannot make you feel you are not free to leave/go in order to briefly investigate a probable theft unless: 1- That specific employee personally saw you enter the store. 2- That employee kept you under constant surveillance the entire time. 3- That employee saw you remove said item from a retail display. 4- That employee observed you go past all possible points of payment. 5- Then, after you exit the premises to show your intent of not paying for the item in question, the employee may stop/detain you. Anyone in retail management is aware of this, including the corporate lawyers in their hire. They are banking on the fact that the average citizen is not aware of these “rules of engagement.”

  33. bobj says:

    Just tried to return an item at the Berlin, MD Walmart Superstore. When I passed through the “ding-dong” alarm that actuated apparently becasue the little white anti-theft tab was not deactivated when I bought the item, an employee, possible a loss prevention idiot asked me to show him a receipt for the bagged item.

    Show a receipt for an item to be returned???? Seems as if these LP jerks make the rules as the situation demands. I refused and he told me that I had to wait until he got a manager. When one came to the area, I refused also to show him the receipt. He promptly told me that he was going to call police, basically placed me under arrest so that I could not leave the store. When the trooper arrived and was informed of the situation, he calmly told the manager that there was no reason for him to get involved, I did not break any laws.

    When I reported this incident to Walmart Headquartes, I go a very nice “we’re sorry for your inconvieneince, but the manager was just doing his job”

  34. Andrew Price says:

    most of these comments amuse me! Why is it that there are so many people who a) want to get something for nothing (or “come up”,as I’ve heard it called), and/or b) want to sue anybody for anything they can even when they know that they didn’t follow the normal routines accepted by the vast majority of ALL other people, and/or c) always want to find some way of blaming their actions on somebody else regardless of stupidity, blind to how self-centered or selfish their act was, and at the same time, also be the loudest to complain when they have to pay more at the register to compensate for the loss caused by those actions.
    It’s really pretty simple. If you don’t have anything to hide,SHOW THEM THE RECEIPT.
    Answer this next question to yourself so that no one can hear the answer but you, this way you can answer it TRUTHFULLY and no one else has to know.
    If the situation were reversed and it was you that was checking receipts, and I walked past you and blatantly refused to allow you to check my receipt and/or the contents of my bag and mad a beeline for my car in the parking lot, wouldn’t you think that was a little bit hinky?
    If not then either your “on the take”, a little bit “touched”, or someone that makes us all pay more because you want something for nothing IMO.

  35. Charlie Boy says:

    Walmart just tried pulling this stunt with me. After my wife and I spent a considerable amount of money on Christmas food for our family and a hoover, we went through checkout line, and I headed towards the exit by way of the cashier desks. The receipt lady, a 40+ Hispanic who only knew the words “stop”, “receipt” and “manager” refused to let me pass as I tried to wheel my card the door. The lady was slouching on MY merchandise with a Sharpie in her hand. I capitalized “MY” because the transfer of wealth had happened and Walmart no longer had claim to the products I had paid for! I calmly raised my voice to the lady and repeated “Why are you holding me hostage? I’m not a thief”, when that got me no where, I repeated a little louder each time until more and more people heard me. She moved out of the way with a smirk on her face, and on the way we went.

    If she had any right for her false imprisonment, she would not have moved out of the way when I started causing a scene. If she refused to let me leave, I would have called the police myself regarding the false imprisonment and if they (the police) wanted to see my receipt I would have asked them what the probable cause was. What, because I didn’t want to show Walmart MY receipt, lets face it, the receipt is MY property, just like everything else in my cart, there is nothing on a receipt that states that it is still the property of Walmart or any other retailer. If the situation went where I was forced to provide MY receipt, then I would move to sue the police force and Walmart for the following reasons.

    1. Walmart has security systems on the checkout lines to monitor their employees just as much as the customers, i.e. the employees aren’t ‘forgetting’ to scan a iPad or something in that nature for one of their friends when going through the check out. Walmart could easily have referred to the security systems earlier on rather than continue the commotion.

    2. I would sue the police force for violation of my constitutional rights (which they are bound by) as they had no probable cause to detain me. After all, without Walmart outright stating that they witnessed a crime, there is no probable cause. And yes, I would compare it to Nazi Germany where they asked for “documentation/paperwork”. LOL, if Arizona police can’t ask for citizenship proof without a crime first being committed, the police sure as hell can’t ask to see purchase proof unless a crime was committed.

    Either way one looks at it, it’s pay day. Was I embarrassed while pushing the cart to my car, hell YES, but if you want to gamble and call me a thief, I’ll call your bluff, but be prepared!

    To all those people who say “if you have nothing to hide, just show your receipt”, that’s up to you. It’s just a shame that you’re allowing the rights of everyone else who disagrees with your views to be eroded. I am NOT a thief and therefore should not be treated like one UNLESS and ONLY UNLESS there is a recording or witness who thinks otherwise. And trust me, if there is a witness who says otherwise (there would never be a recording of my stealing as I’m not a thief!), be prepared for a civil suit which would go a long way towards my retirement fund!

    To those of you who say that they’re trying to stop thieves, fair enough, but they should do a better job rather than profiling. I’m not broke, my household is actually pretty well off, we chose to shop at Walmart because everything was under one roof. After this action, the amount of money they will lose from my family shopping there over the course of our lives will by far outmatch the theft some little punk commits!

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  37. Regular Customer says:

    You will always find people that think minor searching and forcing a receipt viewing okay. While stores call it policy, post corresponding signs, and most people comply without a problem, it still doesn’t make legal. That old argument, “what do you have to hide?” is so irrelevant. Even using the argument of keeping prices lower is not that good an argument either. You are implementing policy based the people who are not really customers.

    Unless you actually think that someone stole something, you don’t really have the right to search their goods. The leaders of the corporations know that it’s not really legal and should teach their employees not to stop people who don’t submit to the request.

    I feel for the people working those jobs, but if the worker knows that it is not right, it is hard for me to feel sorry for a worker who accepts money to do what he/she know is not right. It is a very poor argument (as a few have used) just saying that it’s my job.

    As for me, if I don’t feel like showing my receipt, I ask the person do they think I stole something. If they say no, then I say I’m not showing you my receipt. I make it known to them, if they want to see my receipt they will have to formally accuse me of stealing. And if so, suffer the potential consqences. It been my observation that what is supposed to be random is not so random. Each person tends to check people that they think may possibly steal something, and that is called profiling. The problem with profiling someone only based on how they look allows people who don’t fit the profile to rob you blind.

    Personally, I think that stores and their checkout process are not designed well. Their processes are based on forced compliance hoping that most will comply without a problem. The fact of the matter is as long as purchasing and non purchasing customers can use the same doors to enter/exit the premises, there will be big issues with theft. We are really close to a place that merchandise can be handled with technology if stores were willing to pay for it. If an electronic eye can charge a fee to a car on a toll road traveling 70 miles per hour and traffic cameras can capture cars that run red lights, surely there is something available that does not depend on the cashier actively deactivating an RF device on a package.

    As far Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco, these are clubs that offer discounts. Clubs can in some cases enforce certain rules for membership eventhough those rules outside of the club may not be legal to enforce. It’s the same way a job may enforce a code of ethics that does not allow forms of behavior that are ordinarily legal.

    All that being said, the evelope is always being pushed to limit the rights of the individual for big business and government. It is the responsiblilty for the store owners to figure out how to protect their merchandise without holding me responsible because theives frequent their establishment.

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  42. Hipacato Fazz says:

    New tactic used efficiently at Sams Club:

    At receipt checkers station, I “show” them my receipt.

    I will allow them to look at it, but not take possession of it.
    If they attempt to take it from me, I use my outside voice and announce “That does not belong to you, why are you trying to take it from me?”

    The scared shitless look is priceless.

  43. Henry says:

    One day at Walmart with my two and six year old sons, I had purchased a camera and the clerk forgot to remove the security sticker. My sons walked ahead of me and, as I passed the security monitors, the alarm went off and the doors automatically closed, locking me in the store and my two son outside in the street! I almost had a heart attack as I screamed for someone to open the doors while my two young sons continued across the street with cars zooming by…talk about angry!! Of course they opened the doors and apologized immediately, but another second and I would have thrown something through the door to escape my imprisonment and rescue my children from danger.

  44. Charles G says:

    I don’t understand what is wrong with you people. I work at a store where theft is rampant. Ive seen people run out of the store with drills over there head and across the parking lot. Ive seen someone push 5 chainsaws out the door setting off the alarm and throwing it in to a car right out front. these are thieves… our store policies try to deter thieves who walk through the check out line but. The receipt policies are meant to take care of these thieves. most of the time you are dealing with underpaid under informed workers. When you act cocky and walk out when asked for a receipt you make yourselves look like these thieves.

    Extreme exsadgeration (You complain about your 4th amendment right being violated as a law abiding citizen well lets take away all these policies and let the thieves who don’t care about the law run rampant. First you will have a hard time getting the precious stuff you need well thats all been stolen… Wait Dont worry the cops will help then they will be spread out across the city at every store taking care of criminals right… The companys will then go out of business… but thats ok you still have your 4th amendment right… Im not talking about a back to farming day crisis but the economy would be destroyed.)

    As ridiculous as i make it sound. Shopkeeper laws have been made and changed to help the company and the consumer. We give you that receipt so you can keep a record of your purchases. If we ask to confirm you made a purchase why are you complaining. It is a store full of (sometimes unintelligent) employees not an all knowing system that tracks your every move. If one day you walk out and get tackled by a dumb guard its your fault for not following the stores policies.

  45. djmonzelle says:

    If you never had your freedom taken away because of some receipt checking policy. You really can’t post anything on this topic. STFU

  46. Innocent girl says:

    I stupidly took clothing off a rack that a store had outside on the sidewalk in front of the store and walked to my car and drove away, but I think a random pedestrian noticed me- possibly memorized my licence plate (I didn’t see her write anything down or take a picture), and then went into the store to alert the staff, is it likely I will be found and arrested ?
    I feel awful and I want to go take it all back but Im afraid of the possibility that maybe Im just paranoid and they didn t noticed me stealing/get my licence plate/call the police/etc, but if I go back there to return it I will be screwing myself by bringing it to there attention and they will now call the police if they hadnt already. I’m pretty sure the shopping plaza doesn’t have any cameras in the lot, and I never set foot in the actual store so I don’t know if the stores cameras could have seen me out on the sidewalk. I live in California, I have no criminal record, and it was all off the three dollar and under rack. What possibilities are there? What are the odds of me getting caught? What happens if I am caught? and what should I do moving forward in this situation??(aside from never doing something like this again)

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  48. r.drenner says:

    i believe they do have the right to search bags, check receipts. i am a Loss Prevention specialist. I ask politely, I check the receipt of everyone that comes from the back to exit. I check also the stock number of the item. what a lot of people do not know is sometimes the sales do make mistakes on peoples items. I have caught numerous times where a person paid for a 600.00 dollar tv only to be handed a 200.00 dollar tv. funny when that happens how the customers is happy I looked. Why is not it the other way round, when this error is found all of the sudden its “i am glad you looked at my receipt”. I do not put my hands in to any bag, i let the customers do that. mainly for their privacy as for purses I let them do all the talking and let them show me, I never ask to look in their purse but I do thank them, mainly cause I did not ask to see in their purse, i also offer to de-mag the purse that sets off alarms for them when they do the search on their own instead of me asking, to help them from getting stopped at other stores. lets face it most of the times alarms go off due to a purse not being de-magged and this is the store that sold them the product not doing their job right. I also check all employees and have my self checked. just because a customer get checked does not mean they are thieves and i do not treat them that way either, its called showing and being respectful.
    i believe that the store has the right to refuse service to any customer. who said a store has to sell something to a person is nuts, and those who do not understand that a business has rights also is a moron.
    most customers submit to the check and also know that we do the checks for theft and for accuracy of their purchase. those who refuse here is a thought, it takes 5 seconds to look at a receipt, (1) why would a average person refuse and this does not state they stole any thing at all? (2) if they do not want the receipt checked why go to that store?
    as for chasing them out in to the parking lot, that i would never do, only thing would come from that any ways is and violent confrontation.
    i check everyone because i feel its right to check all not right to check a few. just want to be fair about it.
    loss prevention is there to protect customers and the store and its products. yes we try to catch and stop theft, but we are there for customers to. so why would you make it hard on a person that just has a job to do, and part of its is for your protection as well. which by way is why some things cost more than it should due to the fact theft has to be recovered some how.

  49. G. Vandre says:

    Can stores ask to see your receipt or check your bags upon exiting? The answer is yes they can. Are you obligated to comply by showing them your receipt or the contents of the bags? An emphatic no you are not. It is a violation of your civil and Constitutional rights; specifically (and despite any state or local laws), the 4th amendment which states:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Why civil rights? Well, did they stop you because of racial profiling (blacks and Hispanics steal), you had a beard so you must be a Muslim, etc.

    Once the retailer accepts payment in exchange for goods, whether in a bag or not, said purchased property is yours, despite whether you are still in the store or not. Just politely decline their request and keep walking. But what if they insist? I would suggest that you do stop and ask to speak to the store manager immediately. This is because, in many cases, you are dealing with some minimum wage idiot with a chip on his shoulder, and hopefully management staff will have a better understanding of the terms “liability” and “lawsuit”. If the manager says it’s store policy to check bags, remind him or her that store policy doesn’t trump the Constitution or alleviate legal ramifications. If they threaten to call the police, let them and tell them that you will be more than happy to wait (but never let them check your bags). You can also ask them what probable cause they think they have to even ask in the first place. A response akin to “store policy dictates that we check all bags/receipts” does not constitute probable cause. If they physically touch you in any way shape or form, that is assault. Let them know this and that you will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Do not ever let them take you out of public view or to an office (security). If they surround you with numbers, coerce, and/or intimidate you in any way, they have committed felony false arrest and perhaps even felony kidnapping. Just tell them that you will remain where you are until the police arrive (or let you go on your merry way).

    Once the police do arrive, ask them if they have a warrant. If they don’t, decline their request to search your property and ask for their reasons for probable cause. Inform the police that they may want to get a supervisor on scene as the resultant lawsuits will be of epic proportions. If the store employees have involuntarily detained, coerced, threatened, or touched (assaulted) you, demand that the store employees responsible be arrested immediately. If the police want to arrest you, let them. If they seize your goods, let them. Then sue everybody (the cops, the employees personally, the store, etc.). You’ll win. If the police say that you are being arrested for disorderly conduct, ask them when did exercising your Constitutional rights constitute disorderly conduct. This is also why you never raise your voice, threaten, swear, or make physical contact with anyone. Be polite and firm.

    Now all the above is assuming you didn’t steal anything, and there are exceptions- namely, probable cause. If an item you purchased has a security tag that sets off a sensor, that is probable cause. Show the employees your items and receipt to clarify the matter. If you have an un-bagged item, make sure you have the receipt in hand. For instance, I bought a 12-pack of beer at a Walmart (un-bagged) and simply flashed my receipt at the “greeter” upon exit.

    If the employee was well trained and you decline any type of search or verification of bagged items or personal property (your purse for example), they will do nothing. You see, shoplifters don’t have receipts or store bags. Criminals won’t throw a huge stink about rights- insisting to speak with a manager or daring them to call the cops.

    What a hassle, why go thru all this? Isn’t it just easier to submit? The point is: If you do not exercise your rights, you won’t have them for long. Retailers that employ a search policy, thinking that every customer is a thief, are criminals in themselves and need to go out of business. There are plenty of other ways to keep tabs on shoppers or inventory without violating the 4th amendment. I’ve seen sites about this topic where a proclaimed lawyer states that the 4th amendment only applies to the government (federal, state, local), but reading the text verbatim (above), I see no specification. Otherwise, any person could approach any other person on the street and demand to search them. Stupid!

    Club stores: If you are a member of Sam’s Club or Costco, etc., you didn’t read the fine print in the membership form you signed which gave your Constitutional 4th amendment rights away- allowing them to stop you, search you, and basically take you out back and rape you if they want. As for me, I’ll pay an extra $2 for toilet paper rather than voluntarily give up my rights.

    I understand the thought process behind store’s that do this- curbing theft (which it doesn’t) or purchase ‘accuracy’ which is just a stupid excuse. The poster above claims how he found an error on pricing vs. item and actually helped a customer. Great, but too few and far between to substantiate anything even close to justification. Really, if you’re too stupid to know the price on the item you are buying… C’mon. If the store had the wrong price (lower) on an item and didn’t catch it, but accepted payment at the wrong and lower price… tuff shit.

    As to the previous poster… the loss prevention specialist, you’re an idiot. I’d love to sue you into oblivion some day- to the point where your grandchildren are still making payments to my grandchildren. As he states: “I believe that stores do have the right to search bags”… Idiot! The Constitution doesn’t really care what you think. Whatever company you work for should regard you as a serious financial liability, thus terminating your employment post-haste.

    Fact-filled rant over. You’re welcome.

  50. Dennis Colna says:

    Iam a Greeter at Walmart Stores, Inc. I do not like the fact that i have to check
    receipts of large items exitting the store. They think that iam a security person
    which iam not! Walmart has plenty of money to hire security people to check the
    cameras, let them do the work ,not me. They are using me as an escapegoat for not
    hiring enough security people.

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