There’s been some talk lately about Wal-Mart checking your receipt as you leave the store. People are questioning the legality of it. I worked in retail many years ago and worked for several different retailers. The only time we ever asked to see the receipt of someone leaving the store is if we had a reasonable suspicion that they may have shoplifted. It’s called ‘shopkeepers’ privilege’. If the owner or employee of an establishment believes someone has shoplifted an item, they can detain them for a time while they determine if an item was taken without paying for it and while police are notified.

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I know what you’re probably thinking: “I have to show my receipt at Sam’s Club. Why shouldn’t someone at Wal-Mart have to do so”? The fact is, there is no statute (that I can find) in Texas that requires you to stop and show a receipt. Sam’s is a bit different in that you buy a membership to shop there and, in signing that agreement to do so, you consent to stop and show your receipt to the guy or gal at the door, wielding their highlighter like a Remington 870.

Even when I worked in retail 25 + years ago shoplifting was a major issue. I’d say 8 or 9 out of 10 times that we’d stop someone and ask for the receipt, they were in possession of something that they had not paid for. That said, most of the shoplifters were never caught. I never worked for a single retailer that ever employed more than one security officer or ‘loss prevention officer’ at a time. They simply could not or would not spend the money. That makes it all the more necessary for all store employees to be vigilant.

One such retailer I worked for had such a bad problem with shoplifters that some neighborhood thieves had developed quite a complex method of getting away with it. They figured out that we only had one guy in the store who could bust them. The other employees were told to ‘observe, but never apprehend’. A group of teens in a group of 4 or more at time would enter the store. One of them, always very young (under 15, for sure), would deliberately get caught.

While the loss prevention guy has him in the office, calling the cops and his mama, the rest would load up and hit the door in five minutes or less. They knew how long it took the cops to arrive and they certainly knew how long it took mama to show up, so by the time either was on scene, their pockets were full and they had headed home. Slick little rats, they were. We watched that play out at least once a month for a long time. Even when we were successful at getting to them and asking for a receipt, which of course they didn't have, most of the time they'd blow right by us and out the door. We could not apprehend them and no law was broken merely by not stopping when asked.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve entered a Wal-Mart store in the last six months. I can also count on one hand the number of times a Wal-Mart employee has stopped me to ask for a receipt: zero. But if they did, I’d have no issue showing them and letting them search my bags if they so desired. If you don’t engage in suspicious behavior, chances are you won’t be treated as a suspicious individual. And why get bent out of shape if someone at a Wal-Mart or any other retail outlet does stop you and ask to see your receipt? Losses to shoplifters and dishonest employees cost retailers tens of billions of dollars every year. Not only should Wal-Mart or any other retailer have the right to ask you to see the receipt, they have an obligation to their owners or shareholders to protect the business from theft.