The Right And Wrong Of Receipt Checking

It’s a fairly simple question, but to some it’s akin to a civil rights violation.

“Can I check you receipt?”

Like pretty much anyone who ever has shopped, I’ve been asked to show my receipt to an employee at the exit to make sure I paid for everything I was leaving the store with. Stores say the practice is to help stop shoplifting  -- a substantial part of retail theft that costs a staggering $107.3 billion worldwide in 2010.

But there is a catch. With the exception of stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, in which the practice is agreed to as part of the membership, stores can’t actually make you show them your receipt before leaving the store.

"In general, the store can't force someone to show their receipt," Joseph LaRocca, senior asset protection advisor for the National Retail Federation, said. "The checks at the door are really designed to be a preventative measure and a customer service measure."

Therein lies the issue. One of my favorite blogs -- The Consumerist -- features the topic quite regularly with tales of customers from all over the country being unlawfully detained and even threatened with arrest (which normally can’t happen under most state laws) because they refuse to show their receipts at corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Some of my favorite, recent stories are from a Wal-Mart shopper who calmly refused to show a receipt and succeeded and the man who avoided a receipt check after setting off the anti-theft tag alarm by loudly saying what he purchased.

Then there is the Best Buy receipt checker who wrote into the site to say that his job is done for the good of the customer. And even though he came off a little high-and-mighty, is what he is saying really all that wrong? Is receipt checking any different than the retail employee who is trained to ask customers if they need any help to make known to a possible shoplifter that they are being watched?

So what do you think? Is receipt checking a practice that violates civil rights while treating customers as criminals until proven otherwise, or are retailers simply trying to cut shrink and avoid passing on the related costs to the same people who are loudly complaining?

Posted by Brent Dirks on Mar 15, 2011

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