Home Depot, Lord & Taylor, Walmart Hire Law Firms To Harass, Bully Alleged Shoplifters

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about retailers who hire law firms to engage in something called “civil recovery,” in which alleged shoplifters are harassed into paying thousands of dollars… even if the case against them has been dropped, or the retailer never intended to sue at all.

From the WSJ:

After Miami handyman Glenn Rudge was accused of shoplifting an $8 set of drill bits at Home Depot, he thought he’d settled the matter when he showed his receipt to prosecutors and they dropped the charge.

But a few weeks later, a law firm hired by Home Depot began sending him letters demanding first $3,000, then a total of $6,000, implying he’d be sued if he didn’t pay it.

In an escalating battle against theft, retailers are going after anyone suspected of shoplifting, turning over their names to lawyers and collection firms, who pursue the suspects for stiff penalties and split the take with the retailer.”

The WSJ says this process is a result of laws passed in all 50 states that were intended to help retailers cover the cost of securing their stores, but the way the laws were written has resulted in some strange behavior by retailers.

Lord & Taylor, for instance, never follows up civil-demand letters by suing suspected shoplifters, its loss-prevention manager said in deposition about a year ago, citing the cost of going to court. Lord & Taylor collected about $1 million in civil recovery from suspected shoplifters in a recent year, up from $850,000 the year before, the official testified.
The chain’s letters to suspected shoplifters are sent out by a Florida law firm called Palmer Reifler & Associates, which also handles the task for four dozen other clients, from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Walgreen Co., keeping 13% to 30% of what it collects. A partner at the law firm has said that it sends out about 1.2 million civil-recovery demand letters a year but follows up by suing fewer than 10 times a year.

Creepy. In the Home Depot case, the handyman purchased the drill bits on a previous trip to the store, and had them peeking out of his shirt pocket. A security guard spotted them and pulled him aside.

After he kept insisting he was innocent, the guard handcuffed him, walked him to an interrogation room in back and took the drill bits. Mr. Rudge asked to call home to have his wife bring in the receipt but the store wouldn’t let him, he said in a 2003 suit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, since settled. Home Depot declined to discuss specifics of his account.

Prosecutors charged the handyman with shoplifting, then dropped the charge in February 2003 when he showed them a receipt for the drill bits. But about a month later, according to his suit, he got a letter from the Palmer Reifler law firm demanding he pay a little over $3,000 within 20 days.

He ignored the demand. Then he got a letter demanding an additional $3,000, as “pre-litigation” attorney’s fees, for a total of just over $6,000. If he didn’t pay, one letter said, the sheriff’s office would be called to notify him if a lawsuit was filed.

Mr. Rudge was doing some handyman work for a lawyer and showed her the letters. “I took one look and said, ‘This is outrageous,’ ” says the lawyer, Alison Harke. “These letters are designed to make people settle because they believe they are going to jail.” She filed a suit against the retailer, the settlement of which is confidential.

We hope Barnes & Noble and Borders don’t do this. We’re always walking around with a book in our bag and when we find ourselves in book stores we start getting paranoid that the booksellers may have x-ray vision and a cynical outlook.

Big Retail Chains Dun Mere Suspects in Theft [Wall Street Journal](Thanks, Joseph !)
(Photo:Maulleigh)

Comments

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  1. MPHinPgh says:

    Truly horrifying. And this is _LEGAL_????

  2. The Foodtown where I used to work would charge shoplifters $150 to keep it out of the court system. I think at the time, $150 was the average a shoplifter took, and it saved the time of taking them to court and paying our security guys overtime, not to mention the stores not being watched while they were in court. We would have the police come in, take the report, and only press charges if they failed to pay.

  3. justbychance says:

    There goes the neighborhood :(

  4. MDSasquatch says:

    Hose Bags!

  5. no.no.notorious says:

    gawd, they’re all soooooo desperate.

  6. BlondeGrlz says:

    The other day I had a pair of shoes in my purse when I went into the grocery store.* The cashier gave me a really funny look but didn’t say anything. If it had been a shoe store I’m sure they would have. I thought most of the time unless security actually SEES you hide an object on your person they can’t hold you.**

    *It was raining so I wore boots to work.
    **This was the rule when I worked at Target.

  7. ogman says:

    Not surprising, especially from the highly anti-customer Home Depot.

  8. timetochange says:

    Lord & Taylor – on the boycott list
    Home Depot – on the boycott list
    WalMart – has always been on the boycott list

  9. mopar_man says:

    Can we get a list of all the stores that do this? I’d like to know which places to not shop at in the future (Wal-Mart and Home Depot are already on the list but I’d rather not support anyone else who does this).

  10. SchecterShredder says:

    Almost any scam like this could be considered “legal”. Just be careful not to get caught when stealing. It’s not that hard if you have any knowledge of how loss prevention in retail works.

  11. @blondegrlz:

    I think shoplifting laws vary from state to state. In CT you have to witness the shoplifter enter the store without the item, see them pull the item from the shelf, see them hide it, fail to pay for the item and exit the place of business

    that might just be the policy where I worked, but I think it’s state policy as well

  12. Beerad says:

    Yep. I had a friend in law school was was shopping at Urban Outfitters, bought over $100 worth of stuff, and was then arrested because a $6 pair of craptastic earrings wound up in her shopping bag (my friend’s theory is that the checkout counter was covered in small, crappy merch. and the clerk swept them or they fell into a bag with the purchases). Spent several hours in the pokey, made some futile attempts to negotiate with the company/”recovery folks” and ended up paying them a couple hundred bucks to stop harassing her. Mostly she was worried because she was applying to join the Bar and didn’t want to have to deal with some weird junk on her record in front of the fitness committee.

    And yes, I know this person extremely well and there is zero chance she was actually stealing the earrings.

    Anyway, UO and their affiliate stores lost a lot of future business that day; all of our friends now boycott them over it.

  13. jamesdenver says:

    Let them send letters. Just because someone sends you a letter saying you owe money doesn’t mean you even need to respond.

    If they can manage to find you, send you a summons to court, get a court date – then deal with it.

    But usually it doesn’t go that far. Just throw the damn letters away – am i right?

  14. Buran says:

    Why can’t we find out what’s done to these people? I don’t want to hear the C-word excuse. We deserve answers after these businesses treat the public like that.

    I’ve temporarily put things in my pocket while shopping before but always removed them and paid for them — I just do it if my hands are full or something. Never been hassled, ever. It’s not illegal to do that. Just illegal to leave without paying. And I’d be suing THEM for unlawful detainment seeing as “probable cause” has been determined, in the past, to “seeing customer place stock from shelf into pocket or other hiding place”. They didn’t have probable cause so they couldn’t detain him.

  15. bravo369 says:

    This is just plain stupid…But I also have to add that it’s just plain stupid that stores can’t walk up to someone they have reason to believe shoplifted and ask them some questions and have the fear of being sued. My GF worked retail and she had customers she KNEW were stealing and management wouldn’t allow her to do anything because she didn’t SEE them do it. how frustrating that was for her.

  16. mmcnary says:

    I found it interesting that the drill bit guy sued and won a settlement from HD. Sounds like a pretty lucrative bit of business, suing people for attempting to extort money from suspected shoplifters…

  17. Beerad says:

    @Beerad: Small detail I left out — the earrings beeped going through the security detectors, so there was no “sighting” or other evidence she had swiped them.

  18. DeeJayQueue says:

    So maybe it’s not just me that gets paranoid about trying to leave a store without having bought anything. They try so hard to corral everyone through the checkout lines, I guess to keep an eye on everyone. At Lowe’s or Home Depot where the lanes are nice and wide that’s no problem but at the supermarket I’ll be damned if I’m waiting behind someone in line just to leave the store.

    Or god help you if you go in the hardware store with a random bolt or drain trap or light bulb looking for compatible products. They look at you like you’re nuts. I’ve had people follow me around the store, hiding behind adjacent aisles and whispering into their walkies about my location, because I brought in some bits of projects I was working on to make sure I got the right stuff for them.

    I hate feeling like a criminal because a store doesn’t have what I want, or because I need to bring additional stuff into the store to make sure I buy the correct items.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:

    In fairness, the quotes from the story leave out a key element:

    This goal is evident in the way the laws are written. Many don’t simply authorize retailers to demand money from suspected shoplifters but say retailers must make such a demand before they can file a suit.

  20. bsalamon says:

    all it would take to get rid of this is someone with too much time, and money. shoplift a $1 candy bar, get caught, and escalate to a superior court that can handle matters of policy

  21. NefariousNewt says:

    @blondegrlz: If they were in your purse, and this was a grocery store, hopefully the funny face was only a commentary on the shoes, not their presence in your bag. “I need a price check on pumps in Aisle 12!”

  22. SWFL_Dan says:

    So you buy a watch at Walmart (well, not *me*, but someone…) and 2 weeks later you go back to Walmart wearing that watch. WHAM! Walmart Loss Prevention NAILS you for it. Lawyers call and write.

    Scary.

  23. drmrsthemonarch says:

    Isn’t Home Depot also the same company that has fired employees for following shoplifters out of the store, and attempting to stop them??

  24. BigBoat says:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    The X makes it sound cool.

  25. econobiker says:

    They are going after the run of the mill folks with this- not the fully organized crime crews which harvest their stores either by shoplifting or upc code switching.

    Home Depot:
    [deseretnews.com],1249,635155046,00.html
    [www.bizjournals.com]
    [www.cbsnews.com]

    Walmart:
    [www.eweek.com]

  26. rhombopteryx says:

    @MPHinPgh:

    Suing someone who steals your stuff to get it back or recover its cost – sure it’s legal…

    I’m glad stores sue shoplifters – it beats jacking up the prices for everyone.

    The problem here should be obvious, though. Make sure you know what you’re talking about first. Don’t call everyone suspicious a “shoplifter.” Don’t sue an “alleged” shoplifter if you can’t prove they did it.

    If you are a store dumb enough to call someone a thief, and they plausibly explain why they are not, and they are also convincing enough that the local prosecutor won’t bring charges, catch a clue. Otherwise you may find your store making “confidential settlements” like the one described.

  27. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    What scares me is not a letter threatening suit, or even a suit itself. What scares me is some NON-law enforcement security guard HANDCUFFED an INNOCENT US citizen.

    A security guard even ATTEMPTS to so much as “pull me aside,” and he will be looking down the barrel of my gun (I practice my second amendment right), as I will assume such an action is a threat to my life (which makes pulling my weapon legal in my state).

    You lay a finger on me (unless you are wearing a REAL badge from a REAL LEO agency), you better be prepared for the consequences.

  28. BlondeGrlz says:

    @NefariousNewt: I used to frequent and Asian grocery store that sold not only delicious produce but shoes and electronics. So not that out of the question after all!
    @discounteggroll: My Targets were in SC and VA and that was the complete policy there as well. Mostly the security guys just followed around people who looked suspicious hoping to deter the shoplifting in the first place, because arresting them for it was too difficult.

  29. FightOnTrojans says:

    @discounteggroll: Pretty much the same thing in California, just add that merchant’s agent must keep the person in sight AT ALL TIMES! Or at least that was the rule at one place I worked at. Seriously, I’m surprised that the guy in the story hasn’t considered suing HD for false imprisonment since some of the conditions you mentioned probably weren’t met. Nobody saw him enter without the item, nobody saw him pick it from the shelves, nobody saw him conceal it, and the only way it was seen/found was because it was poking out of his shirt pocket, indicating either he wasn’t trying to conceal it, or just isn’t very good at concealing items. I know that the place I worked at was VERY concerned about getting sued, so if those conditions weren’t met, then the LP people couldn’t stop the person suspected of shoplifting. Follow them around long enough, though, and they’ll do it again (this was at an amusement park, so the kiddies would usually go from store to store picking up whatever they wanted).

  30. azntg says:

    I’m no lawyer, but I think in the case where law firms sends letters threatening to sue after a case in court regarding the same matters have been dismissed, the person should write a letter back threatening to file charges for Malicious Prosecution. Mail fraud charges should also be considered.

    Normally, I tend to advocate not being so litigation happy. But sometimes you really gotta fight fire with fire!

  31. rhombopteryx says:

    @Buran:

    And I’d be suing THEM for unlawful detainment….

    And you’d be losing that suit.
    The big suxxors in this picture is that in pretty much every state a shop can detain someone suspected of shoplifting and it’s not kidnapping or false imprisonment – it’s exempt. You can be totally in the right as a customer but if they detain you and say “I suspected…” the store is scott free.

  32. cosby says:

    While this story is an example of the system going too far civil recovery does work well for both stores and people who steal from them.

    When I worked in retail they would do this with any store member caught stealing. Pretty much they would try to get them to admit to whatever they stole and setup a payment plan for them to repay the store for the damages. This was on top of any criminal charges that they might bring. It allowed the store to recover some of what was lost without spending a lot of money on a trial. For the few internal thefts where I had anything to do with catching the person the amount they were charged was based on the retail amount of what they stole.

    What gets me in this case too is the guy let them handcuff him. As soon as they tried to lay a hand on me all hell would have broken loose. I would have walked to the back with them and that is about it. If they tried to touch me though any of it they would have gotten a single warning before I would fight back.

  33. rhombopteryx says:

    @azntg:

    Second that.

    It’s not suspect at all that the law firm gets a categorical cut of any settlement? Sure sounds to me like the law firm has a conflict between its wallet and its obligation to only take meritorious cases. I’m pretty sure that most states have laws against lawfirms going into business with their clients.

  34. emjsea says:

    Yet another reason to stop shopping at brick and mortar stores. I’ll stick with the internets, thanks.

  35. rhombopteryx says:

    @emjsea:
    “I saw you put that in your cart! Now you’re just surfing off the page to another store – are you going to pay for that or not?”

  36. ChuckECheese says:

    This is sorta an old story. Over two years ago, the AG’s office in Okla was complaining that when companies (read: Wal-Mart) take on the task of civilly “prosecuting” shoplifters and bad-check writers, the law is often circumvented. Of course, they didn’t mention what I think is the bigger reason for their distress, which is that the gummint doesn’t get its cut in fines and fees when Wal-Mart’s doin’ it for themselves.

    WM claimed in the story that it was going its own way in order to streamline the process of dealing with shoplifting and bad checks, that they thought that taking their customers to the law created a bad public image (and somehow, creating their own recovery service would be better PR).

    In a rare moment of sympathy for retailers, I’m certain it is a huge pain to have to deal with state agencies when trying to prosecute thieves and recover damages. But this rabid-dog lawyer solution is definitely going too far.

  37. Shevek says:

    @aaron8301:

    It isn’t that I disagree with your sentiment, but I’d talk with a lawyer before you do something like that.

    In smaller stores, I’ll usually tell an employee when I enter if I have something they might sell. When I go into my local used bookstore, I usually pull my book out of my bag (they ask us to leave our bags with them, anyway) and tell them, “This belongs to me.”

  38. mike says:

    Well, in light of this…

    I’m going to sue everyone on the Consumerist because you have stole something. Either pay $9000 of attorney fees or risk being sued!

    I kid…I kid…

    But isn’t this what it all amounts to? I see all sorts of fraud happening with this. Send some old/naive people these letters, they’ll pay in a heartbeat.

  39. TheUncleBob says:

    First, some of you should know, merely concealing an item can get you arrested for retail theft in some states. Those of you who put an item in your pocket on the way to the check out shouldn’t.

    Second, (and I’m not saying this is the case here, but…) what’s to stop a customer from buying something, going into a store a week later, getting another one of the same item and sticking it in his/her pocket and claiming – I bought it last week, here’s my receipt!

    Third, shoplifters suck and this is just another reason why “civil rights” and such suck. If I own a store and I know personX is shoplifting, but I can’t *prove* it, I should simply be allowed to go up to personX and tell them I don’t want them in my store – and if they come in again, they’ll be charged with trespassing. Instead, if personX is 1/20th asian and homosexual, suddenly I’d be looking at some kind of civil rights lawsuit.

  40. carterbeauford says:

    I I were one of these stores, I would be more worried of the liabilities of being sued for false imprisonment if my security guards (not law enforcement officers) are starting to handcuff people. Not a law enforcement officer = you do not touch me without serious consequences.

    @AARON8301, I share your sentiments and also carry a concealed weapon, but would probably not resort to drawing unless I thought my life were in immediate danger, which is unlikely at the hands of a security guard. De-escalate the situation first, if that involves laying the security guard out on the ground then so be it. If I were a security guard I would be extremely apprehensive about attempting to handcuff someone, you never know who might not take kindly to it.

  41. bohemian says:

    I want a list of the stores that do this.

    What bothers me the most is the Home Depot incident is that this guy was totally innocent and was able to also prove it yet they still went after him. I understand them going after caught shoplifters in this manner but they are going after anyone even in the case of an obvious misunderstanding.

    I feel like now everything I carry on my person is suspect. Am I going to get harassed by Walgreens for having a partial bottle of contact rewetting drops in my bag? What about my scratched up MP3 player? This kind of bullcrap makes me want to buy everything online.

  42. bohemian says:

    @carterbeauford: Being female the idea of some greasy underpaid security guard at a big box store trying to handcuff me and drag me into a back room does not play well.

    I would WANT the cops to come and would make a scene until they do.

  43. RokMartian says:

    Sounds like they are taking their cues from the RIAA. “We can’t prove anything, but we’ll squeeze you anyway”

  44. coold8 says:

    That is why….

    Everyone should buy a kindle!

  45. rhombopteryx says:

    @bohemian:
    And that’s exactly why the whole “shopkeepers exepmtion” or “shopkeepers privilege” or whatever pretty much every particular state has blows soo much. Kidnapping & false imprisonment should be crimes, not crimes “unless the person doing it is a shopkeeper.”

  46. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    RHOMBOPTERYX:

    The big suxxors in this picture is that in pretty much every state a shop can detain someone suspected of shoplifting and it’s not kidnapping or false imprisonment – it’s exempt. You can be totally in the right as a customer but if they detain you and say “I suspected…” the store is scott free.

    This is not correct. In those states that do have some form of “shopkeepers privelege”, the store is only immune from liability if they can demonstrate a reasonable suspicion (Some states actually require probable cause, an even tougher standard) that you were actually shoplifting. And saying “I suspect he was stealing” or “he had drill bits in his shirt pocket” doesn’t cut it by a long shot.

    If they can’t provide clear, articulable facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you wer in fact shoplifting, they are NOT immune to liability

  47. William Mize says:

    As someone who also wanders around with books in my laptop bag and is known to frequent bookstores, the first thing I do when I purchase a book from Barnes and Noble, Borders or amazon is tape the receipt inside the back cover of the book.
    That way, at least I can prove that the book is, indeed mine, and I paid for it in full.

    /paranoia, OFF

  48. GearheadGeek says:

    @rhombopteryx: You may not have a criminal charge for wrongful imprisonment or kidnapping, but that’s not to say you wouldn’t win a civil case against them for holding you. Unless they could successfully get the case dismissed before it went in front of a jury, I’d put the odds in favor of the plaintiff in a civil proceeding about an innocent person getting hauled into a closet bristling with video cameras by Big Box’s Rent-a-cop.

  49. Buran says:

    @rhombopteryx: Except they don’t have the suspicion because the probable cause isn’t there. I addressed that already. This has already been through court.

  50. Buran says:

    @coold8: You can’t. If you go to amazon.com they tell you they don’t have anything to sell you.

  51. snoop-blog says:

    whatever the amount was he settled for was not enough. he should have taken this all the way and made headlines with it. although WSJ is pretty big, it’s the consumers who wouldn’t normally read something like that who need to know about these cons.

  52. Anonymous says:

    This just seems like the next step in the continued decline of common sense. I resent like hell the way Walmart treats everyone like shoplifters. I’ve been stopped and asked to show my receipt to the grumpy old man at the door because I had a 12-pack of toilet paper that wasn’t in a bag as I was leaving. The absurd thing was, this was sitting on top of $120 of bagged groceries.

    Who the hell steals buys $120 in groceries, but steals $5 in toilet paper.

    When I do relent and show my receipt, I generally follow it up by turning to my wife or kids and say: “Wow, that was close, I thought for sure he’d notice the 52 inch LCD TV I have stashed in my pocket.

    Where has common sense gone?

  53. MrMold says:

    Shoplifting is huge. I work retail in the middle of whitest Dumbf**kistan and the store manger once told me the shrinkage. I was stunned. No roaming ‘lifter gangs here, just local hillbillies with no money and bored teener girls swiping jewelry for kicks. It’s still significant.

    Oh, don’t pull a gun on a rent-a-cop in a store. Many are off-duty and most have very close relations with the local gendarmes. You could find yourself preaching the 2nd Amendment to a judge.

    WalMart does not treat all customers as shoplifters. There is just far less opportunity to steal.

  54. ecwis says:

    I’m glad I stopped shopping at Home Depot. Should I boycott Walmart now as well?

  55. GearheadGeek says:

    @CaptainCynic: You’ll know the last tattered shreds of common sense are really gone when they call security because you said you had a 52-inch LCD in your pocket…

  56. Anonymous says:

    GearHead: Believe me, I’ve wondered about that. Lucky for me the receipt nazis tend to be seniors and their hearing isn’t that great.

    One time I actually got pretty pissy about it with one of them and said I wasn’t going to dig my reciept out of my wallet for him and he could call a manager or security if he wanted. He recognizes me and doesn’t bother asking anymore.

    Guess I passed that intimidate check.

  57. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @TheUncleBob:

    If I own a store and I know personX is shoplifting, but I can’t *prove* it, I should simply be allowed to go up to personX and tell them I don’t want them in my store – and if they come in again, they’ll be charged with trespassing.

    If you “know” that they are shoplifting, it should be a simple matter to get enough evidence to meet the reasonable suspicion standard just by staying near them and keeping an eye on them. Even if you don’t witness anything, you’ll likely cause them to go steal somewhere else where they’re not constantly being pestered by the “helpful” employees.

    I should simply be allowed to go up to personX and tell them I don’t want them in my store – and if they come in again, they’ll be charged with trespassing.

    And if you really do have a legitimate reason to believe they’re stealing, but not enough evidence to do anything about it, you CAN and SHOULD do exactly that. Unless your “suspicions” really have more to do with bigoted personal prejudices than actual facts. That would certainly lead to trouble for you in the long run

    Instead, if personX is 1/20th asian and homosexual, suddenly I’d be looking at some kind of civil rights lawsuit.

    Like I was saying – trouble for you in the long run

  58. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @CaptainCynic:

    I resent like hell the way Walmart treats everyone like shoplifters… I’ve been stopped and asked to show my receipt… When I do relent and show my receipt…

    If you resent the hell out of it, why do you show it to them? They only continue to do it because people allow it. People like you.

    Where has common sense gone?

    Indeed

  59. bdgbill says:

    Stores in Florida have been doing this for years. Do you know why? Because senior citizens are some of the most habitual shoplifters out there!

    The thing about senior shoplifters is that they will mortgage their house to come up with the cash rather then risk their neighbors finding out they were arrested.

    I had a friend who worked for Eckerd drugstores who told me they caught senior shoplifters almost every week and typically shook them down for $1500.00 to $3000.00 (the value of the item stolen had little to do with the ransom). They had to come up with the money on the spot, had to sign a statement saying they would never enter another Eckerd and they were photographed.

    I’m not so sure this is such a bad policy. I bet it “cured” a lot of lifetime shoplifters. Anyone who is innocent still has the option to have his day in court.

  60. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    One time I actually got pretty pissy about it with one of them and said I wasn’t going to dig my reciept out of my wallet for him and he could call a manager or security if he wanted. He recognizes me and doesn’t bother asking anymore.

    I guess I should have read the whole thread before replying. Good for you for finally standing up for your rights. Sadly, there are far too many people who will continue to meekly submit to the door-checkers “authority” no matter how annoyed they may get.

  61. TheUncleBob says:

    @TinyBug: “If you “know” that they are shoplifting, it should be a simple matter to get enough evidence to meet the reasonable suspicion standard just by staying near them and keeping an eye on them.”

    So, your answer is to spend the entire time following around one customer that you *know* is shoplifting instead of stocking the shelves or taking care of other, paying customers?

    That doesn’t sound at all like good business. And could be harassment.

    >”And if you really do have a legitimate reason to believe they’re stealing, but not enough evidence to do anything about it, you CAN and SHOULD do exactly that.”

    Except, again, you risk one of those Civil Rights lawsuits – regardless if the individual’s status had anything to do with the decision.

  62. Bye says:

    We went to Home Depot this weekend to use some Xmas giftcards and encountered the poor ‘security’ guard that make you show a receipt on your way out the door.

    We were paying in the garden area so it’s just 3 steps to the exit where the security guard asked for our receipt. (This location has never had a security guard posted here, I assumed because of the closeness of the exit to the cashiers.) I was slowly moving the big flat full of stuff as my partner scrambled for the receipt he’d already tucked in his wallet. Offhandedly, I said, “Don’t stress about it – legally they have no right to ask for that anyway.” The security guy replied, “Well, we can’t guarantee what will happen if you don’t show it to us when we ask nicely.”

    I looked at him with the biggest screwed up face I could muster and walked past.

    At Home Depot, I’ve encountered cursing employees, crying employees, and resentful employees. But until this last weekend, I’ve never had a thinly-veiled threat lobbed at me.

    The good outcome of this story is that we’ve finally asked family members to not give us Home Depot gift cards any more. Using them is the only reason we’ve stepped in our local Home Depot (located less than 2 miles from our house) for the past few years.

  63. Crymson_77 says:

    Funny, I always use the receipt as a bookmark

  64. GoBobbyGo says:

    @William Mize:
    Do you only buy one book at a time?

  65. BearTack says:

    A merchant has no more rights that a policemen, actually less. There must be a reasonable grounds that a crime has been committed. Exactly what that means varies from state to state, but generally that means that there must be a witness who saw the person take the item and hide it, or use some other form of fraudulent process — such as slapping a paid sticker on unpaid merchandise.

    Detaining a person is a serious issue. It involves the actual or implied use of force. The use of force against an individual requires a legal cause, otherwise it is a crime. In most states an illegal detention is a more serious crime than simple shoplifting of less than $500 or $1000, never mind the civil liability.

    Most stores attempt to deal with shoplifting by intimidation rather than outright intervention unless the issue is flagrant. Most stores do not want to hire a real trained security force because that might cost money, so they get untrained minimum wage individuals who wear uniforms, but who have no idea what their legal and ethical boundaries are. They can be dangerous. In response to a woman who said she wouldn’t accept be taken into the back of a store — I am male and I wouldn’t either. I would sit down and start screaming that I was being kidnapped, and yell for the police.

    I am sympathetic towards shoplifting issues, but that doesn’t mean that merchants can trample my rights to the integrity of my person.

  66. Snarkysnake says:

    I’m a bail bondsman. I probably get out about 200 shoplifters a year. The vast , overwhelming majority of them are arrested at Walmart. When they get these letters (and they all do) some throw them away and forget about them , some shit their pants and pay. (Usually the ones that pay are the teenage kids arrested stealing something because they are bored or whetever – their parents cough up the money)Anyway, I have never had one defendant actually sued by these guys. Maybe it happened after I was out of the picture , but I haven’t seen it.Anyway, some important things to remember if you are the subject of one of these letters:

    1) They have to sue you in your home county. Period. A lawsuit filed 3000 miles away is worthless and they know it. This alone takes away their incentive to traipse over to the courthouse where you live and file suit.

    2) They can not put you in jail. Jail is for criminal acts ,not civil disputes.

    3) It’s a numbers game. If your boho teenager stole a $27 video game,they are not going to spend the $50-$75 to file a suit and pay an attorney to pursue it because its’ not worth it.They send out lots of letters and get back some responses and that is pretty much pure gravy.

    BTW – If you are stopped in a store and detained, you get the free ride to jail (and possibly see me).If they stop you,the decision has been made. Store security people will try this to get a confession :

    “If you will just admit that you stole/tried to steal that video game,we’re going to let you go”

    No they are not. If you admit anything, it will be used against you.Not telling anyone how to beat the system here,but your rights should not be given up easily.

  67. parad0x360 says:

    @blondegrlz: at target they have to see you take the item. also the normal security guards you see called TPS cannot stop you from leaving the store, nor can they touch you in anyway.

    Only the APE (Assets Protection Executive) can stop you, that person is in charge of all security but they dont work 24/7 so unless the guy who stops you is the AP then just keep walking…

  68. MisterE says:

    I bet the PR department will spin this into one of those “We’re recovering money from potential shoplifters in order to save you money” Wouldn’t it be easier to freely admit the stores don’t trust their customers?

  69. ihateauditions says:

    Good-bye Home Depot.

    I have to draw the line somewhere, and this is where I draw it. Your bad behavior just lost you a customer.

    I routinely travel through hardware stores with the contents of previous purchases (off-hand, I can think of times where I brought screws, nails, drill bits, light bulbs, and small pieces of wood with me.). I won’t do business with somebody so stupid as to not only arrest such a person for a non-offense (stupid, but possibly the fault of a single individual), but to follow that arrest with corporate harassment, even after they were definitively proven innocent.

    Home Depot, you’re dead to me now.

  70. MsFeasance says:

    And didn’t Home Depot FIRE its own employees for detaining a shoplifter in the recent past? Apparently, they enjoy more monetary benefits this way.

  71. tsunamibombsquad says:

    walmart busted me the same way for having a pen in my pocket…i was in 8th grade with 3 other friends eating at the mcdonalds inside, with skateboards….set them off…150 to settle my parents seemed to think it was easier that way…..i work at borders as a side note and we dont do anything about shoplifting usually as the liability would cost too much. also, we take all the old comic books, old candy, old cds, old mass market romance sci fi and mystery and tear them up and throw them away ever one in a while…they never even let us eat the food from the cafe they throw away….i dunno seems like theyre pretty pointless rules at these places

  72. BigBoat says:

    @CaptainCynic: Your kids hate you.

  73. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @TheUncleBob:

    So, your answer is to spend the entire time following around one customer that you *know* is shoplifting instead of stocking the shelves or taking care of other, paying customers?

    Good customer service is a powerful front line defense against shoplifters. Following a customer around, offering assistance, asking if they need help, offering suggestions is not harrassment. If they are trying to shoplift, it will discourage them, and will likely make them leave. This is not some magical thinking I just made up, this is a well accepted and widely used loss prevention technique.

    Also, if you’re so damned sure they’re stealing, you must have reasons. Even if your reasons don’t rise to the legal level of reasonable suspicion, they’re certainly enough to kick them out of the store. Without some facts to point to, you don’t KNOW anything. If you do have some reasonable facts to back up your decisions, all those threats and fears of a civil rights lawsuit for asking someone to leave the store are severely overblown.

    In my experience, the people who “just know” that someone is up to no good without being able to point out any articulable facts to back it up are usually just voicing their own prejudices. And people like that usually deserve those civil rights lawsuits you seem so afraid of.

  74. fhic says:

    Sort of off-topic, but… if a store security guard attempts to handcuff me without a police officer present, I guarantee that’s not going to work out the way he envisioned it.

  75. xamarshahx says:

    First of all, stores can never stop you unless they have you on camera stealing something and they generally need to wait before you try to leave the store. They may walk up to you and ask if you need help with that item in your pocket, but they can not accuse you until you are leaving and then only if they have you on camera. The one thing I learned from working at Best Buy, and of course to never shop at Best Buy unless it is a last resort.

  76. xamarshahx says:

    @fhic: definately

  77. jimconsumer says:

    @rhombopteryx: You can be totally in the right as a customer but if they detain you and say “I suspected…” the store is scott free. — Well then, as someone else already said above, I suppose I won’t be being detained. Quite seriously, I might add: Demand all they want, I won’t be following them back to any room. Attempt to physically force me and they’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun. Period.

  78. KJones says:

    This is more frivolous than “spilt hot coffee” lawsuits of the past.

    I don’t have any empathy for people who are stupid enough to shoplift, but for crying out loud, this is just a petty, vindictive attempt to make money off people, not an attempt to exact justice through legal means.

    As for when one is falsely accused, do what I’ve suggested here before: Tell the store to call the police if they want to search you, but that the store employees can’t touch you. They can’t claim you’re being uncooperative, and the cop makes a reliable witness in a harassment suit. If they do touch you without permission, it’s assault.

    Another thing about receipts at store exits…in bookstores in some Asian countries, the store employees “mark” the edge of the book with a stamp (along the side of the pages). If you won’t let them deface your purchases, they won’t let you take the books. They’d rather give back your money than let books go unmarked, one of the stupidest policies I’ve ever seen. (I don’t know about anyone else, but I keep my books for years, sometimes decades, and keep them in pristine condition.)

    Their “argument” is that, “The stamp is a proof of purchase”. So is a receipt.

  79. Kounji says:

    Try being black and shopping in Oakland,CA. You can’t bring a backpack or a purse in to most stores. If you go into a small store you will be watched at all times. Its crazy, you’re treated as a criminal in so many cases before you ever set foot into a store.

  80. monkeyboy13 says:

    From the story, here is what it looks like happened.

    1. The personnel stopped the person with insufficient proof.

    2. Personnel called the police and had the person arrested.

    3. Personnel entered the case into a computer and checked the civil demand box.

    At this point, the case is in the system and it does not matter if the prosecuter dropped the case. (A wrongful death civil suit does not need a murder conviction)

    Ideally someone should be able to remove the info, but these usually get outsourced and a paperwork bungle would keep the demand out there.

    Now, there is a lot of wrong information in this thread.

    1. A person cannot be stopped if it is not on camera.

    2. There is nothing wrong with putting merch in pockets while shopping.

    3. If you are stopped for shoplifting, you will go to jail without eception.

    Corrections:

    1. That would be the stores policy, not law. Many stores go by personal observation, not camera footage.

    2. Most states have concealment laws. Most stores will not stop for this, but could. This is largely a response to the “I swear I was going to pay for it, I just forgot” that most shoplifters try.

    3. Depending on the store, the Loss Prevention person may have leeway to let you go. If you go to trial, the store has to pay for the LP and witnesses to go to testify so if you are nice and cooperate, they can make the decision to let you off easy.

  81. monkeyboy13 says:

    Also, one of the largest ways employees cause loss to a store is underringing friends and family. Even though the security guard was in sight of the register does not mean the cashier charged you for the items.

    In truth stores have to recoop all losses due to theft. If not through civil demands, they will increase prices.

  82. rhombopteryx says:

    @GearheadGeek:

    unless they could successfully get the cage dismissed…

    That’s my point – you can’t bring a successful case (civil or criminal) because the state has a law making them exempt from suit. Sure, you can file a lawsuit, but the judge will point to the law and say “you loose.”
    Unless they don’t follow the particulars of the law (don’t notify police, don’t have a reasonable suspicion, etc.) the deck is stacked for them.

  83. rkmc12 says:

    @TheUncleBob: That’s a nice sentiment when you’re a white male that doesn’t get hassled when you go shopping.

  84. sleepydumbdude says:

    If some guy tried to hang cuff me in home depot I’d laugh in his face and ask to see his badge. Once I left a Sears and a security guard came up to us in the parking lot and started talking to my friend. I was putting things in my trunk and he told me to stop and to not go anywhere and then told my friend he had to put cuffs on him for “his protection”. He wouldn’t tell him what it was for either. My friend was going to let him, I was like “ummmm hell no you aren’t. He has no right to put cuffs on you unless you let him”. I took out my cell phone and acted like I called the cops. I was having a fake conversation with the weather number. Told my friend to get in the car. He did, I got in also. Security guy stood behind the car like he was going to stop us from driving off. I asked my friend to tell me straight up if he stole anything. I told him to tell me the truth because I was going to call the cops because some ass hat was trying to illegally detain me. He said no so I did call the cops. They were there in 5 minutes.
    It was over something stupid. We bought some DVDs at FYE and my friend put them in his hoodie pocket. He then went into the dressing room and came out with a bag of DVDs which they didn’t see him go in with. So the guy thought we were stealing dvds or games. The cop laughed when I said I was being unlawfully detained and did nothing of course. The SOB even gave our IDs to the Security guard who should had no right to see them unless we did something. I’m still POd about that because he wrote our information down.
    We both got 20 or 25 dollar gift cards for it after I asked to speak to the store manager. This was in Owensboro KY.

  85. cde says:

    @Buran: Wrong. Some states have conceal=theft clauses in their shoplifting statures. Not all states require you to leave the store or even the last point of purchase. You’re in Texas right? Check your statutes (MY Google-FU is weak :/)

    According to Arizona law 13-1805 subsection B “Any person who knowingly conceals upon himself or another person unpurchased merchandise of a mercantile establishment while within the mercantile establishment shall be presumed to have the necessary culpable mental state pursuant to subsection A of this section.”

  86. Buran says:

    @cde: “Unpurchased merchandise” — meaning, not the drill bits since those were his. He would win.

  87. rhombopteryx says:

    @TinyBug:
    You’re right that most of the laws only give immunity to shopkeepers if they have some kind of reasonable suspicion or similar standard, so yes, that’s more precise. But that’s not much of a difference…

    The particular level of suspicion the shopkeeper must have is often less that what it takes for a cop to arrest. How wack is that? In a situation where cop couldn’t arrest you, a shopkeeper can take you and drag you, physically, into a back room, handcuff you, and keep you there for some time ’til they call the cops. And you probably couldn’t (sucessfully) sue.

  88. Manok says:

    Seems like major violations of FDCPA as it sounds like a debt collection attempt which have strict laws.

  89. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    Whole Foods (at least the one where I used to work) used a similar “civil recovery” system. Thanks, Consumerist! Now I know what it’s called.

  90. cde says:

    @Buran: I was talking about you saying
    “I’ve temporarily put things in my pocket while shopping before but always removed them and paid for them — I just do it if my hands are full or something. Never been hassled, ever. It’s not illegal to do that. Just illegal to leave without paying.”

    It is. Someplaces.

  91. cde says:

    @rhombopteryx: They can detain, but they can’t force you back into some room. They have to leave you right where you are unless you are a danger to someone, or you consent.

  92. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    I used to deal with PRA on behalf of my clients all the time. What a nasty little business they run.

  93. vdragonmpc says:

    Man, that brings back a bad memory from childhood. I was stopped after school in an Eckard Drugstore in the 80’s. The manager said he saw me put ‘something into my bag’ I was standing in the aisle dreaming at some Star Wars Toys. I had nothing in my bag but school books and some very old candy wrappers (gum) He proceeded to tell me that I ‘stole the gum and those wrappers were evidence’. He wanted to call my folks and that was an option that just wasnt happening. I told him to call the cops and let them sort it out. I watched that low-life SOB get a multipack of gum and set it on his desk. He told the cop I had put that in the bag. I asked him how I got gum on the toy aisle and why he had gotten the gum from the aisle HIMSELF to bring over to the cop.
    The officer was someone I wont forget. He took me outside and told me not to go in the store again as the manager is not quite right with the world. He said if he had said I stole a toy it would be believable but the gum wrappers were dusty and had been in there for a while. He shooed me off and then went back in. I dont know what happened but I DO know I have never bought anything from an Eckard Drugstore.
    That was in Fayetteville NC.

  94. Crazytree says:

    as usual, Buran is making stuff up as he goes along.

    in many states, the mere act of “concealment” is a misdemeanor, a backup charge where the intent to shoplift can’t be proven.

    as for the article itself, it’s a two-way street. I have gotten large recoveries against one of the companies mentioned for false arrest. of course I am subject to a confidentiality clause, but I’ve personally gotten companies to cut big checks because of their mistakes.

    “civil compromises” as they’re called are common in California. if I was charged with a crime, I would pay the $5,000 to keep it off my record without batting an eyelash.

  95. Primate says:

    @MPHinPgh:
    I thought retailers couldn’t do anything if they didn’t actually see you steal anything.

  96. goller321 says:

    The guy from the story should sue Home Depot. It is incumbent on the store to PROVE he shoplifter, which means actually seeing him put the stuff into his pocket. Not only are they guilty of harassment, but of false imprisonment as well.

  97. goller321 says:

    @Primate: They can’t.

  98. TheUncleBob says:

    @TinyBug:>”Good customer service is a powerful front line defense against shoplifters.”

    I don’t disagree. At all. However, it doesn’t change the fact that employees shouldn’t *have* to stalk customers because they *know* they’re shoplifting. One employee watching a shoplifter is one less employee that’s there to take care of the customers. Period.

    >”Also, if you’re so damned sure they’re stealing, you must have reasons. Even if your reasons don’t rise to the legal level of reasonable suspicion, they’re certainly enough to kick them out of the store. Without some facts to point to, you don’t KNOW anything.”

    Disagree. I work in retail. I *know* for a fact that there are certain people who come in on a regular basis that will steal the moment we’re distracted. In fact, they often come in groups and will create distractions. And, as others have pointed out, in order to make a stop, many stores require that the employee has to have constant, non-stop line of sight view of the shoplifter in order to make a stop. Which goes back to what I was talking about earlier – if a customer sticks a CD in their pants and I see them, then someone (which may or may not be the person’s friend) asks me to help them in another aisle, then either I have to decline to take care of the second customer, lose contact with the shoplifter, or risk the shoplifter dropping the CD while I’m distracted and making a bad stop. Instead, I should be allowed to just ask the first customer to leave and never come back.

    >”all those threats and fears of a civil rights lawsuit for asking someone to leave the store are severely overblown.”

    Really? Did you read the Forever21 thread where people were crying that the store violated her rights and discriminated against her, blah, blah, blah… No lawsuit in this case, but this stuff happens and it’s real.

    >”And people like that usually deserve those civil rights lawsuits you seem so afraid of.”

    No one deserves a lawsuit for protecting their private property by telling someone to leave. I’m sorry, but I just won’t agree with this.

  99. forgottenpassword says:

    I see the retail stores are learning from the RIAA’s lawyers! Send someone a threatening letter & demand $$$.

    @DeeJayQueue:

    I am exactly the same way. I am a single person who knows exactly what he wants, attempts to go to a store to find that one item & typically will not find what I am looking for. SO I end up leaving without buying anything. Stores block all the exit lanes/empty checkout lanes so you have to basically find the one single way to get out. Kmart used to be really bad about this (I no longet go to kmart). I have even had to attmpt to slip thru a checkoutlane that was full of people waiting to pay for goods.

    And if I bring anything in to the store … I always make sure to contact someone right away to inform them that I was bringing this item in to use to get a part for (like bringing in a bolt to get a nut, or bringing in a tape measure to measure something before I buy it). That way I have a witness that says I came up to them to inform them what I was doing. Only problem with this is when the store has seperate entances & exits & no door greeters or employees near the entrance. Half the time you cant even find one on the salesfloor.

    And btw… no security guard is going to touch me! I will demand they call the cops if they think I shoplifted & let the cops handle it all. But I am not going anywhere with a security guard who may just grab an item off the shelf (just in case) & say I attempted to steal it to keep him from falsely accusing someone of stealing. I’d wait at the door’s entrance & wait for the cops there…. not in the back.

    I remember a story told by bobcat goldthwaite on a late night talkshow of an incident he had with a security guard. Bobcat was waiting in line to pay for something & the woman security guard saw the imprint of what looked like a packet of mentos or rolaids in bob’s pocket. SHe stopped him & accused him of shoplifting. She wouldnt let him leave & she threatened to call the police… he said “call them”…. police came & bobcat emptied his pockets & the suspicious imprint turned out to be a marker (like a highliter pen) in his pocket…. the police made the security guard apologise to bobcat.

    Most security guards have no idea what they are allowed to do & what they are not. Security guards have no more power than an average citizen. “Citizen’s arrest” power is all they have. I know…. because I worked as one for years long ago. I would always err on the side of caution.

  100. Buran says:

    @cde: Not when you’re actually concealing it. I let it stick out of my pocket such that it’s obvious that I’m not trying to hide it.

  101. Buran says:

    @Buran: NOT actually concealing it.

  102. Buran says:

    @Crazytree: As usual, I’m telling the truth and other people don’t like it so they badmouth me. Just because my experiences are different than yours, and I remember posts discussing these very issues, with rather-informed participants, recount them, and you don’t remember, that makes me an idiot and a liar?

    I don’t think so.

    Oh and I’m not a guy. I guess it’s STILL not sinking into brains that are only capable of spouting snark.

  103. tjh9915 says:

    You guys should be careful, Loss Prevention is a different animal than it was years ago. Store security have far more power than the average citizen – remember that they are a representative of a private entity on private property. Like you in your own home. If they have reasonable justification (NOT probable cause – that’s for cops – people who are monitored by the state) to detain you, they, in fact, can get away with MORE than the Police. No Miranda Rights, no double-locking of handcuffs, no equitable treatment, nothing.

    If LP can articulate intent on your part, threat from you during detainment, then you are pretty much boned. That internet tough guy second amendment crap is screwed too – if they had cause to detain you, and you fight them, guess what? Resisting a merchant with violence, felony.

    Oh and you don’t have to conceal an item to shoplift it. You don’t even have to leave the store (if you break off a sensor tag, you have shoplifted. Defeating an anti-theft device with a tool is a felony in both Texas and Florida). Those 5-step rules (see them enter, see them select, see them conceal, maintain constant surveillance, see them exit) are for successful SL apprehensions – industry standards, as it were, intended to minimize civil liability. Most state theft laws simply expect a reasonable person to see that there was intent to not pay for an item.

    Not to scare anyone – sympathy to you if you were mistakenly apprehended and treated cruelly without cause. Sue them. But to all you out there who think that a store has no power, I hope you are on the up and up.

  104. cde says:

    @Buran: What you think is concealed or not might not be what the cops, the security gaurd/store employee, a judge and previous cases might consider concealed. Also, some states have statutes where insteada of conceal, they say “place upon their person” or in their clothing. Again, consult State statures for both legal definitions and possible annotations.

  105. MPHinPgh says:

    @rhombopteryx:

    I’m perfectly clear on the fact that going after a shoplifter is legal. My question was really to the…I’ll call it “extortion” angle of this. Now, I’m not sure what the law school definition of extortion is, but that’s exactly what this smells like to me.

    If you’re going to prosecute a shoplifter, it would seem that it would have to be done through the legal system, and by that, I don’t mean a crackpot law firm sending…well…extortion letters. File a criminal complaint.

    Obviously, IANAL, so I could be way off base. The letters demanding cash just don’t seem legal.

  106. TheUncleBob says:

    @MPHinPgh: So, what you’d prefer is that the courts get tied up with minor shoplifting disputes while the taxpayers foot the bill?

    If two people have an issue and they can settle it between themselves without involving the government, more power to them.

  107. FLConsumer says:

    @DeeJayQueue: I thought I was the only one who felt like this. I’m also of the type of person who goes to stores for specific things and when they don’t carry it/are out of stock I often walk out empty handed. Even when they do have things in stock, I’m usually only buying a couple of items when everyone else around me is buying cartloads.

    The more I hear/read about this, the more shopping entirely online sounds better. Oh, if only FreshDirect would ship to my place in FL as well as Manhattan — I’d be set.

    @TinyBug: You’re entirely correct about good customer service. Unfortunately good customer service is on the endangered species list. I do wonder how much good customer service costs vs. all of the money spent on security cameras, loss prevention technologies, and rent-a-cops. People have always been dishonest. The decline of customer service and rise in the police state mentality is a recent development.

  108. MPHinPgh says:

    @Primate:

    I think that part varies by state. Some were mentioning that some states they have to see you walk in the store w/o “X” and walk out with “X”, without having paid for it.

    It all depends…

  109. MPHinPgh says:

    @TheUncleBob: What am I missing? That’s what the courts are for!

    I think my point is being missed…if someone shoplifts, they need to be prosecuted VIA THE LEGAL SYSTEM. The store is no more in the right extorting money than the shoplifter was to begin with.

    If you want to free up the couts, make it so that a store employee can at least confront a person who is suspected of shoplifting without fear of being sued.

  110. TheUncleBob says:

    @MPHinPgh: Going to the courts to settle a dispute should always be a last resort between two parties when all other reasonable options have failed. Think about it, do you want your kids running to you every time they disagree?

    >”make it so that a store employee can at least confront a person who is suspected of shoplifting without fear of being sued.”

    I can agree with that.

  111. famboozled says:

    The civil demand letters are not a new practice at all- you are just hearing about them now. in use for at least 15 years now.

    In California, one would want to be familar with Penal code section 490.5 with regard to shoplifting misdemeanor theft(<$400)(PC484/488). these rules change if they accuse you of a felony such as burglary YMMV.

    In California, it is illegal to resist *any* arrest even if the suspect knows or believes it to be an illegal arrest. Keep this in mind.

    In California, if you make it outside the store/beyond the checkstands, you will be contact by two or more lp agents who *ask* you to return to the store.

    If you decline, they will ask to see a receipt and/or search your outermost clothing for thier merchandise (this is legal).

    If you decline the search it is likely they will either arrest you on the spot or let you continue on your way- depending on how good they feel their evidence is.

    A legal arrest in CA- you must be informed you are under arrest before being restrained. Can be in quick succession but must be in that order.

    In California, if placed under citizens arrest(not just stopped and searched/talked to) by store personnel and you know it to be wrong and can prove it, make no statements- invoke your right to remain silent and consent to nothing.

    That does not mean you do not have to ID yourself to police- just not answer incriminating questions. You do not have to make any statements.

    In lieu of calling the Police many stores will present you with a civil agreement that releases them from all liability, you admit guilt and that you are banned from the store forever. If you are in the right and can prove it– keep your mouth shut and do not sign that agreement- it will turn the whole arrest into something akin to a civil conversation over tea among kleptomaniac friends who never want to see one another again.

    If you do sign you will be released and then get a civil demand letter.If this happens, game over and they will a least send the demand letter

    This will force them to turn you over to the police. This is good if you are right because it forces the store to commit to a story in writing.

    Remember, the police are not the ones arresting you- the agent of the store is.

    In California, a peace officer can do one of three things upon ‘receiving’ a citizens arrest:

    1. release per PC849b- essentially ‘un-arrest’ you or release without charge (Cop he/she does not believe it).
    2. identify you and release you on a notice to appear/ ‘a ticket’ with a court date.
    3. Book you (likely if your identity is at all in question)

    If you are in the wrong the rules change again but i will not help you there. This is the common workflow in California and how one might protect ones interests when accused wrongly by overzealous loss prevention agents.

    It all boils down to if you are not charged by the district attorney, then the store violated your Civil rights for no legal cause which as we all know translates into dollars.

    There is tremendous liability involved for the stores
    do not kid yourselves. That is why many have internal rules like must have constant observation, video, or two witnesses,no pursuit off of store property etc.It all comes down to moolah.

    My opinion, if you are wrongly accused, keep your mouth shut and leave the pen on the table.

  112. calimom says:

    I am now making month payments for the total of $425
    to palmer and associates law firm in Florida because of my son accused of stealing a computer game at wal mart. To my surprise they sent me a letter demanding $150
    and I called but they didn’t answer and left a message
    but they never call me back. The second letter demanding of $425 because I missed the deadline for the paument. This
    is just outraged and I am sick to my stomach. I never
    received a phone call from wal mart nor police on the
    day my son was caught in the store. I called and
    explained but the clerks at the firm was very rude.
    I just wish some lawyer would present us the parents
    to fight back this palmer law firm for the unbelievable
    fine. Just VERY unfair to the parents.

  113. Paintbait says:

    Some establishments unofficially ‘backroom’ people caught by Loss Prevention Associates. Especially if they’re employees; before calling the police they often threaten the alleged offenders with physical harm if they don’t comply and confess to whatever it is that the company suspects they’ve done.

    What the point of it is, I have no idea, since it’s probably not binding. This is something, however, I’ve heard from actual loss prevention associates at certain establishments.

    It’s not something I believe fully, but we’ve all told our friends of those ‘little company policies’ no one ever hears about.