Wal-Mart Holds Your Credit Card and ID Hostage When You Complain

When reader Steve went to Wal-Mart to buy Rock Star for his daughter, he reluctantly presented the cashier with a state issued ID containing just his picture, name and signature. Steve’s job is to consult with law enforcement about identity theft, so he’s more careful than the average bear. For one thing, he only likes to show his state issued-ID. The cashier, however, refused to accept it as a valid ID, and tense negotiations ensued. When Steve said he’d call corporate about their ID checking policy, the cashier refused to hand back Steve’s credit card or ID until Steve spoke to an in store CSM. That’s right, after he complained, the cashier held his credit card hostage. Check out the gory details, inside.

Dear Consumerist,

I stopped in my local East York Wal-Mart in PA on 3/22/08 around 12:00 pm to pick up an Easter gift for my daughter. I went to the electronics department to pick up the Rock Star video game for the PS3. They did not have any on the sales floor so I asked a sales associate named John if there was any in the back. John went to the back and brought one out. John told me that the purchase must be made in the electronics department. As if I would have walked out with it without paying for it. I guess this policy only affects the PS3 version of the game. If I wanted a 360 version I could have picked it up off the shelf and paid for it up front since I did have some other shopping to do.

No big deal I will just pay for it in the electronics department as I was told. So John rang me up and paid with a my signed credit card. I signed the signature pad at the register. John gave a brief glance to the back of my credit card and asked to see an ID.

A little bit about me: I have worked with credit card processing and acceptance for a government agency for several years. And also worked with law enforcement agencies in regards to credit card and identity theft. And also provided training to them on this very subject.

I know that the less personal information you give out in a store or online the less likely your credit card or identity will be stolen. So I have a State Issued ID what has my picture, my name, and my signature. Everything that is needed to confirm that is my card. But, all of the other info such as address, birth date, license number has been blocked out for security reasons and are not used to confirm the rightful card holder. Since some of those things can be used with the credit card number and CVS number to complete a fraudulent credit card transaction.

John told me “This is not a valid ID and you can not use it”. I told him that was no where in any credit card processing agreement that asks you to view a persons address, DOB, or licensee number before completing a credit card sale. So he called over another sales associate and asked him. He said basically the same thing probably out of not wanting John to look bad. So I explained that I would be informing Wal-Mart headquarters about this to make sure this is their policy. John said “I will have to call a CSM”. Now keep in mind that I already paid for the item and he at this would not give me back my credit card or ID.

After waiting around for about 5 minutes I made a decision that I now regret. I showed him another ID that had all my info on it. I just wanted get out of there and do the rest of my shopping. Now John tells me that since I will be calling Wal-Mart headquarters I have wait for a CSM. I was like “WHAT?” John will not give my credit card and 2 forms of ID back until he talks to a CSM. A few minutes later a CSM showed up and basically agreed with John. Then John said “since I showed another ID it was okay “

I regret giving up most of my personal information. I should have stood my ground. I did think about just leaving with my purchase and calling the police to get my credit card and ID back. But the police have better things to do.


Steve is being way too nice. It’s completely unacceptable for a store to refuse to let you leave, or to coerce you by holding your card. We’d suggest Steve float the idea of police involvement next time, but there’s no telling how John would react to this news. Flying tackle? Citizen’s arrest? Hopefully, Steve didn’t let John’s bullying phase him and escalated his complaint once out of arm’s reach.


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