For as long as I can recall, bulk stores in the area I live (e.g. Costco, BJs, etc.) have checked customers' receipts as they exit the store to verify that all items in their cart are what was purchased.

In recent years, Walmart has substantially eliminated its cashiers in favor of self-checkout lines and started adding someone at the exit to check receipts.

The bulk stores require a membership card to shop there, thus, I could envision a scenario where somewhere in the legalese for that card is a requirement to allow the store to check the receipt. However, I cannot see how there would be such an agreement between myself and Walmart.

For this reason, could I refuse to permit a Walmart employee at the door to inspect my receipt? Or is there some sort of implied consent to search that I'm unaware of?

  • I am fairly sure that the exact same question in possibly other wording was on the stack some year ago...
    – Trish
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 23:38
  • Not sure this is a duplicate. The linked question and answer focus on whether you must show it to a police officer (the question mentions shop staff calling the police but the answer focuses on the police).
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 13:15
  • @StuartF that's a good point. Another potential reason is that my question is tagged for the US as a whole, while the cited duplicate refers to California in particular. I did find it interesting to learn about 'shopkeeper's privilege', I'm not sure if that's relevant in California. I agreed with the duplicate, but if the community considers them to be sufficiently unique I wouldn't oppose a re-open vote. Commented May 23, 2023 at 13:29
  • In the case of Costco/BJs, they only permit members to shop for goods. It's likely that when you became a member, the contract you signed had a clause which signed away your right to refuse a receipt check and a membership verification upon making purchases. Hence even if you had a legal right, you waived that right upon your participation in the membership program.
    – hszmv
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 14:30
  • @hszmv I'm unclear on the purpose of your comment. I specifically stated that such a thing was likely in the 3rd paragraph. Commented May 23, 2023 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


The 4th amendment protection against unreasonable searches is irrelevant, since it only relates to governmental searches. There may be "shopkeeper privilege" laws in your state that enable a detention. Ordinarily, you cannot be arrested by a person – that would be assault and false arrest. However, a state can enact an exception, such as Washington's RCW 4.24.220, which says

In any civil action brought by reason of any person having been detained on or in the immediate vicinity of the premises of a mercantile establishment for the purpose of investigation or questioning as to the ownership of any merchandise, it shall be a defense of such action that the person was detained in a reasonable manner and for not more than a reasonable time to permit such investigation or questioning by a peace officer or by the owner of the mercantile establishment, his or her authorized employee or agent, and that such peace officer, owner, employee, or agent had reasonable grounds to believe that the person so detained was committing or attempting to commit larceny or shoplifting on such premises of such merchandise. As used in this section, "reasonable grounds" shall include, but not be limited to, knowledge that a person has concealed possession of unpurchased merchandise of a mercantile establishment, and a "reasonable time" shall mean the time necessary to permit the person detained to make a statement or to refuse to make a statement, and the time necessary to examine employees and records of the mercantile establishment relative to the ownership of the merchandise.

Speaking of Walmart, here is a petition regarding a lawsuit against Walmart over such an event, where a shopper failed to stop to respond to exit security, resulting in her being physically stopped. A lawsuit (assault, unlawful imprisonment, outrage) ensued. The bottom line was that the shopkeeper's privilege is a valid defense against a lawsuit to the effect that a shopper does not want to comply with a request to prove that they are not stealing goods.

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