I recently read something on Digg.com that caught my interest so I thought I’d right about it.
It’s about an experience that was submitted to The Consumerist, a blog that chronicles people’s customer service woes. I’ll give you the short version, but if you want the gory details you can find them here.
So a women named Shaneal was shopping at a Tiger Direct — a store similar to Best Buy — when on her way out, a security guard asked to see her receipt. It wasn’t for any specific reason, it’s just store policy for a guard to see all costumers’ receipts before they leave to make sure they aren’t shoplifting.
“No thanks,” she said. And she tried to leave.
The guard wouldn’t let her leave. He said it was policy to detain costumers who would refuse to show their receipts. She was angry because technically showing your receipt is a voluntary procedure (I guess) and she had a right to leave without presenting her receipt if they had no reason to believe she was shoplifting.
The manager came and she, the guard, and the manager got into a shouting match. She called the police. The policewoman arrived and she left the store. As she was leaving she threatened to sue the security guard who yelled back something the likes of, “Bring it on!” And she was, of course, banned from the store.
She’s looked into suing the company that the guard works for and Tiger Direct. But no free lawyer will take her case because there were no monetary losses on anyone’s part. And a regular lawyer would be much too expensive for something like this. So she writes to The Consumerist to get a “big stinky shame cloud” put over that Tiger Direct store.
Now I usually side with Digg users, sort of. They’re a little too knee-jerk liberal, for my taste. You know, the kind of people who laugh at an anti-Bush joke just because it’s the cool thing to do, even if they know absolutely nothing about politics. But I can usually get behind their overarching, general mood.
But here I was in absolute disagreement with the majority of the Digg users. They said that this woman was a champion for civil rights. That this is the result of how the little man hasn’t been standing up for himself enough and now the Big Man is stepping all over us.
Bullshit, I say. Here was my comment (which was quickly burried, i.e. seen as very unpopular):
The person who didn’t show their receipt sounds like a giant tool. And the guard and managers sounded rather oafish. But seriously, this all could have been avoided if the customer just showed her receipt. You people talk about questioning authority and standing up for your rights. But I mean, c’mon, the right to not show your receipt when walking out of a store that has very small, expensive, easily stolen objects? It’s not like her right to free speech or religion was under attack. And if you flat out refuse to show your receipt doesn’t that sound pretty suspicious? I think the cliche that goes well with this story is “pick your battles.” She’s not some champion for civil rights (we definitely need people to question authority and fight back for that, though), she’s just causing trouble.
Not a very elegant response, but it’s what I wrote.
And now that I’m sitting here thinking about it, there’s more that’s wrong with what she did.
Though she wasn’t contractually obligated to show her receipt, she was on private land in a privately owned store. And by entering a store like that I think you have to obey their policies (I really have no idea. If any of you SexySecularist readers know about this kind of law, I’d be interested in learning about it). [Legal Edit from Andrew: You’re basically right, Mike. Stores reserve the right to refuse service, reserve the right to search bags and receipts for security purposes, reserve the right to make you check your backpack for theft prevention, and so on. They’re not permitted to engage in discriminatory behavior, but they basically set the standards for your shopping experience, and if you object to the standards, you can just not shop there.]
Also, when everyone else is submitting to a “receipt search” and not giving a hoot about it, to outright refuse to show your receipt seems a bit suspicious. It might not be all that unreasonable to search a person who does this. It depends on what/how the guards search, but the illegality of that search/detainment would be up for debate, I should think.
And last, think of the whole “receipt search” process and what it does. Tiger Direct lowers its shoplifting rate which means lower prices for the consumers. The position of the door-side guard adds one more job to the economy. And all you have to do is “suffer” through having a rent-a-cop glance over your receipt and your cart.
The point is, I don’t have much sympathy, if any really, for this woman. Pick your battles, I say. And examine what’s really important. Does starting this little fight and publicizing it really offer net good to the world? I’d argue no, it really doesn’t.
Do you agree? What say you, dear reader?