Consumerist reader Jeremy says he’s recently been barred from entering any Walmart store in the country. Why? Because he politely declined to show his receipt to a greeter.
Rather than try to retell the story, here it is straight from Jeremy’s letter to the folks at Walmart corporate:
In the late afternoon my wife, infant son, and I went to Walmart and bought groceries and three Bluray discs. After paying for our merchandise, upon exiting the store we set off the RFID alarm. The greeter told me that she needed to check my receipt, and I declined such a check, explaining that I had paid for all my merchandise. We continued to walk to our car, where I unloaded our bags and returned my cart. Upon returning to the car, two Walmart Asset Protection employees verbally identified themselves as such (though they wore nothing to visually identify themselves as employees of Walmart) and asked to see my receipt since I had triggered the RFID alarm. I declined, and they insisted that they had a right to see my receipt.
I asked if they were law enforcement officers, and they said “No,” so I again stated that I declined to have my receipt checked, but would be willing to allow a law enforcement officer to see my receipt. At that time, two police officers who were already on the premises walked up, and upon the senior officer’s request for my receipt, I provided it. He handed it to the asset protection employee, who looked it over to his satisfaction and was apparently satisfied that I had not stolen anything.
If the story ended here, I would have nothing to be disappointed about: my right not to submit to a search by a private party was respected, and Walmart’s right to detain suspected shoplifters for a reasonable amount of time while awaiting a law enforcement officer for an investigation (in accordance with the common law concept of Shopkeeper’s Privilege) was also respected. No one’s rights were violated; I was satisfied that my personal rights had been respected, and Walmart’s representatives were satisfied that Walmart’s property rights had been respected.
At this point, however, one of the Asset Protection employees stated to the other (in paraphrase; I do not recall the exact words), “I don’t think we want people like him here, do you think we should ban him?” to which the first replied (again in paraphrase), “Yes, let’s go get the paperwork.” My driver’s license was taken by the police officer and processed. I was asked to sign a notification of trespass by the Walmart employee, and the officer issued me a trespass warning. And so I was banned for life from all Walmart properties. I was very surprised by this decision, since I have never in my life shoplifted, let alone from Walmart. I was neither rude nor belligerent to Walmart employees, nor did I seek in any way to deprive Walmart of its legal right to detain me for a reasonable time while they called police to investigate the matter. I simply insisted politely that my right to refuse a search by a private party be respected. A small, non-invasive search, but a search nonetheless, and one which I am fully within my rights to decline.
It seems odd to me that Walmart chose to ban me even after the Asset Protection employees had verified to their satisfaction that I had not shoplifted. I can only guess that I somehow unintentionally offended someone; I do recall one of the four people I interacted with (I do not know which exactly of the two officers and the two Walmart employees) saying that I was being a “jerk” by insisting that my right not to be searched be respected. Is it Walmart’s policy to ban people who decline to submit to searches they are not legally obligated to submit to?
That letter was sent on Jan. 11 and as of this morning Jeremy had yet to hear back:
I received no response by the end fo February, so I called Customer Relations and asked if they’d received my letter and have now spoken to two employees at my local Walmart where the incident happened. Despite some major confusion over the issue (one employee had no idea I’d even written a letter, and asked me if I was the father of some girl who apparently had been arrested for shoplifting), it was ultimately made clear to me that Walmart had no intention of lifting my ban and apparently does have a policy of banning people who (fully within their legal rights) decline receipt searches.