Checking receipts at the door

It’s an increasingly common scenario:  You’ve just completed a purchase at a store and, while exiting the premises with your goods (remember, they have your money, ownership has just transferred) you’re stopped at the door and told that you must show your receipt.  Most people blithely accept this command at face value, but it’s not necessary.  In point of fact, doing this is actually bad because it works to create a precedent going forward that it’s acceptable to treat paying customers like criminals and remain in business.

They have no legal right to stop you for your receipt. If they want to see mine, they’ll have to accuse me of shoplifting first, and they’ll be looking at false imprisonment charges if they bar my way out of the store.

The reason
The only purpose of the receipt check is to intimidate people, and since I’m not stealing, I won’t let them do it. I’m very polite, but not apologetic.

“Your receipt?” they say, usually not bothering to ask anymore because of the sense of power their position has given them.  This is the result of past compliance, the employee now believes that this is now The Way Things Are Done.

“No thanks,” I answer. This usually throws them for a loop. I continue walking.  There’s no need to be rude, and 80% of the time, this is all it takes.

“I need to see your receipt!” Sometimes, they jump in front of me, sometimes it’s not until I’ve passed them that they realize I’m not falling into the expected groove.

“No you don’t, have a nice day” I respond pleasantly as I continue walking.  If they’ve put themselves in my way, however, it’s time to take steps to protect myself.  At this point, I may pull out my cell phone and dial a couple numbers, then hover my finger over Send. “With respect, you can’t stop me and check my receipt unless I give you permission, and I don’t.”

“Yes we can. Show me your receipt or I’ll call the police.” This is usually the point of maximum bluster. You can almost physically smell the adrenaline pouring into the bloodstream of the door guard at this point, so I don’t make any sudden movements. Calmly and confidently, I speak.

“According to the law, you can only stop me if you have cause to believe I’ve shoplifted. I haven’t, and I’m not going to show you my receipt for the purchases I made. If you don’t let me past, I’ll complete this call to 911 and report you to the police for false imprisonment. If you don’t believe me about the law, call the manager over right now.”

At this point, they usually back off, but on occasion, they play it to the hilt and call management or security. At one point at a Best Buy in Los Angeles (off Pico, over by the 405) I had two security guards holding me at the door while the door guy called a manager over. The receipt checker was confidently telling me how I was in a bunch of trouble and they could do whatever they wanted.

When the manager got there, the door checker stuck his chest out proudly and told her how he had gotten me and how I wouldn’t show my receipt, and scornfully relayed my obviously ridiculous assertion that they could not legally hold me if I didn’t want to show the receipt.

With infinite sadness in her eyes that the bluff had been called, she pulled him aside and told him I was right, and that he could NOT actually hold me. She apologized to me and I walked out.  The door checker was shocked silent.

I don’t blame the door guys, they’re in the classic situation of having all the responsibility without any of the authority. Management tells them to do something without letting them know what the law is so that they’ll be confident, and 99% of the sheep let them get away with it.  This is why I’m polite, if firm, when asserting myself.

Rights that you give away are meaningless. Rights exercised are rights kept. Don’t let fear of ‘being difficult’ keep you from doing it.

One thought on “Checking receipts at the door”

  1. Best Buy in Bloomington is surprisingly lax in this regard. I exchanged my netbook, got a new one, took it to the cash register. The cashier just asked if it was already mine, I said yes. The guy at the door said/asked nothing whatsoever.

    1. Grab netbook
    2. Grab 50 cent candy bar
    3. Pay for candy bar, say netbook is already yours.
    4. Walk right by the exit without questioning.

    The fool proof method of stealing: People will always miss the obvious.

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