Rather than make up some line about needing to make sure customers receive everything they paid for, Home Depot is now openly treating its customers like shoplifters.
Reader Patti writes:
There’s been a spike of stores in my area (Philadelphia) requesting to see and mark my receipt upon departure. As a consumer, I understand the concept. It is to deter shoplifting. But the entire process is at my inconvenience. Unless I am shopping at a store where the terms and conditions require that I show a receipt (such as Sam’s), it is also reliant upon my cooperation that I should agree to prove that the items in my cart are truly my items and not a pile of stolen loot.
That being said, I’m normally cooperative. But it is becoming very cumbersome. Exit lines grow, security guards and/or employees can be surly, the principal action itself assumes I’m guilty and must prove my innocence, etc.
The final straw was when I last visited Home Depot. I was at the last exit door and was the ONLY customer in line at the ONLY register open in that section. I had a wheeled-cart full of 8′ lumber. It was my only purchase. The “security guard” stood by and watched as my items were scanned and paid for. I then put the credit card and receipt in my pocket, and with both hands, started to lug the heavy lumber towards the exit. I honestly didn’t think the guard would ever have to check my receipt since he had eyes on me and the transaction the entire time.
But this particular experience went beyond the normal receipt check. This guy was a complete bully – he invaded my personal space and loomed over me, blocking my path and physically intimidating me. He then growled “Receipt” and put his hand out. He tone was confrontational and I instantly felt threatened.
But being me, that just made me buckle down and grow defiant. I asked him – very politely – why he needed to see my receipt.
He took a step closer and said, “In case you stole something.”
Now I was completely irate and indignant. But when I get irate, I don’t get loud or confrontational. I just get stubborn and coldly polite. I advised the guard that if he felt I had stolen something, that he was free to call the police. But I was not showing him my receipt.
I then lugged my lumber around him and left. The entire time I was exiting the store, the guard followed behind me throwing insults at me.
I complained to management. But later, after I was home, I thought I should have returned every piece of lumber I just bought and THEN complain. But I didn’t think about it until it was too late.
So my question is this: What should customers do when they feel that the receipt check process is 1) insulting, 2) unlawful, 3) threatening? What are the consumer rights to exit the store without challenge / confrontation?
With the number of stores now following this policy, I can’t avoid the practice. But I’m on a mission to NEVER show my receipt again (unless I’m at Sam’s, which has a policy that I agreed to follow). Once I pay for the items, they are mine and I don’t have to validate my ownership to anyone. I’m tired of being the victim of other people’s actions. If someone else stole from the store – the storebetter find a better way to monitor their activity than forcing honest consumers from going through the check-receipt gauntlet. And now I’m about to start a campaign to end this insulting and offensive practice. What should I know and do?
Patti did the right thing by trying to ignore the receipt checker, and when he got in her face, she was right to ask if he thought she had shoplifted.
Patti answers her own question: you are not required to show a receipt unless you agreed to as a part of a membership contract (like at Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s). In most places in the U.S., if a store employee has a reasonable suspicion that you are shoplifting, they have a right to detain you for a reasonable amount of time and in a reasonable manner. Reasonable is an important word here. In one case that is often used in Torts textbooks, a store employee confronted a man after he removed his own ascot from his jacket pocket and tied it around his neck as he was leaving. The man collapsed with chest pains, and later successfully sued the store for false imprisonment, arguing that it was both unreasonable to suspect him of shoplifting and unreasonable to grab his arm. You should read up on “shopkeeper’s privilege” and whatever local or state statutes exist on the issue. Also check out this receipt checking incident.
If you don’t want to show your receipt, just walk around the receipt checker and say “no thanks” if the person asks. If you are stopped, ask if you are being detained and if you are being suspected of shoplifting. If you are prevented from leaving the store, you’ll want to call police and/or your lawyer.