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A chain store that I frequent has banned me from their store, citing that I was seen stealing merchandise. I've NEVER stolen anything from their store (or any other store of this chain) before, and the store manager claims that their store has video surveillance. He can't admit that they have video evidence of ME personally stealing anything (which, if they have surveillance, they should have proof of, no?), but apparently, one of their employees has (mistakenly) identified me as a thief, resulting in my being permanently banned from their store. On top of that, the store manager claims that one of his employees (who he's named personally) is the one of who says that he saw me stealing merchandise. Yet, I've talked to this same employee before, and HE claims that another Asst. Manager of the store is the one who claims they saw me stealing something. So right there, they already have an inconsistency in their story.

There are other stores of this chain around me that I could can and do go to, but I don't like the idea of being labeled & treated unfairly for something that I didn't do, and on top of that, I feel like--and I know this sounds...fantastical--they're intentionally lying just to have a reason to ban me from their store.

Is this right? And is there anything legally that I can do about this?

Thank any and all who answer in advance, and I look forward to hearing you all's thoughts on the situation.

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    Have they told anyone else that you steal from them? – phoog Apr 26 '17 at 22:58
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    @phoog: Yes, the OP, should try to "trap" them into telling another person that he steals from them, so that he would have a defamation case. – Libra Apr 27 '17 at 2:39
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    Not directly, but they did make the exclamation on two separate occasions when the store had no less than 4 other customers. Also, there were other staff members present, including (on the second occasion) an Asst. Manager. – cloud4xL Apr 28 '17 at 0:03
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In theory, a store can ban you or anyone else for any reason except those protected by law against discrimination. As a practical matter, you potentially have various forms of recourse.

The first thing to do is to write the the CEO of the chain, with a long detailed letter describing the incidents, and naming names. Most CEO's don't want to deal with this kind of bad publicity, and will at least order an investigation, and make amends, if the internal investigation is in your favor. This would apply even to the late Sam Walton, if the chain is WalMart, or whoever the current CEO is.

If you are a member of a protected minority, or even have dark skin, you can sue the chain on those grounds. There will be a presumption that they barred you on grounds of race or color. Then the burden of proof will be on them to show that they didn't bar you for those causes.

As a form of "entrapment," you should take a witness, basically the most influential person you can get hold of that's not a family member, to the store with you to ask them why you were barred. The mayor of your town would be ideal, more llkely it would be a boss, teacher, or clergyman, but in any event, someone who knows you well. If you can get them to accuse you of stealing in front of this third party, you have the makings of a defamation case.

And even if you aren't a minority, you can sue them anyway. You can demand "discovery" of all internal documents, videos, etc. relating to your case. Your lawyer will also the right to "depose" (cross examine) all offending managers.There's a good chance that something embarrassing will turn up in the process. (Many defendants settle in connection with discovery.) You might want to hire a second (libel) lawyer to teach you how to publicize the case without running into libel laws.

If all this fails, the store can probably bar you, but you want to make it prohibitively expensive for them to do so, meaning that most rational people wouldn't bar you after the above. If they do, they're not rational and you're better off not using the store.

  • I'm not sure if anyone I could bring with me to the store is influential enough that they could lend my case any credence, but if I ever make an acquaintance with someone who fits the bill, that's an option I might pursue as defamation would be a large part of my lawsuit. And, yes, I'm a minority, but honestly, I wouldn't want to file a suit on that basis. I think the accusation is more personal than racially motivated, but race might still play a part. But your discovery option sounds tempting as I know they don't have any verifiable proof. Thanks for your answer Tom. I voted it as accepted. – cloud4xL Apr 28 '17 at 0:26
  • @cloud4xL:"The threat is at least as great as the reality." Something like 98% of all suits are settled out of court. A witness will at least be more threatening and help you extract a better settlement offer. The second best case is that they are highly embarrassed, don't want to change their position, and will offer you a lot of money "thousands" to stay away from the store. This has been done in other situations, such as employment. You might want to file suit without the "race card," and use it as a threat if they aren't reasonable. My father taught me that wars are won by "reserves." – Libra Apr 28 '17 at 0:30
  • "There will be a presumption that they barred you on grounds of race or color. Then the burden of proof will be on them to show that they didn't bar you for those causes." That doesn't sound right. A public perception, maybe (which is potent), but a legal one sounds doubtful. The aggrieved party would be making the claim that they were banned for being in a protected class, while the defense simply points to the sign on their store windows saying they can deny service. The law almost always requires that the person making the claim provide the proof of it. – zibadawa timmy Mar 2 at 11:21
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A store is allowed to ban anyone from service, for any reason (except for discriminatory reasons, e.g. racism, sexism etc).

The store is private property, and reserve the absolute right to deny entry.

protected by Community Mar 10 at 23:31

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