Can retailers legally ask for my receipt as I’m leaving the store?

In the United States, it is common for retailers to ask customers to produce a receipt for their purchase prior to leaving the store. This practice is legal and is intended to act as a barrier against merchandise and financial losses due to the unauthorized taking of merchandise - better known as shoplifting.

However, there are several other valid reasons why retailers perform receipt checks aside from deterring and identifying instances of intentional theft. One such reason has to do with cashiers, not customers.

Retail cashiers have a responsibility to examine the contents of customers’ shopping carts from top-to-bottom, but items are often missed as a result of poor training, complacency, and laziness. Bulky items, such as bags of dog food or cases of water that are placed at the very bottoms of shopping carts, are easily missed by cashiers during the checkout process. Smaller items are sometimes placed inside larger items, such as bags and totes, and are also overlooked when cashiers fail to open the larger items for inspection. These missed scans at the register account for Billions of dollars in annual losses for retailers.

By complying with retailers’ receipt-checking programs, customers:

  • Have the ability to hold retail cashiers accountable for incorrectly performing their checkout responsibilities

  • Have the chance to review their receipts for accuracy before returning home

  • Have the power to keep prices affordable by ensuring all items were scanned during the checkout process

Even the most honest of customers can unknowingly be in possession of unpaid merchandise on their way out of a store due to simple and easily-fixed mistakes and oversights; therefore, customers should exercise patience, humility and humbleness toward employees when asked to produce a receipt for their purchase.

Central Maine Investigations is a professional private investigative agency serving the State of Maine. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice. Please contact us to learn more about the services we offer.