Saturday, December 02, 2006

fighting the oppressions of capitalism, one speedy walmart exit at a time

Interesting story here about a man who refuses to show those stores that ask his receipt when he exits. An excerpt:
Finally the security guy responded. “Sir, our people checking receipts are doing their jobs. It’s a store policy that we inspect receipts. We’re trying to make sure you paid the right price.”

We get served a lob like that only so many times, and I wasn’t letting this one go. My research was finally paying off. I chose to be polite, because the security guy was actually quite calm and friendly about the whole incident. “This is a warehouse,” I replied. “There are no prices on those items in my cart, so how would they know if I were overcharged? Never mind, here’s another thing you should know. In my last five visits here, I allowed your staff to see my receipts, and they instantly marked them without so much as glancing at the totals. They were simply making certain that I had paid for something, and that I could not come back and use that receipt at a later date. In other words, to stop my attempts, present and future, at theft—you know, as though I were a potential shoplifter. Your sign with the message about ensuring that I wasn’t overcharged is what shoppers like me sometimes call bullshit. That’s Home Depot behind us. I spent a few hundred dollars there last year. Just to our right is Sears. I spent almost that much there last Christmas. No one reviewed my receipts at either store. Please tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

The security guy walked away, perhaps wondering if Costco had not fully explained to him all the details of “receipt review.” It’s also possible that he knew, without a doubt, that I was just one more jackass who “didn’t get it.” These are store policies, damn it.
If I were more gutsy, I would try this. Somebody gutsy has to read this weblog. Indeed, I bet there is someone with two pancreases who reads this weblog. Anyway, can somebody gutsy try this at a store and report back to me? Or, maybe, if you are in sociology, you could assign a student in your class to do it, as a project on "breaching social norms." So: do it, do it, report back, maybe upload it to YouTube.


Anonymous said...

Hard pressed for something to rebel against there in Cambridge, eh?


Lucy said...

I don't think I've had anyone ask to check my receipt/bags in this country. Library books sometimes activate the alarms, and the first few times one went off while I was leaving a shop, I waited for someone to check that I wasn't stealing anything. Usually, though, none of the employees would even look up, so now I just keep walking.
At home most big shops have someone stationed at the exit to check your bags, explicitly to make sure you haven't shoplifted anything. Of course, they barely glance inside (and don't look at receipts), so I guess they're really just checking for suspicious refusals (or more likely, are being paid too little to do more than pretend to care).
One of my friends did make a fuss once, but the person just pointed at the signs that say entering the shop implies your agreement to having your bags searched.

dorotha said...

i know you know this, but those people are just doing their jobs. it is like yelling at a server if your foods overcooked or something. does it help to be a big ass to the person checking receipts?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dorotha. As someone who has worked retail, I have to say, someone who does this is just being an ass and making a sucky job even suckier. If you do it just to violate social norms or get a reaction out of the poor security guard, you need to find something more meaningful to do with your life. If you're doing it to make a point, the farthest your "message" will go is probably to the head of security at your local Costco, and s/he doesn't make the rules. Besides, you'll be wasting your time because people who work retail generally don't buy into the corporate bullshit either. They just want a paycheck.

Sarahliz said...

There's a sort of famous story (in my circles anyway) about receipt checking and Best Buy. I have friends who have sort of a similar philosophy as this guy. And I can sort of sympathize with the arguments. But ultimately for me it's easier to show my receipt than to argue about it. Still I think the argument that retailers have every right to ask you to see your receipt and you have every right to refuse is correct.

(Incidentally I'm surprised that his receipts don't get checked at Home Depot. Here, they're one of the stores that always has receipt checking)

jeremy said...

I'm skeptical of the idea that people are being jerks if they don't do something they don't have to do (and may feel is inappropriate), just because the person who is asking them to do it is only doing their job. I don't think it's like yelling at a server at all, unless it was a server who asked to check your purse at the end of a meal to make sure you weren't walking off with any of their silverware.

Sister A said...

Would a "real" shoplifter put their stolen items in their bags?

Anonymous said...

I have a solution:

Stop shopping at stores that ask to check your receipt.

Write to the store decision-makers (upper levels) explaining why you are not shopping there, or

Don't stop shopping there, but do write and continually call/follow up/pester them, until it is resolved to your satisfaction.

If you don't have enough time or care enought to shop elsewhere or tell of your personal preference not to have to show your receipt (because you may have lost it from the check out to the door? :)--

then I suspect it's really not about store policy at all. Playing headgames with the senior citizen or h.s. grad just doing their job is kind of scoring easy points, like some have pointed out.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this is not quite the same as receipt checking but...

I was once refused a haircut because I would not give my phone number to the lady at the Supercuts counter. I said: "I want a haircut." She said, "What's your phone number." I said, "I'm sorry, I don't give out my phone number." She said, "I need your phone number." I said "I'm not giving it to you." She said "Well, I don't see how we can cut your hair then." I said, "what? How does having my phone number aide you in cutting my hair?" She said, "No, we need it for the computer so we can create an account." I said "I don't want an account, I want a haircut." She looked at me blankly. I said "555-5555" and she glared, so I went down the mall to another barbershop.

Everyone in the waiting area thought I was nuts.

Anonymous said...

What I object to is not the presumption that I might be a shoplifter--honestly, based on my behavior in junior high, it's not a half-bad guess.

What I don't like is that they are making you wait in line--again. You sometimes have to wait on the way in--while they check your special warehouse club id--they wouldn't want the unwashed to see what they are selling as that would somehow diminish their profits.

Then you definitely get to wait to check out (best buy now has a serpentine-amusement-park-15-minutes-to-ride-the-cash-register gauntlet). And then, it's another line at the door. My relationship with this place is over--they have my money, I have my stuff. Why should I be waiting for aything at this point? And I just came directly from the cashier who looked at all the stuff and produced the receipt. Hope much could have changed in those three steps?

Anonymous said...

Corey: You could just make up a number, but more realistic than 555. Use yours, but switch just a digit or two. Same for addresses or zip codes.

Anonymous said...

Dan-- Can you shop during less busy times? Break free of the crowds? I can't imagine waiting in line to shop, but I hear people do it.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not in abusing people period, I don't buy the logic that you shouldn't complain (to the person the company put out on the floor to interact with the customer) because your complaint will not be carried up the line. If it doesn't get passed up the line, that's the company's failure, not mine. Rarely do you ever have the chance to complain to the person who actually makes the decision--that's a fantasy.

Anonymous said...

I don’t follow the logic in some of these responses. If the receipt checkers don’t buy into the system and are just doing the job to get a paycheck, then why should it matter whether shoppers comply with the system? The receipt checker gets paid in either case. I’ve had my share of crappy jobs too, and customer resistance can be entertaining. Perhaps it could encourage workers to stand up to the company. So, I don’t think you can classify it as necessarily bad for the worker.

I don’t believe in letting people off the hook for something because they’re just doing their job. We are all ultimately responsible for our actions, and if you take a job that involves being the face of an organization, you will have to deal with people’s responses to that organization. None of the stories here involve being personally abusive toward the employees, which would be bad. Regarding the server comment—if your food is overcooked, you have to present your complaint to the server, because he/she is the person who interacts with customers on behalf of the organization. You would not need to yell at the server in order to present your complaint. Is it better to say nothing but not return to the restaurant, thereby taking away the opportunity for the server to earn future income from you?

Personally, I’m uncomfortable challenging people. I would submit to the receipt checking because the hassle from that would be less than the stress I would feel from refusing. However, I wouldn’t claim that this is the “right” thing to do.

One could question whether challenging low-level employees is effective in changing organizational policy. However, it’s easier than trying to get through to higher level decision makers. Also, organizations that care about their customers should be listening closely to employees who serve customers directly.

Anonymous said...

Please remember to do your protesting (or personal venting, as is often the case)
when there is no one in line behind you, ok. Hassle only the person doing their job, not everyone, ok? or do you let off more stress if there's a crowd involved :)

DogOnTheInternet said...

You could also try showing them a receipt from a different store, like Target, and see if they even notice.

Andrew K said...

I think some folks might be missing the point. He wasn't acting that way to be a jerk or to annoy the worker at the door. He was walking out sans receipt-check because he didn't want to wait in line and knew he didn't (legally) have to.

In effect, the store was asking him to wait five or 10 more minutes before leaving and he was saying, "No, thanks."

Sure, he would have made the greeter happier by waiting, but he decided (as would I) that his time was more valuable than the greeter's momentary happiness.

In short, he has a choice whether to let the store's search his stuff or not. Most people choose to be searched, but he didn't.

Anonymous said...

How special Andrew.
Maybe he could try to sneak something out without paying for it, just to show up their system equal value to his time spent waiting? That's show em more than just not shopping there.

Anonymous said...

In Wisconsin,
a kid from Marquette voted more than once in a past election to show how the register that day voting system is wrong.
He explained a poli.sci.soc. professor had assigned him the challenge because it was gutsy and would prove something, make a positive change. :)