Stop that paying customer! — Receipt checks at stores (Opinion)
I understand when I'm on my way out of Costco that I'm going to have to show my receipt. Not only because it's logical since they don't put anything in bags and that can make it very easy for people to get away with some sticky fingers. But because it's my understanding that membership stores like Costco and Sam's Club have this language written right into the customer agreement you sign when you enroll. Fine. The policy was spelled out and we signed it.
But what about all these other retailers that are doing the same thing? Best Buy was notorious for this. The employee stationed at the exit door would stand 20 feet from the register watching you the whole time, handing your credit card or cash to the cashier, and they'd stop you anyway and want to check your bag. Treating paying customers like common thieves is bad enough, but then you hear it's often because they're trying to catch their own cashiers in a scam where they're giving discounts to their friends. Speaking of friends, I had one back in Michigan who went to a Best Buy and was stopped and asked for his receipt and he calmly said, "No you have no reason to stop me." He walked right past and went to his car. Nothing ever came of it.
Which brings up the question. Do stores have the legal authority to stop you when you're a paying customer? Obviously if you have been acting suspiciously or especially if they have reason to believe you are concealing merchandise beneath clothing they have that legal right. According to Consumerist.com, in an article on this very subject, part of New Jersey law is as follows:
Any person purposely concealing unpurchased merchandise of any store or other retail mercantile establishment, either on the premises or outside the premises of such store or other retail mercantile establishment, shall be prima facie presumed to have so concealed such merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof, and the finding of such merchandise concealed upon the person or among the belongings of such person shall be prima facie evidence of purposeful concealment; and if such person conceals, or causes to be concealed, such merchandise upon the person or among the belongings of another, the finding of the same shall also be prima facie evidence of willful concealment on the part of the person so concealing such merchandise.
Now that's not only about concealing, it's about unpurchased merchandise. I think they're going to have a hell of a hard time claiming a legal right to stop you when you not only have not been concealing anything and have actually paid for what you're taking out of the store.
I was grocery shopping the other day at a Walmart Super Center and when we got to the checkout line I was met with possibly the world's slowest cashier. I am not exaggerating when I say this process took so long I was beginning to worry about the frozen stuff melting. There were only two people ahead of me buying a few things each, then me with a cart that was only half full. I kid you not, the checkout took well over 20 minutes. It was incompetence at its finest. At this particular store I've played the receipt check at the door game before, but not this time. I was in such a foul mood at how painfully slow and inept the cashier was that when a guy who had to be 90 put his flat palm out at me as though a traffic cop then barked, "Receipt!" and tried snapping his fingers, I'd had enough. Everything in my cart was in bags except for a box of diapers too big for any bag, but I had most definitely paid for that too. In my mind I instantly pictured this old man taking forever scanning a long receipt looking for that box of Pampers that I knew I had rightfully paid for and I just said no way. His traffic cop hand and barking of the order didn't help either. Without even slowing down I just said, "I just came straight from the cashier and paid for everything. If you have a problem with that then call the cops on me!" I just walked out.
Now I was half expecting some store security to come running out to find me in the parking lot but it never happened. Which only proves the point. When you know you've done nothing wrong, and there is no posted sign or agreement about a policy where they police you on the way out, what right should a store have to do this? You've done nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary to give what in police terms would be known as probable cause, so why submit to a search? I didn't, and I'm glad for it.
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