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NEWS: Receipt checks raise retail conflict (Dec. 2023)

December 23rd, 2023 · No Comments

Shoppers Drug Mart faces backlash against receipt checks

A Shoppers Drug Mart employee paces behind a patron while they process their self checkout. BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS

By Alexa Méndez

Customers at Shoppers Drug Mart at Bloor and Spadina are logging their complaints online against random requests from staff to show they paid for their goods. Online reviews of the store at 360A Bloor St. W. say the location is one where visible minorities are likely to get profiled and harassed by employees, and in mid-June, customers united on social media to voice their concerns about the introduced receipt-checking practice at Loblaw-owned grocers. Shoppers is a subsidiary.

“If they were to do it, I think it’s best to do it with everybody,” said Sofia after stepping out of Shoppers Drug Mart. “If you’re not checking everyone’s receipt, then it’s going to feel like a personal attack.” 

Kirsty Niglas-Collins, lawyer at Unified LPP, a Toronto law firm, said stores should consider their responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“Even if a store intends to interact with every customer,” said Niglas-Collins, “very often these practices become selective. Once a practice becomes selective, it is, in my view, likely to become discriminatory.”

Some customers feel that Shoppers Drug Mart has wrongly assumed there has been an increase in shoplifting because there are fewer cashiers and customers are using reusable bags.  

“I live in the area. Most of the time [when] I go to this Shoppers there’s only one lady at the cash [register], and every now and then, there’s that security guard who stands by the self-checkout,” said Miles, another Shoppers Drug Mart customer.

According to Statistics Canada, police-reported shoplifting increased by 31 per cent between 2019 and 2022.  

Some customers assume an increase in shoplifting has led to receipt checks, and they believe it does have the potential to be a successful loss prevention practice but has to be executed differently. 

“I understand why they check, but at the same time, you could just base it off of your personal bias and just be like ‘Oh, this person looks suspicious,’” Sofia said.

Maithilee is among the customers who question how individuals are selected to show their receipts.

“I am noticing that some people do get checked. Some people maybe not. I honestly would like to know what it’s based on.”

Niglas-Collins said, “Stores should consider their contractual relationships with shoppers and whether they have a basis to conduct receipt checks.”

In the past three months, other customers have resorted to Google reviews to express their experiences with receipt checks. 

“There was [an] undercover security person standing at the end of the self-serve,” Fern commented under the Google reviews of Shoppers Drug Mart at 360A Bloor St. W. “He said, ‘I need to verify your receipt.”

According to customers, the security guard conducting the receipt checks initially wore a vest that read asset protection, but more recently, the security guard no longer wears a role-identification vest other than a security uniform. 

In response to this, some customers believe that Shoppers Drug Mart should be more transparent about receipt checks.

“If it’s someone that works for a company or a corporation, I feel like they definitely have to be more open,” Sofia said. 

Niglas-Collins said that although she is not aware of cases regarding receipt-check discrimination, she is “aware of cases concerning ID checks, ticket checks and applications for jobs or housing that all featured discrimination as a result of a selective practice.”

In response to the Gleaner’s request for a statement, Shoppers Drug Mart’s regional loss prevention specialist and district asset protection manager, Linda Ringuette, said “Thanks for reaching out, but I’m not interested.”

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