Why Stores Love To Force You To Show Your Receipts

A former Best Buy employee and Consumerist tipster in good standing shared some insider insights about why store employees are so zealous in checking your receipt, and so zealously underinformed as to how they have no legal right to make you show it.

1. Store managers purposely keep employees unaware receipt check’s voluntary nature, ensuring that a manager has to be called each and every time. The last thing they want is somebody with 16 CDs in their pants yelling about his civil rights and cowing a $7.50/hr teenager.

2. Major retail store locations get an estimated yearly “shrinkage” budget, is the dollar value of the amount of merchandise they expect to lose to theft. In the our former BBY employee’s store’s case,the difference between the actual and estimated shrinkage is then distributed evenly to each and every worker in that store.

Adventures In Receipt Check Refusals Continue
Circuit City Customer Arrested After Refusing To Show Receipt
TigerDirect Apologizes For Unlawfully Detaining Customer For Refusing To Show Receipt
TigerDirect Unlawfully Restrains And Verbally Abuses Customer For Not Submitting To Receipt-Showing Demands


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jean Naimard says:

    No matter what, the cost (be it monetary or in civil rights) is passed to the lowest member of the food chain, that is, the customer.

    Whenever I am asked to leave my bag at the front, I refuse, and if there is confrontation (usually with the manager), saying very loudly that “most shoplifting comes from store employees” will make them caving-in.

    Another winner line is “if you don’t trust me with my bag, why should I trust you with it???”…

  2. phelander says:

    I don’t care about store shrinkage. Until it is a law that I have to stop and have someone go through my bag when I leave a store, if you so much as touch me you’re gonna draw back a bloody stump, bub.

  3. Major-General says:

    …the difference between the actual and estimated shrinkage is then distributed evenly to each and every worker in that store….

    Wow, that is suckage beyond measure. Do bonuses distribute the same way? Not likely.

    Out of curiosity, do they really expect the store to do at least five million a year? Working inventory, including at Best Buy (grr, a couple stories there), most stores expect shrinkage around 1% or less, and rarely achieve it.

    Those that do don’t have people standing around checking receipts, they are out interacting with the customers.

  4. Pupator says:

    At Best Buy, it’s actually a 80/20 arrangement.

    Shrink Budget – Actual Shrink = Y

    Y x .20 = Amount kept by Best Buy Corporate (probably a bonus for the managers)

    Y x .80 / number of employees in the store = amount given to each Best Buy employee

  5. NefariousNewt says:

    I always thought it was the job of employees to stop shrinkage from happening in the first place. If someone has jammed stuff up their shirt or down their pants and you’re hoping one employee at the exit is going to stop them by ask for a receipt, you need to go back to security school. I’ve been in Best Buy plenty in my life; not only do their employees seem completely uninformed about their products, but they seem pretty lackadaisical when it comes to paying attention to their environment. Sometimes you literally have to tap them on the shoulder to get their attention.

    There are security cameras all over the store. Most stores have their own security personnel. In the good old days, every store had an in-house detective who circulated the floor, looking for shoplifters. Merchandise is now tagged to set off the alarm at the front of the store. I don’t think customer shrinkage is quite the problem they think it is, and they are deluding themselves if they think that checking receipts is going to stop anyone from walking off with things.

  6. Nytmare says:

    Ok, checking receipts is an attempt to prevent shoplifting – but how? Seems thoroughly redundant if they’re coming straight from the cashier. Why don’t they focus on people carting stuff out of the store who didn’t go through the cashier?

  7. elduque says:

    Can I ask a question at the risk of going against the grain? What’s the big f’ing deal with showing your receipt to someone when you’re leaving the store? It takes all of five seconds and frankly, I don’t feel that my rights or my privacy is being violated in doing so.

    Is checking receipts preventing “shrinkage?” Probably not, but I’m just amazed at how many people in this forum bitch and moan about it. I’ve never seen anyone ever refuse to present their receipt when I’m out shopping.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    Does anyone happen to know what shrinkage rates in retail have done over the years? Do all of the technology, packaging, and anti-customer policies actually work or are are people still robbing the stores blind?

  9. cheviot says:

    It prevents only one time of shoplifting, where there is collusion between a cashier and shoplifer. The shoplifter brings his stolen items to a cashier, who pretends to ring them up and bags them. Then the customer leaves, having never paid.

    To say this is rare compared to people just sticking something in their pocket is an understatement, but when it does occur over a period of time it can cost a store an astounding amount of money.

  10. Jesse in Japan says:

    Don’t Best Buy stores already have those electronic security devices that set off an alarm if you try to walk through the door with merchandise that hasn’t had the RFID deactivated at the register?

  11. SaveMeJeebus says:

    I recently had an adventure in receipt checking. I had my in-laws up last weekend and I needed a new mattress for a twin daybed. The cheapest one is at Sam’s for $100 so I took my work-sponsored Sam’s card and headed out there. Mind you this is an extremely basic mattress that is fabricated “exclusively for Sam’s Club” i.e., “cheap”.

    I get to the door receipt checker lady and she looks at the receipt and immediately started shaking her head and saying “Nope, no, nuh-uh there is no way a mattress is $100” and called in some code on her walkie talkie. There were some people in line behind me and needless to say it was a little embarassing. I would need to have some steel nuts to try to walk out the front door with a ripped off mattress. Turns out nobody knew where the mattresses where until I escorted an associate to them and showed them. They insisted it was for the box spring so I taught them how to match product SKUs to their own price signs and I was able to finally leave.

  12. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    It seems like the detector at the door at my Best Buy is constantly going off. So much so that the people working at the door just ignore it.

  13. Trae says:

    @Pupator: I thought it was 70/30 and not 80/20 – but I haven’t worked for Best Buy since 2003

  14. bohemian says:

    In order to buy something at Best Buy you get scoped at the front door by security. If you need help you can’t get it, if you don’t want it the follow you around like your a thief. Then when you actually want to buy something you have to run the phone number, upsell, warranty, credit card, other specials gauntlet just to pay CASH for some cheap under $20 widget. Then you get treated again like a potential criminal when you leave.

    Exactly WHY am I supposed to want to shop there?

    Staples or Tiger Direct are less of a negative experience. Best Buy has forgotten the one big rule of retail and customer service, negative experiences curtail repeat customers. I don’t think they care since they seem to have a stead supply of people willing to be abused for the thrill of buying something.

  15. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Major-General: Out of curiosity, do they really expect the store to do at least five million a year?

    Well, it’s highly dependent on the square footage of the store, but on average Best Buy does a lot more than $5M per store annually. They average over $900 per square foot annually, which translates to a hefty chunk of change for a 30,000 sq ft store.

    Working inventory, including at Best Buy (grr, a couple stories there), most stores expect shrinkage around 1% or less, and rarely achieve it.

    A minor quibble, but I would argue that most desire a level of 1%. Average actual retail shrinkage typically hovers between 1.6 and 1.75 percent.

  16. ExGC says:

    If they are distributing the difference among all employees, then they are breaking the law, at least in Illinois and probably in several other states. In Illinois, it is illegal to deduct any amount from an employee’s check that is not part of a tax or other government mandated charge or a contribution to a benefit program offered to employees, unless the employee agrees to the deduction in writing at the time of the deduction – you cannot agree in advance to a future deduction. This is to prevent employers from docking employees for fictitious charges.

  17. Jean Naimard says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: You were quite illegally detained, no matter how much the contract you signed allows for receipt inspection…

  18. Trae says:

    @nytmare: Checking the reciepts is to stop a few things.

    1. Shrink is more than intentional shoplifting. Sometimes you have retarded cashiers, who forget to ring items up or who ring them up as the wrong items – and so product goes out the door unpaid for.

    2. Sometimes a smart shoplifter will steal a Best Buy bag from one of the departments that has a register while the sales staff is busy, put what they’re stealing in the bag, and just nonchalantly walk out the front door – and not every product has a security tag (not to mention they’re easy to remove). Receipt checking is designed to stopped this too.

    I’m a little on the fence on this issue. Do I think stores should illegally detain people? Of course not. That would be retarded. Do I think it’s out of line to ask to see a receipt? No – especially since (in case #1) it’s more that they’re accusing their own cashiers of being dumb moreso than treating the customer like the criminal.

  19. Trae says:

    @ExGC: It’s a bonus – as in beyond their normal pay. If the store goes over shrink budget, nothing gets taken away from their hourly pay – they just don’t get their bonus.

  20. swalve says:

    @ExGC: Where does it say they are deducting anything?

  21. mac-phisto says:

    receipt checking is just another method of engaging the thief. every retail job i’ve had instructs combating theft a little differently, but it all boils down to the same thing: thieves try to avoid confrontation at all costs & when confronted are often visibly uncomfortable.

    even so, employee theft is usually more of a problem than shoplifting. every retail job i’ve ever had also had its share of employees working the system to save themselves or others money (against store policies), sell product “off the books”, or to manipulate sales in such a way to maximize their numbers & (in the case of commission-based jobs) increase their paycheck. & i’m not talking about the types of manipulation stores promote.

  22. Binaryslyder says:

    Hey gang, I’m the tipster:

    At the time I worked for BB (2001ish) the “shrinkage” payout was 100% to the store. I’ve heard rumors that it’s changed a little bit, but I’ve never seen anything to prove it.

    In regards to the legality of it. BB treats the shrinkage payout as a bonus. So basically, the more shrinkage you prevent the higher bonus you get. They have NEVER garnished anyones salary or pay for failure to prevent shrink.

    Why do they do it? Just like poster CHEVIOT mentioned, it only prevents one kind of shoplifting. However, most shrinkage occurs in part because of an employee. Either they were too stupid to watch what was going on, or they were in on it.

    I myself never stole a thing, but I remember several occasions when store employees would move things to unusual places in the store, only to find that they were gone later.

  23. ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild says:

    @ExGC: God save us from the internet lawyers… especially the ones who cant read a post.

    I love how anything that is an inconvenience or a mistake is “illegal” on here. Just cause someone does something to bother a customer doesnt make it illegal. Its as if everyone is looking to sue over any perceived slight. Also, just cause someone is working hourly at a retail place doesnt make them stupid, despite what some on here say.

    That being said, some security people take things way too far. Ny guess is as technology gets better we will have less receipt checking, as they can more easily track items leaving the store.

  24. What’s the big f’ing deal with showing your receipt to someone when you’re leaving the store? It takes all of five seconds and frankly, I don’t feel that my rights or my privacy is being violated in doing so.

    @elduque: But other people DO feel like their rights and/or privacy is being violated so it doesn’t matter that it only took five seconds for it to happen.

    The other problem is when it doesn’t just take five seconds. If it’s voluntary and doesn’t actually reduce theft, why waste 15 mintues waiting in a second line?

  25. Echodork says:

    Shrink due to employee theft is a much bigger and much more serious issue than shoplifting. I worked retail through high school and managed a retail outlet in college (a Gamestop… shudder), and I had a lot of contact with Inventory Control.

    Receipt checking does almost nothing to stop shoplifting. If you exit with a cartload of items, 95% of the time, the checker will just tick your receipt and let you through. If you walk from the register to the door with one big item and a receipt, then obviously the receipt check isn’t going to catch anything. Receipt checking prevents people from entering the store with an old receipt and trying to walk out with a second item, but how prevelant is that compared to stick-it-in-the-pocket shoplifting, really?

    The main function of receipt checking is simple deterrance. If a thief thinks he might be stopped and checked, he’s less likely to try stealing. The illusion of a big guy in a yellow shirt checking customers as they leave might be enough to discourage your average teenage first-timer from grabbing a CD.

    The real anti-shoplifting techniques are much less obvious. The CompUSA I worked at in college had two Inventory Control guys who used to roam the floor in street clothes. They caught a hundred times more merchandise leaving the store than the security guy at the front.

  26. MameDennis says:

    I’m seriously wondering if Wal-Mart has a policy of not demagnetizing tags on electronics so you *have* to do the receipt check when leaving*.

    I was with a friend when he bought a VCR, and he set off the alarm when we exited. I was with my mom when she bought a CD player, and she set off the alarm when we exited. These were two different stores on two different occasions.

    *Yes, I know it’s technically not required, but I for one am not barging out the door after setting off an alarm.

  27. Plorry says:

    @elduque: If it were the case that those people who do not wish to show their receipt took that stance because showing a receipt is too much work, then I’d agree that it may be in their best interest to re-evaluate their position (It’s still their choice though.)
    I’m quite sure, however, that 99% of the time, this is not the case.
    Showing the receipt and avoiding conflict may be the path of least resistance (and that’s exactly why these companies set it up this way; they know most people will just evaluate their best choice based on convenience, which is to show the receipt and leave), but if someone chooses not to, the fact is that it is their right. If you don’t think people should do this, your choices are A) Change the constitution so that corporations can create arbitrary search rules, B) Grumble that people should just do things the way you think are best based on your personal values, or C) Respect that people have their own values and will make their own choices, and be happy that you have the freedom to do the same.
    I pick C, and I choose not to show my receipt.

  28. revmatty says:

    Interestingly enough, I went to BB on Eager Rd in STL on Sunday evening out of desperation, and they did not ask to check my bag or receipt on the way out the door. No idea why not, but maybe enforcement varies from location to location (or even shift to shift).

  29. MystiMel says:

    Umm… how about the “shrinkage” at home depot where an employee gets fired if they catch a shoplifter?

  30. homerjay says:

    Am I the only one that finds the humor and relevance in that picture?

  31. no.no.notorious says:

    @Plorry: i agree. receipts are contracts. they’re proof that you
    1. bought the product at that store/at that specific franchise
    2. paid with either cash or credit
    3. have a right to return the product undamaged within a certain period of time.

    it makes sense, i don’t see the stink about it. you DO get store credit if you don’t have a receipt…which isn’t as good as cash, but it’s at least something.

  32. Trae says:

    @Binaryslyder: The 70/30 percent split was in effect at least when I started working at the Eau Claire, WI Best Buy in 2000 — I don’t remember what it was like the previous time I had worked at Best Buy (for a few months at a Milwaukee Best Buy in 1999)

  33. AnnC says:

    @Jean Naimard: Shoppers are illegally detained only if Sam’s club prevented them from leaving against against their will. Club stores probably have a clause in the contract that require their shoppers to submit to a receipt check. If you refuse the check them they can cancel your membership. They cannot stop you from leaving the store. However, they can ASK you stay in the store while they sort things out which was probably the case when Sam’s club “detained” SaveMeJeebus for the mattress mix up.

  34. kJeff says:

    I’ve never been stopped on the way out of a Best Buy to have my receipt checked with a bag, only big ticket items… if I bring a bag in to the store, for a return, then they check it and give you a sticker to prove that you brought the item in (instead of swiping something off a shelf and trying to return it).

    I shop at CostCo a lot, and they always check receipts on the way out. It usually involves the door checking marking the receipt and glancing at the cart.

    I never see it as any sort of intrusion. I see it the same as going to a concert and getting searched before entering. It’s private property, they have their policy, and you can choose not to go if you don’t agree with it.

  35. DeeJayQueue says:

    @elduque: Here’s the big F’ing deal with showing a receipt:

    -Sure, if the store isn’t busy it only takes a second to get a tick or a punch in the receipt and be on your way, but what if the store is busy, like during Back To School or Xmas, or any other holiday? Take 30 people already waiting to get their receipt checked and stand behind them, watch 5 seconds become 5 minutes, and then it’s a waste of time.

    -It doesn’t do anything to discourage shoplifting, it doesn’t help verify that you got what you paid for, and it doesn’t help inventory control. If it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing, then what’s the point of compliance? Stupid rules don’t have to be followed, especially when they’re made by stupid companies.

    -It’s the top of a slippery slope. First it’s checking your receipt at the door, then it’s checking your shopping bag, then comes checking your personal bags, then comes pat downs, then more invasive searches; all in the name of lower prices and better service for all. If you bow down and let them take the power away from you, they’ll keep taking till you push back. Stop it before it starts.

    -Some people use things like the little bit of confrontation between customer and LP staff as a venue for venting about other common retail frustration. You can’t change the price, you can’t get better service, but you can sure stick it to that schmuck who has the nerve to ask to see a receipt. Plus, like another commenter said, If the stores are using the confrontation to make thieves uncomfortable, then why can’t we use the confrontation to make the staff uncomfortable?

    -I don’t like being treated like I might have stolen something. Asking for a receipt is tantamount to saying “We think you may be a criminal, mind if we make sure you’re not?” If they can’t figure out whether I stole something without my help, they’re not doing it right. Catch thieves some other way.

  36. 4ster says:

    A year ago, I entered the BB in Charlottesville, VA while talking on the phone. I was told by the person working the door that she had to put on of those pink “he brought this in with him” labels on my phone, the kind they use when you are returning something.

  37. jamar0303 says:

    @Trae: When I did a 2-week internship at Best Buy (it was a work experience program organized by my high school, mandatory for juniors and used to be for sophomores too) last year I was told that it was 80/20.

    Then again, I was in the Shanghai, China store- brand-new and not fully “in” with the rest of Best Buy (American extended warranties had to be processed over the phone if the customer was doing a repair or replacement in China and vice versa until recently, sometimes things like phones were replaced with equivalent models, stuff like that) so it may very well be 70/30 outside this one store (only Best Buy in the whole of Asia, BTW).

  38. arcticJKL says:

    Starting yesterday I am asking at all these stores, while showing the receipt, what they do if I refuse to show them the paperwork.

    Fry’s politely informed me that they “can’t do nothing about it.”

    I am curious as to how many places know this.

  39. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @elduque: What’s the big f’ing deal with showing your receipt to someone when you’re leaving the store? It takes all of five seconds and frankly, I don’t feel that my rights or my privacy is being violated in doing so.

    Technically, you’re correct. It’s not a violation of your rights or privacy if they ask to see your receipt. It is, however, a violation of etiquette and common courtesy. Absent a criminal investigation, I do not have to justify or prove ownership for MY property to anyone, no matter how trivial or inconsequential such request may be.

    Simply put, it’s rude. And the appropriate answer to a rude personal request is to ignore it, or to respond with a simple and polite “No you may not.”

    The reason so many people discuss the receipt check issue with talk of privacy and rights is because over the past few years, the practice has become so widespread and commonplace that many people, including door guards and LP employees, are starting to think that they actually have a RIGHT to see your receipt, and the authority to force you to produce it. And that has led to a growing number of incidents of people being accosted, detained, verbally abused, assaulted, or forcibly restrained by undertrained or overzealous “Loss Prevention Specialists.”

    And those are a violation of your rights.

  40. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild: I love how anything that is an inconvenience or a mistake is “illegal” on here.
    I love sweeping generalizations like that so that makes us both happy to read Consumerist, eh?
    – It is in fact illegal to stop me from leaving your store, regardless of whether I have shown you my receipt or not.
    – There are limited exceptions, and my appearance and/or attitude never factor into those.
    – The sooner you ‘shut up and bend over’ people accept this, the sooner we can stop discussing it.

    And “16 CDs in their pants” sounds like some weird porno to me.

  41. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @arcticJKL: “can’t do nothing about it”
    Double negatives, while not illegal are still irritating :)

  42. Buran says:


    What’s the big f’ing deal with not showing your receipt to someone when you’re leaving the store? It takes all of zero seconds and frankly, I feel that my rights and my privacy are being violated by their doing anything other than responding with some variant of either a nod or “Have a nice day, ma’am”.

  43. Buran says:

    @Trae: I think most people here agree that asking is fine, as long as it’s done politely and without any implied or actual threats. It’s when they don’t take “no” for an answer that the problem starts.

  44. Buran says:

    @revmatty: The Circuit City just down the street (turn left on Eager from the BB lot, go straight across Brentwood) has never bothered me either, and I think they’re a better store. Of course, I still prefer to buy DVDs, etc., from Amazon.

  45. edrebber says:

    Customers who refuse to show a receipt must be prepared to go all the way. If the store employee detains the customer, then the customer is worse off than if they had showed their receipt. The customer may have to use physical force to resist being detained.

    The customer is under no legal obligation to show the receipt.

  46. elduque says:

    Wait a minute… So someone asking to see your receipt is their way of insinuating that you’re a criminal. Does that mean that when I’m asked to take my shoes off before entering an airport terminal that someone is insinuating that I’m a shoe bomber?

  47. rlue says:

    Anybody know whether this applies at Costco? You do have to sign some paperwork to become a member, and perhaps they legitimize the receipt-check in the fine print.

  48. quail says:

    The first place I ever knew that ‘always’ checked receipts was Sam’s Club. Back in the 80’s these checkers would punch the receipt with a special hole punch before letting you go. I was told at the time it was to verify the validity of a receipt when and if an item was returned. After awhile they stopped doing that I guess when their computers were better at tracking sales.

    Their checking has put money back in my pocket several times at Sam’s. A few times the cashier rang an item up too many times and since I was walking out with 5 of them anyway, I never spotted the error. But the checker did.

    I don’t like the idea of having your receipt checked at every store. It does seem and feel like a violation of my rights. But in places where everyone’s receipt is being checked I don’t feel it’s a big deal. It goes with the territory.

    As to the guy, the mattress, and the clueless Sam’s employee: What freaking idiots! I feel your pain.

    As to the guy wondering why purchased items always set off the alarms: Some product gets shipped with loss detection tags placed all over the box and the cashier is suppose to deactivate all sides of the box to make sure the alarm doesn’t go off. That said, some employees will drop extra tags into unsuspecting people’s handbags and pockets. Did you ever upset a sales associate in your past?

  49. Jerim says:


    The most common form of shrinkage, by far, is innocent shrinkage. Employee’s accidentally labelling an item with the wrong price, the wrong price being in the system which isn’t the employee’s fault, or the manager giving a discount to a complaining customer. You also have damaged items which the store sometimes sends back to corporate so that it doesn’t come, or if it isn’t worth fooling with they will just junk it and write it off as stolen. Shrinkage isn’t just stealing, it is anything that costs the company money. An increase in utility rates is considered shrinkage.

  50. edrebber says:

    The law requires you to submit to a search in an airport. There is no law that requires you to show a receipt to leave a store.

  51. SadSam says:

    Do the stores that check receipts save enough money in shrinkage to make up for the customers they lose? I have not shopped at BestBuy in 5 or more years due to the receipt checking policy. I would much rather give my money to a store that appears to value me as a customer and doesn’t treat all customers as shop-lifters. When I run into a receipt checker I smile, say no thank you and just keep going (and I make a note to never shop at that store again).

  52. Buran says:

    @elduque: Yes.

    Except the feds can actually force you to do it.

  53. Buran says:

    @quail: I ignore the alarm. I don’t steal, so they have no probable cause to stop me as they didn’t see anything be stolen. The times I used to stop they’d always wave me out, anyway.

  54. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Jerim: The most common form of shrinkage, by far, is innocent shrinkage. Employee’s accidentally labelling an item with the wrong price, the wrong price being in the system which isn’t the employee’s fault, or the manager giving a discount to a complaining customer

    You’re mistaken. None of the things you list are even regarded as shrinkage – they all reduce revenue, but in each of your examples, the inventory is properly accounted for. Shrinkage is the discrepancy between what’s supposed to be in inventory versus whats actually in inventory – Book count vs physical count

    Errors similar to what you list, such as invoice typos, broken merchandise on the shelf, paperwork errors, etc, account for less than 16% of shrinkage. The common wisdom that Employee theft is the biggest source of shrinkage (other than cold pools, of course) is absolutely correct. Employee theft generally accounts for as much inventory shrinkage as all other reasons combined.

  55. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Just because a company has a shrinkage budget doesn’t means its OK to steal!? All it means is that the people a running the business are well informed what their expenses are. Its called good business to plan for the worst. Something the average American fails to do in their personal life.

  56. Plorry says:

    @elduque: So someone asking to see your receipt is their way of insinuating that you’re a criminal.

    I have no objection to a store exercising their right to ask for you to voluntarily show your receipt on the way out. They’re allowed to do this, and I think it’s fine that they’re allowed to. They also have the right (I believe – correct me if I’m wrong) to stop you as you enter the store and ask you to remove your shoes, and deny entrance to anyone who doesn’t comply. It’s their property. But of course, everybody would just instead go to the stores where they don’t ask you to do this, so the free-market dictates that it’s a terrible idea for stores to do this. (Again, there may be other legal factors at play that I’m unaware of, so please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    If they detain you, however, or otherwise prevent you from leaving just because it’s “suspicious” that you don’t want to show your receipt, they are clearly violating your rights.

    It’s pretty clear that:
    What they do = Ask to see receipt = Legal
    What you do = Not show receipt (For any reason) = Legal
    What they do = Detain you without evidence = Illegal
    Therefore, they are in the wrong, legally, when they detain you. Who do we want to side with?

    You may not be able to think of a good reason why someone would not want to show a receipt, and this may lead you to conclude that they’re only doing it because they want to start a fight. If this is the case, I would suggest that you do yourself and others no service by assuming what people’s intentions are behind their actions, and I strongly recommend, simply for your own peace of mind, that in instances where people are acting within their rights, we not demand that they provide an explanation as to why, nor insult their character (I’m personally against the idea that insults have any useful properties) – I know you didn’t use any insults, elduque; I’m just using this as an example.

    Again, if you think people have too many rights, and this should not be one of them, then you can get a career in law and change the constitution to reflect your beliefs. I don’t think this is what you want though.

  57. ShadowArmor says:

    If I am in a reasonably good mood, or if I just want to get on with my day, I usually comply. Even if “I” know that it is illegal, and that I don’t have to comply, and that detaining me is illegal, “they” may not know that. If the LP person thinks he is within his rights, well than we have an interesting problem.

    One fundamental flaw in the idea of receipt checking as verification for correctness is that the person checking has to know each item by SKU/UPC. We know how places like Best Buy LOVE to put the “special” item above the sale tag for the regular item (had this happen with a linksys WRT54GS vs WRT54G). Unless the checker knows what to look for, they are going to miss details like that.

    I remember once in costco, I had bought a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. I found a receipt on the floor for a CD and dried fruit. I gave the receipt checker the wrong receipt and she checked it and sent me on my way.

  58. Buran says:

    @ShadowArmor: What problem would that be? Oh, you mean stepping around him while repeating “no” in a more firm tone, and if he tries to grab you, slapping the reaching hand away and moving away (which is legal – you can use force to resist illegal detainment)?

    It doesn’t matter if they think they have the right. They’re wrong and they will lose if they push it.

  59. twoply says:

    In any discussion about receipt checking, people always say, “WHY DO THEY HAVE TO CHECK MY RECEIPT WHEN THEY SAW ME CASH OUT 10 FEET AWAY?” The point isn’t always to check if you stole anything, but to send the message to potential shoplifters that they shouldn’t expect to just walk out of the store with merchandise and a bogus receipt. It’s the same reason why as a cashier at the store I work in, I have to respond to the alarm at the door and deactivate people’s merchandise, when I’m the one who just cashed them out! It shows that we take the alarm seriously and won’t just let you walk out if you beep.

    Here’s a question for all of you people who are so adamant about protecting your rights. What if you are walking out of a store after having purchased an item and you beep on the way out? If you get stopped, are you still going to maintain that it’s voluntary?

  60. royal72 says:

    i just pass by the receipt check points with a smile and nod these days. usually there’s a moment of confused panic by the checker. who usually whimpers an “excuse me sir” once or twice and then continues with the next person.

    i’m still waiting for an altercation. if there is one, i will ask for the manager, politely and loudly explain that i am not a thief, and i will not be treated like one. finally, i will ask the manager to personally come with me to customer service and facilitate the return of my purchase(s).

  61. zippyglue says:

    @TinyBug: Well said. The key point being that more recently stores are expressing a “right” that they do not have to stop you and ask for a receipt for your merchandise. If not challenged, this “right” will certainly lead to more intrusive violations. Flash forward to the year 2025 — “Excuse me sir, before you exit the store please step over to the Best Buy Anal Inspection Probe so that we can verify that you haven’t stuffed anything up there.”

  62. zippyglue says:

    @twoply: … It’s the same reason why as a cashier at the store I work in, I have to respond to the alarm at the door and deactivate people’s merchandise, when I’m the one who just cashed them out! It shows that we take the alarm seriously and won’t just let you walk out if you beep.
    Here’s a question for all of you people who are so adamant about protecting your rights. What if you are walking out of a store after having purchased an item and you beep on the way out? If you get stopped are you still going to maintain that it is voluntary?

    Sorry, but you are misinformed. That thing beeping at the door does not give you the right to stop me or inspect my packages or detain me. In fact, I walk right past them if they go off. It’s also amuzing that you admit that you were the cashier and you failed to properly deactivate the security tag. I will not be embarrased with that damn buzzer going off just becuase the store can’t operate the system.

    In order to lawfully detain someone there is a list of criteria that must be met. It varies from state to state, but basically a store employee must have witnessed the concealment of an item and you must exit the store with it. The LP buzzer going off does not meet this criteria.

  63. Topcat says:

    I will preface what I am going to say next by noting that really intelligent and proactive owners/managers will realize that their employees are the front lines in preventing theft. Keep your employees happy with what they are doing and instill them with a sense of ownership of their workspace and they’ll be your best theft prevention device. This goes two ways: if someone intent on stealing is interacted with by an employee, they are far less likely to steal; by keeping your employees happy, they themselves are less likely to steal.

    But– what a freaking nanny state we’ve become. If you honestly feel like you’re being wronged and detained by the stores you shop at, don’t shop at those stores. If someone asks to check my receipt, I don’t make a fuss- whatever, they can see that I’m buying a 40 of Cuervo and extra large condoms, and I’m on my way. I’ve worked enough retail jobs to know that being the little guy sucks, and the last thing they want is some lunatic screaming at them about their rights and detainment, especially for someone who makes $8 an hour and probably has a more tedious and boring day than you could imagine.

    My point: stop being selfish and think of the person wearing the uniform for a change- make their life a little bit simpler for all of the 15 seconds you need to interact with them. If you feel like you’re being personally and deeply wronged by the person checking your receipt at the door, take a bong hit and relax a little.

  64. Topcat says:

    @zippyglue: Riiiight. I suppose this is the same logic whereby legalizing gay marriage leads to legalizing incest and bestiality.

    Skewed thinking, for sure.

  65. curmudgeon5 says:

    @TinyBug: “Simply put, it’s rude. And the appropriate answer to a rude personal request is to ignore it, or to respond with a simple and polite “No you may not.”

    Bravo. Thank you; you are exactly right.

  66. Plorry says:

    @twoply: It is voluntary.

    Most anyone who has worked in retail knows what they can and can’t do with respect to shoplifters. Only if you see them take an item and watch them to see that they attempt to leave without paying for the item can you approach them and say, “Excuse me, I think you forgot to pay for [[#variable product]].” Or something of the sort.
    The important thing is, if you did not watch them take something, you cannot detain them or charge them with shoplifting.
    I recognize that we’re entitled to our own views on this matter, and that a company has to do something to protect itself against loss, but assuming that we agree that the above is true (as I’m sure you’ll find it is), let me ask:

    Do you think that employees of retail stores should have the power to stop and search people who they suspect are shoplifters, despite not having actually seen them shoplift?

    Do you think that people should just do what authorities ask, even when they have the constitutionally protected right to act otherwise, just because it will avoid conflict?

    Do you think people should only be allowed to exercise their rights when they have a good reason to? If so, who determines good reason?

    If a person in front of you tries to leave a store without showing a receipt, and they are stopped, holding up the line of people who don’t want to leave until their receipt has been checked, who are you annoyed with: The person acting within their rights to leave a store as they please, or the guard who is illegally detaining said person? While it’s true that the customer could end the conflict simply by showing the receipt, it’s also true that the guard could end it simply by letting the person go. The difference is, what the guard is doing is illegal.

    And if it’s the case that a person chooses not to show their receipt, and it results in no innocent customers being held up and prevented from leaving, wouldn’t you rest easier just respecting that they’re free to do things their way and you’re free to do things your way?

  67. chili_dog says:

    ONLY 66 comments on an open thread about showing a receipt at the door. I guess most people are out shopping and making themselves look like an ass by arguing with the person at the door checking receipts.

  68. My point: stop being selfish and think of the person wearing the uniform for a change…

    @Topcat: I fail to see how it hurts them if I keep on walking.

  69. Topcat says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: If you choose to shop somewhere where they check your receipt, let the minimum-wager check your damn receipt. It will look better for them in the eyes of their managers to not have cocks like you just buzz by and not give them the time of day.

    Seriously people- you are making the conscious effort to shop at these places. Go somewhere else if this practice bothers you, instead of being a jackass to someone.

    I’ve never been a receipt checker myself, but I tend not to sweat the small inconveniences in my educated, well-paid life: there are people makin’ it on a lot less.

  70. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Topcat: Seriously people- you are making the conscious effort to shop at these places. Go somewhere else if this practice bothers you, instead of being a jackass to someone.

    I fail to see how ignoring an impolite personal request or, even better, replying with a polite “no, thank you” is being a jackass.

    I’ll shop where I please. If the store has policies that I dislike, I’ll disregard them as I please. If this is a problem for them, they are free to ask me to leave at any time. And I won’t even be angry about it.

    Just because your dignity means nothing to you, please don’t presume that we should give up ours when an overzealous merchant asks to inspect our personal property without cause.

  71. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    Oopsie – a little problem with the html tags. For those of you who skipped the previous post because of unreadability issues, it should look like this:

    @Topcat: Seriously people- you are making the conscious effort to shop at these places. Go somewhere else if this practice bothers you, instead of being a jackass to someone.

    I fail to see how ignoring an impolite personal request or, even better, replying with a polite “no, thank you” is being a jackass.

    I’ll shop where I please. If the store has policies that I dislike, I’ll disregard them as I please. If this is a problem for them, they are free to ask me to leave at any time. And I won’t even be angry about it.

    Just because your dignity means nothing to you, please don’t presume that we should give up ours when an overzealous merchant asks to inspect our personal property without cause.

  72. Plorry says:

    @Topcat: I don’t disagree with the company’s policy to check receipts. If that’s their policy, that’s fine by me. That’s a policy they’re allowed to implement, and I respect their freedom to do so. But that policy can’t supersede the law.
    If the exchange went like this:

    Min-wage Guard: “Can I see your receipt?”
    Me: “I’ll pass, thanks. In a hurry.”
    Min-wage Guard: “Very well. Have a nice day.”

    there’d be no stink from me.

    But when they try to pretend that they can stop you from continuing with your affairs, or worse, they believe that they actually have the authority to do so, then it’s a problem. They are doing something illegal, and the customer who wants to leave is not; is there any dispute about this?

    Perhaps we should just agree to disagree, with me glad to have the right to deny people from searching my bags and you glad to have the right to call me a jackass for it (a right I’m also glad you have).

  73. clickable says:

    What’s the big deal? If your goal is efficiency, let them look at the receipt and get out fast. In principle, I totally agree that they don’t have the right, yadda yadda yadda. But in practice, insisting on my rights is invariably going to lead to a confrontation, hauling over a manager, an argument, and spending twice as much time in the store as I would have if I had just shown the damn receipt.

    Same with giving them my phone number when they ask for it at the register. That’s my pet peeve; nothing irritates me more. I think it’s a gross violation of privacy for the cashier at BedBathandBeyond to ask me to announce my phone number in front of a store full of shoppers, and for what, exactly? Is the store manager planning to call to ask how I’m enjoying that new spatula I bought?

    But I know the fastest way to complete the purchase and be on my way is to cooperate, so I smile pleasantly and say “sure” in my best faux-midwestern-friendly accent, and proceed to enunciate, slowly, clearly, and most of all, loud enough for everyone on the floor to hear: 1-212-382-5968. Which coincidentally spells out 1-212-FUCK-YOU. No one’s caught on yet.

  74. FLConsumer says:

    @clickable: It really comes down to a total LACK of respect for the customer and LACK of customer service that has become prevalent in many “big box” stores.
    THAT’S what this whole receipt checking issue is about. It’s not the actual act of showing a receipt that bothers people, it’s the overall mistreatment and mistrust that doesn’t sit right in people’s minds.

    I try to shop at the mom & pop stores (and restaurants!) as much as possible, but the big boxes have forced many of them out of business.

    At the mom & pops:
    *I don’t have to show receipts
    *Don’t have to deal with ignorant, immature teenage staff
    *Their sales staff are very knowledgable about their products
    *Their sales staff treat me with respect and don’t try to insult my intelligence by selling me useless extended warranties or overpriced addons
    *My senses aren’t assaulted by filthy stores nor loud ghetto music blasted over pathetic sound systems. Interestingly, I also don’t have to deal with trashy patrons at these stores either.
    *I don’t have to wait in cattle lines to make a purchase (I never understood this one with the big boxes… If I’m ready to give them money, why are they making it difficult to do so? I’ve left my items & walked out of many cattle lines in the big box stores when it’s taking too long.)
    *They have higher quality products for sale
    *They sometimes have a wider variety of products for sale
    *They’ll still carry items out to my car & help load them
    *They understand that my time IS money
    *They understand that a quality product, even if higher priced, combined with top quality service = very satisfied lifelong customers, and more importantly, this will give them the best type of advertising available — word of mouth referrals.

    The downsides to the Mom & Pops:
    *They’re not open long hours
    *They can be more expensive at times
    *Product selection may/may not be as varied
    *I can’t buy my nazi shirt, tainted pet food, e.coli infested produce, modified meat products, cheap paint for my bedroom, condoms & tampons, all while while getting my oil changed, hair cut, nails done, see a doctor to figure out why it hurts when I pee all at the same store. Personally, I don’t see this as a disadvantage. A jack of all trades is a master of nothing. Similarly, big box stores offer the same thing — a lot of junk, very little in actual value.

    There’s a saying that has been paraphrased in many different ways over the years, but it goes something along the lines of “Social climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already arrived.”

    Wealth & life isn’t about having the biggest or most things — it’s about quality, not quantity. I realise most of America will never get to this point, but many “old money” and very wise (often very old) people understand this point, while the current generation fails to listen/understand. Instead, the current generation is trying to live lifestyles they can’t afford, trying to get the most # of toys, trying to get the largest house, largest SUV, etc., without thinking about the quality & value of what they’re buying. I’d argue that a $25 DVD player from Mal-Wart is overpriced, considering most of them barely last a year.

  75. StevieD says:


    Absolutely correct. Anybody that actively engages in shop lifting, passing countfeit currancy, bogus credit cards etc etc are going to avoid a store that slows down their exit from the store or may catch their illegal activity.

    Does it work? Don’t know for sure, but some time back the McD’s across the street from me hired a new manager. Real bytch. Makes the employees scan the money. One day I am in the McD’s waiting for my happy meal and in walks a propsective customer. The manager is working the counter and is scanning every $20 bill. The dude sees her scanning the $20’s, and he turns as white as a sheet and promptly leaves the store and jumps into a car with several other guys. A few days later the local PD announces they busted 3 young men passing bad money. I wonder if the dude at McD’s was one of them? No proof either way, but I suspect that McD saved themselvs the loss of food and change from fake $20 (or larger) bills.

  76. StevieD says:

    Way back in the early-mid 80’s I visited a book store in the San Fernando Valley of LA several times. Don’t remember the name of store, but it was a chain.

    The store had one of those revolving turnstiles built into the door frame of the business. The turnstile allowed entry and exit to and from the store through a single point. The store used security strips implanted in their books and the security system was connected to the turnstile.

    IF the security system detected an activated security strip, the system would lock down the turnstile.

    The employee nearest the door (assumably others as well) had a undercounter buzzer that could over ride the turnstile lockdown.

    On my first visit to the store I saw the system in action. A porty late 50’s gentleman was barred from exiting. The employee nearest the front of the store yelled to another employee near the rear of the store who replied something.

    The clerk rang the exit buzzer and called the gentleman “your honor” and appolgized for the delay. The gentleman was a state judge.

    I had the same problem when I checked out and departed. Clerk at the front of the store confirmed with another that I had paid my bill and I was allowed to depart.

    I visit the store several times more during the 18 months that I lived in LA. The turnstile would lock down at one point during nearly every visit.

    The store stayed in business.

    If the store was violating “my rights”, why didn’t the judge do something about it when his “rights” were violated?

    Maybe there is a difference between private property and public rights?

  77. ozmo says:

    @StevieD —

    Regarding your mention of a store’s auto-locking turnstile and your assertion of this procedure’s legitimacy – from what I can gather from what you’ve said, this may be a violation of customer rights, though in a manner different than you might anticipate. The public generally has a ‘right’ to safety in privately owned public spaces such as those of a store or performance space, and in this case, the installation of an auto-locking turnstile seems to create a glaring fire hazard. What if some emergency were to occur inside the store, just as the system malfunctioned (or functioned correctly, as a shoplifter proceeded to exit along with the rest of the innocent bystanders), causing the doors the lock automatically? Providing additional, alarmed emergency-only exits would alleviate this concern, although it does not address the issue of unlawful detainment.

    Additionally, it is quite a poor argument to contend that simply because a judge failed to exercise a right, that this right does not exist. We all pick the battles in our life to pursue, and this individual chose not to take action on this issue. It does not prove or substantiate anything.

  78. Cynical Synapse says:

    Several people had interesting thoughts and good comments. In particular, I think Deejayqueue and Plorry summarized the key points of the issue very well.

    In regard to Echodork’s remark that receipt checking is a deterrent: shoplifters in general are not stupid! If we all know receipt checking is ineffectual, so do they. Yep, it might stop the first-timer, but that’s all.

    As for ElDuque’s comments, it is a big deal and it’s exactly like the shoes at the airport thing. Both receipt checking and “take your shoes off” are based on a guilty-until-proven-innocent thought process. Retail fraud accounts for only 1.86% of total revenues, so 98.39% of customers are honest. Likewise, there has only been one alleged shoe bomber. Why punish the rule-followers to give an illusion of security and safety?

    I agree the receipt checker him/herself should be treated civilly. They’re only doing their job. I also believe store management should be informed of customer displeasure with bad policy. So, by all means decline the receipt check, but ask for the manager. Complain to the store’s corporate headquarters. And, once you know the store checks receipts, take your business elsewhere. Continuing to patronize them while asserting your rights is hypocritical.

    Stores have a right to protect their property but not at the expense of individual rights. The real issue here goes beyond receipt checking itself, however. Simply put, the “trust but verify” mentality is bad social policy and should not be tolerated.

  79. PreserveFreedom says:

    Checking a receipt is still not going to catch the guy that jammed a dozen or so CD’s in his pants. The only people that are being checked are the people that actually bought and paid for merchandise. Even if the guy that jammed the CD’s in his pants is also buying other items, checking his receipt will not make the stolen goods magically rise from his body. It really amazes me that some people would side with the merchant on this.

  80. prodevel says:

    This poll conducted at the “Retail Loss Prevention Exchange” website might offer a bit of insight as to shrinkage suspicions AND cases reported. The report opened my eyes a bit, even though it’s from ’99…


    Looks like they’re actually targeting their own employees, for the most part. At least those involved in the survey were.