If A Customer Refuses To Pay $4 For A Bike Repair, Should I Call The Police?

Laura wants to get the opinion of the Consumerist hive mind. She recently got involved in a situation where a customer refused to pay for a relatively inexpensive service and was curious how others would have handled it.

From her e-mail to Consumerist:

I had a customer bring in a bike for an adjustment/repair. The bike was from Wal-Mart, not us. We adjusted something on the bike, for which the charge is $4.

At the front counter, the bike owner had wandered away, leaving his girlfriend/lady friend, who had tried to apply for a credit card. When I told her the repair cost $4, she flipped out on me and refused to pay because she A) had no money (even though she showed me a major credit/debit card to apply for the credit card) and B) we shouldn’t charge for repairs.

I suggested she ask her sister, who was shopping with her and had a bag full of Target bags, for the four dollars. She, the bike owner and her sister then became verbally belligerent at me so I called my manager. My manager’s initial solution was to keep the bike until they could return with money…

In the end, my manager had the bike tech undo the adjustment and let them leave, with a suggestion they go to Wal-Mart from now on for their bike repairs.

I often see stories like this from the consumer’s end, but what about when you’re on the retail side? What do you do when someone tries to rip you off? I could have called the police, but for such a low amount it’s not like they’d arrest the would-be perps.

Put yourself in Laura’s shoes and let us know how you’d resolve the situation. Is $4 enough to get the authorities involved? Should the manager have continued to hold the bike until payment was made?

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