TigerDirect Unlawfully Restrains And Verbally Abuses Customer For Not Submitting To Receipt-Showing Demands

UPDATE: TigerDirect Apologizes For Unlawfully Detaining Customer For Refusing To Show Receipt

I was visiting a Tigerdirect (Large Electronic Retail Store) in Naperville, IL today (8/23/07)(8/22/07). All was going well until after I had paid for my merchandise and tried to leave.

A security guard demanded that I show him my receipt, which I respectfully declined with a “No Thanks” and continued walking out the door. At that point the Guard physically placed himself between me and the door and said “I can’t let you leave until you show me your receipt.” I attempted to walk around him, explaining I didn’t have to show him anything, and he continued to block my path and called several other employees to block my retreat.

I understand the “Shopkeeper’s Privilege”, but under no possible interpretation of the law would refusing a voluntary receipt check constitute grounds for reasonable suspicion of shoplifting. At this point, I warned them that I was being unlawfully restrained, and unless they immediately allowed me to leave, I would call the police and press criminal charges for unlawful restraint, and also file a civil suit for false imprisonment (fortunately, I knew my rights).

None of them budged, and the store manager began verbally abusing and slandering me…

He called me a thief, and said he would have me arrested for “attempted shoplifting”. Both the manager and security guard said it was corporate policy to detain customers unless they submitted to a receipt check.

At this point, I pull out my cell phone, call 911, and inform the operator I’m being illegally detained and not allowed to leave the store. The operator said an officer was on the way and would be there in a few minutes. In the meantime, the manager continued screaming at me, telling me I was banned from the store (fine by me, I’ve spent easily over $10,000 in the last few years at Tigerdirect and planned to take my business elsewhere if this was the kind of treatment I could expect) and so on.

Fortunately, an officer arrived within 5 minutes. The manager and security guard began to tell the officer I was trying to steal something. After they were done I calmly explained the situation to the officer. The officer agreed that they couldn’t hold me unless they had seen me shoplifting, which they obviously had not. I then asked the officer to arrest the security guard for unlawful restraint, which she refused to do; she instead suggested I talk the the state’s attorney if I wanted to press charges (which I plan to do). I got the security guard’s name, and the officer’s name and badge number. I then left, and was again verbally informed me I was banned from returning. As I was leaving, the security guard continued to taunt me, and dared me to press charges.

As soon as I got home (approximately 4 hours later, I had errands to run), I called the company the security guard was from (Securitas), explained the situation, and asked if their corporate policy was to forcibly detain customers who refuse to show their receipt. I was escalated three times, until a “supervisor” there said he didn’t feel comfortable answering the question, but he would have his boss call me back shortly. I waited 2 hours, with no more response. I called back again, and after reaching the same supervisor asked why my call hadn’t been returned. He informed me that they had my contact information, and if they had anything to say to me they would call. I demanded to speak to his boss, and was told that the boss was busy now, but would call me within an hour. Again, after 4 hours, no call.

Nowhere in any of this did anyone apologize to me or tell me they were mistaken. I probably would have been satisfied with an apology and a guarantee that the security staff would be properly retrained at any point after I left. But, after the shoddy treatment I received, even after they realized they had made a mistake, I want to fight this thing to the end.

How do you recommend I go about contacting the State’s Attorney? I understand that the prosecutor has some discretion on filing charges, and that they have many other cases on the table. There is no dispute of the facts, there were security cameras everywhere, and the guard agreed with my version of the events when speaking with the officer. Also, I would like to file a civil suit against them, but must admit that money is an issue for me. How do you suggest I find a lawyer/firm that would take this case on a contingent fee?

Thanks for the time,
Shaneal

What a story! Where was this store located? Do you have the name of the security guard and manager to share? As far as contacting the State’s Attorney, I think simply an initial phone call to their office is fine. Finding a lawyer is as simple as calling your local bar association, describing in brief your case, and asking for a referral.

Thanks for the support,

The store is located at
175 Ambassador Drive
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 548-2000

The security guard’s name is “Malcom Melton,” and the corporate office he works out of has a number (630)963-9456.

I called the States Attorney’s office for my county and spoke to a prosecutor who “said charges would not be forthcoming.” Basically, his explanation was that I wasn’t detained long enough for him to bother. The police report is filed with the Naperville Police Department, report number [redacted].

I also contacted the bar, and was told that no lawyer would take this case on a contingency because there weren’t enough damages, but I was welcome to hire a lawyer on an hourly basis. However, they informed me that in all likelihood the attorney’s fees would be ten to twenty thousand, which I can’t afford.

Thanks for your quick response. No one else seemed bothered by this. All I really want is for them to change their policy and/or retrain the guards. Hopefully, with your support they will at least be shamed into doing that much.

Stinks. Did you happen to catch the manager’s name? At this point, you could either complain to corporate, or try pitching your story to the local media.

I did not get the manager’s name unfortunately; by the time I was leaving and got around to taking names the manager had already disappeared. I emailed corporate with the story too, but have yet to receive a response.

Thanks for the suggestion, but I doubt the local media would be very receptive to my claims. When the whole warrantless wiretapping scandal was taking place the little coverage it got was all in favor of government (e.g., “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about”). I’m fairly certain they’d just tell me I should have showed the guard the receipt and been done with it.

The voluntariness of the receipt checking is an interesting issue that we’ve touched on before. Unless you’ve signed a membership agreement agreeing to receipt checks, or they actually see you shoplifting, stores have no right to stop you from leaving the store for refusing a receipt-check. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably a lot easier just to flash your receipt and get on with your life, but you’re perfectly within your rights to make a stand about the issue. Furthermore, beyond the mere detainment, the Tiger Direct store definitely went “beneath and below” by verbally assaulting you.

As you said, the reason you’ve had a hard time getting people interested in your case is because you didn’t actually incur any monetary loss. Companies care about balance sheets, not feelings, so your options for recompense are relatively limited. The most satisfaction you can probably hope to get is that I’ve just posted your story, informing more consumers of their rights, and casting a big stinky shame cloud on TigerDirect of Naperville, IL.

PREVIOUSLY:
Ask The Consumerist: Do I Have To Let Stores Check My Receipt?
The Straight Scoop On If Stores Can Legally Stop You And Check Your Receipt
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