Why Did The Strip Club Throw Me In Jail For Not Giving A Thumbprint?

Going from strip poles to iron bars in one night, a Consumerist reader says he got tossed in jail when he refused to give a strip club his thumbprint. Their ATM was broken so he had to pay his tab using a credit card cash advance. The club demanded a thumbprint and he refused, so cops that were already there threw him in jail. Was this legal?

Our intrepid reader writes, “I was at a “gentleman’s club” in downtown Detroit and their ATM didn’t work so I had to get a credit card cash advance on some moneys owed on my tab.

They charge a premium for this obviously but I just wanted to pay up and go (about 160 bucks). It was the end of the night and police were there already for whatever reason. They ran my card (with my photo ID in hand) and came back asking for a thumbprint. I thought this was absurd and declined. Well the two uniformed police stroll up and side with the bouncers and say surrender the thumb print. I refuse. They say they’ll arrest me if I don’t. I still refuse and I am taken in for disorderly conduct. Everything was later dropped but still this all felt terribly fishy.

I owed a girl for a few dances (I told her I would need to hit the ATM if I was going to get a dance when she approached me) and drinks for me and a friend (those add up fast at nearly 9 dollars a pop). They wouldn’t put the dances on the bar tab and basically made me use their cash advance (not the bank’s) system where you pay 20% to the club to front you cash. The advance fee, dances and drinks all came to something in the neighborhood of the 160. I had about 4 failed pings to the ATM the next day that vanished from my online bank statement a couple days later. Everyone was paid what they were owed in full.

I had to spend a night in jail which was obviously uncool; the lawyer I spoke to said it might be more trouble than it’s worth and pursuing it would be more a matter of principal. Sometimes righteousness isn’t very cost effective, I guess.

I must also confess that I had a couple adult beverages that night but it was made very clear to me that the ultimatum was “thumb print or jail”. I returned to get my credit card from the bar and an employee reiterated that, “all you had to do was put down your thumbprint!” The cops even took a moment to relish in mocking me when I said I know my rights and said I’d call the ACLU. He must have had a change of heart because when I arrived at court none of the police paperwork had been filed and I was free to go.

Mostly, I’m curious about the legality of giving my thumbprint to any CC merchant that wants it. I tried very hard to look into this and couldn’t find much info.”

What do you think? Legal? Abuse of power? A right not worth fighting over?