A few weeks back we did a story verifying whether or not you have to show your receipt to an attendant when you leave a store like Walmart.
The answer, we found out, was no, you don't actually have to show your receipt.
People had a lot of opinions on the practice, including several questions. One of those came from Darlene Crawford who texted us asking this:
"Does Wal-Mart or any other store have the right to make me put my purse or back pack purse (yes it’s a real purse that goes on your back, great for moms) in a locker? This happens all over the place now and I don’t like being treated like a criminal. Yet they are not responsible if anyone breaks into my locker which they provide and takes my belongings."
First, Darlene, I also have a backpack purse, and it is very practical. But the question is good, too: Are you required to store your bag or backpack when you enter a store if the store asks you to?
To start, if you're wondering what Darlene is referring to, there are many stores that say if a bag is over a certain size then a customer needs to check it. This is pretty much to prevent theft.
What Walmart is saying: Since Darlene was asking specifically about Walmart, which does this only at some of their stores, we reached out to the company. A spokesperson gave us a statement saying that "one of our top priorities is creating an enjoyable and convenient experience for our customers" and that they're "continually looking at and implementing technology for that purpose."
Storing bags isn't really technology, but the spokesperson went on to say that ultimately at their stores, checking your personal bag is similar to receipt checking. The lockers exist to help prevent theft. However, it's enforced in the same way as checking receipts. (I interpret that to mean no, it's not mandatory.)
But that's just at Walmart, so what about other stores?
What does the law say: We spoke to criminal defense attorney Donald Heller. He told us this: "There's no statute that I'm aware of, but a store has a right to fully protect its merchandise, and if they have a uniform policy to do so, they can do that."
VERIFY: Knowing that, can store required you to store your bag? According to Heller, the answer, broadly, is YES. A store has the right to ask you to do that.
That said, there are a couple of nuances.
First, a customer isn't required to store their bag at the store. You could go back and put your bag in your car if you think that's a safer place for it.
Second, Heller said ultimately it comes down to how the policy is applied. "It's the application," he said. "Something on its face can be fair and responsive, but if it's used as a vehicle to discriminate against people of color then it's an abuse of the Civil Rights Act."
So, say a store only seems to ask a certain type of person to check their bags, that's when the law comes into question.
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Can you legally just not stop and show your receipt at a Walmart checkpoint? We VERIFY.