Do You Have to Show Your Receipt Leaving These Washington Stores?
Can These Washington State Stores Make You Show Your Receipt?
Do you have to show them and can they even legally ask you to see it?
Storefront Check Receipt Laws
You are walking out of a store in Washington State and a worker at the door asks to see your receipt. Do you have to legally show them your receipt and can they even ask you that question without probable cause?
The answer is both Yes and No, depending on which stores are stopping you from leaving. Not all storefronts are equal when it comes to what you have or do not have to do in this situation. First, we will answer Yes or No for different stores and then look at the legal reasons why below.
Can These Washington State Stores Check Your Receipts?
Can they or can't they? The answer depends on if the store is a public business or if you need to pay a membership to enter.
They will almost always ask to see your receipt at the door, especially for large purchases. You do not have to show them your receipt at Best Buy.
They might ask to check your receipt here, especially if you are in the self-checkout lane. You are not legally required to show them your receipts after purchase at Home Depot or Lowes.
I see door attendants asking people every time I walk through the doors. They ask a lot because theft is bad at Walmart however you have no legal obligation to show them your receipt.
Costco checks everyone's receipts as they leave the store, but can they legally? Yes, they CAN legally ask to check your receipt and cart on the way out. Why are they different from the other stores in Washington State?
Can Washington State Stores Ask to See Your Receipt?
The simple answer to that is YES, they can legally ASK to see your receipt. However, answering if you are legally required to stop and show them depends on a couple of different factors. Do you pay a membership at the store, or is it a public business? Do they have some kind of proof that you might have committed a crime in their store?
A private company with membership costs like Costco and Sams Club includes mandatory checking of receipts in the contract when you sign up. Once you are a member, you have signed away your legal right for them not to check your receipts and it is completely legal.
The 4th Amendment
In this case, is it federal law that protects you or Washington State law? One of the first things people might say is that they are protected by the 4th Amendment if a store demands to see your receipt. The problem is that the 4th Amendment protects you from unlawful search and seizure from the US Government, not a private company.
The law that protects citizens against this situation is not Federal but Washington State law. Stores can detain you if they are following the Washington State Laws for Shopkeepers' Privilege, but what does that exactly mean?
A public store in Washington State can only detain you if they have proof that you are stealing. Examples of this could be video footage or employee eyewitness accounts of the suspect taking or hiding merchandise.
If they have that proof, Washington State Law RCW 4.24.220 says a person can be detained in a reasonable fashion for a reasonable amount of time. The storefront also has to have "reasonable grounds to believe that the person so detained was committing or attempting to commit larceny or shoplifting." They can only stop you if they think they have proof of you stealing, otherwise, they would be breaking the law and leaving themselves open to a lawsuit.
The Best Way to Respond in a Public Store
If you have done nothing wrong and feel the public storefront is infringing on your rights as a Washington State citizen, what is the best way to respond?
1- You could refuse, make a big scene, and get legally banned from the store or even arrested. 2- The second option would be to just show your receipt because you have nothing to hide and go on with your day. 3- The third option would be to just smile and keep walking while saying "No thank you" because legally they can physically stop you from leaving the store, especially with no proof you are stealing anything.
Of course, these strategies only count for stores where you do not legally have to show your receipts like Costco. They are like Facebook. Once you sign on the dotted line for a membership, you also sign your rights away.
Find out more about your rights at Lawyers.com or watch the video below.