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Exit Bag Checks and Shoplifting

It turns out you can walk right past the exit bag checkers at Best Buy, but not at Sam's Club1. But doing so is still not recommended unless there is an unusually long post-checkout line. Still, I may walk past the bag checker once just to see what happens.

And to be detained, stores typically need to follow six universally accepted steps:

  1. You must see the shoplifter approach your merchandise
  2. You must see the shoplifter select your merchandise
  3. You must see the shoplifter conceal or carry away or convert your merchandise
  4. You must maintain continuous observation the shoplifter
  5. You must see the shoplifter fail to pay for the merchandise
  6. You must approach the shoplifter outside of the store

The last item is key, as you cannot be arrested (or detained) for shoplifting until you've left the premises.

Footnotes

  1. You can't at Sam's Club, Costco, etc. because you agree to have your bags checked as a condition of your membership. Best Buy is not a "membership"-based retailer.

20 Responses to "Exit Bag Checks and Shoplifting"

  1. [...] More fuel to the fire (update): Exit Bag Checks and Shoplifting. [...]

  2. Nothing should happen if you just walk right past the exit checks. There's no law compelling the shopper to play along with that sort of thing. Although the results when you don't can sometimes be amusing. See Aaron Hopkins' Best Buy experience, for example.

  3. As a former Loss Prevention Manager for two major retailers, the receipt check is a load of crap. There is just too many instances of overzealous employees tryinhg to show off what "power" they perceive in having. Yes, shoplifting is a source of loss for retailers but not as big as poor inventory accountabiltiy or employee theft (or worker's compensation or general liability claims for that matter). One false imprisonment claim can cost way more than any merchandise you may lose (in addition to the hidden costs such as increased payroll for employees having to go to court/depositions and loss revenues due to loss of store reputation). Just walk on by...

  4. I'm thinking that someone should print up small, notecard-sized versions of the relevant laws. On one side it could say in large letters "No thank you, I decline to have my bags checked against my receipt" and on the other side, could outline and list the laws, with quotes.

    I'd buy a stack of 100 for a ten bucks and keep them in the pocket opposite my wallet for such an occasion when I feel like walking past the line and out the door with my goods.

    Additionally, since you have to leave the store to actually shoplift, I'm not certain what the bag checks really do anyway. They can't technically arrest you for shoplifting even if you are shoplifting, right? You've not left the store. You could say "I wanted to go to the door to verify with a friend who should be waiting outside that this is the right part. He's afraid to be inside warehouses." A silly version, but the point remains: if you've not actually left the store, you've not actually committed a crime yet.

  5. Can at Best Buy, but not at Sam's Club?

    Crime Doctor looks like a great resource. Thanks for the link!

    I like your idea for cards.

  6. Crap like thsi is why I got an Amazon Prime account. I just cant force myself to go into Best Buy anymore. Id rather wait a day to get my merchandise.

  7. Don't think so fast on having to leave the store to be prosecuted. Many states have a concealment law and you may be arrested on the spot (yes, inside the store) if you conceal any merchandise.
    As for Exit Checkers, they're just doing their job. Yes, some get a little overjealous.
    It's amazing how so many people can complain about prices but fail to understand the little inconviences are necessary in trying to prevent shoplifting.

  8. Thumper said on December 10, 2006:

    As for Exit Checkers, they're just doing their job. Yes, some get a little overjealous. It's amazing how so many people can complain about prices but fail to understand the little inconviences are necessary in trying to prevent shoplifting.

    Exit Bag checks are voluntary and exit bag checks don't solve many of the problems - including employee theft - present in modern retail.

    Furthermore, if I'm not shoplifting, then it's purely an inconvenience and stopping me does nothing to help the store prevent shoplifting.

  9. You do not have to be out of the store to be shoplifting. As soon as you pass all points of sale you have given up your intent to pay for merchandise.

  10. mark said on December 15, 2006:

    You do not have to be out of the store to be shoplifting. As soon as you pass all points of sale you have given up your intent to pay for merchandise.

    I believe that is simply untrue. In many stores, there is merchandise beyond the point of sale or "around" it. It's not as if every store has their cash registers right next to the exit(s).

  11. Of course in a setting as you described it wouldnt not be shoplifting. I was referring to a store like Best Buy or any other big box retailer. Also I did not make it clear that I was talking about merchandise that was concealed. The key word in most theft statutes is "intent" . That is why most retailers will wait till you have past points of sale to show the intent to deprive them of the value of the merchandise.

  12. Bottom line...... it's wrong. We all are consumers and we all pay the price.

    By the way, sounds like some LP's out there. Aren't you just loving the "shoplifting season"?!

  13. Sam's Club is different because it is not, in the strictest sense, a retail outlet. It is a buyers' club, and when you became a member you agreee to let them check your receipt at the exit.

    Same goes for CostCo. CostCo will also start refusing your returns if they detect an abusive return pattern (repeatedly returning wine-stained cocktail dresses, half a salmon, luggage with "Welcome to Antigua" stickers all over it, that sort of thing).

  14. Bag checks are voluntary. as long as you payed for your good you are free to blow past the bag check line. However, the store is private property. If you pitch a fit the management may ask you not to return. If you do you may have trespassing issues.

    Virginia code 8.01-44.4 Defines shoplifting in very broad terms including concealing merchandise. Even if you do not leave the store if you conceal the goods they can detain you and you may be charged. The store will still have the burden of proving you concealed with the intent to steal it. Because of this most stores will let you get out the door before they stop you. It makes proving the intent much easier.

    But anyway... I hate those darn bag checks. Just for laughs I blew by the line at Sam's and walked out. I just smiled and kept walking while the receipt checker lady started at me in a stunned kind of what the heck do I do now manner. Try it sometime... just make sure you have some time to space in case the store gets all uppity.

  15. I dont understand why all of you people can't follow rules. It is not that hard and it doesn't cause drama. All of you serve no purpose in this world and half of you are probably shoplifting as well making the prices higher for people that like to have a normal life. You can call me all the names in the book. I know for a fact that most of you are pretty good people and are living as best you can. But its time to start treating this world with respect. If you don't have anythin to hide then just show your reciept and go about your buisness. Dont make life hard for a whole group of people just because you feel that it is inconveinent for you to be normal.

  16. Aaron Byers said on March 4, 2007:

    I dont understand why all of you people can't follow rules. It is not that hard and it doesn't cause drama.

    I'm reminded of a quote: "Those who would trade safety for freedom deserve neither." This is similar. Should we lay down to "authority" - even fake authority - just because it makes lives "easier" or should we stand up for our rights and refuse to be treated as shoplifters?

    I think many people - myself included - have a moral and ethical problem with being treated like a thief when it's within our rights to simply leave after purchasing items.

  17. So what if you had some items you were intending to steal, but were confronted about and detained before you got to the checkstand? What does that count as?

  18. Erik J. Barzeski said on March 5, 2007:

    I dont understand why all of you people can't follow rules. It is not that hard and it doesn't cause drama.

    We aren't obligated to provide any sort of security for a store, if it's bought and paid for, it's ours, their "rules" don't apply, it's that simple. We're allowed to cause "drama" because we're right. We don't have to consent to a search from someone who has no more authority than I unless there is proof of a crime.

  19. Thumper said on December 10, 2006:

    ...It's amazing how so many people can complain about prices but fail to understand the little inconviences are necessary in trying to prevent shoplifting.

    I understand the price situation, and I vote with my wallet. I am willing to pay more to shop at a store that treats me as a customer and not as an implied criminal.

    And it is not a 'little inconvenience' when I have to use the 'self-scan' lane because that is is all that is there, then have the 'nice lady' (yes, thats sarcasm) check my receipt on the spot, then have to stand in line AGAIN to have some idiot who is two feet away from the first 'nice lady' casually glance at my goods, scribble something on my receipt across the barcode now making it impossible to successfully return anything........ have I made my rant clear?

    It may be 'no big deal' to you, 'just show 'em your ticket and move on'.... I refuse to be treated like a criminal at the places I do business. And by you submitting, you are only encouraging MORE bad service from other places. Sams can do it, they are a private club. No one else can unless you let them. I am not the problem, you are for letting it happen.

  20. Aaron Byers said on March 4, 2007:

    Dont make life hard for a whole group of people just because you feel that it is inconveinent for you to be normal.

    I am not going to call you names, that would be rude.

    I will say that you are part of the problem, I plan on being part of the solution. You can submit to the check all you want, I refuse to be treated poorly by people I am giving my money to.

    I choose with my wallet, I do not return to stores that do this exit check thing.


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