Sunday, January 4, 2009

Better keep store receipts, even for ink tag removal

Just in case you are wondering if you need a receipt to get an ink tag removed, you do. You should bring proof of purchase. On January 3, 2009, I brought a Christmas gift I had given to my daughter back to a store because a cashier had forgotten to remove the security tag two weeks before. Purchased at the flagship Macy's store in Manhattan 60 miles away, I decided to have the tag removed at the Macy's department store an easy three miles away. Unfortunately, I forgot the receipt. This busy Saturday afternoon there were long lines at the cash registers here in Lawrence Township, near Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey.

Alas! The tag can be removed only at the Manhattan store, one cashier told me. Take it back to New York, she said coldly. Her colleague nodded and looked at me with horror and disbelief! Their manager agreed when they phoned her. There was no offer to send it there for me, or reimburse me for a train ticket or courier service. Nothing.

Feeling sadness and anger while attempting to leave the store, warning bells at the door went off. Everyone seemed to stare at me as I backtracked and walked to another busy cash register, a different one. Standing in the long, slow checkout line feeling like the most awful person in the store and most uncomfortable, I was wondering what to do, how to get the jacket back to Manhattan, and if another payment for the junior jacket would be required just to leave the store. My daughter really wanted it and would have been super disappointed without it. This time the tag was removed and the jacket hurriedly returned to the car, but Mom was shaking, quaking, with fear at the Quakerbridge Mall.

What if I had been wrongly accused of shoplifting instead of wanting tag removal? What if my daughter had taken the item in and been accused? Could we have been arrested? Isn't there something wrong here? Isn't Macy's possibly at legal fault, too? Isn't there an American retail law that proof of purchase is not required for a return, let alone a customer tag removal? Don't shoppers have rights, too?

Of course, from the store's point of view there is the issue of the lost receipt. What could I have been thinking, bringing in a clothing article with all tags still on? My impression is that salespersons at Macy's and most stores in general are constantly reminded of the issue of shoplifting.

My view is that having misplaced the receipt, I was hoping for some Christmas gift-related forgiveness, and that the item might only be available in Manhattan as proof that I couldn't have bought it here (although I was wrong about that). I guess I should at least have photocopied the credit card bill proof I did have in retrospect, albeit for a larger amount than just that one item. There isn't security at the entrance doors of these big, huge stores to tell me just after buying it that the ink tag is still attached or to see me later walk in with it and tell me what to do.

I am not saying that Macy's needs to have security at every door, just that something went wrong here and could have gone very wrong. Another person might sue Macy's for the psychological discomfort if arrested, and I would not blame them at all. I think Macy's was in the wrong here because I know a small store can't afford to be as callous. These ink tags can be a nuisance, and many customers probably just throw away articles if ink tags have been left on by mistake. I don't think it helps to complain to the Better Business Bureau for my mistake but shoppers aren't helped if they feel like shoplifters. What made me lucky here was that the cashier just did it without question. She checked out all the tags and recognized that other cashiers can forget to remove ink tags, just as customers can forget to bring in receipts.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Do you know the law? Please let me know -- shellsey@gmail.com, and if you prefer your comment posted or not. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. As a long time Macy's employee -- I can tell you how we, in the Seattle area might respond: assuming the original tags were still attached, another lable would've been there, too. It is with that lable (CRL or Customer Return Lable) the associate could've tracked your purchase. Missing that, we also have the ability to track transactions using the UPC from the same merchandise and your credit card. If, perhaps you'd paid cash (I know ... what's THAT?), we typically pride ourselves in assuming the BEST of our customers. Understand, however, there are a lot of bad people out there who DO steal; hence, the need for security tags, etc. My guess is, you encountered a "holiday hire" who did not feel empowered to make the decision to simply remove the tag and wish you "a good day." The second associate handled your situation as we would've done. I apologize for all the Macy's associates who would've done as the second associate did. I know I've overlooked security tags and magnetic strips in the chaos that can occur throughout the holidays. Frankly, being told you needed to take the merchandise back to the original store was wrong. You may rest assured about that. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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