Wal-Mart arrests, bans for refusal to show receipt; No apology or Compensation


Wal-Mart arrests me for refusing to show receipt, bans me, unbans me, and does not apologize, offer compensation for wasting my time, or admit wrongdoing. I now shop across the street and lose nothing more than the time they also lost.



Incident Log

This is my (Charlie Hayes’) honest recollection as to the events that ensued.

This incident occurred between approximately 6:40 and 7:20 PM on 10/3/2007 at Wal-Mart #2426 in Columbus OH on Hilliard Rome Road.

  1. I Purchased crackers and DVD at Wal-Mart at the self checkout closest to the door with my credit card.
  2. The machine asked me to wipe my items on the scanner to demagnetize them; I vigorously wiped them on the stickers labeled ‘wipe here’ and confirmed on the machine that I was finished wiping.
  3. I proceeded to walk out of the store with my items (not in a bag).
  4. The alarm went off and the greeter, Leanerd (sp?), asked to see my receipt.
  5. I refused to show it to him.
  6. He continued asking for it.
  7. I asked to speak to his manager.
  8. Leanerd’s self-proclaimed grandson harassed me from this point until the policeman took me away, stating ‘You’re really ticking me off.’ and  ‘Just try me’ and asking questions like ‘What are you trying to prove?’, ‘Why are you disrespecting this man?’, and ‘Why don’t you just show them your receipt?’.
  9. The store’s assistant manager, Tom, arrived and asked to see my receipt.
  10. I refused to show Tom my receipt.
  11. He proceeded to call the police.
  12. He physically and forcefully detained me from leaving the store.
  13. Tom refused to give me a business card and when I asked for his name he proudly turned over his nametag so that his name was showing, which said Tom, and stated “Tom, and that’s all you need to know” in a fairly disrespectful voice. He refused to tell me his last name. He also refused to tell me how often the alarm system gives false-positives.
  14. The police arrived at Wal-Mart after approximately twenty minutes.
  15. Tom explained to the police what had happened. The policeman asked me if everything he said was true and I agreed. The explanation included items 9 through 13 and nothing else.
  16. The policeman asked if I had a receipt and I said yes. He did not ask to see it at this point.
  17. The policeman took the crackers and DVD, asked to search me (I replied affirmatively) searched me, and put hand cuffs on me (arrested me). The policeman awkwardly directed me to the security room at Wal-Mart through the store while many people watched. The policeman did this on purpose, admittedly to embarrass me. I asked the policeman to be more gentile with the cuffs as he directed, to which he refused.
  18. In the security room the policeman asked for my driver’s license. I told him it was in my back pocket. He asked if he could remove it and I said yes.
  19. The policeman told me he could take me to jail for three separate reasons, including ‘probable cause’ (the alarm going off) and ‘reasonable intent’ but had chosen not to do so.
  20. Tom described me to the policeman as a ‘jerk’ as to ensure this was stated in the report. Tom also claimed that Leanerd and Leanerd’s son would also agree that I was a ‘jerk’. I asked Tom why he thought I was a jerk explaining that I have conducted myself politely and that I have complied with every request except showing my receipt to which he replied ‘you are a jerk because you did not show your receipt’.
  21. The policeman asked to see my receipt which I told him was in my pocket. He removed the receipt from my pocket.
  22. Tom verified the receipt’s authenticity.
  23. Tom and the policeman required me to sign a trespassing form which allegedly made it illegal for me to be on any Wal-Mart property in the nation. They refused to give me a copy and told me that it would be part of the public record.
  24. Tom and the policeman required me to look into a camera and say “thank you”.
  25. Tom refused to let me return the items I had purchased despite Wal-Mart’s return policy stating that it would be trespassing.
  26. I asked if everything I said was recorded and I was told that the police would have a recording of what was said on file as public record.
  27. I asked Tom how he could treat an extremely frequent customer of theirs like this, to which his reply was that Wal-Mart has millions of customers and makes billions of dollars and that losing just once customer will not impact Wal-Mart. I have receipts showing that I have shopped at this Wal-Mart at least seven times and have spent at least $573.68 between 8/11/2007 and 9/3/2007.
  28. The policeman left me without any record of the incident. I asked for a copy of anything they could give me and was denied.
  29. Tom and the policeman required me to leave the store.
  30. The whole ordeal took approximately forty minutes.
  31. I complied with every request given by the policeman and store employees except showing my receipt to the store employees.
  32. I never once gave any reason to consider myself a security or flight risk.  
  33. During the whole incident, Tom refused to answer any questions of mine, such as the failure rate of the security system or if they had anything of what I did recorded. Tom maintained a proud and superior attitude the entire time.

Post incident

  1. Later that evening I went to Meijer to purchase the same DVD, bringing with me the DVD from Wal-Mart and my Wal-Mart receipt to price match against. On the way in the DVD set off the alarm. The greeter requested to de-magnetize it. I allowed her to do so. She vigorously used a handheld wand to de-magnetize the DVD. On the way out of Meijer, the DVD set off the alarm again! A supervisor demagnetized the DVD again and it did not set off the alarm as I left.
  2. I called Wal-Mart’s customer service explaining that I intended to return the items I had purchased and would like record to show said intentions have been filed before the return policy would forbid returning the merchandise. I explained that I am going to forgo returning the items until I seek legal counsel. I was told that the call-taker could not do anything for me and that someone that could would call me within three business days.
  3. I called customer service (number listed above) and was told a manager would get in touch with me within three days. I never received a missed call or voicemail.

(All events before this were on October 3rd 2007)

  1. I called back on October 8th. I was told that the manager of the store had called me on October 5th. I verified they had the correct number, which they did. I asked to speak to a manager there.

    I was transferred to Alicia. She had no concern to remedy the situation. She gave me the address to ‘beg’ (my word) Wal-Mart to have me back as a customer:

    Wal-Mart Stores Inc
    Recovery Team - 0815
    702 Southwest 8th Street
    Bentonville AR 72716-0815

    After my prodding, she offered to escalate this to upper management. I was told I could send my log using the contact us form on Walmart.com. She gave me a ticket number #17349850 to use for reference and guaranteed me that what I sent on their website would meet up with the ticket being escalated to upper management.
  2. October 9 at 4PM EST I received a call from Audrey from the Market office (district office) Georgesville Road store, 614-308-1702. She first sounded upset at me that maybe some how she is being reprimanded for my actions. She frequently interrupted me and talked over me. She eventually seemed to sympathize with me and the tone of her voice became more customer-friendly.  She acknowledged the point of her call was to get hear my side of the story. I explained to her the calls I have made so far to see where in the chain she was laid. She said she had not received the log I sent but later on it sounded like she did. I offered to send it to here but she said she did not have internet access. She asked what she could do for me, to which I replied: I would like an apology from Tom, and if manageable, the policeman, the trespass to be revoked, and compensation for my 40 minutes which I suggested $25. She promised a call back by the end of October 12.
  3. I called Audrey on October 17 at 12:08PM EST She said that the Market Asset Protection Manager is the one who would be calling me back and must have been busy. She told me that he would “have the answers [I] am looking for”. She told me that he will contact me soon.
  4. October 17at 1:50 PM EST Ed The assistant manager at Hilliard Rome Road office, 614-876-7850. Called to see if I was contacted by the district office. Claims new store manager Ken starts Monday.
  5. October 29, 2007. Called Audrey again. Carla Slater answered and told me that Audrey was on vacation and that she had not seen the Market Asset Protection Manager in a few days. She refused to give me his contact information but told me she would call him and let him know he needs to contact me as soon as possible. I gave her my name and phone number.
  6. October 29, 2007 I talked to the Asset Protection Manager.

    He said Wal-Mart has the right to ask for customers receipts and to detain and have customers arrested for walking out of the store without a bag.

    He repeatedly expressed how much time would have been saved if I volunteered my receipt but refused to acknowledge that the same could be said, and even more, if they did not ask to see it in the first place or if they did not take it further after I refused to show it.

    He said that Wal-Mart has the right to ask every single customer to see their receipt, ignoring the required probable cause. I told him that according to Ohio revised code, Wal-Mart cannot detain customers without probable cause. He joked with me asking if the law really made reference to Wal-Mart specifically.  He then acknowledged that he did not have the laws in front of him and could not comment.

    He stated that Wal-Mart owes it to their share holders to protect their assets. He explained how this specific Wal-Mart had lost millions of dollars this past year due to theft. I asked him what the sales were and he refused to tell me saying that it doesn’t matter. I said it does matter because if the sales were many orders of magnitude higher, the losses would be insignificant. He said that a million dollars would be a significant loss to any business (so clearly it does matter).  I asked him if shareholders would be interested in not losing a very good customer for life, a customer who spends many hundreds of dollars every month in their store to potentially save $20 (And in this case 0), to which he had no reply. I asked him how the shareholders would feel about him portraying Wal-Mart as an uncaring huge company that makes every attempt to dominate its customers, to which he had no reply. I told him I would be taking my business across the street to Meijer and would save the same amount of money and would NOT be arrested. He showed no interest.

    He asked me many times if there was anything he could do. I stated over-and-over that he can do whatever he wants to do, which may include ‘making it right’. The outcome consisted entirely of releasing the ban. He offered no compensation, no apology, and did not admit any wrong doing.

    I told him that I would be posting this log in its entirety no matter the outcome, and that whatever he does or does not do will be posted along with it. He threatened to personally sue me for liable if it was at all inaccurate. He claimed he had two people writing down what he was saying over the phone.

    During the conversation he often interrupted me and talked over me. He kept steering the conversation in the same direction, refusing to acknowledge anything I was saying.

Comparative Scenarios

The following is a list of alternative scenarios in order of customer satisfaction, highest to lowest. This is to compare Wal-Mart's actual policies and actions to their alternitives and to Wal-Mart's competition.

Key: Ideal, Worst, What actually happened, Wal-Mart’s Competition

Scenario 1, Magnetic alarm

  1. Merchant does not make use of an alarm system
  2. Merchant does not require customer to deactivate merchandise for alarms
  3. Merchant does require customer to deactivate merchandise for alarms and equipment does not fail
  4. Merchant does require customer to deactivate merchandise for alarms and equipment fails

Scenario 2, Bags

  1. Merchant allows customer without bags to leave the store freely
  2. Merchant inquires customer without bags and then allows customer to leave store
  3. Merchant stops customer without bags from leaving the store

Scenario 3, Receipt check

  1. Merchant never asks to see customer receipts
  2. Merchant asks to see receipts but does not inquire further upon refusal
  3. Merchant asks to see receipts  and upon refusal  let’s customer leave freely and investigates further on its own by checking cameras and registers
  4. Merchant asks to see receipts  and upon refusal detains customer while it investigates on its own
  5. Merchant asks to see receipts and upon refusal detains customer and has them arrested

Scenario 4, customer found innocent

  1. Merchant apologizes and compensates customer for time on the spot
  2. Merchant demands customer leave store
  3. Merchant bans customer from store
  4. Merchant bans customer from stores nation-wide
  5. Merchant bans customer from stores nation-wide and refuses to allow customer to return goods
  6. Merchant bans customer from stores nation-wide, refuses to allow customer to return goods, and eventually apologizes, compensates for time, and releases ban
  7. Merchant bans customer from stores nation-wide, refuses to allow customer to return goods, and eventually admits no wrongdoing, does not compensate, but releases ban
  8. Merchant bans customer from stores nation-wide, refuses to allow customer to return goods, and eventually admits no wrongdoing, does not compensate, and never releases ban

Scenario 5, Communication with customer

  1. Merchant  communicates with customer with a positive and joyful tone
  2. Merchant communicates with customer in a purely professional tone
  3. Merchant communicates with customer in an arrogant and demeaning tone

What actually happened turned out to be the worst case every time except once where it was the second worst case. Compare this to Meijer across the street. Meijer clearly has better policies. A study about the impact on business of these scenerios would be interesting to see.

Wal-Mart: (0 + 0 + 0 + 14 + 0)/5 = 3%
Competition: (25 + 100 + 75 + 50)/4 = 62% Winner!

Outcome and Economic Analysis

Walmart had a few options when I left the store. Here I compare their options and their possible outcomes along with the outcome of what actually happened from my perspective.

Key: What actually happened

Customer’s Perspective

Customer chooses to shop across the street at store with same prices and better customer service.
Cost: Zero
Gain: Better customer service

Wal-Mart’s perspective

Wal-Mart does not stop single thief and loses company $20 on stolen DVD and crackers.
Cost: $20

Wal-Mart stops single thief and saves company from losing $20 on stolen DVD and crackers.
Cost: Zero
No win or loss

Wal-Mart loses at least one really good customer for life, missing out on approximately $300,000 of income from said customer, and does not save company $20 on lost DVD and crackers.
Cost: $300,000 over 50 years

Wal-Mart loses many really good customers for life, missing out on many millions of dollars of income from said customers, and does not save company $20 on lost DVD and crackers.
Cost: $-Millions
Huge Loss.

Maximum Loss
Let customer go: $-20
Compared to
Arrest customer: $-300,000 or $-Millions

Wal-Mart’s Decision

Arrest customer to hopefully prevent loss of $20 and then consequentially anger customer and lose $300,000 without saving anything. Brilliant!

Ethics and Morality

To those who oppose my decision:

Obviously I could have saved a lot of time and energy just by showing my receipt. Please consider the reason I refused to.

The moment I trade money for goods, paying for the DVD and crackers at the register, those goods become my personal property. I have the inalienable right as a human being to own personal property, thus I should not be required to prove I own said personal property. Forcing me to show my receipt is the same thing as forcing me to prove that I own my personal property. This is unequivocally unacceptable. Arguing that the alarm is probable cause is a pretty big stretch. I have personally seen these alarms go off many times for people that have not actually stolen anything. It has gone off on me at least four times. I have never once seen it go off legitimately. Considering the sample space and its apparently large false-positive rate, I would hardly consider the alarm going off probable cause.

Now consider the consequences of unwittingly proving ownership of one’s personal property when asked to do so: one is setting precedence that it is acceptable to demand one prove ownership of one’s personal property. Keep in mind that the burden of proof lies on the merchant to prove theft and not on the customer to prove ownership. Theft is not an excuse to violate the rights of a human being; it is a cost of business.

If said precedence becomes large enough, nothing would stop a merchant from demanding proof of ownership of goods not purchased in said merchant’s establishment upon exit. If demands to prove ownership of goods not purchased in the merchant’s establishment continue to set even more precedence, nothing would stop a merchant from demanding proof of ownership of goods outside said merchant’s establishment.  At such point, the difference between a merchant asking to prove ownership outside his or her establishment is not far from any arbitrary person (including a government official) demanding one to prove ownership within one’s own home.

Clearly a merchant checking receipts is a far cry from the government demanding proof of ownership within one’s own home. However, the slippery-slope society creates by succumbing to these ridiculous demands is a much larger threat than is immediately apparent.

It is a merchant’s decision to alienate its customers by taking advantage of ridiculous theft-deterrent systems such as receipt checking and malfunctioning alarms. Choose to be alienated instead of the merchant’s antitheft tool. It is not just my personal freedom that is at risk, it is yours as well.

Public Record

Police call by Tom:

Police report