Friday, March 11, 2011


Have you ever been in a store, purchased an item right next to the exit door, and then walked out with your hands full only to be stopped and asked to show your receipt? It's even more annoying when the receipt guy at the door saw you purchase the goods, and they still get in your way as you're walking out the door.

Well guess what? It appears that, with a few rare exceptions, you don't actually (or legally) have to show your receipt. But we do anyways. The Consumerist is an informative site that helps explain why, while sharing some interesting consumer stories that show what's been happening in our consumer society. I'm sure most of you have experienced many of them at one time or another, like this one and this one:

 ... 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."

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.

There's more. But the point is the simple receipt exchange example above suggests that, over time, consumers are seen less and less as good customers, and more and more as potential crooks.

And we haven't even noticed.

- Mark

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