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Sunday March 7th, 2021 3:52PM

BBB: Bag checks at retail stores voluntary

By Alyson Shields Reporter

Consumers trying to find the perfect gift can run in to all kinds of obstacles during the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, including bag checks.

Store employees conduct bag checks while a costumer is on their way out the door, according to the Better Business Bureau that serves Northeast Georgia, and often will check a shopper's receipt as well.

Georgia law indicates this is perfectly legal, said Vice President of Sales Mike Boynton with the BBB, but it is voluntary.

"It does allow a retailer to take reasonable steps to examine bags in an effort to prevent shoplifting. But this is asking customers, particularly while they're in the store to do it, on a voluntary basis, to deter shoplifting," said Boynton.

Boynton said the key thing for both shoppers and store employees regarding shoplifting prevention, searches, or any other related activity is to know their rights.

"If the consumer or customer does not want to have their bag searched, they can state so and they won't be searched. The representative would not have the right to detain them in the store for that," said Boynton. "However, with the law they can be examining the bags upon exit of the store. And there's two or three things that consumers need to know, first, under the law, they may detain a customer or be questioned or have their bags searched if that individual is acting in a manner that is suspicious, where the store representative believes the individual is involved in the process of shoplifting."

The second thing relates to electronic tags on merchandise, designed to deter theft. "The store representative can certainly question the consumer."

It does depend on the store, though. Boynton said the third thing to know is that big box discount stores or clubs that require a membership follow different rules.

"Those are private agreements, this is not a volunteer basis, this is a private agreement for club membership that you agree, as a consumer, to have your items checked, whether they're in your cart or in your bag," said Boynton. "You just need to know what the fine print says before you join the club."

Whether a shopper is at a mall, a stand alone department store, or at a club, the BBB encourages shoppers to take caution while they check their list twice, including using a credit card to protect yourself from scams or suspicious stores; remembering that Georgia does not require a store to set a return policy; keeping documentation of purchases; and knowing the privacy policy or asking questions before exchanging personal information. 

Local law enforcement also share programs like Lock (your vehicle), Take (your valuables), Hide (everything else) to prevent theft in parking lots all year round.

As always, the Better Business Bureau features resources to help consumers protect themselves while doing business, such as the Scam Tracker, AdTruth landing page and business reviews.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: holiday shopping, better business bureau, BBB
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