Wal-Mart Receipt Checkers Come ThisClose to Crossing the Line

If you read Consumerist, you know that Wal-Mart’s receipt checkers are known for getting a little out-of-control to the point of harassing shoppers. Fortunately, that had never been the case for me – at least until today.

Now, before anyone accuses me of getting my Wal-Mart hate on too early, I’m a big fan of the retail giant. I love their low prices and their decent selection. I have family members who have worked for them for decades, so I’m in no way opposed to their business model. At least until it crosses the line of chasing shoppers inappropriately.

I noticed the employee at the door as soon as I walked in. He wasn’t facing me, but he stood out because he’s not the type you normally see handling receipt duties at Wal-Mart. Normally it’s nice older folks who will accept my “no thanks” response when I turn down their request to check my receipt. This guy was older – probably early 50s – but he was reasonably built and even had a tattoo showing on his arm. He was not the usual face of Wal-Mart by any stretch.

When I was leaving, I know I had done nothing suspicious, and he knew it, too. I know he knew since I noticed him watching me as I put my receipt in my wallet before fully departing the register nearest him and the door. I had no purse, just my oversized wallet and a cart with a few cases of soda in it. If I had not been alert, I would have been freaked out when he popped up right beside me demanding my receipt.

In response to his demands, I did my polite smile with the “no, thanks” response. This guy apparently likes to get his way because he kept walking behind me. So, I stopped and turned saying, “Look, I am a member of Sam’s Club where I agree to wait in line to have my receipt checked. I’m not doing that here.” He started in with a rant along the lines of “I don’t care where you’re a member, I want to see your receipt.” But I didn’t let him finish because I told him that unless he planned to get the police involved and could provide hard evidence of suspicious behavior, I was leaving without showing him my receipt that I already put away. That made him back off of the argument, but not the attempt to intimidate. He tried following me, but he decided not to go past the doors.

I called his boss from the parking lot. I stayed out there an extra 10 minutes while they went to find her. She agreed that his behavior of following a 20-something woman in an attempt to intimidate was beyond over the line, especially for a couple of cases of soda. To her credit, she pledged to go have a chat with him immediately. But damn if it doesn’t make me want to avoid Wal-Mart for a while. I haven’t been chased around Target by their staff barking orders at me, and I find I prefer to shop that way.

But upon telling Sebastian the story, he pointed that a better carry form of pepper spray would probably be good for situations like that. If he had tried to grab me or come after me in the parking lot, it would have been a reasonable response. Without the police, they cannot detain you. Even with the police, they are going to have to show some kind of evidence that they believe you committed a crime. Their policy of checking receipts is completely unenforceable. Hopefully the next staffer at the door will accept the polite “no thanks” instead of trying intimidate & harass shoppers, leaving them to wonder if they need to pull out pepper spray.

31 thoughts on “Wal-Mart Receipt Checkers Come ThisClose to Crossing the Line”

  1. The only time I’ve ever been hassled in my local walmart was the time I set off the beeper because the cashier didn’t properly de-mag one of my tagged items.

    If I was regularly asked to show my receipt on the way out the door – rudely or not – I’d never shop there.

  2. That only happened to me once, at Circuit City, before they nosed over into bankruptcy.

    I was stopped on the way out by some officious twit who demanded my receipt. I said no (Politely, I think) and continued on my way. He followed me, told me loudly I had to stop, and demanded my receipt. In response I opened my cell phone and dialed 911. He listened while I told the operator my name, where I was at, that I was being accosted, and that I requested assistance. When the ‘door man’ heard this he said a few very unkind things, including profanity, which the operator heard.

    The police arrived right about the time the store manager did, maybe five minutes later. Meanwhile I told the twit I was happy to stay put and wait on the police when he tried to badger me to their ‘office’. Honestly…. I think I was rather hoping he would lay a hand on in front of the people watching.

    The police asked to see my receipt, which I showed them, and one officer asked why I didn’t just show the store employee. I responded I had nothing with me but the item I purchased, I had a receipt proving it belonged to me and not them, and the man at the door illegally detained me.

    That time, the officer agreed, and told the store manager they had no right to detain people without cause…. ( I would contend they had no right to detain at all, but were free to call the police anytime they saw the need).

    Keep in mind…. this all occurred right at the store’s doors and I had adopted my ‘teachers voice’. Reasonable, polite, but fairly loud. I asked the store manager, in front of the officers, for his name, and he refused to give it to me. I think that ticked off the officer, who wrote down the managers name and the door-twits name and handed it to me without saying a word.

    Yes, I contacted the company…. who couldn’t have cared less. I was only in the store once more, the next day, to return what I had bought..unopened. The man at the door did not try to stop me as I left. Shame, I already had my phone opened and was waiting to push ‘send’.

    It was no surprise to me when Circuit City failed.

    1. I’m not going to flaunt a gun around to try and intimidate people out of approaching me. That’s similar behavior to what I’m complaining about on their end.

  3. Just to be clear, pepper spray would only be appropriate if there was an attempt at physical restraint. In that instance you’re permitted to use force to defeat it. If he had cause to believe you had stolen something, he would be permitted to use force to retrieve the property, legally. But the risk in citizen matters is he would have to be right — in other words you would have had to have stolen something. This is one of the reasons citizens arrests are a bad idea to try — citizens don’t have the same immunities as police do.

  4. Good for you, Bitter!

    As I seem to remember from my business law class, title to the goods usually transfers when you complete the transaction. That is, you have tendered your money and they have given you the goods.

    By that logic, the door checker has no right to demand to see a receipt and you have no obligation to comply.

    1. As I understand it, receipt checking is completely unenforceable because of those reasons, J. They can ask, but you can say, “No.” That’s what I’ve always done, and I’ve never had a person start arguing over it. When this guy did, and especially because of his build, it really floored me and there was no way I was going to give in to his behavior. He needs to learn that it’s wrong, and he’s not always going to get his way. (And seriously, it’s a couple of cases of soda, one of which was probably a loss leader based on the price and display.)

      The only reason they can require it at Sam’s Club isn’t because they have any rights to detain you, it’s part of your membership contract. If you decide to withhold your receipt, you’ve violated the terms of your membership. It’s not that they can detain you, they just don’t let you back in. And don’t get me wrong, it’s annoying when a Sam’s Club staffer is a slow poke who wants to examine every single item (none of which are high margin/cost items) and there’s a line that stretched 10 carts deep waiting to get out. But never have I seen them try to intimidate someone before.

  5. Ironically I was just reading a similar incident this morning where someone was detained at Costco for 20 minutes and the police were called, because he declined to show his receipt.

    The tidbit I didn’t know is that the Costco member agreement includes a statement about agreeing to show receipts on exit.

  6. At Costco, I dutifully wait in line and proffer my receipt because that’s what I agreed to.

    On the other hand… ornery person that I am…. I have done THIS when the line at Costco is stupidly long…

    I asked at the service desk for the manager (the desk is next to way out of the store) and when she came I asked her to come with me a quick moment while I showed her something. With her by my side, I lined up to leave and told her I wanted her to wait with me while I was in the line. She said she didn’t have the time to stand with me and had to get back to work….. I replied that *I* didn’t have time to wait in the line either, but unlike *ME*, she had the power to make the line shorter.

    Worked like a charm. There was extra staff there in seconds.

  7. Bitter, OCing a weapon is not intimidation. How is exercising your fundamental right to keep and bear arms intimidation? Besides, a gun in it’s holster is less dangerous than your cell phone and, separately, less dangerous than Joe Biden’s motorcade.

    An armed society is a polite society. I actually find I get better customer service when open carrying. In the end, it’s up to you how you exercise your rights (to say no or KBA).

  8. The second generation Kimber Pepper Blaster is superior to the first version in my opinion. More familiar to handgunners in that it has sights and an attempt at a grip. Many have said it before, but “Not every problem is a gun problem.”

  9. I’ve only had issues at Micro Center (a computer chain) and Best Buy. Micro Center is horrible. The registers are right at the door and they can see you signing the pad, getting your receipt and handing them your bag items.

    I flat-out refuse to show them my receipt or let them inspect the contents of the bag. When one fellow tried to stop me after I said “No.”, he told me I had to and to which I responded in my “you don’t want to go there” voice if he was accusing me of shoplifting. He said “No.” and I told him firmly that he had no right to stop me or inspect my bag if that was the case. I turned on my heel and left.

    All right in front of a line of customers and registers. Haven’t had a problem since. I have gotten really tired of petty tyrant mall ninjas on minimum wage thinking they have authority over me. Accuse me of a crime and I’ll happily stay put, in front of all their customers mind you, and enjoy the lawsuit that will follow the unfounded accusation.

    I know it’s petty but it is a form of tyranny and we don’t have to take it. I used to play along because I didn’t know any better. Not anymore. It’s amazing when confronted with that little bit of logic how many of these people will back down.

    And I’m like you in this case Bitter. I always put my receipt into my wallet. If they don’t believe their senses not 10 feet in front of them I’m not inclined to give an inch.

  10. I have never had to repeat the “no thank you”, that always seems to work.

    Once my brother and I stopped real late and we were both very tired. I checked out first and headed to the door. The checker asked and I said, “no, I’m tired, pick someone else to play with.” So they checked my brother who was carrying a single gallon of milk.

  11. Scott – there’s a reason you get better customer service while open carrying. It’s not a positive reason.

    1. Scott, how can you say that your suggestion isn’t an attempt at intimidation? You’re suggesting I open carry with a specific goal of deterring someone from doing something they would otherwise not do. In this case, it’s follow policy. (The policy is to ask for a receipt for anything not in a bag. It’s a dumb policy, but it’s really dumb when combined with someone who doesn’t have any sense.) That would fall under my definition of attempting to intimidate someone.

  12. Bone tired after a gun show, I headed for the exit, my one purchase in hand: A boltless .22 in need of TLC, which I had bought in the diagonally opposite corner of the show for $25.

    The sweet 20 something woman at the door insisted that I had to show a receipt for my purchase to get out.

    I simply looked at her and said, “I’m not going back for a receipt, and I don’t think you can hold me prisoner.” She had the most perplexed look on her face as she looked around for support from other security people. I suppose it had never occurred to her that she had no real authority. I was gone before she got over her perplexity.

  13. We used to have a big general merchandise store around here. They only sold things like electronics, furniture, crystal, expensive perfumes, good jewelry, etc. They got around the whole thing of checking receipts at the door by forcing you to pay for the item in the department where you found it, then they would deliver it to the front door so you could pick it up as you were leaving. They would not allow you to carry paid-for merchandise around the store.

    They got away with this because they had better merchandise and prices than anyone else.

  14. Sorry Bitter, but the appelate court has ruled that a police officer putting his hand on his OC gun, and then unholstering that gun but not pointing it at someone, does not constitute intimidation and the intimidatee should have known he wasn’t under arrest and wasn’t under any obligation to allow a search.

    If putting your hand on a gun isn’t intimidation, then wearing it OC can’t be.

  15. Bitter, A no means no. Even a polite no means no. The receipt policy does suck. When one insists, and you have to raise your voice or block an attempt to detain you, or run. Be prepared for the absolutely worst case scenario where you have to back up your “NO” with a BANG!

    Don’t let the door ninjas ruin your day. OCing a weapon is not a show of force or intimidation. Not any more than having a t-shirt say on it, “I am a m********ker!” while riding a transit bus.

  16. Bitter- Gald you survived your Walmart checker experience. As a side note, does PA not have shopkeepers privilege?

  17. Outside “club” stores, I’ve learned to not engage at all. Not even a “no” or “no thanks” or “I’ve paid for it not 20 feet from here and you saw me and you have no right to detain me…” ranting. Just walk out. Ignore them. The business transaction is over, you’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve/you’ve done everything right, they have no legal right or power, so JUST LEAVE. That resoves 90% of such cases right there. Non-engagement is a very effective strategy. Zone out, be in your own little world, dismiss them as background noise.

    That leaves the <10% of cases where they escalate engagement, getting in your way or following you to the car. NOW there are grounds for engaging, which you can use to your advantage. If you are in the right, they are clearly in the wrong – giving you the upper hand. Proceed as indicated, taking the high – and firm – road.

    Remember: just because they try to engage you does not mean you have to. Just walk away. Most times they will stop.

  18. As for OC:
    This is the reality of “an armed society is a polite society”.
    You carry, and let others know you are armed (none of this “surprise, perp!” stuff), to let people reconsider crossing the line because it will be YOU, not them, who will dominate any wrongful escalation.

    Is that a threat?
    Not “I’ll shoot you if you piss me off”, but the same threat you feel when speeding and you see a cop car just off the road: “behave yourself, there may be consequences if you don’t.”

    This whole thread is about dealing with someone who crosses the line.
    The receipt-checker is Wal-Mart’s “threat” reminding you to behave yourself, even if he just stands there and does nothing.
    Your OC is yours.

    Let me emphasize that point:
    The receipt-checker guy standing there, even if he does nothing, IS A THREAT. He is there to intimidate you into behaving yourself. The message is “if you cross us, we can destroy you”, to wit if they don’t like what you are doing they will detain you, gather evidence, call the cops, press charges, get a conviction, and wreck your life – if you don’t comply. That’s why the whole notion of receipt-checker bothers you so much.
    OC is your version of the same thing. “Behave yourself and all will be fine; crossing the line can cost you no matter how far you choose to go past that line.”

    Yeah, each is a threat (in broad terms).
    If everyone behaves, there won’t be a problem.
    An armed society is a polite society.

  19. Wal-mart corporate will let this BS go one till their overzealous receipt checkers assault/illegally detain/”name your crime here” the wrong person and they end up with a couple extra holes for their trouble.

  20. Ok… this is just weird. I woke up at 5:00am this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep because my brain kicked off on this very topic (and, no, I hadn’t read this post yet). I was recalling my experience at the Wal-Mart in Roanoke, TX and thinking about what to do if it had escalated.

    I live in a suburb that doesn’t want a Wal-Mart super center (we have one of those silly little ‘neighborhood market’ stores), so if you want the whole ‘super center’ experience you have to go to one of the nearby towns.

    When Roanoke finally got its Wal-Mart I decided to try it out. But I must have looked like some sort of reprobate to the door minders, because I was singled-out for interrogation at the door three times in a row. The first two times I went along to get along, but on the third time I’d had enough. I had just come from the closest ‘manned’ register to the door and I know she saw me leaving the register and putting the receipt in my wallet. As I was leaving she asked for the receipt and I told her, “No.” She insisted and I told her that I wasn’t putting up with it anymore and that this was the third time in a row she’d singled me out. I told her that if she was going to accuse me of something to go ahead and call the police and then I walked out.

    And that was the final straw for all receipt checking. I will put up with it at Sam’s Club, since I’m a member, but no where else.

  21. Strange… I shop at Wal Mart all the time and have never once been asked to show my receipt, or witnessed someone else’s receipt being checked. The membership-based/club stores, yes, but Wal Mart, no. There must be some variation in policies, perhaps based on state or local laws? I am in New Mexico for what it’s worth.

  22. It’s been a LONG time since they’ve tried to check my receipt at Walmart. Years, I think.

    The last time I bought something at Best Buy, I walked right past the queue of stooges waiting to have their receipts blessed at the exit. The employee doing the checking called out, “Sir, do you have your receipt?” I was happy to answer “Yes” and keep walking right out the door.

    At Brandsmart they get all upset when I say “No” when asked to present my receipt. They get even more frustrated when they look over at the uniformed cop standing there for “loss prevention” and he just shrugs.

    I don’t like being asked to show my receipt since the items I just purchased belong to me at that point and the store employees ave no right to inspect them. But, they have the right to ask and I have the right to decline.

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