I had a friend of mine who regularly shops at Walmart. On one particular day, as she was getting ready to pay after scanning all of his items at the self-checkout, she realized that she had forgotten one item. So she asked the lady who was attending to all the self-checkout lanes in that area if she could leave her items there and go back and get that item that she had forgotten. The lady at the self-checkout said yes, so my friend proceeded to get the item that she had forgotten. When she returned to that particular self-checkout lane where her items that she had already scanned were supposed to be, and the items were gone. She looked to find the lady that she had spoken to before, but there was a shift change or something and now there was another attendant monitoring that self-checkout area. So she asked another attendant (not the one who was monitoring the self-checkout now but another who was speaking to the lady she had originally spoken to when she was first was checking out) where her items were, and the new attendant said that the previous lady had bagged the items for her and left them with the new attendant. The attendant she was now speaking to handed the items already bagged to her and said have a nice day assuming she had already paid for the items with the previous attendant who she had originally spoken to. So my friend proceeded to the parking lot, and went home. When my friend got home and began storing the items, she realized that there was no receipt. Then she realized that she had never paid for the items. While she was at Walmart, she was so use to shopping there, that she just thought it was another normal day at Walmart. She had completely forgotten that she never paid for the item while being in a hurry. She calculated the amount of all of the items she had not paid for and the total came out to be roughly $22. They were all grocery items. My friend feels horrible. She did not by any means do this on purpose. She’s been shopping at that same Walmart for years. My friend is a good person who has never gotten in trouble with the law outside of speeding tickets. She has a college education, is a working professional, and is actively involved in her community. My questions are:
A) What should she do now?
B) Will Walmart come after her for $22?
C) Can she get in any legal trouble since Walmart did not do anything while she was there?
D) How serious is the crime if Walmart does come after her?
E) I would just go back to Walmart and tell them I made a mistake and pay the money, but she’s terrified and refuses to go back there.
There is no absolute answer as to what your friend should do. Shoplifting in Georgia can be a misdemeanor or felony crime. For $22, it would fall within misdemeanor limits. Many stores, Walmart included pursue legal action for any amount of goods taken from their store. They could absolutely call law enforcement, turn over any evidence they have, and pursue a warrant for arrest.
Evan A. Watson is a Georgia licensed attorney. All information is based on Georgia law, and no response should be construed as legal advice. Additionally, this response does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is simply a form of legal education and is intended to provide general information for all readers. Please refer with an attorney who practices in your applicable state for non-Georgia legal questions.
A) nothing unless her conscience is troubling her and she feels the need to be righteous then see answer to E
B) Realistically Walmart doesn't know about it, so I doubt anything would happen
C) Technically yes but see answer to B
D) Walmart can only sue her civilly but if they were to report it to the police it would be a misdemeanor offense if they were to make an arrest
E) she can, there is nothing to be terrified about.
This issue is illustrative of the difference between the moral answer and the answer an attorney representing her would give. If she was not caught then, she will likely never be caught. They are not waiting in the store with her picture burned into their memory for her to show back up so that they can arrest her. If they had realized what was going on and stopped her in the parking lot, the loss prevention officer would probably have let her go depending on whether or not he believed she did this by mistake, and I can't see any prosecutor seriously pursuing this. Therefore, she should forget about it and go on with her life. She did not commit a crime because there was no intent to do so, and I have never seen a lawsuit over $25.00 in my life. It would cost more to sue her than they could possibly recover.
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