Brick and Mortar Purgatory

Everyone likes a vibrant Main Street. Whether you’re in Columbus, Oxford, Starkville, Natchitoches, New Orleans–wherever–people enjoy shopping in boutiques where they get treated well, especially if they can prop their feet up in a good restaurant or cafe afterwards.

I’ll gladly pay a premium to shop in places where management doesn’t assume I’m a potential shoplifter the minute I walk through the door. The last time I went to Wal-Mart, the receipt checker not only pored over my receipt like it was a smaller-than-expected income tax return, but also began to dig through my purchases. I resent the insinuation. I am not a common thief. If places like Wal-Mart want to prevent shoplifting, perhaps they should hire friendlier and more knowledgeable staff who actually care about customers’ shopping experience.

As is, I’d rather order things online. The UPS and FedEx delivery people are savvy enough to bring treats for our dogs, who are genuinely happy to see them, and who receive them with more courtesy than I experience when I go to Wal-Mart.

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10 Responses to Brick and Mortar Purgatory

  1. Trey says:

    While being annoying and also insulting at times to be checked before leaving Walmart, I believe that it may be necessary. There is no doubt that some people would try to take advantage of self checkout and no business would appreciate being stolen from. This however should not be necessary for a regular customer or a known member of the community that Walmart is in. I could not help but to feel let down when I was checked at my hometown’s Walmart by a girl I went to school with for years. Of course, I could not be upset at her; it was her job to check people’s receipts. I feel like a business run within a community should be influenced and populated by that community, not someone who would simply have everyone checked because that would be the safe thing to do; respect should be shown because it’s the proper thing to do to paying customers.

  2. Hailey Manning says:

    If you wish to check my receipt and my bags, at least give me one of those yellow smiley face stickers as an award for being a loyal and honest customer of Walmart. Honestly, people say it is quite easy to steal from the store, but this is another topic. Another fact is is that they can thoroughly check this person’s receipt, the other’s basket, and the other’s basket and receipt. I cannot recall the last time my receipt was checked at the door. Unless you stop in front of them, where I am from, they will wave you on. I feel like some workers, like in Dr. Easterling’s case, use their supernatural intuition that allows them to spot a dishonest customer on the spot. In this case, those powers failed. For all I know, the worker may have completely wasted Dr. Easterling’s time because they had “the feels” for him. Some argue about the physical appearance of a person correlates with their intentions. Maybe the pricing on an item was so amazing they just had to look in the cart to see the deal. What a deal, but no need to steal. They say “Save Money. Live better” when you cannot save money without the worker being suspicious of your bargains. You cannot live better when the worker is burning daylight from their incorrect intuition. “Everyday Low Prices” but oh do not forget the rest “Everyday Low Prices, with a worker to question your savings at the exit”

  3. Abby Strain says:

    Walmart has become so important to our culture that it is as unavoidable as death and taxes–and, by extension, being treated like everyone else is equally inevitable. Although I have my own qualms with Walmart (the organization system, mainly), placing “they check my bags like I’m a common shoplifter” and “the employees don’t act like they love their jobs” at the top of the Walmart Atrocity List is an arrogant philosophy. Of course the employees check your bag, that’s what they’re paid to do. (Walmart is the peak of capitalistic stereotypes; they wouldn’t pay people to check your bags if it didn’t reduce shoplifting and save them money.) It takes thirty seconds of your time and it isn’t nearly as big of a nuisance as it seems. And of course the employees aren’t excited to see you, no one . They don’t get paid enough to deal with the people who shop there, and they definitely don’t get paid enough to be happy about dealing with the people who shop there. My advice to you is simple: the next time your bag is checked at Walmart, take a moment to appreciate that you aren’t the one checking the bags.

  4. Andie says:

    What does a thief look like? What characteristics does one have that a retail employee could spot unmistakably?
    With the true crime genre rising along sensationalist media plastering the various horrific acts humans commit, it’s become deplorably common to dehumanize anyone committing any criminal act. But in reality, nobody does anything without a reason, whether it’s a desire to “cheat the system” or to provide food for the children of an unemployed single parent. Who is to say that all reasons are wrong? If you asked yourself what you would do if you were that parent, would you tell your child once more that there wouldn’t be food for them that night, knowing yourself that the reason is only most immediately out of a flimsy sense of civic duty?
    Herein lies the root of the hypocrisy of the insinuation that an innocent shopper should be checked for shoplifting is resentable: we tell ourselves that we would do anything for those we love, but harass those who actually do when their options are limited. Fleeing from a war-torn country is understandable, but an influx of immigrants is a burden. Going to far means to provide for a family is noble, but shoplifters are “common thieves.”
    When innocent shoppers’ bags are checked, no punishing action is actually taken–a few minutes separating you from getting home, maybe. But it’s a check, and nothing more. It’s difficult to get wrongly punished in this situation, so while you know the process is redundant, the worst that can happen is that you have to go through a few boring minutes. Annoyance is understandable, but more than that is evidence of just how much one puts themselves in others’ shoes.
    None of this is to say that the store should do anything different. The store’s incentive for these checks is understandable–they are losing money from shoplifters, after all, and making money is their sole purpose as a business. But there’s a reason this happened at Wal-Mart. People know it’s a big corporation, and they figure that the loss of whatever item they are taking would be insignificant compared to the profits the stores make every day. In smaller, more local businesses, I’m sure you’ve noticed that being checked is much less common, and that’s a big reason why.
    If being mistaken for a shoplifter is so resentable, I’d advise you to visit Kroger rather than Amazon. The FedEx and UPS delivery drivers may be friendly when you interact with them, but workers for those corporations as a whole (as well as the environment) are choking on the simultaneous influx of online orders and demand for their speedy arrival. Trucks are less efficiently packed, and drivers are being pressured to work long hours. Perhaps under these conditions, those same people may be forced to turn to become another common thief which you so strongly resent.

  5. Alex Fink says:

    I agree with the general idea, up to a point. I believe, personally, that checking a customer’s bag is a violation of that customer’s privacy, unless there is a.) clearly stated consent to check the bag (not even necessarily clearly stated, just obvious enough that they can’t complain about it later on), or b.) an obviously explainable reason as to why that person is suspected to be stealing from the store. I would understand someone checking my items if I’m walking out with something that is too large to be bagged. However, if I have one or two bags, I would object to them being checked, without being given a good reason. If there is a policy that for every x number of people that go through the doors, y number of people have to be checked, I would also consent to a bag check, solely because I understand the retail industry is not a decent place to work. To insinuate that they check your bag for the sole reason that they believe you look like a thief (or just because of the way you look in general) is, at the very least, disconcerting to me. My family (or my father at the least) agrees with you. This suggests to me that this idea stems from the way older generations were raised. No one I have talked to that belongs to the generations Y and Z don’t typically have a problem with being checked at Walmart. The last thing that they believe is that they are stopped because they look suspicious or because of their race. They believe that the people checking the bags of people walking out of Walmart just want their paycheck. I agree with their views, as, though I am a Filipina/American, I often get confused for a Mexican. This has led to many racial conflicts and misunderstandings that have ended peacefully and have ended violently. I have never felt that this has happened at the Walmart in Columbus, and so long as you are polite to them, they are polite to you as well. Abby Strain has the right idea in saying that those who place ‘They check my bags because I’m a common thief’ and ‘These people don’t act like they love their jobs’ at the top of the Walmart Atrocities list is a vary arrogant philosophy. I would like to add my personal statement and say that anyone who has this kind of philosophy should take a step back and look at this from a Walmart employee’s perspective. Once you have accurately done so, reevaluate your priorities. If they are still the same, I would very much like to have a discussion on why you believe that these are such horrible sins.

  6. Niyah Lockett says:

    An employee should never have to check a bag. With all the money Walmart is making, you would think that they could afford shoplifting sensors that actually work. This would easily eliminate the problem of racial and economic profiling. If they feel like the pros outweigh the cons of installing new sensors, then every customer should have to be checked. This is the only way to make these stops fair. I believe that it is as simple as that. Thieves are going to steal regardless of the precautions taken. If the stores were more accurately armed, the security system would allow for store guards to respond to the situation. This would cut down on stops based on prejudicial assumptions and thieves getting away due to lazy employees.

  7. Tejus Kotikalapudi says:

    I agree that it would be preferable for there to be a certain amount of trust between the consumer and the service provider in all situations for the sake of speed and comfort. However, this could happen in a perfect world where people only took what was theirs and, unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. If I had a dollar for every time I witnessed someone stealing from Walmart I would’ve dropped out of school a long while ago. Personally, I’m ok with spending a little longer time in places like Walmart in exchange for them not raising prices due to theft.

  8. Alexis Richardson says:

    In my town, the workers rarely check your bag as you walk out the door. However, I know that theft does happen. To solve this issue, Walmart should purchase sensors that work instead of the ones they have now, which are just for show. People have figured out that these sensors do not work, and they have been and will continue to take advantage of this until it is fixed. The cheaper solution to this problem is to have workers check bags, but as we see, this brings us the issues of racial profiling and utter annoyance. I believe Walmart should go ahead and purchase sensors that actually work.

  9. William Shy says:

    I feel like Walmart is wasting money hiring people to stand at the door and check receipts. In my experience, they usually don’t even check my receipt as they either don’t care or they’re distracted. However, when they do check my receipt, I am annoyed but not overly angered. I understand the purpose of their job, but I think it’s pointless as most people don’t steal from Walmart every time they go, and if they do it’s probably insignificant compared to how much Walmart earns. Walmart could instead hire more people to work checkout lines (in my Walmart, there are usually a few lanes that don’t have a cashier, leading to long lines in the few open lanes) or to walk around helping customers. Overall, I think it is pointless for Walmart to hire people to stand at the door checking–or not checking–receipts of customers who most likely haven’t stolen anything. (Also, usually they don’t even check your receipt thoroughly so it is still extremely easy to steal something even with people checking your receipt: I once stole something accidentally and no one, not even me, noticed.)

  10. Sidharth Nagarajan says:

    I think Wal-Mart is completely reasonable for checking peoples carts and receipts on the way out because it cuts costs while still getting the job done. The entire purpose of most businesses these days, is to make money. Few businesses have a main goal of working towards the betterment of society. With this goal in mind, avoiding hiring employees with more responsibilities that get paid more, if they do the bare minimum to get by, they will survive. This, with addition to their low prices and expansive inventory, is what leads to their success. For the customer, it might seem like a needless job, but you can’t determine if someone is a thief otherwise. The customers who aren’t thieves, just have to go through the ritual so the company doesn’t get robbed. In addition, since the workers checking receipts and carts is so well known, it will also discourage future thieves from stealing.

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