Receipt Checking Is For Pussies

David Pelfrey never lets Costco check his receipt. He always gets away with it.

    “One problem with this receipt-checking system is that on busy days it forces customers to form long lines at the exit. On some of my visits, I decided to roll past this line with my items, now that I owned them, and head straight to my car. The first time I tried this, a woman shouted at me to return to the store. I believe she was still yelling “Sir! Sir!” as I departed Patton Creek and approached the interstate ramp.”

— BEN POPKEN

Customer Confidential [Black & White] (Thanks to Malatron!)

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  1. WindowSeat says:

    The receipt checkers for the most part know its bullshit, the customers know its bullshit, will someone PLEASE inform management?

  2. Uurp says:

    You know what’s worse? When the alarm goes off, happened to me at Kroger a few months ago. Like the sheep that I am, I waited for a pimply employee to rifle through my belongings, and he was very proud of his detective skills as he held up the item for his supervisor to see and yelled out, “It was the Preparation H that set it off!”

    Honest, it was for my wife.

  3. acambras says:

    I’m going to try to do most of my holiday shopping online, but I’ve been wondering what I might do in a situation like this. I’m thinking that maybe the way to go is to, when asked for your receipt, insist (politely but firmly) upon speaking with a store manager. Tell him/her that, whatever the reason for the receipt checks, you don’t like spending your money in a store only to be treated like a criminal on the way out.

    If enough people complain about this (to management, not just to the receipt checker), the higher-ups will get wind of it and something might happen.

  4. Metschick says:

    All of these posts lately have forced me to think about why it is that I really don’t care if they check my receipt. And it’s sad to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I’m Latina. I want to prove to them that I didn’t steal anything. And that sucks. (This is all about me, I’m not saying that other Latinos feel this way, because my dad firmly sides with all of you.)

  5. VA_White says:

    I don’t belong to Costco (the military commissary beats them on most items) but I never stop for a receipt checker anyplace and I don’t stop when I set off the alarm at the door.

    I’m not a thief and I will not be treated like one.

  6. maggie says:

    I am wondering if with a store like Costco, with a membership contract, you may have already agreed to such checks. Of course, if you are a long term Costco member, it may have been years since you read the contract. I have no idea where one might even find it! But this seems possibly different than Safeway or one of those electronics big box stores.
    I was standing at the customer service desk of a (now closed) Toys R Us last year. It was right by the “entrance” which had those automatic doors. Of course the doors work both ways. While I was being served, a “customer” wheeled a shopping cart jammed pack with toys right out the “entrance” door setting off all those beeping alarms. Did ANYONE do ANYTHING? Nope. The staff looked at each other helplessly. The “security guard” who spends most of her time checking receipts, looked the most confused, as though something might be expected of her under these circumstances. The salesperson said, to no one in particular, “It’s not my store.” My 12 year old son loves this story. I did point out to him that this store, and most other ToysRUs stores have closed.

  7. DeeJayQueue says:

    metschick:
    that’s the great thing about living in the US… you don’t have to prove anything to anybody (unless they’re the police and have a warrant).

    If you feel that there is a stigma attached to latinos/as regarding theft rates, then that’s a personal issue for you to deal with, but the burden is on the store to prove you DID steal something, not on you to prove that you DIDN’T. If they can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, i.e., you’ve got several DVDs in your pants, or a vacuum sticking out of your coat, they can’t do anything to stop you.

  8. As a practical concern: does paying an employee (admittedly little) at every store to check receipts save the money that could be lost on shoplifting (considering, of course, that even with the receipt checkers some shoplifting is still going to succeed)?

  9. Metschick says:

    If you feel that there is a stigma attached to latinos/as regarding theft rates, then that’s a personal issue for you to deal with

    It definitely is a personal issue for me to deal with, and it particularly sucks because I’ve never even been accused of shoplifting!

  10. Smoking Pope says:

    Slightly OT anecdote that illustrates why it’s SO important for stores to go by all the rules for determining if you’re shoplifting (specifically watching you at all times after you’ve been seen pocketing something):

    When I was about 13 a friend cooked up a scheme to piss off a local 5 and dime store that was notorious for treating customers like crooks (all very elderly women, and they’d flagrantly follow anyone under 30).

    We walked into the store and when he was sure he was being watched, he pocketed a 49 cent squirt gun. As soon as the old bat ran off to tell someone, he put it back. He then proceeded to pick up about $200 in board games and go to the checkout counter.

    They rang up the games and then demanded to see what was in his jacket. After raising a very loud fuss, he showed them his jacket was empty. He then refused to buy the $200 in board games and loudly castigated them for the whole world to hear. Then he stormed out in a huff. All that at 13 years of age. Funny.

    Anyway, the point of all this is treating your customers like criminals WILL cost you business. That may work out for you if you have a lot of theft, but most of the time it just gives business to your competitors.

  11. I always hear mention of there possibly being a receipt check agreement within membership contracts for Costco, Sams Club, etc., but I don’t think anyone has ever verified this. I don’t belong to one, so I can’t do it.

    Anyone want to look into this once and for all?

  12. Ben says:

    It makes managers feel better, I think. I’ve come out of Sam’s with $300 worth of groceries literally overflowing the cart, and they check my receipt in four seconds. Another day I’ll come out with three items and they’ll scrutinize everything for a thirty seconds or more. It all depends on how long of a line there is at the door, it seems.

    Another thing that is there to make you feel better? “This seat may also be used as a flotation device.” How often is there anybody left to float?

  13. georget99 says:

    It’s on their web site in their membership welcome brochure. It’s a PDF which they have apparently protected from copying to the clipboard, so I’ll just do the sections that mention it.
    ———————————-
    9. General Policies

    - Costco reserves the right to inspect any container, backpack, briefcase, etc., upon entering or leaving the warehouse.

    - To ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased, all receipts and merchandise will be inspected as you leave the warehouse.
    ——————————

    At BJ’s I once asked the checker at the door what would happen if someone bypassed him. He said, “That won’t happen, but if it did, you wouldn’t be able to return the merchandise if the receipt isn’t punched.”

    I then said that it didn’t look very hard to punch it myself. He answered that “You’ve got to know where to punch it.”

    The implication presumably being they punch in different places depending on criteria such as time, day, secret punch spot of the day, or maybe a secret list distributed daily on flash paper.

    In 3 years of shopping there, they’ve always punched in exactly the same place.

  14. wikkit says:

    I think its been pointed out here before when talking about the Best Buy bouncers, most of the theft issue with these retailers is from the employees not the customers. If the 80 year old reciept checker helps the management sleep better at night, power to them, I’m not shopping at their store.

  15. RumorsDaily says:

    Wikkit, thank you, I try to make this point in every one of these threads.

    The guards are not there to stop shoplifters, they’re there to stop the cashier from having his buddy buy 50 expensive items, only ringing up one, walking out of the store and then splitting booty. It looks legit to the casual observer because he went by a cashier, paid, and has a receipt. You’ll need someone at the door (or on a video camera) to catch that.

    That being said, why would a non thieving customer have any incentive to stop for it? I know I don’t.

  16. infinitysnake says:

    At costco you do agree. You are still not legally required to submit- but the first time yuou refuse, they can drop you. Not that they’re not polite- they’re certainly nicer than most stores, at least on a management level. I returned to the store one day when the bottom of a box of blueberries blew out- they replaced the berries, put them in a little bag, and I headed out, berries in one hand, baby in the other. The gal at the door demanded my receipt, i told her there wasn’t one, it was just a replacement, and to look to the cs desk two feet away for confirmation. Well, instead she decided to grab my bag while her friend tackled me. She knocked my son out of my arms in the process. Needless to say I was plenty pissed but they did handle it very quickly, and I haven’t seen her since.

  17. konstantConsumer says:

    while it is annoying to have to stop there, the costco people have helped me out a couple of times. the cashier will sometimes ring up too many items, and the door checker has caught it every time. it’s annoying that the cashier messes up, but i was glad it was caught before i had to drive all the way back to the store.

  18. Solo says:

    The Costcos I frequent like to mark my receipt with a long squiggly line of pink highlighter. And they never pay alot of attention to what is in the cart. At best, they count the items and make sure it matches the number on the receipt.

    Fry’s electronics does the same thing.

    I’ve always assumed marking the receipt was to prevent someone from reenterting the store and getting the same item, skipping the checkout (when those stores are fairly busy, nobody would notice)

    This led me to wonder how hard it would be to hatch a devious scheme involving a thermal printer and a laptop… but the consequence of shoplifting are so disproportionate with the actual crime, this is not something to test practically.

    I don’t think it makes a difference for me if they check the receipt or not. I skip the line if there is one when I don’t feel like waiting. I have this weird feeling of getting away with something, but in reality, I’m just missing a squiggly pink line on my receipt.

  19. miss_smartypants says:

    I absolutely always walk right past the door-checkers, ocasionally appending “No, Thank you” if the checker seems to have a human level of courtesy and intelligence. I am left furious when my fiance meekly allows the checkers to stop and rifle through the purchases, but I let him do what he wants.

    What drives ME crazy, is when I store requires I surrender my purse, any bags from purchases at other stores, etc. in order to enter and browse their store. Some claim this is for my convenience in browsing…unhindered by my posessions, by my wallet and cell phone and car keys? Each of these stores nevertheless posts a conspicuous sign disclaiming all responsibility for any loss or damage to my personal items. THIS drives me insane: if you require me to surrender possession to the store, you MUST take responsbility.

    Needless to say, if I enter a store that refuses to accept my politely declining to surrender my posessions, I turn around and walk out. Nothing like treating me like a criminal BEFORE I’ve decided to buy anything that really gets me going.

  20. pestie says:

    I know it’s “just store policy,” but I refuse to be treated like a thief.

    Last week I was in Best Buy as a “consultant” for my mother, who was there buying a computer. After we made the purchase I picked up the computer and she carried the (much lighter) printer, and receipt. I reached the door first, where the “security” guy asked, “Can I see the receipt for the computer, sir?” I said, “Sure!” and kept on walking out the door. He didn’t even try to stop me. My mother stopped for him, though. She’s not nearly as rude as I am. Heh…

    I’ve occasionally had the door alarms trigger on my way out of a store like Wal-Mart, too. Again, I just keep walking. Nobody’s ever tried to stop me. In that case, because the alarms did actually sound, I would stop if they asked me to. I guess I just don’t look like a criminal, though, ’cause they never bother.

  21. screeg says:

    I liked everything he had to say, except this:
    “It’s an unpleasant fact of life that sometimes we must shop at Wal-Mart”

    Actually, there is no such fact. As a personal policy I have never set foot inside a Wal-Mart, and never felt biologically compelled to do so. Not giving these pricks your money is a much more significant sign of your disapproval than confounding their minimum wage drones.

  22. Starfury says:

    At Costco I’ll let them check the receipt; the door clerks are usually in a good mood and put a smiley face on the reciept that the kids like.

    Other stores (Fry’s electronics/BestBuy/CC) I will not stop. I’ll say “no thanks” and keep on walking. If they want to accuse me of shoplifiting let them. I work for a law firm and I’m sure I could get some pro-bono work for a case like this.

  23. NoThru22 says:

    I bet only 1 out of 20 people have this attitude that they just keep walking but it seems like the other 19 out of 20 are not the ones who would post in this thread. I agree that places like Best Buy should not ask to see your receipt but two things bug me:

    First, if you sign the Costco agreement, then you’re agreeing to have your receipt checked. If you don’t like it, don’t shop there. On the other hand, for the people who are afraid to just walk out, do you think they’ll check your membership and cancel it? I doubt it.

    Second, as I said, I can see the people who don’t want their receipt checked without reason, but if you set off the alarm, I think that is a good reason to prove you purchased your item. There is no need to be so combative about it.

  24. miss_smartypants says:

    Someone made a great point about the number of false-positives on those door alarms in another recent thread on this topic, and it’s the frequency of those false-positives that make me disagree that the beeping alarm raises any legitimate assumption that a customer has shoplifted. Thus, being falsely accused of comitting a crime makes me, not combative, but dismissive of the alarm or any request to stop and be searched.

  25. spanky says:

    I let Costco check my receipts, but I wouldn’t stop for anyone else. If they think I’m stealing, they can arrest me.

    In fact, many many years ago, some Target rent a cop chased me out into a parking lot and grabbed my arm while loudly accusing me of forgetting to pay for something. I was so gobsmacked that I meekly opened my purse and went back into the store with him to prove my innocence. It wasn’t until I left that I started getting mad and wishing I hadn’t been such a chickenbutt about it.

    I would go back to that Target every now and again and wander around trying to look fishy so that the guy would do it again. I never bought anything from them. I’d just walk around, picking things up, putting them back, scratching my ass, and looking around nervously.

    And it has never happened there or anywhere else in the probably fifteen years since.

    But I’m still spoiling for a fight. So someone–anyone–please accuse me of stealing. Please grab my arm and detain me unlawfully.

    I totally know what to do next time.

  26. bigoldgeek says:

    “Costco reserves the right to inspect any container, backpack, briefcase, etc., upon entering or leaving the warehouse.”


    Costco reserves the right? Did they ever have the right to reserve in the first place. They may want to check my anal cavity for iPods, but do they have the right? I think not.

    The police do have that right, of course, but not some rent-a cop.

  27. guavo says:

    You should test costco/bestbuy honesty checkers by hiding one of your items and see if they notice the missing item….could be good fun!

  28. major disaster says:

    You should test costco/bestbuy honesty checkers by hiding one of your items

    This actually happened to me yesterday at Costco by chance. They had stacked two bags of something on top of each other, and the woman either couldn’t see the bottom one, or couldn’t tell if it was actually two separate bags. So she asked me if I had two, and I just kind of stared at her blankly because I didn’t care. And then she marked my receipt and sent me on my way. It was kind of weird.

    Interestingly, this was the only time a checker has ever taken more than three seconds to check the receipt. As it turns out, this woman was also the same one who had been standing at the entrance when I went in, where they (apparently) make you prove you have a Costco card before they’ll let you in. I’ve seen people flash them going in, but I’ve always just walked right past them, because I don’t feel like digging it out of my wallet until I get to the checkout. This woman was the first one who ever stopped me and asked for it. So I’m guessing she was new, because at both ends she was making way more of a real effort than any of the other employees ever have.

  29. humphrmi says:

    Wow, a lot of comments here and too bad I didn’t catch this one when it was posted. So here’s my belated take on it: Costco likes to claim it’s their “right” they are reserving to inspect your packages on entry and exit. First of all, you do not need to reserve your rights. You either have them, or you don’t, and a piddly policy doesn’t give them any rights that they don’t have in the first place.

    They have the right to ask you to show them your posessions. You have the right to refuse. They have the right to call the police. If they give the police a good enough story, the police can determine that enough cause exists (for say, shoplifting) to compell you to show them your posessions. If you feel that there was not just cause to compel you to show them your posessions, you can take action against the police… usually limited to filing a report or complaint, but in some jurisdictions you could ostensibly file a lawsuit. That is the worst-case playout of this scenario. How far you take it depends on you. Of course, IANAL.

  30. Mike says:

    That actually did happen to me last December at the local Best Buy. I bought a DVD at a register within the store [not the front checkout lanes], and they didn’t bag it. I left, and the SensorMatic beeped on the way out. Door Nazi asked to see my receipt, I said no thank you, and kept walking.

    The interesting part happened when I noticed a couple cop cars parked just outside the entrance… maybe they were there because it was holiday shopping season; who knows… so the Door Nazi didn’t chase me… he had the police do it!

    The police confronted me and told me in no uncertain terms that they would arrest me for larceny unless I went back inside the store and showed them my receipt. It pissed me off to no end, and I confronted the manager about it, only to have the whole “gotta protect our assets” schpiel.

    I know there was something wrong about this situation but can’t figure out if I had the right to refuse the officers’ request. Anyone got an opinion here?

  31. FLConsumer says:

    If you guys REALLY want to get rid of the door alarms / receipt guys / etc, you need to make these items so time consuming & worthless to the companies that they get rid of them.

    Something I often do with friends (yes, we’re a bunch of kids at heart)… is to go into a large store (Wal-Mart/Target/Worst Buy/CompUSA/etc) and pop off the Sensormatic tags…. and hide them on various parts of shopping carts. The trick is to put them in places where they’re not easily seen/found. If you hit enough carts, the alarm will seemingly randomly go off for ever few customers. For extra effect, do this on a heavy traffic day…say, Black Friday, or during the Christmas shopping season.

    Does anyone have any info on how the Sensormatic tags work? Are they universal between stores or do certain tags only work within certain stores?

    Next, how do you guys handle libraries with gates/turnstyles that lock upon the theft alarm going off? I carry a lot of tech gear in my laptop bag and invariably, the library’s anti-theft alarm goes off, the gate locks, and I empty out the bag on the circulation desk… put everything back in the bag and the alarm still goes off… rinse, repeat…

  32. vertigo_motel says:

    Costco checking reciepts has nothing to do with shoplifting. All they are trying to do is create percieved value of the products you bought, when it is the same thing as other stores. In addition, they make you pull out your special card to get into their special “warehouse”, or they won’t let you in on all of the “savings,” even though anyone can get a card. It’s all about percieved value, so people subconsciously think they are getting a better deal. The same thing goes for the layout of a warehouse, where stuff comes and goes like a wholeseller, but when was the last time they never had a drill?

  33. georget99 says:

    I guess I’m a kid at heart, too. That’s a great idea sticking tags on carts! At BlockBuster, they pass the movie around the sensors, I pick it up and walk back in with it to ask them some dumb question. They always shout don’t do that, so I go back out, setting them off again.

  34. Mike_ says:

    Mike, part of me says you should have stood up to the cop:

    “I haven’t stolen anything, so the larceny statute doesn’t apply. And as far as I know, it’s not illegal to decline to be searched when leaving a store. If they’re accusing me of shoplifting, I’m happy to demonstrate to you that I paid for my merchandise. If they’re not accusing me of anything, I’d like to leave unimpeded, please.”

    … it’s probably not worth getting arrested over, though. If it were me, I probably would have returned to the store and insisted on speaking with a manager immediately:

    “I declined to show my receipt when leaving the store, and your employee summoned the police. If you’re accusing me of shoplifting, I can prove you have made a serious mistake. Otherwise, I would like to know how you’re going to correct the situation your LP agent has created here.”

  35. Tonguetied says:

    Costco and Sam’s Club are private clubs that you pay to join. As private clubs they have the right to place requirements on your membership/admittance to the store such as having to show your receipt before you leave with any merchandise.

    Public stores such as Target, Best Buy, Fry’s Walmart, etc. are open to the public and as such they don’t have the right to impose requirementst to show your receipt without probable cause.

    Now the odds are that you could get away without showing a receipt at Costco or Sam’s Club but you have violated the terms of your membership agreement. That is between you and your conscience. Me, if I sign an agreement I feel that I’m bound to it. Therefore I will show my receipt at Costco but I will walk right by the guy at Fry’s…

  36. silkyjoe says:

    costco is not the only store that does this SAM’S WHOLESALE CLUB as well as WALMART does this insanity i agreee you feel like you are being accused of stealing when your Not..
    walmart on 72nd street in gladstone,mo you walk in to return something they want you to walk further into the store to stand there and wait for some person to take the time to stop what they are doing to put on sticker on your item (each individual item)..thats not even the worst part i purchased a 32 inch tv the guy that wrang up my purchase and pushed the cart with my tv on it to the front door had to stop at the door greeter for the greeter to ck my receipt i never even touched to tv since the guy wrang it up someone please explain this one

  37. Bourque77 says:

    It depends on my mood if I’ll stop for the people checking receipts, if I dont want to leave me alone. If the stupid alarm goes off because your security system sucks and I keep on walking, leave me alone. Hell at places like wal-mart I check out myself, pay myself, and I made sure I wasnt stealing. They seem to expect me to do everything else for them I go ahead and handle security too.