N. got in trouble while standing in the receipt check line at his local BJ’s warehouse club, but it wasn’t for attempting to leave the store without having his cart checked. No, it was for something far more insidious than that: snapping a quick picture of a board advertising club member prices for cruises so he could comparison shop later. What a hardened criminal! The receipt checker set off the door alarm, catching the attention of a nearby police officer, and insisted to N. that there is no photography allowed anywhere inside a BJ’s club, ever. Cool story bro, but that’s not actually true.
I was at the [redacted] BJ’s Club this weekend and near the exit, while waiting in line for the receipt checker, I noticed up on the board were advertised prices for cruises. I took out my cellphone to take a picture of the board so I could comparison shop. The receipt checker started yelling at me that I couldn’t take pictures in the store. There was a [redacted] PD officer posted near the store exit. The receipt checker called out to me again and turned on the loud beeper at the exit to get my attention. At that point, the [redacted] PD officer took two steps toward me – he was about fifteen steps away, but it was clear that he intended to approach me. I put my camera away and the officer went back to where he was standing. I then submitted to the receipt check.
I asked the checker if it’s store policy that you can’t take pictures and he said yes. I asked him if it’s his policy or store policy and he said it was the policy of ALL BJs stores. I left the store without incident.
Later, I called up 1-800-BJS-CLUB to verify the corporate policy. After being asked three times for my membership number (which I eventually convinced the CSR was not required to verify the corporate policy), I was told that there is no such policy regarding photography in the store but that the GM (General Manager) of the store is free to set policies.
There’s no posted sign anywhere saying photography is prohibited. I asked her if the GM can make up a policy that is secret, not posted and that can lead to the immediate arrest by local law enforcement of any BJs member who unknowingly violates the policy? She said that GM has discretion to make up policies. I warned her not to take any pictures in BJs and told her to have a nice day.
Obviously the receipt checker was misinformed or lying about the corporate policy. Obviously also, there’s nothing the [redacted] PD officer could have done regarding the seemingly “made-up on the spot” photo policy except if I were breaking an actual law, such as refusing to leave the premises, which I suppose would be trespassing, or otherwise causing a disturbance, so I’m not sure what the [redacted] PD officer would have done if he continued his transit beyond the two steps he took toward me.
If that mysterious photo policy is posted anywhere, it would be in the club’s membership conditions. It’s not.
Probably the officer thought that you were shoplifting or doing something else nefarious, which is what that alarm is for. While stores and other private properties are free to set their own photography policies, the police in most towns have much more important things to worry about than someone taking an easily-erased digital photo.