Fact Finders: Do you have to show your receipt to leave big box stores?

Costco spells it out in the membership rules you sign.
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The addition of Costco adds another big box store in town that requires you to show a receipt when leaving with merchandise. So, one of our viewers wanted to know; Do you have to show your receipt when leaving a store? The answer is -- YES.

Costco spells it out in the membership rules you sign. It says, “To ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased all receipts and merchandise will be inspected as you leave...”

Sam’s Club has very similar language in its membership guidelines.

Lee Viorel of Lowther Johnson Attorneys at Law says even if you don’t read all the language in the agreement, you’re still committed to follow the rules.

“If you come in, and you’re allowed entrance, because others are not you paid your membership fee, then you’ve ratified the terms of the contract, and they’re probably enforceable against you. Because of that, you can’t have all the benefits without taking the burden that goes with it. So, you’ve got an obligation back for being a member, just like if you were a member of a pool club, or you were a member in your homeowner’s association, you’ve got to follow those rules and regulations.” commented Viorel.

So, what about non-membership stores? Viorel says Missouri has something called the merchants or shopkeepers privilege. It allows the shopkeeper for reasonable cause the right to detain you for a small amount of time. If you’re wondering, this is not an unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th amendment. That’s because the store is not a government agency.

“Folks often get constitutional rights confused with a businesses’ right to control its premises.  For a constitutional right to be triggered you have to have state/governmental action.  Here a private company is acting. The only possible action would be a civil action for some type of false imprisonment.  That wouldn’t arise if they ask to view the receipt because you are free to leave you just wouldn’t leave with merchandise if you don’t comply,” advised Viorel.

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com.

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