What is with Wal-Mart's Gestapo?

May 27, 2017

What is with Wal-Mart’s Gestapo? Do I have to stop and show my receipt?



We all have to do shopping, and here in Page, Arizona, we have very limited options. Have you ever noticed the difference in customer trust between Wal-Mart and any other store within the city? I sure have. As a customer in any store other than Wal-Mart, I pay for my items, and walk right out the door. As a customer in Wal-Mart, Rockwell’s 1984 song Somebody’s Watching Me starts running through my head; especially as I enter and exit the building.


The greeters in yellow vests, or as I refer to them, due to one in particular, Wal-Mart Gestapo, cause my blood pressure and anxiety levels to rise. I want to enjoy shopping, not constantly feel like I am going to be accosted by some employee who receives very minimal training.  


I understand that Wal-Mart is a target for theft, and that the greeters (now called ‘customer hosts’) are one of many ways in which Wal-Mart is attempting to deter shoplifting, however, my time is precious and even more so: my rights.


Since the customer hosts have been implemented within the Page Wal-Mart, the ability to exit the store has become cumbersome, especially during certain times of the day and during tourist season. I wonder what the Fire Chief thinks of this backlog of people stifling and blocking the exits making it difficult to leave in the event of an emergency. But alas, I digress.


Those going through this process of having every inch of their cart inspected consists not only of tourists that don’t know their rights, but locals as well.


The addition or re institution of the greeters is all-well-and-good, and well within Wal-Mart’s pervue to protect their product and maintain their prices, but the people within these positions appear to not be trained in local laws when it comes to customers like myself, who walk by without showing their receipts, or allowing them to peruse through my purchases, because I never signed a contract with Wal-Mart giving them explicit permission to detain me.



Did you ever sign a contract with Wal-Mart; do you pay a yearly membership fee to Wal-Mart (not their affiliate Sam’s Club, but Wal-Mart itself)? I didn’t; I signed a contract and pay a yearly fee to Costco however, and by signing that contract, I willingly agreed to have my purchases inspected and compared to my receipt (it’s listed within their contract that you have to agree to it). I for one, have never signed a contract with Wal-Mart, nor willingly agreed to have my purchases inspected by any associate of theirs.



Wal-Mart can ask, but you don’t have to comply.


Did you know that in the state of Arizona, by making you stop, that is a violation of not only your federal constitutional rights (Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures), but also your State Constitutional rights? According to Arizona State law, ARS §13-1805.C, a business may only detain you if they have reasonable cause to believe you have shoplifted. Does this mean, that by placing these employees at the entrances to their store, Wal-Mart believes that every person who walks into their store is automatically suspect of theft, and therefore they (Wal-Mart) continuously has reasonable cause to search and detain their customers as per ARS §13-1805.C? If so, that is some shoddy business management.


But if this business practice was the case, why is it their store policy for Loss Prevention employees to never lose eye contact with someone who they believe to be shoplifting? Or that Loss Prevention employees are not allowed to confront or stop (detain) a ‘suspect’ until they walk out the doors? Maybe it’s because that’s the legal way of doing the job?



We have the legal right to walk by every Wal-Mart employee who stands between the exit and the parking lot without showing a receipt, this includes those who are just visiting Arizona. Wal-Mart does not have the right to require you to stop to show your receipt (this is known as wrongful detention according to ARS §13-1805.D), and their employees sure DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to follow you, attempt to chase you down, attempt to block your exit, or touch you, in an effort to get you to show your receipt (I have experienced this by one employee in particular; the rest just keep going on with their duties).


Nowhere in federal or state law does it mandate that a customer of a non-contracted business (a business where no contract was physically signed by the customer), such as Wal-Mart, can the business detain a person against the customers’ will, unless they (the business) has reasonable cause to believe the customer has stolen property.


And just to inform you of more of your rights, in the state of Arizona, ARS §13-1805.A reads that in order for the act to be considered theft, the person must have left the business with the item without paying for it, with the intent of not paying for it.



I for one, am sick and tired of Wal-Mart employees who do not know, are not trained, and not encouraged to follow the law. Unfortunately, given our greatly limited resources, I have to deal with it. However, I do carry a copy of the ARS in my wallet for the one employee who believes she is above the law, and the next time she follows me, she will be receiving the legal lesson each one of these employees so desperately needs.



Let’s start a trend, and show Wal-Mart that the citizens and visitors of Page know, understand, and believe in our rights. The next time you’re in Wal-Mart, do me a favor and say ‘no’ and keep walking when you are asked to show your receipt, that is unless you set off the alarm because something wasn’t scanned (which is the only time I comply with this practice; which is still by choice and still not legal grounds for reasonable cause).



Yes, Wal-Mart has the right to institute changes that will deter theft (since theft cannot be 100% stopped), but I too have a right. The right to say ‘no’. I could also say ‘no’ to shopping at Wal-Mart due to the uneducated Gestapo experience, however, we here in Page do not have many choices when it comes to shopping locally, and until the City Council allows for more businesses to come into the area, there will be no real competition when it comes to prices, so until that day comes where there is greater competition, Wal-Mart it is.


I understand the thought process of ‘I have done nothing wrong’, ‘I have nothing to hide’, etc. However, by allowing these acts to continue, more of your rights as either a visitor or a resident will be violated. Take the recent information released from the federal government about the NSA collecting data; most of which has been in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Granted, that is the government, however, corporations do the same.


By continuing to allow companies like Wal-Mart continue these practices, we are saying ‘yes’ to violating our rights, which gives the company a green-light to implement more procedures that seem innocuous, yet are violations; like making it mandatory that an employee at the door inspect all your items without you physically signing a contract and agreeing to this practice; or allowing an employee to go through your personal effects (purses, pockets, etc.) that you walked in with; the list can go on.


Some may argue that by walking through a business’ doors, you are agreeing to their security practices, however, walking through a doorway does not mean that you agree to give away your rights (you cannot sign away your Constitutional rights under any circumstance; barring being found guilty of a crime); yes I am agreeing to their security practices, as long as they do not violate my rights, and in this instance, I have the protection of the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona State Constitution on my side. I do not waive these rights when I agree to do business with a company by walking through their doors.


It comes down to the frog-in-the-pan syndrome (slowly turn up the heat so the frog doesn’t realize what’s happening). Change has to start somewhere, so why not make it locally where it can really make a difference?






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