Checked Out At The Check Out

by admin on September 16, 2013

After moving in March to a new neighborhood, I found one of the local chain pharmacies to be a convenient one-shop-stop for everything from milk to the chocolate fix to light bulbs. I had been frequenting there at least weekly, usually more, for several months at the time of this incident. (Important to the story: I “green bag” at every opportunity to avoid the waste and pileup of plastic bags.) The clerks soon began to recognize me when I came in, and we always exchanged pleasantries and had brief chats while checking out. The store manager was a different story. He always had a scowl on his face, never clean-shaven, generally unkempt, and he never greeted me. That was not a huge deal. The clerks were friendly enough, and I rarely had to deal with him.

I went in one late afternoon a couple months ago and picked up a few items, and as I was having a couple friends over for dinner that night, I browsed the wine aisle for something to go with dinner. (No comments, please–they have a few mid-grade wines that are acceptable for a decent dinner.) I selected a bottle and went to the front of the store to check out. They were busy, so I was standing in line behind a couple of people, and the store manager appeared suddenly and asked, “Can I check your bag?” I responded, a bit confused, “Excuse me?” He pointed to the green bag I was carrying, and said, “I need to check that.” I was so startled, I simply said, “Sure,” and set the bag on the floor and pulled a handle to one side so that he could see the contents — q’uelle horreur! — my purse! (I don’t carry large purses–just enough for wallet, keys and lipstick) He said, “Okay,” then walked around to the counter to expedite the growing line, which now had several customers. Of course, I was mortified, and another woman and I just exchanged horrified looks.

He ended up ringing up my purchases, and I asked him if I had done something wrong. He replied, “I thought I saw you take a box of wine.” A BOX OF WINE? Those are HUGE! Obviously, I presented my green bag again for bagging the items I BOUGHT.

I stewed for a couple days and did an online complaint to the company. I conceded voluntarily that I probably should have removed the purse and flattened the bag to remove suspicion, but I was also not aware I looked so suspicious. I did say that I thought the manager could have made sure he was the one who checked me out, and in the bagging process, he would have clearly seen that no ill-gotten wine boxes were stowed in my bag.

The company representative who contacted me was apologetic and courteous and told me that a $10 gift card would be waiting at the store for me. About a week later, I stopped in and mentioned the card, and the same manager brought it to apply to my purchases. He looked down at the post-it note on the card, and read it aloud, choppily, like someone who was still learning to read (granted, the handwriting could have been bad)–“I’m…supposed…to…apologize…to…you…” His head jerked up, scowled at me, and asked, “Apologize? Apologize for what?”

I held up my hand and said, “Never mind.” It just didn’t seem worth a confrontation. I have only been in the store once since.

And I now always fold/flatten my green bags. 0911-13

{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan September 16, 2013 at 8:01 am

I’m not sure this is such a big deal. Stores have the right to check bags.

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Scott September 16, 2013 at 8:08 am

As someone who has spent 5+ years working in retail, I can tell you that situations like that are always tough to handle for the employee. We are trained to look for things like customers with giant open bags, people wearing winter jackets during the summer, that sort of thing. So the bag alone may have elicited some extra attention, even if they know you and you’ve been in there before. Frequently with people who have the green bags I see them put their items in the store’s basket or cart and then transfer them to the green bag at the register. Helps to avoid this sort of thing.

That being said, I was ALSO trained that you can never confront a customer unless you’ve actually witnessed them taking something. A box of wine would seem to be something he should’ve been “sure” of, rather than just “thinking” he saw you take it.

Whatever his reasons for being in management, it sounds like “social skills” aren’t necessarily among them.

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Virg September 16, 2013 at 8:15 am

It sounds like a follow-up on your first complaint is in order. In failing to correct the first offense he gave further offense, and the gift card itself indicates that someone higher up the food chain is concerned. Send another email to the same place, telling them how the “apology” was handled, and the manager will get dealt with. There’s no reason to avoid what seems to be a good store just because one employee is messing up, if that employee can be handled by the higher management.

On a side note, though, I wouldn’t take offense if an employee who didn’t know you did a simple bag check. I agree that he could have been much more discreet then he was, but at the same time loss prevention is a tough job to do for an experienced and trained pro and he might have been getting pressure from above.

Virg

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Lo September 16, 2013 at 8:18 am

I don’t think you did anything wrong.

I would definitely stop shopping there, though. When it’s the manager of the store that’s unreasonable that’s just not worth the fight.

I try to keep my shopping bags folded up but sometimes I shop with them, putting produce in them as I go because I don’t want to bother with a basket. I’ve never gotten any trouble. My big grocery bag is obviously an insulated pack and I only use it at my local place that knows me and Aldi’s.

I’m also pretty paranoid about being accused of shoplifting at larger chains if I were to do this elsewhere.

As for the wine, as long as it’s a nice bottle it can come from the gas station for all I care! It’s what’s in the bottle that coutns!

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Mae September 16, 2013 at 8:19 am

I think you did the right thing at the moment, and just let it go. It was obvious he did not understand that he was rude with the wine incident and even though you are a good customer, cares nothing about keeping your business. Let him keep his “who cares” attitude up and he may end up with no store and no job.

However, I would report him again and include the post-it note incident. From your description, he seems to not care much about his appearance or his attitude towards customers. He needs further training on how to be a manager and deal with customers or try to take care of whatever is causing his bad attitude and sloppy appearance.

I understand he is responsible for loss-prevention but his approach was rude. Boxes of wine are a pretty good size and IMO, it would be obvious if you had one in your bag. I have quite a few friends who take their green bags with them and put what they plan to purchase in the bag and then just put the whole bag on the counter.

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Dominic September 16, 2013 at 8:41 am

I guess I’d really be in trouble–often if I’m only picking out a few things at some of our local stores, I’ll bring my reusable shopping bag and place the items in it as I walk through the store, in lieu of using a handbasket or cart. When I reach the checkout, I empty the bag for ringing up, and reload it with my purchases.

I can’t imagine why he felt the need to check your bag while you were in line. Surely any of the clerks or he could have seen whether you were trying to “smuggle out” a box of wine as you checked out. He may have felt he was doing his job, but the rude part was the incredibly poorly handled gift card presentation and lack of apology. This manager is only managing to drive away good business and should be further reported to the company. You shouldn’t have to feel badly about shopping there, and he needs a lesson in good customer relations.

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Mary September 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

Personally I try and keep my reusable bags flat for that reason. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it except for the reason that he seemed to have a surly attitude prior to that night.

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Melissa September 16, 2013 at 8:47 am

I don’t think I would have complained to the corporate office. It seems pretty routine to me….and it didn’t cause you any inconvenience….

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AuntieEm September 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

he could have just said that they’re supposed to be checking any large bags, and of course found a subtler (is that a word?) way to ask to see the contents of her bag. There was no reason to tell her that he specifically suspected her of stealing, and what he thought she took – how embarassing for both parties!

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Huh September 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

When I’ve been shopping for one or two items and are using a green bag, rather than carry one of those baskets or take a grocery car, I put the items I’m buying INTO the bag, then take it up front, unload the bag and then have them scan everything and put it back into the bag. I never thought anything about it!

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Yasuragi September 16, 2013 at 9:02 am

I know having one’s bags checked can be a bit embarrassing but to stew over it for days? To write a complaint? To never return to the store? To make little jabs about his appearance and reading ability?

The manager may not have been sunshine and rainbows with what he said but he didn’t hound you, didn’t demand you empty your pockets or walk through an x-ray machine and after he saw that your bag was empty he moved on. And he probably didn’t remember you at all so of course didn’t remember what incident to apologize for.

I’ve had my bag checked a few times. A momentary inconvenience at most. It’s not a personal attack on you as a person. It’s just store policy and his job. You get worse invasions of privacy going through the airport.

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DGS September 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

Stores have the right to check bags; the manager certainly did not handle it very well, but he was well within his professional boundaries to check the bag. At most pharmacies, there are both small baskets and large shopping carts available for stowing purchases until one checks out. It may have seemed suspicious to him because you had chosen to put the purchases in the green bags, rather than in a basket or cart and then, transfer them to the bag once you paid. The interactions seem awkward but hardly inappropriate. I do not think that the manager was rude, rather simply awkward and not acting outside of his boundaries.

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Abby September 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

He could have handled it better, but I don’t think asking someone to look in their bag is that horrible of an offense. I’ve walked into Walmart once with a plastic bag from the place next door and they actually came out and stapled it shut!

He was rude about it, but I think calling the corporate office to complain was a bit of an overreaction on your part. That said, his forced apology was pretty bad. But you can’t force someone to feel sorry over something. If it was convenient for me and I liked the clerks, I’d probably keep shopping there. Corporate management did take your complaint seriously.

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Pam September 16, 2013 at 9:45 am

Not a big deal either way in my mind. Sounds like he generally lacks in the public relations department, and shop lifting is so common, no one is beyond suspicion. I wouldn’t take it personally :)

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Filiagape September 16, 2013 at 9:58 am

He may be surly or he may just be socially awkward/challenged. I am the mother of two socially challenged young adults, who will do things that may annoy/offend and be completely oblivious that it might be interpreted/received as such. My son has made comments meaning to be helpful, and was shocked to find that they were interpreted as his being a wisea$$. If the incident was bad enough for you to change where you shop, perhaps an E-mail to the company describing how you think the incident should have been handled. If he is surly, I’m sure the sheer number of complaints he receives will no doubt come to the company’s attention, but if it is social awkwardness, a little education and training goes a long way.

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Heather September 16, 2013 at 10:02 am

I think he was very wrong to check your bag. You were waiting in line. To pay. Even if you could have hidden a box of wine… again… you were waiting in line to pay. It’s not as if you were furtively skirting the exit door. I, too, sometimes put things in my “green” bag as I’m shopping instead of using a cart and then empty the bag at the cash. This guy should not be a manager of anything.

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Jewel September 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

Poor customer service is just rampant these days, so I would not hesitate (as a previous reply suggested) to send a follow-up communication to the corporate offie. Outline (or attach a copy of) your previous complaint while adding the new information. To strengthen your “case”, state that you do not expect any additional renumeration but simply wanted to bring attention to the corporate office that they have a store manager who does not well represent the company and, in fact, damages the company reputation in his interactions with customers.

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Tana September 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

The issue is not checking the bag, the issue is doing it pretty well in front of the whole world, when it’s also fairly obvious that there were other ways to check and he could have taken her aside and done it. You don’t publicly accuse someone of potential theft even if you are sure you’ve seen them take something. You COULD be wrong and if someone started rumours about someone stealing that could cost them a lot of trouble.

If you want to talk to someone in a line of people and can’t wait you ask them to come with you and you talk to them, you don’t do it in front of witnesses, or be rude about it since you might very well be totally wrong.

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Stacey Frith-Smith September 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

So I don’t think that the request to check your bag was wrong. What rankles the nerves is the utter lack of courtesy on the part of the manager. Call corporate again or call the owner (many franchise drug stores are pharmacist owned). Say what you’ve said here and you should get a better result. The issue of loss prevention is just a red herring here distracting from the fact that you have a consistently dour, slovenly and rude manager. I’m with you, OP, in that I don’t see how anyone could possibly fit a box (A BOX!) of wine into anything smaller than a duffel. Oy!

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Cammie September 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

That manager was not simply rude, he was completely out of line. You have every right to load up your bags with merchandise, as long as you pay for it before you leave, and he had no right to accost you before you reached the register to accuse you PUBLICALLY! of shoplifting. They be giving me a heck of a lot more than a token $10 gift card, I’d have that man’s job. He’s a huge liability to the company and I’m sure they’d decide he isn’t worth the hassle of multiple lawsuits.

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Jones September 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

Why would he check the bag before you paid? Tons of people use their bag to carry items pre-purchase, and then use them again post-purchase; why wouldn’t a savvy retailer just keep an eye on you and see if you paid for whatever was in your bag? Until a person leaves the premises with an unpaid-for item, it isn’t theft.

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Lex September 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

I’m not sure how it is in the US, but in the UK, particularly where food shopping is involved, given the wide variety of bag recycling schemes and bag-as-you-shop schemes and so on, I’m fairly sure that if they suspect you MAY steal something, they have to wait until you have passed the till points and are exiting the store before they can check you for shoplifting because until you have passed the pay points, you have not yet stolen any items regardless of where you store it. It only becomes theft when you leave the store having not paid for an item.

If I had been you I’d probably have called him out on his behaviour accusing an innocent person of shoplifting – I’m fairly sure it amounts to defamation of character. That being said, the manager of the store has the power to ban you for no reason other than his own preference and challenging a man like this would likely end badly for you.

I would follow up your complaint to head office in writing and CC the manager of the store detailing exactly why you complained in the first place. You have every right as a consumer to make a complaint and it is up to head office to investigate and take action where appropriate.

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MichelleP September 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

I’ve worked retail, and customer service for years, so it takes a LOT to make me mad, and I would have been furious! The manager is unprofessional and needs to be gone. I’ve been trained in loss prevention at every job I’ve ever had, including detecting fraud as a bank teller, and he was completely unprofessional, and possibly illegal. Bag checks are done as the customer leaves; even if you had put a box of wine in the bag, you hadn’t checked out yet. I have every right to put merchandise in a bag to shop; that’s what they are for. How he handled the note sealed it for me. File another complaint. Guys like this give us a bad name, and I guarantee that he is a miserable boss.

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just4kicks September 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

I can see a person slipping a lipstick or other small item into their bag unpaid for, but a box of wine?!? Seriously?!? Sounds like the manager had a personal beef with you, for whatever reason. I would most definitely have called corporate, and would probably call back to say you were treated just as rudely the second time.
One time my DH and I were in a retailer who had a tv at a fabulous price. Very long story I won’t go into, but the saleswoman was extremely rude to us the entire time she was “helping” us. At one point, after several snotty and rude answers to simple questions, my husband said to her, “Whatever happened to the customers always right???” She shot him a VERY dirty look and replied rudely, “THAT went out the window years ago!” Uh, ok. As soon as we arrived home I wrote a long email to the stores corporate office and received phone calls from corporate and the store manager, who told me we were certainly not the first to complain about this woman…..But, we would be the last.

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Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You September 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

Susan: Generally, stores do NOT have the right to randomly check bags. In order for a store to stop a suspected shoplifter, the customer has to observed removing the merchandise from the shelf, concealing said merchandise and attempting to leave the store without paying for it. Our legal system still has a presumption of innocence, so the emphasis would be on the store to prove that something has been stolen rather than the customer to prove otherwise. As a police officer, I have responded to calls where store personnel mistakenly that a customer has committed a crime by refusing to consent to a search.
An exception to this rule are clubs like Sam’s or Costco. These are stores that require a membership and therefore can make certain rules such as receipt checks upon exiting the store; I am not sure if they can check personal items such as bags or pockets.
While I advocate citizens exercising their rights, I think the OP did the right thing by cooperating. By being cooperative, she quickly proved her innocence and resolved the situation quickly.

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siamesecat 2965 September 16, 2013 at 10:47 am

I think the manaager was out of line. I too work in retail, and we too are not supposed to confront or even mention anything unless we actually SEE a customer putting merchandise in their bag. And even then, we are supposed to be subtle about it, bringing up in conversation something about the item we saw them “take” If anyone in my store did what the manager did, we’d be fired. plain and simple. I’m not saying its right, but unless we are absolutely, 100% sure we saw a customer take something or try and conceal it, we can’t do squat.

As for keeping the bag vs. flattening or folding it, I don’t see anything wrong there either. The OP was in line, not making a break for it out the door! And sometimes for me, its easier for me to carry larger, heavier items in a bag, on my shoulder, whether carrying it inside, or (which I’ve never done) while waiting to pay, rather than carrying it, or using the baskets stores provide. I think once the OP got up there, it would ahve been clear, by taking her purse out, nad putting her purchases in the bag, she wasn’t trying to abscond with a box of wine.

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Harley Granny September 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

Yes stores have the right to check bags but they cannot accuse or acost anyone until they have left the store.
The customer can and will alway claim they were going to pay for it.

Looks like the manager was attempting to look like a hotshot and ended up looking like an idiot.

I, too, would have reported him. So many places have let customer service go by the wayside. Every time we’re told to “let it go” it gets worse.

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Shea September 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

I don’t think the manager was necessarily wrong to check your bag. Shoplifting is a huge problem for stores, and he may have genuinely thought he saw you take something. Still, you did nothing wrong. The problem I see is the manager’s apparent total lack of social skills. He was a bit short in the way he asked to see your bag, discourteous after finding that you had not actually stolen anything, and rude during his “apology” with the gift card. As Virg suggested, I’d follow up with the company, since it seems that they are interested in this particular manager’s inability to behave courteously towards customers.

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Cat September 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

Welcome to the club of the innocent, but accused. When I was twenty-one, I was shopping for a gift for my father so I went into a local drugstore to wait for the store next door to open. Mother had asked me weeks earlier to get a package of Grecian Formula for my Father. I picked up a box and browsed the store. Realizing I didn’t bring enough cash for both the gift and the dye, I put the dye on a shelf and walked out.
The store manager came out after me and said, “Excuse me, Miss, did you forget to pay for that Grecian Formula you have in your purse?” Shocked, I stared blankly at him until I realized he was accusing me of being a thief on a public sidewalk .
I flipped my shoulder bag up in one swift motion and said, “I did not! Would you like to look?”
It was his turn to be surprised and he said, “No….you.” I opened my purse as wide as it would go and shoved it up to his face. Like you, wallet, tissues, and a lipstick.
He said, “Oh, ok.”, turned and ran back into the store. The on-lookers and I stood there in shock at his sudden departure sans apology and then I went on my way.
I told my Father about it and asked if I should complain. He told me not to. You know that manager relived that moment over and over all day and felt the fool he had proved himself to be.
If he had asked to speak to me I would have been glad to go back inside the store and we could have settled it quietly and privately. I resented being labeled a thief in a public forum and then being denied an apology.

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kingsrings September 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. When I worked retail, I would sometimes come across customers who became offended when I would ask to see their i.d. first before processing their check/credit card purchases. They took it as me accusing them of stealing. It was just a preventive measure, and believe me, if their checks or credit cards were stolen, they would be very thankful that we checked our customer’s i.d.’s. I know from experience as I was the victim of i.d. theft when my personal checks were taken and the thief’s i.d. was never checked once, allowing them to make purchases.

On the flip side, I used to frequent a couple of discount small clothing retail stores that coincidentally had the same manager at different times. This woman seemed to be quite paranoid about shoplifting. She would take customer’s purses and hold them at the counter until they were done shopping, and one time she she asked me in an accusatory manner if I needed any help simply because I was wandering around for a while, checking everything out. I was really offended by her her uncalled for actions and now wished I’d complained to upper management about her.

A lot of retail stores have plain clothes detectives on the prowl throughout the store, looking for shoplifting incidents. Those are the people that should be the ones to confront potential shoplifters, nobody else.

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Chicalola September 16, 2013 at 11:15 am

It would have made more sense for him to ring you up, make sure you were paying for the items he suspected you were stealing, and then confronted you as you left if he believed you were stealing. You would have not known he even suspected, and nothing would have happened. He obviously can’t handle social situations, or his own duties as a manager without it being uncomfortable. He always has a right to check, and if he suspected anything….he needed to check. It could have been done differently though.

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Cami September 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

I’ve worked retail. It colors my view of these situations. Was the manager’s comment about the box of wine out of line? Yes. But I would have rolled my eyes and not thought twice about it. As for the rest of it? No. He was not wrong to check the bag. It’s commonplace around here, so I wouldn’t be horrified about it.

“I can see a person slipping a lipstick or other small item into their bag unpaid for, but a box of wine?!? Seriously?!?” Yes, indeed. Seriously. I once had a “lovely little old lady” wearing Talbot and a string of pearls try to steal a rather large potted mum in her large “tote bag”.

As for this: “I think he was very wrong to check your bag. You were waiting in line. To pay. Even if you could have hidden a box of wine… again… you were waiting in line to pay. It’s not as if you were furtively skirting the exit door.” Most thieves we “catch” were actually in line to pay. They often buy items and steal others at the same time. They think that by buying something they’ve fooled you because they believe that most people will think as you do — that if you openly buying something, you’d never be so brazen as to steal at the same time. That, sadly, would be wrong.

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The Elf September 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

Asking to check the bag is reasonable. Doing it in a less obvious or mean way would have gone a long way to keeping a good customer! I don’t blame the OP for being offended.

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Library Diva September 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

I’m surprised that so many people are siding with the OP. To me, her outrage seems way over the top. No, the manager didn’t handle this well. It seems odd to check the bags of those waiting in line rather than those leaving the store. But it hardly seems worth this level of outrage. It’s not like the manager told her “You look like a thief,” he only made the comment in response to OP’s question.

I’m also surprised that so many people say they use their green bags as shopping baskets. I green-bag it frequently and have never once done this. I just think it looks shady. Shoplifting is a huge problem, staff is trained to look out for it, and doing this just opens one up to myriad headaches, from getting tailed by store security to incidents like the above, to the simple hassle of transferring everything out of the bag at the register only to have to put it back in the bag.

I agree that poor customer service is a problem. But I’ve also come to the conclusion that stores want it this way. Their model is built on cheap, disposable labor. Someone quits, and they want to be able to get the next person up to speed in a couple of days, because the odds are they won’t stay long either. They train them to a very minimum standard, and the training will probably emphasize loss prevention and the mechanics of the job over conflict resolution, customer service, and product familiarity. If they wanted excellent service, they’d offer higher pay and better benefits and treat the employees differently. Really, what big corporate chain stores want is high profits. That’s why they throw a 16-year-old girl out on the floor to train with someone who’s worked there for three weeks and is on their fifth retail job this year. They give away discounts or gift cards to anyone who complains because it’s cheaper than training and retention. Pretty sad.

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Kirst September 16, 2013 at 11:41 am

I think emailing the company to complain was over the top to the point of being ridiculous. He asked to check your bag – he has the right to do that – and then he left you alone. What on earth is the problem?

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cdubz September 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

What the manager should have done is wait until you were at the checkout, then ask for the bag so he could bag your purchases. He should not have confronted you like that.

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Ergala September 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

When I worked retail we were not allowed to do anything unless the customer went past the point of sale. At that point it was considered concealment and theft. If we asked to see someone’s receipt at the door they had every single right to walk past us and refuse. Same with checking bags. I was once searched because I set off the alarm walking INTO a store. I had walked in, immediately set it off and they were very rude to me demanding to know what I took. I didn’t take anything, I had just walked into the store. They saw I had just entered as well. Kind of threw me for a loop.

But the manager was 100000% wrong. He had absolutely no right to search your bag while you were waiting to check out.

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Ergala September 16, 2013 at 11:51 am

Just a note on observing a shop lifter. I was at the grocery store not too long ago and I witnessed a man putting a HUGE can of beer in his jacket pocket. He happened to be at the register right next to me and I knew the cashier I was checking out with. He didn’t pay for the beer….just the pack of gum. It was the middle of the morning and the store was kind of busy. I told my cashier what I saw before he was able to leave the store. Their response….unless a manager saw him take the item they can’t do anything. And where is the manager? Sitting in their office. So yup that store pretty much encourages shop lifting. Even if the cashier sees them taking something nothing will be done unless a manager sees it.

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~Dessa~ September 16, 2013 at 11:51 am

Customers do not have the right to put merchandise in bags before going to checkout. Once an item is in a bag, it is considered to be concealed, and thus, shoplifted. The manager did handle the incident poorly, and an apology should have been given.

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"I would have that man's job" September 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

To the person that commented with this…I think that is an incredibly mean-spirited thing to say. Who knows what kind of day he had? Yeah, maybe he was a bit of a jerk….but to make a stink about this to the point of trying to get him fired???

I think we could all stand with a little more tolerance for other people.

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Amanda H. September 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

Like other posters, I’ve worked in retail before, and that colors my opinion.

OP, I think you did nothing wrong in calling corporate to let them know about your experience, or in letting the post-it incident go without a fuss. I’d still shop there myself if you don’t usually deal with the manager, because otherwise you’re letting one person’s actions color your entire interaction with the store. You’re depriving yourself, and he probably doesn’t even notice.

As for the manager, I doubt he’s got it in for you. Judging from your description of his attitude and general appearance, and the way he handled things with both encounters, I rather suspect he’s lacking in either social skills or general work motivation, and just doesn’t care enough to be one of those stellar store managers that single-handedly has you wanting to shop at a place forever more. It seems more like him suspecting you of stealing a box of wine was opportunity–he saw someone in the wine section, thought he might have seen them put something in their bag (did you rummage around in your purse at that moment?) or wanted to believe that, and approached you in the checkout line in the interest of “loss prevention.” Unless he frequently targets you for things like this, just count yourself unlucky to be the one suspected this time.

Which brings me to this point: from my experience in retail, no, he should NOT have asked to check your bag while you were still waiting in the checkout, even if he suspected you were going to buy some things and steal the wine. You’re still waiting to pay. You have every chance still to pull out that supposed box of wine at the checkout and actually pay for it. Accusing you before you reach the till leaves him wide open to issues with corporate when customers call in to complain that they were accused of theft while still shopping. You have to wait until the customer has passed that point of payment (most stores will wait until you’ve actually left the building since you could still turn around and go, “Oh, I forgot….”).

@Cami, remind me never to shop at your store if I’m going to get “caught stealing” while still waiting in the checkout line just because I happened to use one of my shopping bags or the basket of my stroller to hold an item or two. The only customers I’ve ever “caught” trying to pull a fast one on us at the registers were the ones who were stealing via price switching or lying about sales in order to get false price-matches. You know, the ones you CAN know are trying to scam before they finish paying. The only other “catches” I’ve made have been people who put items in a trash can or the like, and I still was not allowed to accuse them, only check inside the containers as I rung them up. And if I DID find something that was left inside, I couldn’t accuse them of stealing it. I had to say things like, “Oh, we check because sometimes people hold things in here and forget about them at the checkout; I’ve done it myself,” or “Sometimes kids like to hide things inside the bins or boxes and other customers don’t realize it.” No accusing the customer of theft.

@just4kicks, I want to excise the “customer is always right” nonsense from the language. The customer is not always right. The customer is sometimes (or frequently, depending on customer) wrong. Of course, that doesn’t accuse the snotty saleswoman, and I would have reported her post haste.

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Lisa September 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

Also, isn’t it possible he doesn’t remember you? And that that is why he was so confused over the note telling him to apologize? In his head he’s thinking, “apologize for what? I don’t even remember this person!”

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Arila September 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I don’t think the manager was wrong to check either…in general. If it had been a backpack which he didn’t expect to see the inside of, definitely he would have been within rights to ask (some stores don’t allow large bags AT ALL). However, since it was a green bag, he had a reasonable expectation of being able to see inside it during the course of the normal transaction, so he could have just waited. It’s not like you were breezing out the door after “just browsing”, you were waiting in line to check out. I’m not sure that I would have taken it as far as making a formal complaint, and the whole “you must apologize” on the postit was just awkward. Next time, I would just ask that they send it to your house in the mail.

Just last week I brought my reusable shopping bag in with me, and I had intended to only buy a few things and hand-carry them to the check out. Well, I got a few extra things, and decided to put them into the bag to carry around. Then I wanted more things, and went back up through the registers to get a cart! No one hassled me, though I have to admit that the possibility DID cross my mind that someone might.

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Teacup September 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

At the particular store where I work we typically say, “If it isn’t nailed down, it will walk out the door.” I’ve had young and old, nice and rude, paying customers and browsers, rich and poor alike steal from me. It makes me very sad, but at some point you have to suspect everyone.

Having said that, I think he handled the situation very poorly. He most certainly could have made sure he was the cashier ringing you up and when you didn’t purchase a box of wine, approached you discreetly on your way out. It makes me curious as to their loss prevention policies.

If this interaction was out of the norm (do you normally see him checking large bags other shoppers carry?) than I would be surprised he already forgot about it, but you never know, you could have been just a minor blip on his customer interaction radar.

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Elizabeth September 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I don’t think there is issue here, except that the OP complained about a bag check.

And as for placing your to-be-paid-for items in a bag, I’d be real careful about that. You are concealing merchandise, regardless of having left the store or not. Many shoplifters conceal and make like they are continuing to shop, before exiting the store. You may not want to raise suspicion by concealing their products.

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AE September 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm

He definitely handled that wrong.
I think the time to intercept a suspected shoplifter is definitely AFTER they leave the checkout. Any time before, especially with green bags involved, could be that the shopper is keeping their purchases in order. If I’m shopping for someone else as well as myself, sometimes I’ll carry their bag over my shoulder so I can be sure I got everything on their list.
I’ve never had a single incident of someone thinking I’d shoplifted.
Now I did accidentally temporarily shoplift at a local book store when the bag of one of the kids I was escorting didn’t get rung up. But I went back with the list of items and made good that afternoon. We all had a good laugh over it!
We have a plastic bag ban in our city. So shop clerks are more accustomed to customers carrying bags here,

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I suggest September 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I was, once, a juror for a shoplifting case. As a juror, we were given specific instructions by the judge as to what constitutes “theft”. (This was in California.)

The judge instructed us that “theft” is concealment of one person’s possession from them, making it unavailable to them. It doesn’t matter if you are still in the store, in line to pay or outside the store. If the item possessed by the store is unavailable to the owner (store) due to your having concealed that item in any way, you are involved in theft.

The court case where I was a juror involved a person putting a small item inside his sock. He was caught within the store. The store manager called the police and he was arrested. His defense was that he did not actually steal the item because he never walked out of the store. Because he concealed the item from the owner, making it unavailable to the owner, he was found guilty of theft. The judge’s instructions left us no other options. Conceal = theft.

Take home lesson: Never, never conceal any store item until you have paid for it. Don’t carry it in your purse, your pocket, your opaque shopping bags. If you will buy more than what you can carry openly in your hands, then get a store-provided basket. Store-provided baskets are open, so the store employees can easily see what is inside and nothing is concealed. Do not transfer purchases to your own container (purse, pocket, shopping bag) until you have paid for them and, legally, you are the owner.

Put “shoplifting” in Google and read some of the stories. They usually go something like this: “I had too many things to carry in my hand, so just stuck some of my purchases in my purse. Then I just forgot about them all because I had a screaming baby / sick mother / demented grandma with me. I did not intend to steal anything. I just forgot.”

Store personnel see and hear that kind of thing all the time. Take the extra few seconds to get a shopping basket and save yourself some grief.

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Karen L September 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Ah, geez, why do people get so affronted about this kind of thing? You had something in your bag, he asked to check it, saw it was nothing, you were on your way. No harm no foul. If anything you should feel vindicated because you made him look like a fool. Why on earth would you “stew” about it for days and complain to corporate?

I suggest not taking any planes anywhere, because they’ll search ALL your stuff…

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Shalamar September 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

This reminds me of an experience I had recently, but I’m pretty sure *I* was in the wrong here.

I was at my neighborhood Safeway and, like OP, took a cloth bag in with me. Because I only wanted a couple of small items, I didn’t bother with a cart or a basket – I just put the items I wanted into my own cloth bag, then I took it to the checkout and emptied it out to pay. I was so obvious about what I was doing, I didn’t think there’d be a problem – until I got to the checkout and the cashier said (very politely) “Please don’t do that again. Management was keeping an eye on you to make sure you didn’t try to walk out without paying.” I’m as honest as the day is long, so I was horrified that someone thought I was trying to steal!

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the-not-so-divine-miss-M September 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’m not sure about the legalities in the country that the OP hails from.
In my country, there are actually very clear laws about it. The police have the right to search a person and his/her bags. Anyone, including service guards, shopkeepers or Uncle Bob may request that somebody show the contents of his/her purse. A person may turn down that request, but that can in turn mean that the person asking makes a civil arrest, one that will include a lot of trouble and police, etc.

Now, being asked to show one’s pockets or purse is by no means a pleasure, but it really has nothing to do with whether or not one is friendly or known by the staff. But it has nothing to do with personal relations and everything with whether or not an employee thinks that a person may have nabbed something.

I see no reason to complain, and no reason to complain any further, unless the request was delivered in a very discourteous manner.

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