Cynical Synapse

Fri, 14 Sep 2007

How to Decline the Invasion of the Receipt Snatchers

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Oppression, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:46 pm

In follow-up to my entry about stores harassing their customers all in the name of loss prevention, I’ve read a lot of comments about Michael Righi’s situation on various blogs. I must attribute Barnyard BBS for the term “Receipt Nazi” and I must tell you that I don’t use the term “nazi” lightly because I’ve done a lot of studying and research into that regime. It is, thus, vastly more ominous to me than to the average person. But let me get back on topic…

The thing that frustrates me most about receipt checking is what’s the point? The theory is they’re verifying the items were paid for. In my experience, they’ve never compared my purchases with the items listed. Another theory is this process is intended to catch fraudulent cashiers. Hmm. First take: if I’m now a part of the store’s loss prevention effort targeting their employees, where’s my compensation? Next, I wonder in this day and age where nothing gets bought that doesn’t scan, is this as prevalent as it used to be? Yeah, I realize a cashier could have a “cheap” item under the counter—why not have managers check the counters regularly rather than let customers feel you think they’re criminals? Finally, several comments or posts noted the “highlighted” receipt now shows it’s been used so it can’t be re-used. This is the only point that seems to have any benefit. But what’s the point if the only thing between the cashier where you got the receipt and the door is the receipt checker? How does that mark on the receipt really change anything?

Can anyone show me valid statistical data to show receipt-checking saves money by reducing store losses? If someone can show me receipt checking catches criminals, then I’ll apologize and become a supporter. Note that I’m not holding my breath…

So What Should You Do?

To begin with, I’m not giving legal advise. This is a personal issue with societal ramifications. How you respond is your choice. That said, the laws vary from state to state, so the first step is probably to know what the law says regarding retail fraud (the fancy name for shoplifting and employee theft), detention, and false arrest.

The common trend among those willing to buck the system seems to be to simply decline to show the Receipt Nazi your receipt—a simple “no, thank you.” Typically the store did, after all, only ask to see it. Alex Halavais even goes so far as to have a “you’re harassing me” document to give to store employees checking receipts at the door.

Another technique, one that I strongly endorse, is to complain to the management and/or corporate headquarters. In my recent experience at Lowe’s, I first asked for the store manager. Then I popped on the web and gave them bad ratings on the “tell us how we’re doing” survey followed immediately with a strongly worded complaint using their “Contact Us” form. I’ve not heard back from them, but in fairness I told them I didn’t want to hear from them.

Which leads to my third tactic: don’t shop at places that treat all customers like thieves by checking receipts at the door! Duh! If you continue to spend your money there, you can rant all you want, but you’re just supporting their policy of mistreatment! Ok, so you might pay more somewhere else. Which is the higher cost to you? Surrendering your integrity for little or no benefit to the common good? Or paying a dollar or 2 more because you didn’t frequent a big-box. I’m not naive. I know Best Buy could care less if I don’t shop there. But if we stand together, they’ll think about losing 100,000 or 1,000,000 customers! The Boston Tea Party wasn’t the first time Colonials stood up to the British, but it worked because they stood together.

Here’s How I Came Up With This

As noted, there are several blogs that have picked up Michael’s story and a number that were posting on this issue previously. Some of these sites have literally run into thousands of comments. They seem to be split about 1/3 thinking Mr. Righi deserve what he gets with the rest being supportive of his stand. Check out some of these other posts to get a sense of how much interest there is about this erosion of the basic principle of “innocent until proven guilty:”

And some pre-existing posts on the same topic:

8 Comments

  1. I agree with your position completely. I’m glad that I’m not alone on this anymore. Most people don’t realize how rights slowly erode when they aren’t exercised.

    I can’t help but think that our current generation doesn’t appreciate our freedoms, as we haven’t really earned them. I somehow doubt that any WWII vets would tolerate such treatment.

    I anxiously await the outcome of Michael’s case. Hopefully, he will meet a quick victory; and will sue them into the stoneage (collective them, both Circuit City and Officer Arroyo’s department).

    Also, thanks much for the link!

    Comment by Benji — Fri, 14 Sep 2007 @ 10:27 pm

  2. Hi! Glad I found this site. This just happened to me at (where else) but Wal-Mart today 6/19. Without going into details, I felt harrassed and very embarrassed. Not only did she just “check” my receipt but she leaned into the cart and starting moving bags around. I’ve never had this happen so I really didn’t think much about it until now. I called and spoke with the store’s manager who was very professional and apologized.
    I felt criminalized.

    Comment by Lyndsay — Fri, 19 Jun 2009 @ 4:53 pm

  3. Yeah, there’s not much point to stores harassing legitimate customers in the name of “loss prevention”. It’s kind of like, uh, needing a passport to re-enter your own country!

    I have not shopped at Lowe’s since September 2007 because of their receipt harassment. Interestingly, that was the first—and last—time I had that experience at Lowe’s. Might have been an overzealous employee with nothing better to do (the store was not busy at the time), but Lowe’s has lost a customer for life.

    Comment by cynicalsynapse — Sun, 21 Jun 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  4. When I explained to my 10yo daughter why I don’t want to shop at WM anymore, she exclaimed, “But Mom, you don’t steal!”. Exactly.

    (They don’t know that of course which is part of the reason I called the store. I wasn’t even upset, just letting them know that it was a waste of the companies time and money.)

    I’m surprised to hear of your experience at Lowes of all places…I’ve never even known them to check receipts like this!

    Too bad, cause I liked shoppping at Wal-Mart. But yes, like Lowes, they’ve lost a customer.

    Comment by Lyndsay — Mon, 22 Jun 2009 @ 11:38 am

  5. Great Blog!……There’s always something here to make me laugh…Keep doing what ya do :)

    Comment by Tsquare — Fri, 05 Mar 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  6. how hard is it to pull out a receipt..taking not even a minute of your time. You just purchased a 42 inch plasma tv and a lap top costing well over 2000, now they are gonna verify that the model numbers match up and that it has been paid for. So quit your whining. If they didnt check receipts than that would mean that you and i could walk into a store grab a cart and load tv’s and laptops on it and just stroll out the door. Now that doesnt make any fucking sense does it.

    Comment by Benjamin Logan Cochrane — Mon, 27 Feb 2012 @ 11:07 am

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, but did you actually read the post? I didn’t say anything about a plasma or a laptop. I did, however, make note that I’ve never experienced a receipt checker actually verifying anything I purchased was listed the receipt, let alone take the time to compare serial numbers. Just out of curiosity, how do you explain places like Home Depot staying in business since they don’t check receipts? Is there just the slightest possibility they respect and appreciate their customers instead of treating them like they would rob them blind if it weren’t for a piece of paper?

      Comment by cynicalsynapse — Mon, 19 Mar 2012 @ 8:27 am


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