The Checkout

Receipt Checks -- You Can Say 'No'

Over the past few months, I've received several e-mails about bad experiences people have had when they've been stopped by security to check their receipt as they're trying to leave a store. A lot of people find the exercise insulting and invasive, especially if they have to wait in long lines. After all, once you buy something, it's your property, right?

This is what reader Tamu Wright wrote recently:

In general, I think it makes honest customers feel like the store is treating them like a criminal, and in my mind it is a very lazy way of trying to find shoplifters. Also, (I am an African-American woman), I have had friends/family members feel embarrassed or humiliated because their receipt was checked but not others who came through the exit before or after them. I have also noticed in the past (not sure if this is true now) that some stores (i.e. Target) has this receipt-checking policy in Prince George's county, but did not have one went I visited a suburban Va. store. Both of these issues, of course, speak to the issue of race/class profiling.

Well, it turns out retailers are allowed to check your purchases and receipt as long as the search is voluntary and they don't do it in a discriminatory way. Some retailers, such as Costco, spell it out as a condition of membership.

According to a piece on this very issue that ran last fall in the NY Daily News:

Retail loss experts explain that the purpose of the bag check is to make sure the cashier correctly charged for all items in the shopping bag or cart. Once this is done, the bag checker makes a distinctive mark on the receipt to indicate that it was checked.

So theoretically, you don't have to submit to such checks unless you're at Costco and don't mind getting your membership revoked.

Many consumers may not realize this or figure it's just easier to hand over their receipt and open up their bag. One question is, do store clerks and security people respect this?

Are you a shopper who has asserted your right not to be searched? What happened when you did?

By Annys Shin |  March 1, 2007; 7:24 AM ET Customer Service
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I politely say "no thank you" and keep on walking. Never had a problem. Thanks for the info.

Posted by: Firsty McFirstalot | March 1, 2007 8:20 AM

What does all the crap "che" posted have to do with anything? If there were ever a time for the moderators to delete a post, this is one such time.

Posted by: Rich | March 1, 2007 8:44 AM

First - che - will you PLEASE just go away? There is barely a person who posts on the boards who doesn't know your politics. We're tired of your posts - just get yourself a site on, okay?

As for today's topic...

You know, it never really bothered me. Though I did leave the DC area for Western Wisconsin, where our population is significantly lower, so it's not like this causes a huge delay.

Honestly, when you think about it, it's just kind of stupid. If you're going to shoplift, you're hardly going to put the item in your bag or cart.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 1, 2007 9:31 AM

I politely say no. Sometimes they get a little upset but the trick is to stay calm.

The folks asking to search the bags are just doing their jobs as defined by their management so please be polite to the folks at the door.

If they escalate the issue by calling in the management you can escalate also. Ask for the police to be summoned with a search warrant. I have had to do this twice and they always backed down.

This reminds me of being asked for my home phone number and address for "their records". I always say no thank you for that too.

On another issue: It is nice to that Che is out of rehab. Too bad Che is back to using again tho. Does anybody out there know Che personally? Does Che have a recently shaved head? Inquiring minds want to know. ;)

Posted by: SoMD | March 1, 2007 9:46 AM

Sam's Club checks receipts in all the stores in which I have shopped.

Maybe it's also a way to double check to make sure cashiers aren't giving their friends free merchandise.

Posted by: ProfessorB | March 1, 2007 9:49 AM

Sam's Club receipt checkers apparently have special implants. How else can you explain their action of glancing at the receipt and your shopping basket and reconciling both within five seconds?

Posted by: Ken | March 1, 2007 9:58 AM

Ken, I have seen them glance and swipe their marker over my receipt in under 2! Give that grandma a raise for efficiency!

Seriously though, I have never seen them accomplish anything by looking at the receipt. There have been plenty of times when I made it out the door WITHOUT an item I paid for. Maybe they should start making sure the person put everything in the cart that I was charged for. I know for a fact that baggers notice these things when bagging the order of the next customer. Usually they set the item aside to restock. Back in my HS bagging days we actually had a sense of pride in customer service by running the customer down before they got in the car, so we could hand them something- no matter how insignificant it seemed. I guess that is just one reason why Publix is ranked so high... other chains could get a clue.

Posted by: Chris | March 1, 2007 10:06 AM

I've always thought the whole receipt-checking thing was a joke. They just glance in the cart, "Yep, got a lot of stuff there," then glance at the reciept, "Yep, lot of stuff on there too," and mark it. They're not actually checking anything. If a shoplifter were to slip something extra in the cart, would the door checker really notice if there were 39 items in the cart instead of the 38 shown on the receipt? Maybe stores elsewhere actually verify with some accuracy, but not where I shop in Ohio.

Posted by: JB | March 1, 2007 10:06 AM

All of what they've said about the checks is true...but if they look like their doing this though, then corporate has no grounds to get pissy when stolen merchandise is up X% for the quarter... (much like Metro saying to look for packages -- this way if something happens, "We told people to look around, that's all we can reasonably do."). Easy way to pass the buck.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 1, 2007 10:18 AM

The Costco I go to has questioned me about items I have purchased-- only when I have purchased two of the same expensive item, and they want to make sure I actually had two and wasn't charged twice for one purchase. I appreciated it, even though each time I was not actually overcharged.

So I do think they look at the items, at least in some Costcos. I'm happy to do it if it deters shoplifters and keeps my prices lower.

Posted by: Neighbor | March 1, 2007 10:19 AM

I grudgingly allow Costco to check my receipt, because they said up front they were going to do it, and they do it to every customer. I don't like it, but I agreed.

On the other hand, some years ago Walmart tried the same thing, in a "random" search, and tried to prevent me from leaving the store when I refused. So I walked over to customer service, gave them my receipt, and demanded a refund on everything in my bag (which I got). I haven't been back to Walmart since.

Posted by: PO'd shopper | March 1, 2007 10:30 AM

Exit bag / receipt checks are legal if they are voluntary and not coercive. You are well within your rights to say 'no thank you' and keep walking.

If you are detained by security, ask if you are being accused of shoplifting. There are six specific rules for detaining someone suspected of shoplifting. Some security people are over-zealous in their perceived duty. Ask if you have violated any or all of the rules.

If you are prevented from leaving the store or parking lot, consider filing a complaint with the police about being detained against your will.

Bottom line: Once you pay for the item, it belongs to you and the store has no right to it anymore.

Posted by: JK | March 1, 2007 10:37 AM

I've had security watch me stand in line at K-Mart for 15 minutes then try to check my receipt. I always tell them that if I were going to steal something I wouldn't have have stood in line. Besides, most of the receipt checkers are elderly; if someone was really trying to steal what is Gramps going to do? Try to hit you with his cane?

Posted by: not a thief | March 1, 2007 10:42 AM

I have been asked several times to show my receipt at Wal-mart, but only because I have a high ticket item such as an electronic device.

I don't know if Annys or Tamu or anyone else knows but shoplifters have gotten crafty in the past years. They pay for a few items and they hide the one they want to shoplift or simply leave it in the cart when passing through the checkout. The practice of checking receipts on the way out is just another measure to prevent shoplifters. Which, I might add keeps prices lower.
I just make it a habit to hand my receipt to the door person as I am walking out. If they don't see anything worth checking off, they wave me on.

ps Che is an auto-post. Telling him to stop won't work. The source system needs to be found and stopped.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | March 1, 2007 10:54 AM

Why do you people think these are random searches? They are not random. Like Sushi said, you had something that they need to verify. These folks are elderly because they are not security. They are verifying to actually bought it, it was actually rain up or your not shoplifting.

if people think this is profiling then they need to open they eyes a little more and look beyond the race card.

Posted by: John | March 1, 2007 11:11 AM

When the person in front of me is waved through without a cart check, the look on my face tells the store employee that he/she needs to think twice about stopping me.

When the person in front of me is not asked for identification when making a purchase and I am, I ask why and remind the clerk that the person in front of me was not checked, so unless they have a compelling reason and don't want to face a law suit, they had better complete the transaction without identification. If I happen to be the first in line and I am asked for identification, I stick around after my transaction to be sure the person behind me is also asked for ID. If not, I go right to the stores management to file a complaint.

Posted by: ohreallynow | March 1, 2007 11:11 AM

I agree the cursory 2 second galnce at my receipt and at my bag is more for show than it is designed to actually stop shoplifters. I feel like a criminal and even more so when people are allowed to exit around me without being stopped. I think it should be required of all customers or none.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 11:15 AM

The receipt checker might as well ask you whether your bags have been with you at all times. The check is a minimal attempt at security that recognizes that most customers are not security threats. If the patron breaks out in a cold sweat and starts screaming at the checker, on the other hand, you might have found your shoplifter.

Posted by: athea | March 1, 2007 11:17 AM

John, if what you say is true, then explain to me why I was stopped at Target (Springfield Target has checkers last time I went) for a search of a small bag that had nothing more than shampoo in it, but people with electronics or carts full of bags were allowed to pass by unaccosted? That's arbitrary.

I always seem to get stopped because I'm deaf and am frequently looking people I approach in the eye to be sure they aren't speaking to me. It's like the eye contact signals "she's doing something wrong" to people lol. I HAVE to look because I have had times when I go about my business and people come chasing after me angry because I didn't acknowledge them when they were speaking to me. For my own safety, I have to be much more aware of people. So because of my behavior, I endure repeated checks at the places that have this policy, regardless of what is in my bag or cart. Meanwhile groups of baggy clothed kids walk past me with nary a glance from the employee. Whatever....

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 11:25 AM

Good to know you can politely ignore these folks. I hate these checks, they're hardly ever consistent, and I don't appreciate being treated like a criminal. Thanks for the advice, Annys.

Posted by: Moose | March 1, 2007 11:44 AM

Maybe you look funny CyanSquirrel. I don't know. There was some reason your were asked to show your receipt.

I do know, however that is done as a check to make sure you have paid for everything. People are not picked out because of race. They are picked for a reason.

And as for you people who advocate saying, no, raising a stink about it, then going to the store manager to complain, those people are just going to spend time getting nowhere. By the time they get finished, they could have been out of the store and halfway home.

Just show it and be on your way. Who cares if they see what I bought anyway. The checkout clerk saw so it's not like it's a privacy issue. For most of you people here, it's a personal issue and when you bring personal issues into a public place, you open your personal life to everyone.


Posted by: John | March 1, 2007 11:45 AM

As long as they do politely, quickly, and efficiently.

Posted by: Garak | March 1, 2007 12:16 PM

Why are Tamu, CyanSquirrel, and others so quick to assume they are being profiled? I am a white male with no disabilities but have been stopped numerous times, with both expensive and minor purchases. Perhaps it's random, perhaps the person is trying to read body language and guess who will be the least confrontational, who knows? I agree to the checks because it's the fastest way out of the store. I may try the "no thanks" option next time, but in fear of being delayed 5 minutes to avoid a 15 second check, I'll probably just cave. Che's an idiot.

Posted by: Centreville | March 1, 2007 12:24 PM

Anything that can not be put in a bag should be check, i.e. large electronic items. The store should at least put a sticker on the item to show security that its been paid for, like the grocery store does to my case of bottled water. Yet, I've purchased large items at Target (a TV, armoir, chairs etc.) and walked out without anyone checking, which I thought was rather odd, but randomly checking by "profiling" isn't going to stop shoplifters.

Posted by: dym | March 1, 2007 12:29 PM

Obviously it is easier to simply comply with their requests to check your receipt, but that is not the point. The point is that you can legally assert your right to say no. If you like you can simply say no thanks and keep walking out. I don't think they can legally keep you from leaving just because you refused to show your receipt.

Posted by: Rahj | March 1, 2007 12:33 PM

I get stopped and checked all of the time, bought a digital cam at Best Buy on Sat, and I thought it was ludicrous, because the store employee who went to the shelves and got all of the items I wanted, ran through the charge and placed them all in a bag is the one who handed the bag to the receipt checker, because he had some tool to "unlock" the box that the cam was in. I never had possession of the bag, a store employee did, and he still checked the items and the receipt. Maybe he didn't trust her, what do I know? BTW, I'm a white male and I get stopped all of the time. I've never had to wait in line for it, except at Sam's club, because I generally only go into retail stores when I have a day off during the week because I can't stand the mobs of people walking around in a haze not sure where they're going. Are they there to shop or get in my way while they're daydreaming? Hard to tell. Overall, I don't care if they check it or not. I don't have time to argue about it, and I've got nothing in the bag that I didn't pay for, so don't really care.

Posted by: don't really care | March 1, 2007 12:38 PM


Perhaps that's why :-) However, I'm white and the guards that stop me are invariably black (and it's usually black customers who are allowed to pass by freely. Makes me wonder if there's some in-house scam going on, where the guard's friends pass out the door undetected with hot goods while the "guard" was occupied for two whole seconds.) Internalized reverse racism? Perhaps, and we whites deserve it on many levels - white privilege is real folks. Would I think the same if a white person stopped me? Honestly no, because I've never been stopped by a white guard aside from Sam's Club, and then my receipt was scrutinized for a good 10 seconds before he signed off on it. I've always been given a polite smile by any white guards I encounter at places like Target. Should it happen and they take a cursory glance, I'll revisit my stance on that, though. Hmmm....

But as to your point that they are looking to make sure you paid for everything, how does a two second glace allow them to reconcile the receipt when you have several bags, etc? I have much more confidence that I was treated fairly and consistently and PURPOSELY stopped when the scan of the receipt and bags clearly shows some mental cogs tunring in the employee's head.

This issue is not being addressed satisfactorally here by commenters and the inconsistency in enforcing this policy on some customers and not others (regardless of race) is bothersome. I suspect it's more of a power trip than actual security on the part of the guards!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 12:38 PM

I agree with John. If you're the only one in line and they ask you for ID, but you still "hang around" to see if they ask the next person for ID or not, seems to me that you've got a personal issue that needs work. Don't congest the customer service area with these pointless complaints that serve no purpose - it's stuff like that that can make returning something a 90 minute exercise in frustration.

Posted by: dk | March 1, 2007 12:39 PM

Hi Centerville,
I didn't say I was being profiled, but if that's the way it's interpreted, okay. I meant that I'm deaf, and because of this I look at people's faces not down at my shoes like most in this region, and that seems to be perceived as odd behavior. Which it is. Eye contact in the DC area is reserved only for when you're mad at some other driver, from the looks of the news recently. Most people look down at blackberrys, the floor, etc. On the off chance I do avoid looking at people, I'm not stopped by the guard. Gee....heh.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 12:44 PM

I do agree that this issue is minor and really not worth stewing over. But sometimes being treated less than human by Big Business can take its toll. This is one of those issues where you can b*itch about it but not lose sleep if nothing changes.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 12:47 PM

On the other hand, although got nothing to hide and no time to argue, one thing I will not permit is police who pull me over for a traffic offense and then ask if they can search my vehicle. This has only happened a couple of times, but last week I got pulled over on false pretenses, they claimed my registration was suspended for failure to have the vehicle inspected for emissions compliance, but I just had that inspection a couple of months ago. I flatly refused, and of course I have to hear all of this B.S. about, why, do you have something to hide? Oh, you're a lawyer, and all of this other B.S. The real reason I was pulled over is because I'm a white person who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood, and there are some crackhouses in the area, and a lot of the cops do this math: white boy/black neighborhood, must be trying to buy crack. Go ahead, drive into the neighborhood behind the Rockville metro up N Horner's LN, and if it's late and you're white they'll make an excuse to pull you over. They threatened to get the dogs to sniff my car, and when I asked, Is your dog getter broken or you got it lent out, they went back to their car and huddled for a minute and then came back and told me that I was free to go. Remember, people died so we could have the right to say no to unreasonable government intrusion. Giving up that right so easily, or taking it for granted is a disservice and disrespect to those that died fighting for the freedom we enjoy today. Despite what Che claims, we're still pretty darn free.

Posted by: don't really care | March 1, 2007 12:48 PM

I've said no at CVS, and had them threaten to call the cops on me. This, of course, made me mad but also nervous (even though I hadn't done anything wrong), and I let them check my bag/receipt.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 1, 2007 12:49 PM

I don't shop at stores if I know they are going to ask this, except every once in a great while when it's unavoidable.

John and others who don't think it's a big deal, how would you feel if a police officer wanted to search your trunk at random, just in case?

I've got nothing to hide, but I do have the right not be treated like a potential criminal because I bought stuff at Target. If I am asked, I say no and keep walking. The only time I ever submit to is if I have something too big to put in a bag. If I'm carrying some expensive item under my arm, then I think it is reasonable for them to verify. Otherwise, hands off.

That crap about how it's to ensure the checker rung you up correctly is a load of bull. In the first place, checkers are not responsible for punching in prices anywhere anymore, everything is scanned. In the second place, the person at the exit glancing into my bag has absolutely no idea what the correct prices are, they'd have to know everything in the store.

The sole reason is that they want to ensure you aren't stealing something. It's an insult.

Posted by: SteveG | March 1, 2007 12:49 PM

To ohreallynow:

If the person in front of you is asked for ID and you are not, do you have a problem with that?

Posted by: just curious | March 1, 2007 12:52 PM

Annys, do you know if the same guidelines apply when the electronic checkers at the doors beep to say that an item has not been paid for. This happened to me once at Wal-Mart, which in my experience is notorious for not removing whatever security tag is necessary so the thing doesn't beep. The problem was that I had purchased the item (a $15 mouse) back at the electronics section, and somewhere between the electronics counter and the front door of the store I managed to lose my receipt (I still have no idea how that happened). I had to go back and get the guy at the electronics counter to come to the front of the store and vouch for me, and even then they were reluctant to let me go. I realize this looks very suspicious, but I was not stealing anything. Could I have just told them no thanks when they asked to see my receipt, even though the security thing has beeped?

Posted by: Jen | March 1, 2007 12:53 PM

"we whites deserve it on many levels - white privilege is real folks" CyanSquirrel wins the Guilty White Liberal Award for March 2007. Don't you think it would be better to insist on fairness for all and a colorblind society?

Posted by: Mediaskeptic | March 1, 2007 1:09 PM

The security thing beeping might be enough for them to have probabable cause to see the receipt

Posted by: rahj | March 1, 2007 1:16 PM

The statement "once you've bought it, it's yours" sort of misses the point that store checks are used to be sure you've bought the item in the first place. You're walking out of the store with a $200 stereo and you expect them to take your word that you've paid for it?

Generally, I'm checked only if I have a major item. But on the odd occasion when I am checked with a smaller bag, I just chalk it up to the behaviour of a bored or over-zealous clerk. I show them my receipt and let them look in the bag, and move on.

Just because they check my bag, doesn't mean it's personal. EVERYBODY IS NOT OUT TO GET YOU. Just because you happen to be black, white or asian, doesn't mean automatically that you were stopped because you are black, white or asian.

There are things worth fighting over, this is not one of them.

Posted by: dc | March 1, 2007 1:24 PM

Thank you. I'd like to accept this reward on behalf of...all the moderate folks out there. Why can't people be both liberal and conservative at the same time without being blasted by one side or the other? :-p

Anyways, you're right. It should be colorblind and fair. My idealist self used to think that. Until I saw just how ingrained the race factor is in everyday life. This will take generations to get out of the system.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 1:27 PM

Can a retailer refuse to give future business to an individual who will not show their receipt?

Posted by: rahj | March 1, 2007 1:27 PM

First, I wonder how many shoplifters are actually caught or deterred due to receipt checks. For Wal-Mart, how does the amount saved by this compare to 10 years (so far) of lost revenue from a previously loyal customer (plus the extra costs of paying an employee to stand around marking receipts)?

It is personal (in that it's an insult), but it goes beyond that.

Imagine this scenario: I buy one small but expensive item (say, a flash drive), put it in my pocket with the receipt, throw the store bag away, and walk out. Does the checker then have the right to demand a receipt and to order me to turn out my pockets, based on nothing other than the fact that I'm walking out of the store?

What if I just walk out of the store without buying anything at all? Can they search me and demand documentation of everything that I brought into the store with me?

(Incidentally, hardware stores seem to have this figured out. I often go into a hardware store carrying something with me that I'm trying to match--a particular bolt, or whatever--yet I've never been questioned about it upon leaving.)

By walking into the store, do I automatically give up all rights to privacy and presumption of innocence that I enjoy almost anywhere else? If so, I need to know that in advance, so I can refuse to shop there.

Posted by: PO'd shopper | March 1, 2007 1:39 PM

Sure, if he doesn't want my money.

There are very few retailers who sell anything that can't be obtained in other places.

Posted by: SteveG | March 1, 2007 1:39 PM

as for the comments about sams club people having emplants,they look at the receit because it says right on the ticket how many items you have purchased.needless to say if your receit says "15items" and they count 17 in your cart,as ricky recardo use tell lucy>"you have some "splaining to do" after you purchase a item[and you have proof of it]that is your property and don't have to show anyone a dam thing.but as person who has worked in loss prevention this is just another way to keep shop lifting down.because guess who the buck gets passed to because of high loss's do to shop lifters>>thats right me and that is why when asked i always show my receit.and of course there will be those who try and use the race card every time.hey wake up that card has been played to many times for things it really has nothing to do with.if you don't like a store's policy of having to show a receit before leaving then shop some where else,don't try and turn it into a race issue every time.Can I get a AMEN?

Posted by: kingkong | March 1, 2007 1:44 PM

1 - cashiers place unscanned items in bags all the time, particularly items with high black market resale value. The checkers are often looking for certain items, if they don't see it, in 2 or 5 seconds, often no worries.

Anyone who thinks shoplifiting or cashiers not scanning items for their friends is not an issue has never worked in retail or known someone who has and does not spend enough time reading the news.

2 - While I hate doing the receipt check it is just something to deal with, like cell phones on the metro. I walk right up to whoever is doing the check with my receipt and bag held out. No one has ever checked.

Posted by: Germantown | March 1, 2007 1:46 PM

Don't know if my case was profiling; don't really care. But the last time Best Buy pulled that stunt on me -- after I bought a microwave oven with no assistance whatsoever from their supposedly-helpful-but-harder-to-find-than-Osama-bin-Laden sales staff -- that was the last time they got my business.

If they were lazy enough not to help me make the purchase, they don't have a right to try checking me at the door. (But I am glad to know for future reference that I have the right to refuse.)

F--- Best Buy and any other retailer who tries that crap.

Posted by: dirrtysw | March 1, 2007 1:49 PM

Big difference between a retailer wanting to check my cart/bags/whatever to "verify" a purchase and a cop randomly asking to search the trunk of my car.

Those of you who are against this policy are making a mountain out of a molehill. Unless you're being unduely delayed, let it go. Even if the store IDs only a few cases of theft or fraud, the policy's fine with me. Unless it's adding more than a minute to your shopping experience, let it go.

Posted by: Anon | March 1, 2007 1:56 PM

I agree that checking receipts is not thorough and probably won't discourage theft. Based on that, I don't like it either and am glad to hear that I (usually) don't have to cooperate.
On a related topic, I don't like having my phone conversations recorded when I contact a business. Does anyone know if I can lawfully be refused service if I say no to the option?

Posted by: Dorchester | March 1, 2007 2:12 PM

Germantown said, "Anyone who thinks shoplifiting or cashiers not scanning items for their friends is not an issue has never worked in retail or known someone who has and does not spend enough time reading the news."

It is a problem. But there has to be a better solution than treating all customers as potentially guilty until proven innocent.

Posted by: SteveG | March 1, 2007 2:13 PM

Anon said, "Big difference between a retailer wanting to check my cart/bags/whatever to "verify" a purchase and a cop randomly asking to search the trunk of my car."

What is the difference? In both cases, you're being asked to prove you've done nothing wrong to someone who has no reason to suspect you have.

Why should you have to prove your innocence? This is America. We're supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

If someone in the store thinks they saw me slip something into my bag, ok, they can look and see that I didn't. If they just want to look to "verify that I was charged correctly" (right) they can say goodbye to many of my dollars.

Posted by: SteveG | March 1, 2007 2:16 PM

I've been checked at the PG Target only when there's an item in my basket that's not in a bag (toilet paper, soda, etc.). Further, I've been checked every time there's an item in my cart that's not in a bag--in fact, the security people are very specific about why they're asking to check. The checks generally take about 10 seconds--if that--and they don't bother me. They've never rooted through my bags.

BTW, I'm a white guy who usually has one or two kids in tow. If they're rooting through the bags (rather than just checking unbagged items) of folks who don't look like me, though, that would tick me off.

Posted by: HomeDad | March 1, 2007 2:19 PM

There are sour, angry individuals out there, making themselves and those around them miserable because they are always looking for a fight.

Claiming that receipt checks are a personal insult or an attack on your civil rights belittles those issues which are truly deserving of such attention.


Posted by: dc | March 1, 2007 2:19 PM

Congratulations Annys!

And way to be a super committed blogger.

Posted by: In other news... | March 1, 2007 2:20 PM

I live in Prince George's county and, unlike the poster quoted in the article, I have never seen receipt checkers at any of the local Target stores I frequent. They do have security guards by the exit sometimes, but I've never seen anyone stopped.

Posted by: PG County | March 1, 2007 2:23 PM

AspenHill Kmart has a checker sometimes, so does Target Wheaton.....I will decline..I hate the practice but it seems the set up is just to be in place in case LossPrevention Id's someone from watching or on camera, then having a receipt checker already in place would make it easier to nab a suspect Profiling is so wrong...plenty of uppity looking folks of all colors boost the merch..this is from 10 years in retail

Posted by: avidshopr | March 1, 2007 2:36 PM

BJ's club checks all carts leaving the store. No bags, since they don't provide them. This is well explained during enrollment as a condition of membership. They always compare the receipt to what you are taking out, and look very closely, at least at the store where I shop. By minimizing shoplifting they are keeping the costs as low as possible. I can deal with that.

Posted by: SoMD | March 1, 2007 2:44 PM

Hey, just don't look like a criminal and they won't stop you....

oh wait, what does a criminal look like?

Posted by: A. John | March 1, 2007 2:47 PM

I shop at the Wal Mart Super Center in Martinsburg, WV. They routinely ask customers to simply show a receipt as they exit. In 3 years I have only once had my receipt examined in detail. Yes, 90% of the customers are white and I am also.

I confess that I don't recall noticing if Latino or black customers were being checked more closely. Nor do I recall anyone refusing the check or being stopped if they didn't submit.

Thanks for the head's up. I will pay more attention and may learn something. I agree that profiling is wrong. If retailers want to check receipts, they should check everyone. If customers don't like this they can vote with their credit cards and take their business elsewhere. Mass market retail is highly competitive and consumer reaction is noticed.

Posted by: Ed Harris | March 1, 2007 2:50 PM

I don't trust any persons judgement to fairly or randomly check bags without imposing some of their own prejudices. Human beings are wired to notice patterns, even if they don't exist.

That shifty eyed person in line could just be someone who's sensitive to being profiled and is watching how everyone else is being treated to see if they're being mistreated.

I say you either search everybody or nobody to make it completely fair. Either everyone is treated like a potential criminal or as law abiding.

Posted by: A. John | March 1, 2007 2:53 PM

What about stores that have self-checkout? Since you bagged all your items, the store really has no other way to check, right?

Posted by: Andrew | March 1, 2007 2:56 PM

An apocryphal story from way back: in a local K-mart a couple of young men shoplifted a canoe by carrying it over their heads right out the door, as though it was paid for.

The follow up is they were caught the next week trying to get some paddles.

Reminded me of this:


Posted by: kdt | March 1, 2007 2:58 PM

SoMD, what's funny about BJ's is they stop your cart to check, but then once you're out the door, no one stops people from taking the cart home! I am serious! I used to live a 5 minute walk from the BJs on Stevenson Ave in Alexandria's west end. People in my building left BJ's carts in the parking garage of our apartment complex! Apparently they walked to BJs and then walked on home with the cart. Now that you point out BJs doesn't provide bags, I have to laugh because it seems that would be cheaper than having to replace carts. ROFL....

Annys, congrats! Some of the comments on the sports blog made me chuckle. "Mazel Tov?" Ok her husband might be Jewish in terms of last name, but she's Asian. That's a new one for me ;)

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | March 1, 2007 3:12 PM

They put receipt checkers at stores (other than costco, bjs) that have a higher shoplifting rate. It's mostly for show because how can they check a 10 plus item receipt in 2 seconds? Don't take it personally! If people who came to that store didn't try to steal as often, they wouldn't have the receipt checkers. It's not motivated by race, it's motivated by dollars lost. It's why there are checkers at some targets and not others. Can you blaim them? If it bothers you go to another store. If everyone does this, they will either improve the store to attract more shoppers or close it. Everything is motivated by money. They have to make CVS's, target's, bestbuy, even fastfood places nicer in more well to do areas to attract those people. In lesser income areas they don' it right? No. I think they should take the high road and try to maintain a high image at all stores.

Posted by: shopper | March 1, 2007 3:13 PM

Dorchester wrote: "On a related topic, I don't like having my phone conversations recorded when I contact a business. Does anyone know if I can lawfully be refused service if I say no to the option?"

Laws on recording telephone calls vary by state. In some states both parties have to consent, and in others it requires knowledge only on the part of one party. Theoretically, if you live in a state that requires both parties' consent you could refuse to agree to the recording. However, this would not prevent the company from refusing to do business with you because of it. Obviously it would be a good business practice to protect customers' privacy, but I assume many companies would value covering their own *ss against liability if you later dispute charges than honoring customers' requests for privacy.

Posted by: WDC | March 1, 2007 3:43 PM

SteveG, the difference is between the government doing something, and a private business. The Bill of Rights protects you against government actions, NOT against what some company decides it wants to do. If the company posts a sign saying that their policy is to check receipts at the door, your choice is to comply or take your business elsewhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 1, 2007 3:50 PM

I just flat out don't like being treated like I did something wrong. They don't need to see my receipt. I carry a large purse (big enough to carry lunch in to work) and I often slip my purchase, and receipt, into my purse so it looks like I didn't buy anything. It helps some but only when my purchase is small.

I don't understand why, if the store is insistent on checking your receipt and bag (ie Best Buy) do the cashiers put your receipt in your bag. You then eng up diggin in your bag to find the tiny receipt that has static clinged itself to your cello wrapped boxed earbuds. That wastes time.

And as someone who tries to do their miniscule part in trying to save the planet, I love the looks I get from cashiers when I say I don't need a bag. I stopped at Target two days ago on the way home to pick up a bottle of contact solution and told the cashier I didn't need a bag. He had a wonderful blank stare. Do I really need a bag? No receipt check. Even for large purchases. I bought some under-the-bed boxes a few months ago (they don't fit in bags) and told the cashier just to put everything else in the boxes instead of bags. Odd look from the cashier and no check from the checker at the door.

Posted by: Dukedg | March 1, 2007 3:55 PM

I usually submit, but what gets me is when I purchase a big ticket item like a TV, the security people can see me paying for the item and still want to check my receipt. This happened to me one day at Best Buy and I was so furious that I went right back into the store with the $3600 TV and returned it. If I am spending big bucks in your store I expect people to be on my every step thanking me out the door, not thinking I am stealing a CD. I know only shop for home audio at specialty stores like Myer Emco.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 1, 2007 4:37 PM

"The security thing beeping might be enough for them to have probabable cause to see the receipt"

Probable cause only applies to police searches. No company or person representing them has the right to search another person's property, even if the police would have probable cause; that includes "rent-a-cops." Of course, if you refuse and the police are called, then you're probably going to have to let them search your bag.

Posted by: belgie | March 1, 2007 4:45 PM

Thanks for letting us know that we can refuse these unreasonalbe searches. I will give it a shot next time. Sometimes these people are so ridiculous, you can be the only person in line, and right next to the door and the security guy watches you make the purchase and the clerk puttin your merchandise in the bag and then STILL asks to see your receipt! This has happened at Best Buy in Pentagon City. I have made a few not so nice choice comments to the security people in this situation. Next time I'll just keep walking.

Posted by: C-dog | March 1, 2007 5:14 PM

The only stores that I know of that have a national policy of checking receipts if Costco, Sam's club and Best Buy.

I was in K-Mart at Rivertowne and as I walked out, I was asked to present a receipt. I kindly questioned the practice at the Rivertowne location vs. the location at my home. If the practice is not a national policy, I won't adhere to it.

I agree, ask the clerk to call the police and then produce a search warrant. Don't be intimidated.

Target does not have a national policy to search bags either.

Posted by: lwa | March 1, 2007 5:33 PM

An unsigned person said, "SteveG, the difference is between the government doing something, and a private business. The Bill of Rights protects you against government actions, NOT against what some company decides it wants to do. If the company posts a sign saying that their policy is to check receipts at the door, your choice is to comply or take your business elsewhere. "

I don't believe I've said anything contrary to that. Of course they have the *legal* right to request it. (Though not, I think, to require it, in the absence of evidence of a crime.) And I have the right to decide I don't want to spend my money at places that do and try to avoid them.

Where have I said otherwise?

What I meant with the police example is that the principle is exactly the same. In both cases, you are being asked to prove your innocence even when there is not sign of guilt.

I just think it's a shabby way to treat people.

Posted by: SteveG | March 1, 2007 5:33 PM

I don't have much of a problem with these checks.

I'm a 6'1 30-something white male lawyer. I make a point of objecting to unnecessary checks and rules and restrictions and dubious orders issued by security personnel. Because, heck, if *I* don't have the courage to stand up to these guys, who will?

I've stared down the guys at airport security; I've called the police ON federal security guards that were blatantly violating my and other people's rights on the sidewalk (and go them to stop!).

However, I really don't have a problem with the 100% checks at BestBuy and Costco. If they deter (not even catch -- deter) even $1000 per day per store in shoplifting, then I think it's a cost-effective way to lower my prices.

They are not the government, and I don't have to go in the store if I don't want to. I've never experienced a wait longer than about 3 minutes. If it got into the 15-minute range, then I would start to mind. Also I would mind if the guards get to choose who will get checked, or how thoroughly to check them, because that could mean conscious or unconscious use of race or age to treat people unfairly.

Posted by: Peter | March 1, 2007 5:41 PM

Late to the chat, but... I live in New York City and almost everybody checks bags/receipts here: Target, Kmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, all of the electronics stores. Those that don't, have security who *will* at the very least give you a hard look if you're leaving and they don't see a bag in your hand. Heck, even the public libraries have bag searches at the exits! And you know what? We all get checked, we're all used to it, we go through the lines like good sheep and go on about our business. Anybody spouting off about how they have their personal rights and they won't be infringed upon would be quickly shouted down for infringing on others' rights by holding up the line.

Do I actually think these checks do anybody any good? Not really, no, since anybody really determined to steal something is going to do so regardless.

Posted by: BxNY | March 1, 2007 5:48 PM

Costco's are the biggest joke. You could have a really expensive, but small, item under a larger one and they don't check. I can barely locate items on my receipt when I read each line individually, let alone in the 2 seconds they take.

Frequently there is a long line to exit my Costco, even with two receipt checkers. I just walk down the middle of the line, and when they stop me, just say I'm in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone else I've just cut in front of, but maybe if everyone did so, something might change.

I wonder what Costco's procedure is for emergencies and if having all those people blocking an exit waiting in line is a fire hazard.

Posted by: Jennie | March 1, 2007 8:15 PM

The entire exercise of checking receipts seems nonsensical. All the items at the big-box stores and department stores are bar coded. The cashier can err only if she scans the wrong item, or fails to scan an item at all, and that almost never happens. Many retailers do enter incorrect pricing data in their inventory managements systems, so items can be mispriced, but a security guard checking receipts will do nothing to correct this. The only possible reason I can see is to prevent theft. Big-box stores such as Wall Mart can simply station security guards around th check-out areas to watch for this. But that might require more employees than simply making everyone wait in line and having one or two checkers go through your receipt. I attribute this practice to cost-cutting more than anything else. Or make that laziness.

Posted by: Garak | April 1, 2007 10:54 AM

I was leaving Wal-Mart once, and the clerk asked if she could see my reciept. I said, "No thank you. I paid." And as I was walking out the door, she said, reaching for my cart with her head bobbing, "I don't THINK so!" I picked up my bags and left the cart with her and walked calmly out of the store.

Regardless of whether or not it makes me feel like a criminal to submit to a bag check, it makes me feel like a coward. This is a free country, and we are so willing to give up our freedoms so easily for the sake of convenience. We don't want to seem rude. Each time someone requests to see my receipt I want to say to them, "NO! This is America."

Frankly, I don't buy that garbage about "ensuring that cashiers are ringing up purchases properly." If that is the case, why do those who check the receipts get so offended when I decline?

Thank you for this article. I'll be taking copies with me to Wal-mart.

Posted by: Jenna | April 3, 2007 9:52 AM

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