The Straight Scoop On If Stores Can Legally Stop You And Check Your Receipt

According to consumer reporter Asa Aarons, unless you’ve signed a membership agreement contractually obligating you, bag searches and receipt checks are voluntary. As in, you can refuse.

If the retailer has a reasonable suspicion you’re shoplifting, however, they can detain you at will. — BEN POPKEN

Bag check at store exit makes shoppers see red [NY Daily News] (Thanks to David!)

Previously: Do I Have To Let Stores Check My Receipt?

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  1. RumorsDaily says:

    I always found that rule confusing… so the store can legally detain you, but don’t they have to be physically able to detain you? If you haven’t stolen anything, but the store legitimately thinks that you did, are you free to try to bust through their attempts to detain? Does it become something of an arms race where they try to grab you and you give them a quick elbow to the face and then run?

    Can you assault a store employee with impunity if they’re wrongly, but they think rightly, attempting to detain you in order to escape?

  2. droppedD says:

    is refusing to let them check your bags grounds for reasonable suspicion?
    aha!

  3. Bokonon says:

    As far as I know, if store personnel try to detain innocent shoppers, they can be subject to lawsuits for wrongful arrest and slander, and depending on how traumatic the experience was, pain and suffering.

    Can you assault with impunity? If you’re defending yourself — as in, the store personnel clearly touched you first — you can do it within reason. Knives and other weapons, for example, would probably be a bad idea.

  4. DaveB says:

    Not to sound like a tough guy or anything but if they want to “detain” me, that rent a cop will be risking life and limb and litigation.

  5. Bokonon says:

    refusing to let them check your bags is absolutely not grounds for reasonable suspicion at all. police can’t even do this–it violates the 4th Amendment.

  6. DeeJayQueue says:

    Who gets to decide what “reasonable suspicion” is?

    If I decline a search that would seem “reasonably suspicious” to an LP person and would probably get me detained.

    If I set off the door alarm by the time someone could get to me I’d be in the parking lot where (at least in PA) it’s illegal for them to come after you. (they may follow you out into the parking lot but at that point they’re acting on their own accord and against company policy. I never did understand those things. Anyone who is actually stealing isn’t going to stop because the detector goes off.

    If someone thinks I’m shady but have no proof they can’t do anything and mostly won’t gamble trying in order to avoid lawsuits.

  7. Bokonon says:

    DeeJay: courts get to decide what “reasonable suspicion” is. declining a search (aside from while operating a car) is NEVER grounds for “reasonable suspicion.”

  8. droppedD says:

    bokonon – i know that as far as the 4th amendment is concerned, but i wasn’t sure what the rules were while you’re on someone else’s property (that is, a retail store). I also am not sure how rights against search and seizure apply to non-governmental (i.e. rent-a-cop / “loss prevention specialist”) private employees.

  9. Bokonon says:

    droppedD: here’s how it applies to rent-a-cops: if you declined a rent-a-cop search, he then has to detain you to force a search on you. detaining you would probably require assault, battery, and/or imprisoning you. all of those things are illegal. if it turned out that you actually did steal something, they’re allowed to assault and imprison you to recover their losses. if you didn’t, they have no protection under the law.

    the rent-a-cop who physically forces you to submit to a search is gambling that you have actually stolen something. if he loses that gamble, he can face civil and criminal penalties.

    the only defenses in court to that are witnesses and video evidence showing that you attempted to conceal an article and (in some states) made an attempt to leave the store without paying. the witnesses must see your entire person starting from the moment you choose the thing you are attempting to steal until the moment you leave the store.

    failure to witness and/or videotape those things leaves the rent-a-cop and retailer without defenses against assault, battery and imprisonment.

  10. Whether or not refusing to let them search you is grounds for reasonable suspicion maybe it’s not, but the script will most certainly happen like this:

    *You’re walking out of Best Buy when suddenly…*
    Best Buy Clerk: Sir, do you mind if I check your bags?
    Consumer: Go screw yourself, I read on the consumerist.com you don’t have the right do check my bags.
    Best Buy Clerk: Ah but since you’re not letting me now I have a suspicion that you are stealing!
    Consumer: Ohho! But I have you there, faceless grunt of the combine known as Best Buy, because refusing to let you search me is not reasonable suspicion.
    Best Buy Clerk: That’s awesome, can I check your bags now?
    Consumer: Go fuck yourself! Didn’t you hear what I said?
    Best Buy Clerk: Oh so you’re being resistant, that looks suspicious to me. Let me detain you.

    See? You clearly can’t win. You could keep up the fight and let them unlawfully detain you and then sue them in court but your actions prior to being detained are going to be judged as part of their lawfulness. The moral of the story is that you’ll look like a tool if you flail around like an idiot going “Hey man I’ve got rights!” and to pull it off and still save face would take some tact.

    So it seems to me the easiest way to accomplish the task is to just ignore the fucker when he asks to search for your bags. Let him tackle you to the ground as you’re walking out the door if he wants to search you so badly but don’t verbally or physically acknowledge him in any way.

    • Kicken says:

      @something_amazing:
      “don’t verbally or physically acknowledge him in any way.”

      Yea, that is pretty much the sure-fire solution to anything annoying that you are not obligated to participate in. Salesman? Ignore. Charity you can’t give to? Ignore.

  11. DaveB says:

    Wow, are we all about to take part in the best homework assignment ever?
    To see who gets stopped and detained, who fights back, who actualy has stolen something?

    Seriously though, I’m not a trouble maker but this could be fun.

  12. oh btw, turn your sarcasm detectors on for the last paragraph :P

  13. Most store policies are “reasonable suspicion” is actually seeing you take something, and following you, making sure you don’t ditch it, until you exit the store.

    There’s WAY too much to lose in litigation for a false positive.

    Although if they want to be real bastards “forgetting” to check the bottom of your shopping basket is grounds for a shoplifting charge.

  14. Bokonon says:

    something_amazing: the ONLY thing they can use as reasonable suspicion is seeing you conceal something that’s on sale THEN following you through the store. the clerk is not a law enforcement officer–it’s legal to ‘resist’ a clerk just as it’s legal to ‘resist’ a panhandler who wants a quarter.

    ‘your actions prior to being detained’ WON’T be judged as part of their lawfulness. they have no right to search you at all, and if they don’t have clear proof that you concealed something, they lose in court, no matter what they say.

    the proper way to look at this is that it’s illegal for the store to detain you, but the law is willing to forgive the store for detaining you if you actually stole something. if you didn’t, there’s no forgiveness for the store.

  15. Bokonon says:

    Electoral College Dropout / re: checking the bottom of a shopping basket: though note that it’s not an open-and-shut case of shoplifting if they forget to check and you leave the store. they’d still have to prove intent.

    (contrast with: concealing something. in nearly all states, it’s de facto demonstration of intent to steal)

  16. OK, I’ve put my mind to it and I’ve come up with the solution.

    When the guy asks to check your stuff, you need to ask him point blank: “Do you suspect me of shoplifting from your store?”

    If he says yes, then submit to it, if he says no, then tell him that he has no legal grounds to search you and walk right on by. (you’re on your own after that)

  17. homerjay says:

    Cool! Homework! Does this mean we get a Gawker expense account for which to make these purchases???

  18. Triteon says:

    When the guy asks to check your stuff, you need to ask him point blank: “Do you suspect me of shoplifting from your store?”
    If he says yes, then submit to it, if he says no, then tell him that he has no legal grounds to search you and walk right on by. (you’re on your own after that)

    I think this is a very good idea.

    How is it casinos have such tight security (supervisors everywhere, multiple cameras over each table) and even with the enormous taxes they pay are profitable, yet many Big Box retailers feel the best defense against theft is a guy at the door with a magic marker?

  19. I’d revise your idea one bit. If the person says “Yes, I suspect you of shoplifting,” I’d say “Then you’d better call the police because I’m not letting you look in my bag.”

  20. georget99 says:

    Last summer I bought a $29 DVD player at Wal-Mart. On the way out, the door alarm started beeping. An employee rushed up and I obediently showed him my receipt. He then started to reach for the unbagged DVD player in my arms saying he had to deactivate the “inventory control tag.” I told him, “Sorry, it’s my DVD player tag now, you saw that on the receipt.” They were clearly upset that a mere customer should assert their property rights. I wished them a good day and left unimpeded.

  21. E-Bell says:

    “Reasonable suspicion” is supposed to be objective. It has to be “articulable.” That is, a hunch won’t cut it. “Looking suspicious” won’t cut it. Concealing merchandise will.

    And if there is reasonable suspicion, you can bet your ass that it won’t be the receipt-checker who stops you. It’ll be loss prevention, who have been following you since you attracted their attention.

  22. Boo says:

    when I worked in customer service we were told there were five things that you actually had to witness/do before you were allowed to detain someone. The customer had to:

    1. take an item
    2. conceal the item
    3. leave the store
    4. clerk has to confront the customer
    5. refuses to pay for item

    even then you weren’t supposed to stop the person, just call the cops. Management was worried we would get beat up and then Worker’s Comp. would get in a tizzy.

  23. RandomHookup says:

    So when does the anal probe come into play?

  24. John Jenkins says:

    I don’t think this reporter is entirely correct for reasons I talked about in another thread: there is such a thing as an unwritten contract and in some states it is possible that the signs at the front of stores that reserve the right to examine packages will be given force if those signs are in prominent locations.

    As a practical matter, almost all retailers (all the ones I worked for) DO have a policy that says to stop someone:

    (a) an employee must see the person conceal an item;
    (b) employees can never lose sight of the person after that (for fear of ditching);
    (c) only management employees can stop someone, and only after he or she has passed the checkout area; and
    (d) no one is to pursue a suspected shoplifter beyond the area of the store’s exit.

    There are concerns about liability in both directions here, to the suspected shoplifter, and the employee in the event of injury.

    Acting against company policy does not necessarily place someone outside the law, but it may protect the store from respondeat superior liability (I say *may*, because it would have to be outside the scope of employment to do so, and merely violating a policy may not rise to that level; it will almost certainly protect the employer from secondary causes of action about creating an environment that allowed an injury to happen).

    As I noted before, there is a shopkeeper’s privilege in most states that kicks in on reasonable suspicion, if they can prove reasonable suspicion and you resist, you can incur liability. Conversely, if they can’t show reasonable suspicion, they may be liable. Whether a certain set of circumstances constitutes reasonable suspicion is a fact question (though statutes may make certain things presumptively so: Oklahoma has one such statute).

    @droppedD, certainly not by itself.

    @Bokonon, the Fourth Amendment is not a restriction on private actors, like store employees. It only applies to government intrusions. A real cop working as a security guard MIGHT trigger it in the right circumstances, but a store employee never will (unless bizarrely the store is a government actor, maybe AAFES?).

    @Bokonon, All manner of competent evidence would be permitted in a tort case, not just those you listed. The actual defense is shopkeeper’s privilege, the evidence you discuss goes to show an element of that defense, reasonable suspicion. The shopkeeper could still have exceeded the privilege (deadly force, for example, is never permitted). It might still end up as the word of the suspected shoplifter versus the word of the store employee, and I’d bet on juries agreeing with the employee 8 of 10 times on reasonable suspicion.

    Note that there is always the possibility for criminal charges, as well as civil damage awards for both sides in an altercation, particularly if the use of force is disproportionate. e.g. severely injuring someone who got in front of you and asked to see your bag (or possibly even striking that person) would possibly be unreasonable force and subject *you* to civil and criminal liability.

    @Triteon,

    The gross margins for a casino dwarf those for the most profitable retail stores (e.g. high-end clothing stores), that’s how.

  25. weave says:

    I’m with pacifistviking on this one. I’d be concerned that if you decide to have a confrontation with a rent-a-cop, said person now has a stake in the outcome of confrontation if it escalates and they may basically frame you. Pretty much in a case where a store calls the police for shoplifting, you’re going to be assumed guilty and not innocent until it reaches the courtroom basically. Don’t want it to go that route.

    So I would refuse a search, ask them to call the police if they are so sure, and tell them they better damn well be sure because when said police officer searches and finds nothing, a report saying such will be written and that becomes exhibit #1 in your lawsuit against them.

  26. homerjay says:

    johnjenkins- You threw a lot of words into that comment. You seem to be a lawyer. Can you sum it up in such a way that your average Joe Sixpack (thats abs, not beer, baby!) like me can understand?

    :)

  27. RumorsDaily says:

    Triteon – the guy checking receipts at the door isn’t there to stop shoplifters, he’s there to stop the cashiers from stealing. In a big store, a cashier could collude with his buddy to bring up 20 expensive items to the register and then only charge him for one. He’s gone through the charade of buying the things and it would be difficult for anyone to realize what has happened, except that suddenly the store is understocked by 19 items.

  28. Bokonon says:

    JohnJenkins: I stand corrected then. My information was based on what a lawyer who is experienced in defending people wrongly accused of shoplifting told me.

    Also, I know first-hand two cases in which the employee’s “reasonable suspicion” was rejected by a jury because the people “suspected” (and subsequently tackled (one case) or handcuffed (other case) by the employees did not have the merchandise on them, and the store (grocery store in both cases) couldn’t come up with any video evidence. They had weak evidence of “suspicious behavior” and wandering the store without making purchases and repeatedly selecting merchandise and replacing it.

    That’s called a poor college student deciding to save money, not suspicious behavior. That’s what the jury believed.

  29. Triteon says:

    JohnJenkins: first, let me second Homer’s request (but with beer, not abs). Great post, great insights and very well stated.
    But also– and I know there’s a number of ways to parse financial statements– but taking a quick glance at top-line numbers from recent 2006 SEC filings for two well-known corporations, Best Buy and Harrah’s:
    BB fiscal ’06 (PJ): net earnings of $1.14 billion on $30.8 billion in revenue
    Harrah’s (9 months ending 30 Sep): net earnings of $488.1 million on $7.2 billion in revenue
    With this quick glance, sin is sexy and pays/share but big-screens bring the Benjamins.

  30. Triteon says:

    Ingen, just to clarify– I never said shoplifting, I said theft. I recognize the difference.

  31. John Jenkins says:

    @Triteon, Those kind of data are easily manipulable (see Enron, Wordcom, etc.). Loot at the numbers. The ratio for BB is about 3.7%. The ratio for Harrah is about 6.67%. The casino business is MUCH more profitable, it’s just smaller. The gross margin on the average television is not very high. and since there is very little regulation, the competition among retailers cuts it even lower. Regulated industries like gambling are protected from that. Think about it this way: the most expensive part of any retail/service operation is labor. The casinos have higher labor costs per “customer” yet they have almost twice the earnings:revenue ratio. That’s pretty good. Plus, Harrahs can only operate legally in a few places, while there are BBS all over the place. Even in Peoria.

    @Bokonon, I am surprised it went to a jury. Most of the time I’d expect a settlement, or a disposition on summary judgment. It would be rare to let it get to the jury, from the perspective of the store (nothing good can come from it, usually, because you can’t generally get attorney fees).

    @homerjay, I am afraid you’ll have to be more specific because I am not sure what you mean.

    The very shortest answer is that whether a store can stop you will depend on (a) whether there is an agreement, express or implied, that the store can stop you; or (b) the merchant has a reasonable suspicion that you’re stealing merchandise. That’s very general though, and some state laws are more more favorable to the customer than others (e.g. in Oklahoma, shoplifting of $50.00 is a felony and there are strong statutory protections for merchants). I’d expect New York law (where the reporter is from) to be more friendly (for lack of a better word) to the putative shoplifter, both if the person is a shoplifter (higher threshold for felonies), and if the person isn’t (fewer protections for merchants).

  32. Law-Vol says:

    Here’s the skinny from the don’t-ask-me-ask-someone-with-a-license legal department:

    1. Refusal to submit to a search DOES NOT establish reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or any other standard of belief necessary to legalize a search.

    2. No presumption of cause or suspicion can EVER arise from a detainee’s refusal to submit, voluntarily, to a search. A search must be grounded in cause ab initio.

    3. A search by anyone other than a duly authorized law enforcement officer is NEVER mandatoy: if a store wants to have you searched, they must: (a) place you under Citizen’s Arrest, (b) state the grounds for so doing, and (c) contact a law enforcement officer to (d) then conduct a search.

    4. A store that does not observe the above procedure may be civilly liable for: (a) assault (intentionally placing you in reasonable apprehension of receiving an imminent, harmful or offensive contact), (b) battery (intentionally causing a harmful or offensive contact to your person or anything having the least connection therewith), (c) false imprisonment (confining you against your will by threat of battery or other adverse action), and (d) trespass to chattel (interfereing with your use and enjoyment of the personl property you have just acquired at their store).

    My inner libertarian demands that I encourage you NEVER to submit to private infringement of your liberties. ALWAYS assert your rights.

    What, after all, is informed consumerism about?

  33. Skeptic says:

    “Law-Vol” has just pointed out the key point. The only way a store can legally stop you from leaving is to place you under Citizen’s Arrest. But you can only (in California, anyways) put someone under citizen’s arrest if you actually witness a crime. You can’t do it based on suspiccion. Technically, you have just as much authority to arrest them, if you’ve witnessed them commit a crime but I suspect the Courts and Police don’t see it that way…

    [INAL, please correct me if you are and I’m incorrect in this post.]

  34. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Yes, Law-Vol is right. And John Jenkins is not, in that a sign stating “you waive your rights if you shop here” is not enough to actually waive your rights. If this were true, I could put a sign outside my house that says, “If you step on my lawn then you are agreeing that it is okay for me to kick your ass”, and not go to jail for assault. Obviously this is false.

    The condition of “express or implied” waiver of a right is true — for instance, this is why CostCo can check your receipt — but in order for that to hold, the person must have had a reasonable chance to DISagree with the proposition. Passing through a doorway is in no way the same as agreeing, verbally or orally, to waive a right. If you sign something (a la Costco), or if someone stops you inside the door and says, “You understand that by shopping here, you’re giving us the right to search you?” and you say, “Yes”, then sure, you’ve given consent.

    I base this analysis on the fact that my family is full of lawyers, and I’ve worked for lawyers for five years now. (I’m still a student.)

    The correct answer, every lawyer has told me, is to do exactly what’s been said above: Ask if they saw you steal something. If they say no, walk away. If they say yes, tell them to call the cops. That way you avoid a fight, protect your rights and are in the best possible position to sue if they are screwing with you. Oh, and if they refuse to call the cops and continue to harass you? Get the attention of bystanders and inform them that you intend to sue and would like people to volunteer as witnesses.

    -PureDoxyk

  35. John Jenkins says:

    For those of you who got your legal education through watching Andy Griffith reruns (Citizen’s Arrest! Citizen’s Arrest!), you should really become familiar with the principle of shopkeeper’s privilege. At common law, a merchant is generally privileged to detain you using reasonable force for a reasonable amount of time if the merchant reasonably suspects you of shoplifting. Most states now have a statutory shopkeeper’s privilege.

    @Law-vol: your point #3 is simply wrong. Special needs searches come to mind, by non-law enforcement government employees. Your employer can search your work computer or even your office, you can be asked to show the contents of a bag when you leave the place you work, etc. That’s not even thinking hard on the problem.

    Moreover, through contract, you can have agreed to a search, which would then be perfectly lawful in any event.

    Your #4 is a law school answer. Look at these elements! Here’s what could happen! It’s a fine answer for a torts final. Torts finals aren’t the real world and ignore an important issue: what are your damages. Okay, you win, now what? They won’t be much, most likely, and won’t be worth it when attorney fees and costs are taken into account.

  36. John Jenkins says:

    @Mary, if the waiver is conspicuous, it can create a contract. You may simply NOT ENTER the store if you refuse to agree. It’s the same principle as clickwrap licensing. (See ProCD vs. Zeidenberg- just google it). No one has to stop you and say, hey you consent to being searched if you come in here. As I said, it will vary from state to state, but it is possible to create a contract that way.

    I base this on actually being a lawyer and knowing that the law is not as black and white as we might always like it to be.

  37. Musician78 says:

    I don’t understand how “Citizen’s Arrest” actually work. If I don’t want to stop, then what? Do they chase you to you car repeating “citizen’s arrest! citizen’s arrest!!”?

  38. ElizabethD says:

    All this fuss…. If you haven’t “lifted” something, why would you mind having your bag and your receipt checked? I know, I know; it’s the principle. But is it really worth all this forethought and then the unpleasantness of (figuratively) flipping the bird at some minimum-wage store factotum? Yawn.

    • KevinReyn says:

      @ElizabethD:

      While on the surface my initial reaction to your very common response to this is to agree. However at some point it becomes a point of contention. Our country was founded on a lot of these contentions. But lets amp it up a little bit at a time and see where your comfort level is? Please draw a line where you believe it is unreasonable.
      1. Check your reciept was you leave the store?
      2. Stop and search your car as you attempt to leave the parking lot?
      3. Driving home from work you get pulled over, cuffed (for your safety) put in the back of the car while they search your car because you seemed shifty when you passed me?
      4. Sound asleep at 4am a knock at the door to find armed police who would like to come in and check to make sure you dont have any drugs and or stolen items in your house?

      By your assertation you would gladly submit to every one of these situations because you “havent got anything to hide?” Well I doubt you would and what it ultimately comes down to is a slippery slope of what is and what is not acceptable vs what is and what is not legal. Even the largest, strongest tree can be taken down by the smallest of beavers, one small bite at a time.

      Unfortunately the poor sap who has been told to check reciepts is probably not a bar certified lawyer. As such he is just trying to do his job. In the same way I will just try and do my job as a law abiding american citizen and stand up for and cherish my rights.

      I will simply and in a calm non threatening manner ask them if they suspect me of shoplifting? If they say no then in the same tone I will calmly inform them that they have no legal right to search and or detain me if I choose not to submit, which I am doing so right now and I plan to walk out the door. If that is not satisfactory I will gladly have a seat right over there while we wait for a police officer to come and sort this out. I will also point out that if the officer finds nothing I will press charges for illegal detention.

      Its elegant, simple and non-confrontational. I think the critical part of this is how you approach the situation. If you approach it as an educational opportunity then maybe they will understand what they can and cannot do without having a major disturbance on thair hands.

  39. Falconfire says:

    Here is a interesting question. What if its a cop doing the search? The BestBuy in Totawa NJ has cops standing near the door with the checker. What if I say no to the searcher and they bring the police in without having clear evidence that I did anything wrong. Could I then sue BestBuy AND the City of Totawa for harasment?

    • KevinReyn says:

      @Falconfire:
      All they have done is saved you the time of having to call them. I think at that point it just continues on the normal path of please write up a report and let me handle the lawsuit after the fact.

      I also imagine that there is something to being on or off duty too that could come into play. I am not a lawyer but I will stand for my rights.

  40. Triteon says:

    I got most of my legal education from watching The Paper Chase and one course in contract law. I applaud both JohnJenkins and Law-Vol not only for their insights, but also for identifying themselves as lawyers.

  41. Bokonon says:

    The key with shopkeep’s privilege, though, is _reasonable_. It’s very clear that declining to be searched is not a ‘reasonable’ reason to detain someone.

  42. formergr says:

    falconfire, are you sure they are actual cops? Your post doesn’t specify, but are they in the store by the doors, or just outside? If they are real cops, that is very bizarre, and I imagine some taxpayers wouldn’t be too happy knowing their money is going to protect Best Buy merchandise.

  43. I don’t really understand why people care so much about having some high-school/college kid draw on their receipt with a highlighter. It’s a hassle when it’s busy, but then again, you’ve already been waiting in line for 20 min or more… Is having to wait in line to buy a product detaining you without reason?

    However, realizing that JohnJenkins is a lawyer, I don’t think that placing a sign at the entrance to a store is sufficient notice for waiving personal rights through an implied contract.

    Perhaps you could interpret the law in that way, but I think there is plenty of case-law and precedent that would suggest that posting “notice” such as a “No Trespassing” sign or otherwise does not necessarily grant you the rights that John suggests or any rights otherwise. Unless you are a government, you won’t win many suits based on a sign at the entrance to your store.

    • KevinReyn says:

      @crayonshinobi:
      I think the fundamental difference is that you have to pay for what you are attempting to purchase. To pay for the item you must wait in a queue for the next available register. You then must by law hand cash or credit in exchange for the product. Once you have done so your obligation for the exchange of the product is complete. In essence you have decided to endure the 20 min wait for the item which at any given point you could decide to put the item back and leave.

      Now you have completed the transaction and you now “own” your nice noew shiny whatever. You do not choose to be inspected, searched, probed, asked to bend over and cough, and or cavity searched for the privilidge of exiting the establishment with legally aquired product.

      Is it a nit? You bet your ass it is. But again I ask where is the line drawn? You might be happy to live your life as a lemming doing what your told when and how your told but that is not the way I was brought up. Life is a game which has rules to be played by, but is a game really a game if only one side has to play by the rules?

  44. Principia says:

    Costco member here.

    If I recall correctly from my membership agreement (and I’ve been a member since it was still called The Price Club, so bear with me here), you agree to have your items checked against your receipt as a condition of membership. Hence by definition if you are in there as a member, you’ve consented to the checking. I’d be willing to bet the one-day guest passes use similar language.

    I’ve never seen a shoplifter caught by this process. What I *have* seen several times is the checker finding that someone’s bought one of the high-ticket/easily-lifted items that comes in a dummy package… and that they’d failed to turn it in for the real item, which has to be done at the time of purchase. Whereupon the clerk would kindly direct them to the service desk so they don’t end up with little Tommy unwrapping an empty plastic shell on Christmas morning.

  45. srhb says:

    The bottom line: Unless you’re in a “members only” type of store such as Costco, no one has the right to legally demand a receipt upon exiting the store. Furthermore, no one has the right to inspect your – yes YOUR merchandise upon exiting. You paid for it – you own it! Demanding a receipt and / or a search of your merchandise implies a suspicion of theft. As a law abiding citizen I take offense to such implication. A couple of years ago this idiot at a Wal-Mart store demanded my receipt and I refused. He then tried to stop me from leaving the store by grabbing the pushcart containing MY PAID FOR merchandise. Needless to say, this clown didn’t succeed in his endeavors and I proceeded to my car and placed my purchased merchandise in my trunk. I then went back to the store and asked for the manager – who turned out to be yet another idiot who concurred with his employee. Not believing my argument about his illegal actions I insisted that he called the police; he did. Best of all, it was very satisfying to see the expression on this clown’s face when the police told him that neither they not he have any legal authority to demand a receipt from me. I then wrote a letter of complaint to S. Robson Walton – the Chairman of Wal-Mart and by the time everything was said and done, they made the store manager personally come to my home to apologize and offer me a gift card for my troubles. Know your rights, and don’t let people intimidate you! By the way, had this guy grabbed me instead of my pushcart, I could have had him charged with assault!

  46. Mike_ says:

    No you couldn’t. Simple battery maybe. IANAL, tho.

  47. Difdi says:

    And if they don’t have Reasonable Suspicion that you’ve shoplifted and detain you anyway, they are guilty of at least one felony. Reasonable Suspicion is a legally defined term, not some random person’s hunch.

    Refusing a search or a receipt check doesn’t meet the legal definition.