I'm generally adverse to the whole shopping experience and tend to operate in the power shopping, "hit and run" mode.
So four shopping days before Christmas 1999 I decide that my remaining gifts will be digital satellite systems, and I proceed to the back of the Lakewood, California Best Buy and end up at the mixed personal communications and odd-things-to-attach-to-your-TV counter. Surveying my options, I feel vaguely less manly as I eschew the top-of-the-line, surround-sound-laden, multiple-receiver-ready models in favor of a pair of beginners packs inclusive of the dish, appropriate electronics, and every possible wire, nut or bolt their future owners would need to get each going. Having made my decision, I'm now ready to be done.
I begin to understand that this would not be my fate today, though, as the "helpful" salesperson politely ignores my query for more stock than the one box I find and proceeds to tell me about the great features of the higher end systems, including the dishes that allow the use of two receivers simultaneously so I won't need to buy more than one complete system.
After being convinced that I'm not going to budge from my decision and trekking off to what must've been the end of the earth to retrieve my box, I'm told that these items must be checked out at the counter I'm standing in front of. Before he will even take my credit card, though, I have to fill out my name, address, etc on three different forms which then get laboriously typed into the register. By the time we're through the repeated sales pitch on the extended warranty and the inspection of the contents of my purchases, I'm in what might be considered a hurry to leave.
So when I'm faced with the prospect of standing in a long line at the exit to have yet another person rifle through my property, I dodge the line and head for an unused automatic door, countering an insistent "Sir, can I see your receipt?" with a polite "No, thank you."
I've gotten so used to this trick at Fry's Electronics that I don't really think twice about it. You see, Fry's doesn't trust their underpaid staff manning the cash registers to actually do their jobs right, so they post a door guard to ask people walking away from the registers carrying plastic bags to let them verify that all of the items in the bag were rung up on the receipt.
But this verification step is purely voluntary. Merchants basically have two rights covering people entering and exiting their stores. They can refuse to let you enter the premises and/or to sell you anything, and they can place you under citizens arrest for attempting to leave the premises with any property that you haven't paid for. But the second you hand over the appropriate amount of cash, they lose all rights to the items. They can't legally impair you from leaving the store with your property.
Apparently the employees of my local Best Buy aren't very familiar with annoying pedantic individuals who will choose principals over convenience when walking out with a shopping cart full of expensive home entertainment gear. I manage to get about 5 steps out the door before the door guard catches up to me and grabs my cart, with the "sir" in his "I need to see your receipt, sir" somehow not very complimentary. This is apparently a stalling tactic, as shortly a few more blue-shirted employees make a move to block me from making any more progress toward my car.
I ask, still calm, if I am being detained for shoplifting. This suggestion apparently shocks my captor into regaining some of his senses, and he lets go of my cart. I explain that unless he wishes to do so, he has no right to stop me.
This is clearly baffling to the poor fellow. He suggests again that my receipt simply needs to be checked, struggling to grasp why it is that I won't just be a nice little customer and submit to the store policy. I spend a few moments trying to explain myself, but clearly have too much adrenaline flowing at this point to be particularly erudite. I give up and proceed in the direction of my car.
Shortly a yellow-shirted fellow, who I take to be a managerial-type, again tries to plead a case for the receipt-checking. I ask again if I'm being detained for shoplifting. He says no, but shortly thereafter mentions that he'll need to call the police shortly if I don't offer a receipt. I tell him to please do so, while loading my packages into the car. I suggest that before doing so he take a moment to talk to either the helpful salesperson who rung me up or to compare their inventory against sales receipts, as to avoid looking like an ass to the cops.
As I get in my car to leave, two Best Buy lackeys in a pickup truck decide its a good time to park behind me, blocking my path again. By this time, I've had just enough of this crap and not very politely or discreetly ask them to get out of the way. With only a little hesitation, the yellow-shirt nods in their direction and I'm soon free to leave.
Its been a few hours, but I'm still half expecting a man with a badge and a gun to show up at my door to check my receipt.
-- Aaron Hopkins