[Update -- 0907 -- Just so you know that this erosion is not just Wal-Mart, read what Wil Wheaton, yes, that Wil Wheaton, has to say.] The issue of demanding to see a receipt before allowing paying customers to leave a store is a big box problem, not a just a Wal-Mart problem. On Have Coffee Will Write I wrote extensively of the battle between Michael Righi and Circuit City n Clevelaind. What happened to not going after shoplifters who pocket less than $25 worth of merchandise? From Ben Stansfield:
I was detained by the police today and accused of stealing. I was also illegally detained against my will by several Wal*Mart employees preceding the detention by police. My crime? Leaving Wal*Mart with four bags of sugar (that I had just purchased) without showing a receipt, because I was not given one by the Wal*Mart cashier. I was threatened with being taken to jail, threatened with physical violence as I attempted to leave, and had to defend myself and my property while Wal*Mart security attempted to rip it from my hands, breaking my bags and causing one of my items to break open on the pavement. After I was released (having been completely innocent all along), I was lectured by the police officer and Wal*Mart manager about how next time I could make it easier on myself by just agreeing to give up my rights to their goons to begin with. While the initial employee who detained me apologized, the others, including the Wal*Mart Manager, did not.
The key issue here is that no law requires a customer to show proof of purchase just to leave the store where the purchase was made. No local law, No state law. No federal law. In fact, here in the United States we have in the 4th Amendment to our Constitution a bedrock guarantee against such laws and such actions. If store security observes an individual shoplifting they may detain that person until law enforcement is summoned and an arrest is made. But demanding proof of purchase to leave the store is not reasonable. Yet in the Amerika created by the fear mongering of the past seven years, millions of shoppers meekly stop for a security check. That is how sheep behave. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.


  1. UncleBob says:

    While I’m not going to defend Wal*Mart in this situation, I would like to point out that the 4th amendment applies to the Government. Just as the 1st amendment applies to the Government – meaning you’re allowed to censor comments on this private website (not saying you do, just using that as an example).

    While there may not be any laws regarding this, private clubs (Sam’s, Costco, etc.) do state in their membership agreement that they are allowed to request a receipt upon leaving the store.

    This case (obviously) went waaaay too far, but is it really unreasonable to *request* proof of purchase? And has there ever been any actual court decision regarding it?

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Bob,

    There is a difference between the application of the 1st and 4th amendments.

    The 1st Amendment, in part, guarantees Freedom of the Press; that is, if you own a press — in our times, a means of publication — the government is restricted from interfering with your use of that press. (This is also why Freedom of Speech is separate from Freedom of the Press; anyone may speak their mind anyplace, anytime.)

    The 4th Amendment (amplified by the 14th Amendment) is a universal right not restricted to actions of the Federal government and thus applies to all unreasonable searches and seizures. Thus, I can’t stop you on the street and demand you turn out your pockets just because I suspect that you took something from my yard.



  3. UncleBob says:

    Oh, btw, nice allusion to the Holocaust there. Because wanting someone to prove they paid for something is close to the extermination of millions of men, women and children… Bad form.

  4. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Bob,

    As a Jew I’m also aware of what happened in Nazi Germany in the ’30 and not just the Shoah in the ’40s.

    The erosion of civil liberties always begins small. Tyrants know that if they attempt to impose restrictions all at once, people will rebel.



  5. hwk says:

    Something that I want to ask… Do people realize that Wal-Mart’s private label “sugar” isn’t that? They use beet sugar. “Brown sugar” is beet sugar sprayed with molasses.
    Cheap plastic? Check.
    Fatty meat? Check.
    Beet sugar? Check.

  6. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Hwk,

    First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to post a comment and join the dialog. Building community is all about the conversation.

    That’s true, you’re absolutely correct.

    To be fair, I must say that chemically, beet and cane sugar are identical, they’re both Sucrose: C12-H22-O11.

    There is an ongoing debate as to what factor mineral impurities in the two sugars (beets are grown underground, cane above ground) may have when used in large quantities, but stirred into your ice tea or sprinkled on your cereal there is unlikely to be any difference.



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