Retail Security: Is This Even Legal?

I was in Hollywood video with my girlfriend a few days ago and rented a few movies. On the way out the anti-theft detector went off. They asked my girlfriend to go back through and she did, no problems. We walked out the front door. Next thing I know the clerk comes running out and asks me to come back inside. I was in a hurry and said I didn’t have time. He got all upset, took his microphone off his head like he was ready to fight me, and INSISTED that I HAD to go back through. The law as I understand it says that I do NOT have to go anywhere with this guy unless he chooses to arrest me, which he did not. After arguing for a few minutes he backed down and asked me nicely to do it for him as a favor, man to man. I did, and of course it turned up fine. But say I had chosen not to…could he have physically forced me into the store and back through the detector? What should I have done? What would YOU have done? I feel strongly about this issue, I do not think a retail clerk has the right to physically stop me from leaving unless he is ready to arrest me, call the cops, and then deal with a nice lawsuit for wrongful arrest shortly after.

Well, it depends on your jurisdiction and all that.

Here in Alberta I work at a drugstore with the electronic beeper system. If someone beeps as they go out I’m alowed to ask them to come back in and let me check their bag incase something wasn’t deactivated. If they choose not to I then call mall security to keep an eye on them.

On the other hand, if I or one of our undercover security people sees someone pocket something and they leave we are alowed to stop them. The security person is alowed to touch the person in order to stop them, but they’re not alowed to beat them up for no reason. If the person starts swinging (which has happened) the security person is alowed to defend themselves. Our security people are pretty well trained and will generally imobilize a person PDQ.

Soooo - I don’t think the clerk could have physically restrained you unless he had seen you pocket something.

Drat, should have mentioned I am just outside of Philadelphia in PA.

Thats pretty much what I had thought too alice IWL, but I clearly did not steal anything and I know he didn’t see me do so. It was simply the electronic machine which has never worked right since the place opened. I worked in security for a few years at a supermarket. Unless we knew for a fact that the person was stealing we were not allowed to touch them. If we did and they sued, the store’s policy was to settle for 10K right up front to avoid the courts.

Anyone? :frowning:

Not sure of the answer to your question, but this thread deals with a pretty similar case.

“May I see your reciept?” No you department store goon!

I think I had actually read that one before Jayrot, it was an interesting read and pretty much supports my position. I’m curious about the specifics though, especially in PA. The security device malfunction constituting grounds for detainment is what has me slightly unsure.

IANAL etc.

The employee does not have the right to physically prevent you from leaving the premises. To do so would subject him and the store to a number of torts, including but not limited to assault, battery and false imprisonment. Criminally, depending on the circumstances, he could be looking at a battery or kidnapping charge.

This post is based on my recollection of discussing this situation with a potential retail employer and a business law class. YMMV by jurisdiction.

As a small personal aside, why were you in too much of a hurry to take 10 seconds to walk back through the detector but not in too much of a hurry to stand there and argue with the guiy for several minutes?

Coming from a former retail employee, not a lawyer, and this may be only my store:

No. You don’t have to stop or go back in. The store may put you on a “watch” list or something if you come and go and the alarm always goes off. If we had TOUCHED a customer, we would’ve been in a world of trouble.

WEll Otto, for me in this case it was the principal and his attitude. He came storming after me and in a loud voice basically told me I HAD to come back in and that I did not have a choice. I don’t take the kind of crap from anyone, let alone a retail store clerk.

Thanks for the tips guys, looks like I was well within my rights here. I wrote a nice little letter to the management at Hollywood video, we’ll see how they respond.