I'm sure most of us have shared the all-too-common experience of being nearly accosted as we leave a Wal-Mart (or other similar place of business), only to be asked for our receipt as we leave, as if we are in the process of stealing whatever we may have in our cart. Yesterday afternoon, I was doing just that with several largish bags of dog food in the cart, when the young lady at the door provided just the opening I needed by saying she needed to see my receipt.

Of course, I could hand her my receipt as is standard procedure, but that wouldn't be any fun, now would it? It would have been even easier to do so than normal, because I was actually walking towards the door with my receipt in my hand, as I often do.

It is worth noting at this point that at my typical store, this is generally enough to get through without being bothered. I'm not sure if the employees are lax in their duties or simply afraid of being accosted by someone who doesn't want to go through the procedure.

But in this case, before I could even think it through, I was asking her why she needed to see my receipt. To this simple query, she gave me an answer which seems all-too-obvious, but left the poor woman at an unfortunate disadvantage. She told me that anything that wasn't bagged needed to be checked. Naturally, the 20-pound dog bags weren't in bags of any sort (shopping bags, I mean, and I assume she meant the same). I pounced.

You see, I really don't have too much of a problem with the checking of receipts, but on some days I just find it annoying. If I had been purchasing only dog food, it was one thing. But I also had another bag of items that was bagged as it should have been, meaning I had been through the line. Surely even a non-observant cashier could notice the several bags of dog food in the cart.

Plus, I was running a bit behind schedule. So being detained and presumed guilty just grates on my nerves. Sometimes, I just feel like being annoyed. On the plus side, I was in a good mood. So I promptly suggested she get me bags of the appropriate size so I could get this over with, and she told me that they didn't have bags large enough to hold my purchase. It was on.

After a couple of quick rounds of banter, during which I held up the line - yes, I really did this - I asked to see the manager. If they are going to insist on questioning me about items that aren't bagged, I was going to demand to get bags for everything. And since I was the first one to the door, I was darn well going to be the first one to leave. It goes without saying the people behind me weren't happy about it. By the time the manager showed up, there had to be six people behind me that were increasingly unhappy. It was sweet.

This is when I started to get irritated, because the first thing she did was lay the blame squarely at the feet of the woman at the door. That's just wrong, and I quickly corrected her, saying that the woman had done a wonderful job, and it was the policy that was causing the problem. When the manager realized that the line was rapidly growing (as was the scene that I was causing), she told me that I was free to go. They never did check the receipt.

Did I pay for the dog food? Of course I did. It would never enter my mind to not do so. But it seems to me if you didn't want to, this would be an easy way to get by without doing it.

What bothers me is that they have a policy where they check you out if you don't have bags for everything, but they don't give you bags for every item you purchase. Okay, I understand that some things are pretty large. But they have the little stickies that they put on things you bring back in the store - what about putting them on when you leave the store (a different color, perhaps)? That seems to make sense to me.

We have - or used to have - a policy in this country where you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. Is Wal-Mart really such a force that they can change this? Have we really become such sheep that we'll accept anything, just to get a lower price on a 2 gallon jar of pickles? That's sad.

Comments (8)

See this story from Jeremy Zawodny.

Specifically, note the comments indicating that such checks are strictly voluntary (although perhaps not at Costco or Sam's Club, as you agree to it at membership time...)

Very nice. The comments are especially telling, because they address two issues.

One is that yes, Costco saved the $6 for the box, but at what cost?

They actually irritated a customer (to some degree), but how much time did those two employees spend?

And also another commenter mentions this very issue - "What kind of store won't give you a bag to put your purchases in". My point exactly.

If they want to treat you like this because you don't have things bagged, they ought to make provisions for giving you a bag in every circumstance.

What an incredibly self centered, peevish, petulant, clueless whiner. Remind me to thank Wal Mart for checking receipts, so that their jars of pickles are cheaper. What a fair, reasonable, normal tradeoff.

About presumption of innocence...honey I bet you went to state-run schools run by clueless and impassioned liberals, who poisoned and under-exercised your brain, while pumping you full of prideful blind arrogance (oops- I mean self esteem).

...Because you haven't got a clue. Due process, including presumtion of innocence, starts when you are in the hands of the police, not until. It's about holding back the power of the state- not about being asked if you have a receipt while you are carting out unbagged material from a store. You moron. Listen to me. You are a moron. A moron.

You may not have thought this out, but go with me. Wal Mart isn't the government. If you don't like the way Wal Mart does things, you are totally free and empowered ( you probably heard that word a lot in your school) to buy your dog food elsewhere. That's the most effective way to influence them, and has the wonderful side effect that you shut up.

Um, okay, flxblflyr. You post on my blog, and suspect that I don't know that I'm not self-centered? That's not a leap there. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have a blog in the first place. So let's move on.

Then you use what is frankly a rather bizarre nickname, which is okay - it's a free country. But you don't post a real name, an email address or a web site. If you want anyone to take you seriously, you'd think you would do one of those things. Sure, I could track you down by your IP address if I really cared to do so. But I don't. So let's keep going.

To your point: I think the checks are rude, but that's not it. Really. The fact is that the employees don't know the policy. You go to Sam's, and they have it posted. You agree to subject yourself to being checked, and generally they do a reasonable job at it, if you have a few items. Plus, they don't bag for you.

At Wal-Mart, however, their policy appears to be "check everything that isn't bagged". However, they don't provide bags for some things. So when I ask for those things to be bagged, they can't do it. That's a real problem. I'm actively trying to avoid the issue, and they can't help me with it.

Furthermore, they don't know their own policy. That's worse. Then, when I do ask questions, I'm treated like a criminal for daring to question their policy, which they don't have posted and can't recite. They just expect you to lay down and take it. That's wrong. It's people like you who have decided to ruin the way of life that we have, by accepting anything and everything that might be good about our way of life by just saying "that's the way it is".

Instead, how about saying "that's the way it should be"?

Speaking of law enforcement, at what point does it become assault? How much force can the employee use?

flxblflyr is a douche, but his point is somewhat valid

"Is Wal-Mart really such a force that they can change this? Have we really become such sheep that we'll accept anything, just to get a lower price on a 2 gallon jar of pickles? That's sad."

I'm sorry, what's that? You really believe that allowing an employee to mark a receipt is making sheep of consumers?

These stories are funny, and have legal basis, but they are not a representation of a better human. Because you refuse to comply with an easy, albeit unnecessary, policy makes you a better human? (referring to your use of language, I realize the implication was not intentional)

Is Wal-Mart really such a force that their policies affect your life in such a way? Is it really that hard to shop elsewhere? This all comes down to bad managers, managers are humans too, they are not perfect, they are certainly not sheep. They don't know the policies? return your items and make sure the manager knows why. Shop elsewhere, point made.

Your story and others are funny to read, but it's not sad to allow someone to check a receipt. And did it ever occur to you that this is to prevent shop lifting, and not catch it? It's voluntary, if they deny you the right to decline, return your items.

It's demeaning to say we're sheep, and what we do is sad, and it's simply incorrect.

I'd also like to point out that I am no hypocrite, I have never once entered a Wal-Mart store because of their other practices, practices that matter, practices that make life harder for thousands of ex-shop-owners.

I know the procedure from CostCo, where it is well defined, well known, and actually a requirement of membership. Shope where you want, and spread the word if you think it's necessary, don't talk down to us.

I'm only slightly less of a douche than flxblflyr

Well, I got caught up in the little argument, sucker for flame wars. I liked the read, and to be honest, I didn't know it was an issue at all until now.

In addition to Wal-Mart, I'd like to add Fry's to the list of equally stupid merchants. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy alternative to Fry's as there is to Wal-Mart, returns are impossible there, and the receipt check can become a huge hassle because they actually check your cart if the price is right.

Of course, I'm willing to deal with the receipt checks and return lines because it's only hurting me to shop there. Actually, come to think of it, when I was purchasing a computer, a salesman totally bullshitted me on the more expensive Sony Vaio over the cheaper one... It was something like $150 more for an extra gig of memory and a glossy screen. The same memory was sold for under $30 just ten feet away form where we stood.

It's a proven fact that the vast majority of shoplifting is done by EMPLOYEES of a business and not the customers. They are not preventing shoplifting where it is needed most.

The items are yours. You paid for them and it is within your rights to politely refuse to show your receipt.

If you don't mind showing it, then do just that! I won't think less of you for it nor should anyone think less of me for not showing it.

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