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 }

Wendy Geoghan September 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I can’t believe anyone would think this is not a big deal. I would be very offended and I think you did right by complaining to his corporate office and I would contact them again about his further rudeness.

I’ve worked in customer service and my husband works for a large grocery chain, where theft is a big problem. This managers lack of tact and the fact that he knew you is really disgusting. I wouldn’t shop there anymore.

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Rebecca September 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

The OP seems ridiculous. The whole incident, checking the bag, being preoccupied for days and writing to corporate, then getting even more offended when he doesn’t apologize correctly (really?), and avoiding the store, all sound like a huge overreaction. Sometimes, people aren’t going to be polite, courteous, or have any social graces. And sometimes these people are going to be in positions where one must interact with them frequently. But that’s the way the world is.
Personally, I feel that to complain once more because the manager wasn’t nice or smart enough to apologize would be petty and somewhat bratty. If you really like the store, and don’t even interact with him that much, continue going. There are more important things in the world.

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Marozia September 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

OP handled that very well. I always let staff check my bags.
This manager will one day rub up one person the wrong way and he’ll be paying big-time for it!

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Kristin September 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm

One thing at issue here is that the OP is a very frequent, well-known customer of the store. She sees the manager all the time so, presumably, he sees that she’s a regular. It was rude of him to approach her in that manner. But I have to wonder about a company that reprimands their employees via post-it-notes.

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Angeldrac September 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I don’t know if anyone else has said this, but with the whole “I’m suppose to apologise to you – what for?” issue, is there a possibility that due to the numerous customers they see every day, he might not actually remember OP and have no idea who she is or what the problem is? Despite what some customers think, simply going to a store every week does not necessarily make you a memorable person that employees should instantly recognize.

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LizaJane September 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

“But I have to wonder about a company that reprimands it’s employees via post-it notes.”
Exactly! Especially since my friend Michelle and I invented them. And not for that purpose.
Love,
Romi

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phunctor September 16, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Or you could reply to his “I need to check your bag” with “No, I don’t choose to have my rights violated today”.

You could explain to him that the qualified immunity that protects LEOs from lawsuits in cases of false arrest do not apply to him. Explain that what is already a difficult situation escalates to slander, if he repeats to others his false claim that he saw you put something in your bag. And ask him, given the possible dire consequences to him, he wishes to lay hands on you to prevent you, unsearched, from leaving his store. Which would, of course, constitute the crime of battery.

Freedoms unexercised wither and vanish. Don’t let yours.

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RC September 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I think OP overreacted; the manager had every right to check your bag, and I don’t think he came across as rude in the situation, certainly not enough to merit a complaint. It is conceivable that he did not recognise OP at all as a regular, during either of their encounters. Some people are just terrible at facial recognition; I’m one of them!

As previous posters have mentioned, people of all shapes and sizes can turn out to be shoplifters. At my local supermarket, the green bags I use are certainly large enough to conceal a box of wine. If someone approached me in a store, in front of others, and asked to check my large handbag or my green bag, I would smile and say “No problems”, they’re just doing their job.

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Karen September 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm

1. They say 1 in 10 people will dislike you for no reason. Maybe he’s the 1 in 10.
2. I’m pretty sure all stores have a bag check policy. I would say it’s a one off event, he’s within his rights to ask to look in your bag and you should probably just get over it.
3. OP, have you considered that his attitude may not actually be about you? I have found that people have a lot of things happening in their lives, and (shock horror!) they are not necessarily thinking about me!
4. Perhaps the company was not actually agreeing with you, but performing good PR by offering you the discount voucher? If they were truly concerned about his behaviour then chances are they would have had a discussion with him rather than send a message via post-it.

Boycott the store if you must, but good luck getting through the rest of your life without this sort of situation recurring. If you are going to be offended by every perceived slight against you, the world is going to be a very offensive place.

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Yankeegal77 September 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I’ve been trained in loss prevention and while a manager has the right to check your bag, what he did was 100% incorrect.

First off, you hadn’t paid yet. Let’s say you did steal something–you’re supposed to have the chance to pay. As you exit the store, THAT is when you are to be (discreetly) checked. What this guy did was rude, unprofessional and possibly a big policy no-no.

I also keep my purse in my green bags sometimes, as I have a bad back and need to take the pressure off. However, I try to keep my bags closed and if I’m store-hopping, I am prepared to show a receipt.

So, writing to corporate wasn’t an overreaction. this guy definitely sounds like he needs more training,

As for the apology–I agree he may not remember (I wonder if he might have to do that a lot and perhaps lost count!) but there WAS a better way for him to handle it. Just to have been sincere and asked what he did and to genuinely apologize for the inconvenience. Don’t blame the guy for being confused–blame him for once again, grossly mishandling interpersonal communications.

I know you’re not keen on shopping there anymore, but it seems this place is convenient, the checkers are friendly enough and honestly, he sounds none too great to work for. You could be that awesome customer all of us loved seeing. I’d just make sure your bags are folded and that your interaction with him is kept to a minimum.

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White Lotus September 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I have been known to put things in my cloth bag while shopping to make sure I don’t go over the limit of the bag. I empty it out at the checkout counter, move to the other side, the clerk hands me my bag or I take it with me, and we load it up again as things are checked through. This is pretty normal around here, where there is a charge for paper bags. Nobody bats an eye. Asking to look in my cloth bag before I passed the check out? Before the clerk had a chance to make sure it was empty? Which is actually pretty darned obvious? I think the manager was out of line. I would tell corporate again, and say I found the “apology” and the entire incident so distasteful I was finding myself staying away from their store.

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Coloradoan September 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Wait… what? Here in Colorado, I always bring in my own bag, fill it with the things I intend to buy (plus purse, sunglasses, car keys), then empty it out on the conveyor belt (taking back my purse, glasses, and keys to hold during the transaction) for the cashier to ring up (and he/she can then transfer the now-empty bag to the bagging area for me to refill to be exactly the way it was when I walked up to the cash register). I have never heard of keeping bags empty/flat while shopping – never!!!

If I am buying a ton of things, I throw my bags-stuffed-full-of-other-bags into the shopping cart, and it’s full (of bags-of-bags and again a bag w/the purse/keys/glasses) while I shop.

It would be really, really weird if a clerk wanted to check bags while I was shopping, but I’d show them what I was carrying around, if they cared to see. I might joke that I’m glad they checked before I hit the tampon aisle. I might also ask why they are checking bags before I check out, but I wouldn’t really care. I really can’t imagine this happening, though.

Now that I think of it, I’ve even done this in the past with a large purse or diaper bag, putting everything into that while shopping and emptying it to check out. It’s not weird in Colorado. Either that or they just think I’m the nutty bag lady and leave me alone! :)

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Angel September 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Rebecca, post 52. I think the OP had a huge overreaction to a fairly minor incident. I have been asked to check my bags and never even batted an eyelash.

As an aside, you shop in a large chain store and expect to be treated courteously by every single employee. Ain’t gonna happen. You may get a few gems but for the most part, people in these jobs are just there for a job–it’s not a career and they really don’t give a care. So if you take that into consideration perhaps the incident would not have bothered you so much.

What’s funny to me is that the corporate office actually took your complaint seriously–and yet you still found something to complain about. I concur with the other posters who say that the manager probably doesn’t even remember you–he probably checks bags routinely so it probably doesn’t even register on his radar.

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just4kicks September 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@Amanda H.: I would like to clarify my “customer is always right” comment. I have worked retail, and agree with you….they are not always right. This particular time, however, given we were looking to purchase a very expensive item, and this woman helping us was SO rude. The store did not have the cable hooked up right and my hubby was trying to reconnect it to see if we liked the picture on the tv. This saleswoman flew at my hubby screaming “customers are NEVER to touch the merchandise….EVER!” Lady, we are plunking down hundreds of dollars for a tv if we don’t like the picture. It deteriorated rapidly from there. My husband was trying to lighten the situation, and made the comment with a smile on his face, and kind of a “hey, we are about to hand you a big commission, how about a little help here!”

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NostalgicGal September 16, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Until you passed the register, there was no right or reason for you to have been stopped to be checked. So his approaching you beforehand was wrong.

The stickie note was unprofessional, how he read it and went ??? was also unprofessional both from whoever wrote the stickie and how he handled it.

Even in my small nowhere town I use recycle bags, and I am used to either ‘flattening them and nesting them’ and keeping my purse elsewhere (actually I’m a pocket woman as I tend to leave handbags sit, always have and probably always will); and I have filled my reuseable bags before I get to register, in the cart many a time. I have never been stopped and searched.

I’d give the manager one micron of slack here, but he could have handled the certificate better; and he was out of bounds on asking to check the bag before register. He may not have known you from Jane, even if you are a regular of the store, that is part of the slack I’m cutting. But not much.

I can understand the OP voting by going elsewhere to do her business. It’s a mixture of more than one side here.

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Jenn50 September 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I discussed this issue with friends recently. We all agreed that for the sake of avoiding embarrassing accusations or causing unneeded stress on store staff, we all try to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. This means using store provided baskets, not your green bags or purse prior to checking out. One friend even tries to avoid taking things from her purse or pockets, or putting them back in, (her own personal items like tissues, cellphone, etc) as she feels it looks suspicious. (I think she’s taking it a little far, but I get her point)

I feel as though OP is being a bit dramatic, but the manager could have handled things MUCH better. There was no need to say he thought she was stealing wine; he could have simply said it was policy to check large bags. If he had been more polite and less accusatory, it probably would have been a minor blip on her outing. And if corporate decides you need to apologize for your conduct, you would be wise to make it sound sincere. Even if you don’t remember why, something like, “I’m sorry, it seems that on a previous visit, I offended you. It is never my intent to upset valued customers. Please accept this gift card, with my apologies.” I am, however, baffled by the notion of leaving instructions via post-it note to apologize with no background as to why.

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AnaMaria September 17, 2013 at 12:25 am

I have spent a lot of time working in retail, and the rule of thumb is usually that you never, never make it obvious that you suspect someone of shoplifting, unless you’ve actually seen them stuff something in their pocket and bolt for the door- ESPECIALLY not a regular customer. If you have good reason to be suspicious, you approach them and ask if they are finding everything all right or ask if you can get them a cart (not that we only did that for suspected shoplifters- sometimes it’s just being courteous!) If he had seen you bolting towards the door with your bag stuffed under your coat, that would be a different story, but this guy committed a serious customer service faux paus!

Sidestory: When I was seventeen I worked at a department store where we could use our associate discount for immediate family (for minors, that meant our parents and our siblings). I came in on my night off with my brother to get him a discount on a few clothes. When we went to pay, I told my coworker (who I had seen many times at team meetings or on the salesfloor when I was working), “Associate discount please, my last name is XXXX and my number is 123.” She raised an eyebrow at me and said, “Are you sure you work here?” Um…let me think…wait, maybe I don’t know where I work. :P I think she may have thought my brother (who is two years older than me) was my boyfriend and I was giving him my discount when I wasn’t supposed to- but, really? Accuse me of lying about working there?? As my time there continued, I found her to be dishonest (cheating on her sales, etc.) and desperate to put herself up by putting others down, customers and coworkers alike.

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Ergala September 17, 2013 at 12:32 am

We had a shoplifter once in our store. An associate saw him on camera putting CD’s into his big baggy pants. She flagged the manager and of course the rest of us watched him on camera as he thought he was being stealthy. He then came up front and went into the men’s room. We sent one of our male associates in to see what was up and he heard a lot of crinkling. He went into a stall and waited for the guy to leave. When he did the associate found the cases empty in the stall. He came out and told the manager who stood right outside the first set of double doors by the loss prevention desk at the front. He couldn’t say or do anything until he actually crossed the POS area and past that first set of doors. As soon as the kid did he approached him and asked if he wanted to tell him anything. The kid immediately fessed up and the police were called. Now if the kid had walked past the second set of doors and off the sidewalk all we could do was take down his license plate number and call the police. The manager couldn’t physically stop him either. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. We got lucky where the kid knew he was caught. I mean he could have kept walking and there was nothing we could have done about it.

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Melalucci September 17, 2013 at 2:16 am

OP, I’m glad you don’t go there anymore. If I were you, I would have complained again to corporate, because you got your gift card, but he obviously didn’t get punished. And like you, I would have stopped shopping there.

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skv September 17, 2013 at 4:42 am

OP, although I likely would have been somewhat offended too, I feel that you have overreacted. Here’s the thing – just because you are a “regular” at this store, it doesn’t mean that you don’t regularly “shoplift” at this store. And just because you recognize the staff who works there it does not mean they necessarily do the same. As someone who has worked in customer service for many years I can tell you that I am excellent at making people feel welcomed and special, when I often have to struggle with remembering who on earth they are and if I have ever seen them before. And a $10 gift card does not mean the corporate head office agrees with you – it was meant to pacify you and to make the situation go away. It was $10.
The manager sounds like he has awkward social skills and that he handled the situation poorly, but your submission actually seems like you are most offended by his suggestion that you could possibly be shoplifting. Shoplifters look just like everyone else. Why, exactly, should he NOT suspect you? Simply because you frequent the store? So do shoplifters.

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Kate September 17, 2013 at 4:55 am

I’m not sure of the laws where OP lives, but most shops where I live have signs posted saying that they have the right to check bags. It is a condition of entry into the store and if you don’t like it, you are free to leave.
Yes, the manager lacked tact, but I certainly do not think this was worth a corporate complaint. It’s not like the manager patted OP down while screaming “THEFT” and ringing the police. I probably would have forgotten about it by the time I returned home.

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Kate September 17, 2013 at 6:07 am

I think people are making much too big of a deal out of this, shoplifting really is a huge problem, and they have a right to check your bag. I would not have called the corporate office and I certainly wouldn’t do it again. People are not always polite in their dealings with other people, that’s just the way it is! If they were, this excellent website wouldn’t exist.

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llamas September 17, 2013 at 6:16 am

Assumption is that this story relates to the US (spelling, and just the general tone).

Laws vary from state to state, but in general, in the circumstances described, the store manager (or any other store employee) has no more ‘right’ than any other person to search you or your effects while you are in the store – which is to say, no right at all. Signs and ‘policies’ claiming this ‘right’ have no effect in law and the store and its employees have no lawful powers to try and enforce this imaginary ‘right’. The only time that a right to search you without your consent may be formed (accent on ‘may’) is after you have been detained or arrested, either by the store’s employees (a ‘storekeeper’s privilege’ citizen’s arrest in those places where it is permitted) or by a police officer.

Even if you have the store’s goods in your possession, even if those goods are in a closed container (like a bag) where they cannot be seen, so long as you do not leave the store without paying, you have committed no crime, nor have you provided ‘reasonable, articulable suspicion’ that you are going to commit a crime, and nobody has any ‘right’ to compel you to do anything. In such a case, the store employee’s only right is to tell you to leave the premises – at which point, you can choose to pay for the goods you want, or return them to the store.

Once you pass the last location where you have the opportunity to pay for any goods that may be in your possession, in some (not all) states, the store’s employees may have the right to detain you if they have a ‘reasonable, articulable suspicion’ that you have taken goods without paying for them, and to search you and your effects. This is the ‘storekeeper’s privilege’ that exists in some state laws. Most stores with any sort of sense operate a rigid and specific loss-prevention policy which requires employees to witness and record specific acts before taking this step – because the potential negatives are so great.

So – if some store employee approaches you, inside the store, with some request to examine you or your effects – you are perfectly free to refuse. You don’t have to comply with any such request. Employees may try to assert that they have a ‘right’ to search you, or quote their store ‘policy’, but these are all mere attempts to persuade you to comply voluntarily. If you choose not to comply, any attempt to search you or your effects by force, or to detain you in any way, starts as simple assault and goes up from there. Call the police, and defend yourself if it comes to that.

Similarly, blanket attempts to ‘check’ your receipt or your goods as you are leaving the store are purely voluntary on your part and you do not have to comply with any such ‘policy’. The partial exception to this is the case of ‘membership’ stores such as Costco, where you agree to have your goods checked on exit as a condition of membership – but even then, the store has no right to enforce this policy by force, eg by detaining you physically or examining your goods or your receipt without your consent. Their sole remedies are to terminate your membership and exclude you from their premises.

Claims that storekeepers have such ‘rights’, or that shoppers should voluntarily comply with such ‘policies’ because it reduces theft and keeps prices low, are arrant nonsense. In the first case, the vast majority of retail theft is committed by store employees – not customers. And in the second case, it’s not the job of private citizens to help storekeepers secure their goods or premises.

You must decide what is right for you to do, but I choose not to cooperate in any way with any of this sort of thing, whether it be ‘bag checks’, ‘receipt checks’, exit alarms or anything similar – except at Costco, where I signed a deal, saying exactly what I agree to. I don’t engage or debate with anybody who tries them on with me – just wish them a good day and keep walking. Were I ever to be approached as described, I would refuse the request, without debate, and if the store employee persisted, simply leave the store without making any purchase.

The only time I ever had an issue was leaving a Home Depot, when the exit alarm went off. I kept walking – Home Depot’s alarms are not my business. Somebody yelled “freeze!”. I turned around and saw it was some muppet in an orange vest – not an identifiable law enforcement officer. I turned away and kept walking – I’m not answerable to muppets in orange vests. This clown chases me down, blocks my path, and tells me ‘You’re supposed to stop!’ I read him his fortune, and then told him to step aside or explain himself to the police officer that was going to be there shortly. A second muppet arrived and led him away to explain the facts of life to him. And I went about my business.

llater,

llamas

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Julia September 17, 2013 at 7:35 am

@LizaJane
Hysterical! :D

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Allie September 17, 2013 at 7:42 am

To people saying the store has “a right” to search your bag: Not always. It depends on the state and municipal regulations and it’s certainly never allowed universally, absent some clear signs or a signed contract (like Costco). I will say that, even if the lady had a bag of wine in her bag, at this point, you can’t even make a case out for shop lifting. You have to basically pass the registers without paying or walk towards the exit. Here, the woman consented to the search, so that’s not really an issue.

But your privacy rights don’t just disappear walking into a store. The problem is, the only trouble they get into is lawsuits, and since there isn’t much damage from your average search, they don’t have much to worry about. There are certain places anybody can be asked to show the content of their bags because you consent by walking in, but it’s not every single store.

But there have been some horrible cases where store owners basically strip searched customers because they thought they were shoplifting. And, nope, not okay.

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llamas September 17, 2013 at 8:53 am

Oh – and for those who claim that ‘it’s no big deal’ to voluntarily give up your rights, and that there is some sort of vague community benefit in allowing store employees and others to invade people’s privacy – there is an interesting movie called ‘Compliance’ that you should watch, to see what this sort of thinking has led to . You can watch this for free on Netflix and other free streaming services. Note that this is definitely NSFW and is probably not at all suitable for young children.

I’m no fan of ‘slippery-slope’ arguments, with dire predictions that if we stand by for this or that, the inevitable result will be TEOTWAWKI. But in this particular area, I belive that the slope is very slippery indeed, and tacit acceptance of these sorts of behaviors not only can, but will, lead to some very bad outcomes indeed.

llater,

llamas

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Erin September 17, 2013 at 9:02 am

I think people saying the OP is overreacting are missing the point of the story – she’s not upset about having her bag checked, she’s upset about the manager’s attitude. When I worked retail the best managers were the ones who could handle difficult customers with a smile, and OP doesn’t sound difficult.

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Ergala September 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

@Kate a store here has a sign stating if you have an assistance dog (i.e. seeing eye dog) you MUST present paperwork at the customer service desk upon entering the store. Completely illegal. Just because a store posts a sign declaring something doesn’t make it legal and valid.

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Mae September 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

I don’t think the OP was upset at the bag check itself, I think it was the way it was handled. Even if the manager did not think he should apologize to the OP, why read the note out loud? Sometimes, managers have to apologize for things their employees do; would it have not been less offensive to simply say I’m sorry you had a bad expereince or something similar? Of course, since he was the one who offended her, that may not work.

All things considered, I still think the manager was rude and could/should have handled it better. Yes, customer service does seem to be on a downward decline but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the trend.

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Abby September 17, 2013 at 11:50 am

@ Erin-

“I think people saying the OP is overreacting are missing the point of the story – she’s not upset about having her bag checked, she’s upset about the manager’s attitude.”

Regardless, I think stewing about it for *days* IS an overreaction.

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Mabel September 17, 2013 at 11:53 am

@llamas, re your comment-182902: Netflix is not free. Unless you’re stealing it. ;)

This manager sounds like a jerk. I doubt I would stop shopping there because of this, however, if the rest of the personnel are pleasant. Ad I probably wouldn’t have written to Corporate, either, unless he did it again.

I do the fill-bag-empty-at-checkout at ALDI all the time; I’ve never been stopped, probably because I’m a regular. The store doesn’t provide small baskets, either, although they don’t mind if you pick up one of the empty product cases lying around and fill that up. Until I read these answers, I didn’t think about how it might look to fill my bag. Perhaps I’ll invest in some of those European-style, see-through, string shopping bags. Then it won’t look like I’m trying to hide anything.

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Kimierin September 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I feel for the OP. In the moment she felt embarassed and humilated in front of other people because the manager did not handle himself correctly. There is a way to do things right and a way to allienate customers. Which is exactly what he did.
How is she being dramatic? She didn’t yell at him or cry , she contacted the store’s corporate location. Which is exactly what they are for. Don’t they have a right to know that their manager is mistreating customers? She gave them feedback, they provided her with a gift card. Although why it was at the store for the manager to deal with, I am not sure. And AGAIN he showed his complete lack of people skills by handling the second part poorly.

True, he may not remember her but he made her out to look bad by acting that way. He should have been professional about it all.

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LizaJane September 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Thanks, Julia. ( ;

Llamas, “Muppet” ? Really? I hope you don’t mean to lump all Home Depot workers into that role.

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Nikki September 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I admit that my view is colored in this instance.

I want to start by saying that I don’t think the manager handled the situation well. Period.

Playing devil’s advocate, however, I understand WHY he did what he did. I worked in a grocery store for fifteen years. I’ve seen and heard it all. Packages of steak hidden under big bags of dog food on the bottom of the cart. Knives from the kitchen section opened, one by one, and walked out in someone’s sock. On the self-checkout, some customers would scan their groceries, wait for the operator/cashier to have their back turned helping someone else (maybe an accomplice, maybe an innocent shopper), and then walk off without paying. Once there was a family that walked inside the store with a bunch of plants they wanted to “return.” The problem? They’d picked the plants up off the sidewalk on their way in.
So, I can see how a store manager’s desperation to decrease loss numbers would lead him to checking bags. While I don’t approve of his method, I don’t know that I would have dwelt on it for days like OP. I would have been mildly annoyed, might have said something to the manager in the moment, and then would have forgotten about it promptly.

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CherylC September 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I didn’t read all the posts (mine will be the 83rd!) but I think the OP overreacted a bit and demanding another apology is a bit much as is avoiding a store you like. Yes the manager sounds like a clod and if you do go back and something like this happens again, you might sweetly remind him it isn’t shoplifting until you leave the store without paying for it. If he wants to follow you out of the store and then check your bags, he has that right.

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David September 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I would have been offended by the bag search as well, but I would have just stopped shopping there.

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Amanda H. September 18, 2013 at 12:03 am

@just4kicks, that’s a bit better. Can’t say as I’m any more enamored of the phrase, even in jest, but I can forgive your husband’s use of it. :)

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nk September 18, 2013 at 12:18 am

I really don’t see anyone worthy of Etiquette Hell in this story except the OP. The store manager saw what looked like a customer shoplifting and he investigated it. He did so civilly, not being rude or demanding about it. I’m sure there are many people, unfortunately, who do steal from the store by slipping merchandise into their bags, and it’s well within the rights of the store manager to do what he can to prevent that. A simple “Can I check your bag?” should not have caused the OP any horror or indignation, much less a complaint to corporate and a grudge against the entire chain. That part just makes her seem needlessly petty.

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Emily September 18, 2013 at 2:52 am

@Ergala. They have a SIGN? For people with seeing eye dogs. Unbelievable. I mean, I believe you when you say it’s there, but goodness. Some people.

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just4kicks September 18, 2013 at 8:32 am

@Amanda: As I mentioned, I worked retail for several years (think red bullseye), and my hubby had listened to countless horror stories about my job over the years…And has seen me come home in tears more than once. So, I agree that phrase should be abolished.
This saleswoman was truly horrible, and I’m not exaggerating when I say she screamed at my husband not to touch the tv. Every question we asked was an effort for her to answer. At one point I said this is ridiculous, let’s go. But, it was a really great price on a flat screen for our living room and our tv at home was no longer working.

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Allie September 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

You should have refused and had he attempted to detain you then you could have sued him for – believe it or not – false imprisonment (there’s case law on this). Furthermore, even if you’d had a box of wine in your bag, no crime is committed until you leave the store. There’s a reason store detectives wait for you to cross the threshold before swooping in. I know lots of people who use their “green” bag to collect items which they then go and pay for. This guy sounds like a complete moron. I’m sure it won’t be long before the higher-ups notice and he is fired.

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Ergala September 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm

@Emily I kid you not! It says that anybody entering with a service animal must stop at the customer service desk and provide documentation that said animal is indeed a service animal. I mentioned to them that it’s quite illegal for them to post that and to require it but the store seems to think that they can make up any rule they want no matter if it’s against the law or not. For this reason I very rarely shop there, only if I must.

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NostalgicGal September 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Bad customer service and a right to complain:

Paperwork and financial; sent it express mail just for the reason at the time that provided scanning from the post office it was sent from, every place it went and when, and would have to be signed for and a facsimile of the signature available for who signed, where, when, what time–it would not hurry it any more than a much cheaper option, just that it offered that tracking. Item arrived two days before a deadline; I had the proof it arrived and was signed for. Three days AFTER the deadline some snippy condescending woman called me to let me know stuff was denied and cancelled because the paperwork wasn’t there. Um, just a moment dear; I called up and started reading chapter and verse about the paperwork from cradle to the grave they’d dumped it in there… and who signed for it and when. Oh, she would have to look into this (snippily and snottily and hung up on me). Twenty minutes later she called and still very uppity like informed me she had it. Oh she was so annoyed she’d had to stir herself to the mailroom and retrieve it. We were back in grace. She didn’t know I had some phone numbers for higher-ups and I called one. A very nice ten minute conversation with that person, apology offered, and the woman no longer worked for them. I feel sorry she lost her job, I don’t feel sorry because of how many others might have suffered very badly for her doing stuff like that.

I worked retail many times. Until they passed point of sale AND were past ‘point of no return’ we couldn’t stop or search anyone. Some places, we were trained to approach someone we thought might have acquired something and were possibly going to leave without paying, to ask them if they would like assistance in picking out (X, accessories or coordinates) to go with Y (the item just put in purse or pocket or coat)

And yes the things people would pull. One woman had two shopping bags and a mommy purse, and had taught her barely four year old to pull off hangers or pick up and put in mommy’s bags, clothing she was pawing through (little kid’s clothes) then she’d leave the store, return, and try to return the items without a receipt. After a police consult in the security office, they decided to ban her from the store for life, as the four year old accomplice didn’t know any better.

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Amanda H. September 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm

@just4kicks, I am by no means excusing the awful saleswoman. Good grief, she sounds like a pain. I would’ve been torn too, between leaving because of the awful saleswoman and staying for the really good price.

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LawGeek September 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I, too, put my shopping in my reusable bag while in the store. I’ve never had anyone say word one about it. Of course, this might be one of the benefits of living around the corner (and thus being a regular) from small grocery staffed by the owner and her family. They even put up with my attempts to practice my pathetic Korean. There is actually a CVS (drugstore chain) one store closer to my apartment, but I prefer the market, both for variety and customer service. I’ve never seen checkouts go quicker or more smoothly than when the cashier has a financial stake in the enterprise!

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Grey September 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

llamas is correct with his above comments, but I would like to add one thing. While store employees do not have the right to search your bags, they DO have the right to permanently ban you from the store if you don’t comply.

You can walk out of the store without having your bag or receipt checked, but it could be the last time you’re allowed to shop there. You need to decide which is more important to you.

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Miss-E September 19, 2013 at 5:33 am

To all saying that the manager has no right to search the OP’s bag: we don’t actually know what country the OP lives in so searching the bag may very well be within the legal limits of wherever she is.

I was a manager of a grocery store for years, we had the right to search bags but I would never, ever, ever approach a customer that way. I would have offered to ring up the OP, allowing me to give her things a once-over and check for stolen items without making it painfully obvious. He went about it all wrong, double that for the “apology”.

That being said…I would never have complained, personally. Years of retail have made me sympathetic. How much do you dislike this guy? Because further complaints could very well cost him his job (depending on the company, of course). I know he seems like a grump but do you really want to put a person out of work because he was a little short with you and you felt insulted?

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llamas September 19, 2013 at 7:10 am

@ LizaJane – muppet is, as muppet does.

I’m an absolute font of olde-worlde courtesy and respectful behaviour, regardless of rank or station. The flip-side is that I absolutely will not tolerate rudeness, disrespect or discourtesy – from anybody. My motto is that expressed by J. B. Books – ‘ I do not do these things to other men, and I expect the same from them.’

So, yes – if somebody yells ‘freeze!’ at me, they’d better be a uniformed officer with a damned good reason. Otherwise = muppet.

I once had a clerk at the SoS office whistle to me, to get my attention. I gave her such a thorough, public dressing-down that I’m sure that it still hurts her to sit. ‘Are you whistling for a dog? I don’t see any dogs in here. The only dogs allowed in here are seeing-eye dogs. Do I look like a seeing-eye dog to you? Do I?’ People were standing on chairs at the back for a better view. But this is the only way to push back the tide of rudeness, inconsiderateness and discortesy which laps all around us.

llater,

llamas

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Leslie September 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Stores do not have the right to search your bag in the United States. They can ask you to voluntarily show them the contents. You can ask to call the police to have the police check your bag. But store employees do not have the right to search your bag.

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knitwicca September 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

“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…”

There is no way I would allow this. The potential for theft is astounding.

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