In all the brouhaha over TSA searches, people haven’t talked much about another unreasonable search many Americans are subject to daily- the big box retailer receipt check.
Receipt checking shouldn’t really be an issue- you purchase an item, and it belongs to you. No corporate entity has the right to detain you without cause for refusing to queue a second time to leave their store. But most people, not wishing to risk confrontation, wearily line their cart behind everyone else to prove that yes, they did in fact pay in full for their tampons, 6-pack of socks and razors. Unless you are a member of a discount club (such as Costco), no such restrictions can legally be imposed upon you.
So what happens if you refuse the entirely voluntary receipt gestapo as you leave the store? One Best Buy shopper found out when he was chased to his car by a police officer who was apparently stationed at Best Buy in order to protect and serve their corporate profits. A man only identified as “Mark” writes to Consumerist:
After I exited the store and was in the parking lot, walking towards my car, I heard someone start yelling, in a stern and urgent voice “SIR! SIR!” I heard quick footsteps behind me and turned around. It was a (sheriff’s deputy). He told me that Best Buy employees needed to see my receipt. I responded that I’d left the store, my business with them was concluded, and that they had no right to demand to see my receipt. The officer said that it was store policy. Regardless of store policy, I said, they still had no right to take or search my possessions. He asked me why I was being difficult. I pointed out that it was an imposition upon me to be chased down and detained in the parking lot and made to hand my property over to a third party, something which they had no authority to demand. The officer said that while they didn’t have the authority, *he* did have the authority. He continued, threatening me with arrest, “Go back and show them the receipt, or go to jail. Those are your options.”
Eep. The officer didn’t seem unaware of Mark’s fourth amendment rights, as Mark explained- merely uninterested in them. Mark continues:
I asked him why he didn’t just take the receipt from me, if they had the right to see the receipt. “I’m not going to touch your property,” he replied. I told him that I ultimately didn’t care about the receipt itself — it wasn’t important to me — but that I objected to their demand that they detain me and inspect it. The officer suggested that he take the receipt back to them so that they could “mark it.” I didn’t resist (I was there with my wife and infant son — I would have been in the dog house if I got arrested), so he took the receipt out of my hand, and walked back across the parking lot to the store. He returned a minute later, and silently handed me the receipt. I asked for his card. He turned around and walked away, replying “I don’t have to give you my card” while walking away.
Frustratingly, the officer in question didn’t even check Mark’s items against the receipt when Mark ultimately relented. He simply confiscated the receipt and marked it. Consumerist also points out that these receipt checks are entirely voluntary, and no one has the right to rifle through your possessions or detain you without your consent.
Do you submit to receipt checks just to avoid trouble? Do you find them to be intrusive and unwarranted?