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Old 03-19-2013, 02:14 PM
MrSquishy MrSquishy is offline
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"You Break It, You Bought It" - Enforceable?

I've always wondered about this. If I accidentally break something in a store, can the merchant force me to pay for it?

Does it matter whether they have a sign up with a cheesy poem that ends with the line "consider it sold"?

My personal feeling is: you put it out on display, and accidents happen. Too bad, so sad. As long as somebody doesn't walk into your store and start intentionally trashing stuff. But I'm curious if the law would hold the same view.
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Old 03-19-2013, 02:16 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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Originally Posted by MrSquishy View Post
I've always wondered about this. If I accidentally break something in a store, can the merchant force me to pay for it?

Does it matter whether they have a sign up with a cheesy poem that ends with the line "consider it sold"?

My personal feeling is: you put it out on display, and accidents happen. Too bad, so sad. As long as somebody doesn't walk into your store and start intentionally trashing stuff. But I'm curious if the law would hold the same view.
Seems to me that if you negligently damage the property of another, you are responsible, sign or no sign.
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Old 03-19-2013, 02:23 PM
steronz steronz is online now
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Relevant Wikipedia page. And from one of wiki's cites:

Quote:
[Washington, D.C. lawyer Ann M. Garfinkle] notes that by placing items on display, gallery owners and exhibiting artists are implicitly inviting potential customers to examine and handle them, which would-be buyers may do without making any guarantees that they will make a purchase. Accidents happen: Damage is part of the price of doing business, and the risk is borne by the seller.
The article does go on to say that negligence may be handled different, depending on the state, but as a blanket rule, "You break it, you buy it" is not backed by law.
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:39 PM
lost4life lost4life is offline
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I've always heard that signs do not equal laws, and if it was an accident, that's what the store's insurance is for (no cites, just stuff I've heard).

Anecdote - Someone told me their kid accidentally knocked over an expensive bowl in a shop. The owner was pissed and she offered to pay. He said the price was $200. She said that's fine, but what did it cost you. He didn't understand what that had to do with anything and she explained that she'll replace the damaged item, but he would not be making a profit off the transaction. He complained and she offered the other solution...that she just leave. He accepted option 1 and came up with the wholesale price.
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:42 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Originally Posted by steronz View Post
Relevant Wikipedia page. And from one of wiki's cites:



The article does go on to say that negligence may be handled different, depending on the state, but as a blanket rule, "You break it, you buy it" is not backed by law.


Right, the sign is bogus. But if you are negligent, then you are liable.

ianal
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:45 PM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Reminds me of the signs at golf courses saying golfers are liable for any damage caused by their errant shots.

Sure. And I could put a sign out front of my house saying any passersby owe me $5!
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Old 03-19-2013, 03:54 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Likewise bogus disclaimers of responsibility. Round here, gravel trucks often sport signs saying "Not Responsible for Broken Windshields." Hah! They damn well know better.

I always take "You break it, you buy it" signs as equivalents of "Hey, be careful, eh?"
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Old 03-19-2013, 04:02 PM
lost4life lost4life is offline
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
Likewise bogus disclaimers of responsibility. Round here, gravel trucks often sport signs saying "Not Responsible for Broken Windshields." Hah! They damn well know better...
They sometimes add "Stay back 200 ft" in lettering that is impossible to read from 200 feet.
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:17 PM
hermann hermann is offline
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Is that 200 feet supposed to apply when the truck is stopped at a light also?
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:12 PM
lost4life lost4life is offline
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Is that 200 feet supposed to apply when the truck is stopped at a light also?
Or on the expressway for that matter...
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:15 PM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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I read years ago that "YBIYBI" is unenforceable. However, "Do Not Touch" is enforceable, so that is one way for the merchant to protect himself.

Last edited by handsomeharry; 03-20-2013 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 03-20-2013, 09:26 PM
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"You break it, you buy it...please?"
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Old 03-21-2013, 10:29 AM
Dead Cat Dead Cat is offline
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Originally Posted by lost4life View Post
Anecdote - Someone told me their kid accidentally knocked over an expensive bowl in a shop. The owner was pissed and she offered to pay. He said the price was $200. She said that's fine, but what did it cost you. He didn't understand what that had to do with anything and she explained that she'll replace the damaged item, but he would not be making a profit off the transaction. He complained and she offered the other solution...that she just leave. He accepted option 1 and came up with the wholesale price.
Just wanted to say thanks for this - fortunately, I have not yet broken anything in a shop but being an honest type, if I did so I would immediately offer to pay. Of course, if it was something irretrievably damaged (like a china bowl) I wouldn't be expecting to keep the pieces, and it would never have occurred to me to offer the wholesale price - which seems fairer to both sides than the alternatives. If however I had done minor but obvious damage to something and it was still usable, I might offer the full retail price but expect to keep the item for my own use (assuming I wanted one anyway).
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Old 03-21-2013, 10:40 AM
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Loach Loach is offline
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Enforcible how? It is not a criminal matter in any state I know. If you wanted it "enforced" it would have to be through civil courts.
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:13 AM
BottledBlondJeanie BottledBlondJeanie is offline
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Oh come on Loach, it's fairly clear that it's just a question of whether a civil action could be legitimately pursued in a court of law. Let's not give anyone more reasons to hate lawyers.
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:26 AM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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How is the wholesale price fairer? At the time of breakage, the shopkeeper has more than that invested in it (shelf space, operational overhead)... accepting wholesale means taking a loss. If he doesn't have another like it in stock, there's a potential (if unknowable) further loss after she leaves, in the loss of a sale.

Last edited by Peremensoe; 03-21-2013 at 11:30 AM.
  #17  
Old 03-21-2013, 11:40 AM
simster simster is offline
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Originally Posted by Peremensoe View Post
How is the wholesale price fairer? At the time of breakage, the shopkeeper has more than that invested in it (shelf space, operational overhead)... accepting wholesale means taking a loss. If he doesn't have another like it in stock, there's a potential (if unknowable) further loss after she leaves, in the loss of a sale.
Well, in one scenario - it would prevent a shop owner setting high markup, low turnover items on display in such a way as to faciliate breakage by 'honest' customers.

I also think that is how insurance would generally operate - actual loss vs percieved loss - replacement cost.

Last edited by simster; 03-21-2013 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:43 AM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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Yes. I'm assuming no deliberate scams on either side.
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Old 03-21-2013, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Peremensoe View Post
How is the wholesale price fairer? At the time of breakage, the shopkeeper has more than that invested in it (shelf space, operational overhead)... accepting wholesale means taking a loss. If he doesn't have another like it in stock, there's a potential (if unknowable) further loss after she leaves, in the loss of a sale.
It also might sit on the shelf forever. So possibly it's a complete loss to the owner.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:13 PM
Acid Lamp Acid Lamp is offline
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Originally Posted by Peremensoe View Post
How is the wholesale price fairer? At the time of breakage, the shopkeeper has more than that invested in it (shelf space, operational overhead)... accepting wholesale means taking a loss. If he doesn't have another like it in stock, there's a potential (if unknowable) further loss after she leaves, in the loss of a sale.
That is what as known as "the cost of doing business". An accident is just that; and apparently the shopkeeper has no recourse if the customer decides to walk. Offering wholesale is more than fair given that the legal responsibility is nothing.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:29 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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We had this as a policy at the video store where I used to work. Of course this was not for items dropped off of a shelf, but video tapes that were damaged by the renter. We could enforce it because we had their credit card imprints, and they had to sign an agreement to that effct before we'd let them rent.

It didn't happen very often, but customers were surprised to find out how much those things cost. This was back in the days when a single video could cost $100. We used to keep a melted copy of Ghost on the counter to warn people what happens when you leave a tape in a car on a hot day.
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Old 03-21-2013, 03:32 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
Reminds me of the signs at golf courses saying golfers are liable for any damage caused by their errant shots.

Sure. And I could put a sign out front of my house saying any passersby owe me $5!
Worse, you could put out a sign saying "Beware of Dog"... which when you get to court, indicates that you knew the dog was dangerous.
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:06 PM
Mona Lisa Simpson Mona Lisa Simpson is offline
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I had someone in a thrift store try to charge me 10 dollars or something stupid on a 10 cent saucer my son broke, but at the same time they took my jacket I had removed to try on a sweater. I had to argue to get my jacket back. We settled with I just left and took my 2 year old with me and never came back.

I have upheld this end of the bargain for 7 years.
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Old 03-22-2013, 10:32 PM
Tollhouse Tollhouse is offline
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I admit, somehow I thought this was an enforceable thing. Whenever Ive seen one of these signs Im super paranoid about accudentally breaking anything. I didnt think through too much to the part about how they would enforce it, I kind of pictured them yelling "hey! Now you gotta pay for that" but didnt think through the how of it.
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Old 03-22-2013, 11:46 PM
ekedolphin ekedolphin is offline
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Related topic, then: What if an unattended child walks around opening up and eating all the candies and such? Or sticking lollipops in their mouth, et cetera? Can a store owner ask the parent to pay for that, and is that enforceable by law? (I understand it's a really, really low-cost item).
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Old 03-23-2013, 12:53 AM
Tollhouse Tollhouse is offline
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Ekedolphin,
I thought of that too, you see little kids doing stuff like that. Based on the answer given for the OP here, I would guess the store owner could request or demand the parent to pay for the candy but if parent just leaves, i doubt the owner would pursue it....what could they really do? Restrain the person and make a citizens arrest or something?
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:34 AM
justrob justrob is offline
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Originally Posted by ekedolphin View Post
Related topic, then: What if an unattended child walks around opening up and eating all the candies and such? Or sticking lollipops in their mouth, et cetera? Can a store owner ask the parent to pay for that, and is that enforceable by law? (I understand it's a really, really low-cost item).
I would think they could tell the parent they can pay for the merchandise or they can call the cops for shoplifting.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:44 PM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Originally Posted by steronz View Post
Relevant Wikipedia page. And from one of wiki's cites:



The article does go on to say that negligence may be handled different, depending on the state, but as a blanket rule, "You break it, you buy it" is not backed by law.
Maybe not specifically, but a business invitee has a duty to a merchant to conduct themselves in a manner without being negligent. A breach of a duty may be negligence "per se", just throwing that out.
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Old 03-24-2013, 11:06 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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Originally Posted by ekedolphin View Post
Related topic, then: What if an unattended child walks around opening up and eating all the candies and such? Or sticking lollipops in their mouth, et cetera? Can a store owner ask the parent to pay for that, and is that enforceable by law? (I understand it's a really, really low-cost item).
That's just shoplifting, isn't it? I wouldn't think there'd be any legal distinction between opening and consuming packaged food in the store and smuggling it out of the store without paying for it, although I assume the full force of the law would not come down on a young child.
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Old 03-24-2013, 11:36 PM
Tollhouse Tollhouse is offline
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Ah yes, the officer who would try to crack down on that might be known as the "lollipop cop" , might earn him some wisecracks at the station
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Old 03-25-2013, 05:28 AM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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I was at Krogers last weekend and was unloading my cart at the UScan. Somehow a large jar of jelly slipped out of my hand. Made a big splat right in front of me. I wanted to crawl under something and hide.

The Kroger employee just called for a cleanup on the PA. No one asked for me to pay for it.

I did go home without any jelly. I was too embarrassed to ask the Kroger guy to get me another jar.

Last edited by aceplace57; 03-25-2013 at 05:29 AM.
  #32  
Old 03-26-2013, 05:28 AM
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Les Espaces Du Sommeil Les Espaces Du Sommeil is offline
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My wife broke a plate that was on display at Harrods.

I saw her pick a candle holder. I turned around then heard a something crashing down behind my back followed by silence. I immediately thought "No way...". I looked back at her. She was standing with the candle in her hand. The holder was lying on the table surrounded by dozens of pieces of ceramic .

An employee rushed towards us and we immediatly offered to pay for it but she said that it was OK. She was obviously not pleased, though and we refrained from touching anything after that. We didn't stay long either.
  #33  
Old 03-26-2013, 08:49 AM
tomcar tomcar is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn View Post
We had this as a policy at the video store where I used to work. Of course this was not for items dropped off of a shelf, but video tapes that were damaged by the renter. We could enforce it because we had their credit card imprints, and they had to sign an agreement to that effct before we'd let them rent.

It didn't happen very often, but customers were surprised to find out how much those things cost. This was back in the days when a single video could cost $100. We used to keep a melted copy of Ghost on the counter to warn people what happens when you leave a tape in a car on a hot day.
I think this is a completely different scenario, like renting a car, etc.
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