Shush

Unwonk - Episode 4: Shush

We learn about Mirandizational events, firing up the Power of You with the airline gate agent, and the nerve-wracking experience of walking ten feet in a store.

Listen with the player below, subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher (links above), or with your favorite podcast app.

Please enjoy the links to additional information relating to the questions on this episode:

"You have the right to hire a competent attorney. If you cannot afford one, an incompetent one will be provided for you at no cost or obligation. We accept no liability for bruises, contusions, loss of dignity, or spilled drinks caused by the arresting officer." - Chief Clancy Wiggum

"Look, if you won't let me on this aeroplane immediately, I'm going to march right out of this hangar and learn how to fly myself. That will show you. Why are you laughing?" - Amelia Earhart

"I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut. I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I'll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this." - Mitch Hedburg

  • Consumerist has a slew of pieces on receipt checking. A SLEW.
  • Costco employee allegedly takes down a receipt denier with "a martial arts type strike with his leg" to the man's tibia. 
  • We miss getting receipts checked here.

[Episode keywords: Getting arrested & the 5th amendment, airline bumping, receipt checking.]


Episode Transcript

UNWONK PODCAST - EPISODE 4: shush

Hi, friend. This is a rough transcript of this episode of Unwonk. What's that mean? It means that we're just pasting the original script for the show plus unvetted transcripts of any interviews. So, you're likely to see content that maybe didn't make the final cut, maybe not see some content that was in the episode but not the original script, and run across a few typos. 

As with everything on Unwonk, the transcript below is for general informational purposes only - this is not legal advice - if you need to have a legal question answered, please seek legit legal representation. 

On this episode of Unwonk, we learn:

  • Why it pays to check in to your flight early, 
  • How Costco can allegedly cost you an arm and literally a leg, and 
  • The one person you need in your address book.

This is Unwonk. We respond to your questions with relevant and useful information. If you would like to submit a question, please visit our site at unwonk.com

Even though the information on this podcast is provided by actual attorneys, you’d be an idiot to think it is actual legal advice, and you’d also be the type of person who really thinks the congratulatory pop-up ad is going to give you a free iphone. Also, you should install an ad-blocker.

And now, our first question.

I was recently arrested and wasn't read my Miranda Rights. When I pointed this out mid-arrest to the arresting officer, his response was, You've seen too many movies. 1) He's full of shit, right? And 2) Can I use this information to get out of facing the charges against me?

The officer was correct. You have seen too many movies. I’m checking out your Netflix history right now. [I have that kind of access.] My Dog Skip three times in one weekend? I’m assuming this was a result of a breakup, or your dog just died (SPOILER). And kind of surprised that you made it that far into Ally McBeal, but you do seem to be the twee quirky rom-com type.

As for your arrest, without getting into the specifics of your jurisdiction, whether this was an arrest or merely a detention, or if you were being a total dick during the incident, let’s make this a teaching moment. 

Here’s what to do if you’re ever arrested: shut up. Just shut up. If you’ve seen as many movies as the cop accused you of, you’ll know that you have A constitutional right against self-incrimination. Use it. The police can use all sorts of tactics to elicit self-incriminating evidence out of you – this includes lying to you. Just shut up.

Here’s the second step: Contact the attorney that you have in your address book for just this occasion. Don’t have that attorney in your address book? Take a minute to time travel back and make sure that you have an attorney in your address book. I can’t stress this enough as the second most important advice in this situation: Take some time to check your personal and professional network for one or two attorneys who would be able and willing to show up at a precinct at 3 am when you’ve been accused of something untoward or unseemly. 

If you’re balking at the idea of paying someone several hundred dollars an hour to work for you, then ask yourself how much you value that cash over a lifetime supply of orange jumpsuits. Or, if you like orange jumpsuits, ask yourself how much you enjoy prison yard workouts over Zumba at your local Crunch gym (this is a trick question).

So, to summarize, the only and best response to getting arrested is:

Shut your face.
Call your attorney.

Historically, Miranda warnings came about out of a lawsuit against the State of Arizona. As you know, Arizona represents nothing if not fair-minded justice, applied blindly and without prejudice. The purpose of the Miranda warning is to preserve the admissibility of admissions – the cops can say they advised you of all your rights before they dove in with their intimidating interrogation tactics. 

So, on a broader level, yes, there may be issues with self-incriminating evidence given prior to Miranda warnings. You don’t want to worry after the fact about whether any of that evidence is admissible. Leave that to your attorney. The most important this is to keep quiet until your attorney stampedes into the interrogation room, hopefully with some clean underwear for you. 

Also, stop getting arrested.

I was about to board a flight from my hometown Boston to Seattle and got refused because it was too full. The airline wouldn't help me after that. Were they required to?

There are some layers and history to this question. This is because there is being voluntarily bumped and being involuntarily bumped.

And it’s also because I kind of grew up in airports - I spent a lot of time flying as a kid, both with adults and alone, traveling between parents. It’s amazing, because when I see kids flying alone now, the airline creates an unbreakable chain of custody from drop-off to pick-up. Kids wears a giant button or lanyard that says “unaccompanied minor,” or “UM,” which, if you ask me, is just creating temptation where they might be trying to avoid it - might as well put a large bow on their heads for all of the imaginary predators taking to the air. Unaccompanied minors sit in a special supervised area in the airport, are escorted directly to their seat, usually next to a central casting grandmotherly type, and then catered to until they’re escorted to their destination. 

When I see this, part of me goes out to them - I can spot a divorce kid across the concourse. And not to get all walking-to-school-in-snow-without-shoes, my era was before stranger danger and buddy systems. I would wait at the gate with my mom, give a hug, give my boarding pass to the gate person, sit next to whoever got the other seat - usually a central casting fat guy with a stained shirt and smoldering cigarette - and get a free soda, just like everyone else on the plane. I did once get tiny cup of beer from a flight attendant, which was thrilling for a 10-year old, and forever endeared me to Britt Airways. For any hopeful 10-year olds out there, Britt Airways no longer exists, nor does the era where a 10-year old could get beer from - unsolicited - from a flight attendant. 

My time in flight was always a welcome escape from whatever my life was on the ground. Britt was a small commuter airline, so all I needed was a book. As flights got longer - and technology progressed - in-flight entertainment was key, watching whatever videotainment was available. For years as an adult, I thought my penchant to tear up during the worst of movies and TV shows was some kind of residual callback to being a solitary boy on a commuter plane - no place for families, a commuter plane, by the way - heading between homes. But one time, flying between Boston and Los Angeles, tears were flowing at the end of the in-flight movie, Homeward Bound, and I happened to turn around and notice that everyone who was watching - even people without headphones - were crying. So, I formed a new thery that the cabin pressure combined with the complete self-isolation in such a cramped space with strangers, makes us extra vulnerable in-flight. 

This helps to confirm why I once got goosebumps for over five minutes after reading about a particularly interesting travel pillow in Sky Mall. I’d appreciate any airline industry people confirming my theory. 

Now, back to your question: there’s getting bumped and there’s getting cancelled. Let’s talk about getting bumped first.

Airlines routinely overbook flights - especially popular ones - on the assumption that a certain amount of people won’t show up - which always amazes me, as if someone woke up and said, “Yes, today, I will not go into the magic sky machine, have a free soda and casually browse a complimentary magazine written for an indeterminate target audience and an already-completed crossword.” When the assumed flakes fail to flake, however, this creates a problem where there aren’t enough seats - comfy, cushy coach seats - for the amount of people who have checked in. 

This is when you hear what may be a curse or a siren song, depending on who you are that day: “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight has been overbooked and we’re looking for 7 volunteers to take another flight. Please come see me at the podium if you’d like to volunteer.”

Now, many may call this bumping. But it is not really bumping - you’re not being denied a seat at this point. DOT rules require the airline to ask this. You’re actually volunteering to not take a flight. We’ll call this the voluntary bumping. There is no law or rule that covers this - use your charm to negotiate whatever you can. This is one of those true only-you-and-me moments in life - it’s really down to you and the gate agent. There’s no calling the 800 number on a voluntary bump. No going back to the check-in desk. Deploy all charm possible. But don’t be a pain in the ass. 

Then there’s the real bump. The involuntary bump. If there haven’t been enough voluntary bumps, then the airline will let its wrath and judgment loose among the general passenger population, often on those who were last to check in. In this case - where there’s no way you’re getting on the flight, here are the rules for domestic flights:

If they get you a flight scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time you get an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $650 maximum.
If they get yo a flight scheduled to arrive at your destination between more than two hours after your original arrival time the amount doubles.
There are some other rules if your ticket doesn’t have fare on it (like a frequent flier award) and whether you purchased additional things (like premium upgrades).

This is really important: To get paid, you must have a confirmed reservation and you must also meet the airline's deadlines for ticketing and check-in. An airline may offer you a free ticket on a future flight in place of a check, but you have the right to insist on a check.

I didn’t experience the joys of being bumped until I went to college. This is because, for one thing, the airline I flew as a kid was a commuter airline with a passenger capacity too low to qualify for the bumping rules (the plane has to hold at least 30 people). Second, it was never full.

An exception to bumping for airlines, strangely, is that they owe you nothing if they switch to a smaller plane. Which inspired an entry in my journal of businesses that can last only a week, create an airline that can seat 1000 people per flight, but at the last minute, replace the airplane I intended to use (because it turns out it doesn’t exist) with a two-person plane.  Gangbusters.

Anyway, yes, the airline should have asked for volunteers first, and then given appropriate compensation to those who were involuntarily bumped. I’ve never known a Bostonian to be on time to anything - I mean, half your roads have arbitrary lanes that change throughout the day - so there’s a good chance that if you didn’t check in on time. If that’s the case, you’re out of luck.

The security guard at my local electronics store insisted on seeing my receipt after I bought a new TV the other day. After some heated discussion, I finally let him see the receipt. Isn't it illegal for a store to do that? It feels like an invasion of my privacy and dignity, and left me embarrassed.

For me, this is less about embarrassment, suspicion and dignity than it’s about the awkwardness of not knowing whether they check receipts. Countless times I’ve been leaving my local Buy More or SmartTech and had to pass through what I’m going to call the awkward zone – the space about 10 feet past the cash register that passes through the security sensors out the door and to the curb. In the middle of this zone – a private security guard, usually wearing a blue windbreaker with some kind of non-indimidating security firm name like: “off duty cops security” or “cops who ran out of overtime so are doing this to make more money.” 

Walking through the first part of the awkard zone – pre-guard – it’s about making sure I have the receipt clearly on display, but just casually enough in case they don’t have a receipt checking policy. And then there’s the pre-positioning of my head and eyes – just slightly off the guard’s eyes, but close enough so that when I do make eye contact, it’ll look like I was just tracking my eyes across the exit and happened  to make eye contact with the guard. Getting closer to the guard, things get really tense – it’s important to keep a casual gait while at the same time being prepared to stop if the guard says anything other than “Thank you.” or “Have a nice day” or “Happy holidays” (if it’s from September to December). If no receipt check is initiated, the rest of the pass of the awkward zone is an eggshell laden walk in anticipation of the security sensor blaring to the world that you have just tried to make off with a portable hard drive. If only the guard had checked your receipt first! There’s no better release of tension than to feel the asphalt of the parking lot under your feet, free from judgment and suspicion.

Seriously, check or don’t check. Just be consistent. I can’t take the tension when I approach the exit door.

So, back to your question: Are stores allowed to check receipts at the exit.

Generally, stores can ask to see your receipt but they can’t force you to – receipt checking at the door usually has to be voluntary. Most large chains appear to have stopped this practice anyway. When it was commonplace, there were numerous stories about assaults, insults and false imprisonment. From my perspective, receipt checking – particularly when not applied consistently - also brought about issues of race, class and age, which was good for neither the customers or the stores. Or society in general.

In 2011, a man was arrested for berating a WalMart greeter who asked to see his receipt. A search of his car in the parking lot revealed his possession of cocaine and a glass pipe. So let that be a lesson for those of you planning on going on a retail rage and drug binge – you have to keep those parts of your life separate.

Now, there are some notable exceptions to this. 

First, if the store you’re shopping at is a membership club (like Costco, or whatever), and the membership contract states that you must present your receipt upon request, then the store can require you to show your receipt at the exit. What happens if you don’t? Well, it’s a contractual breach, so the store can cancel your membership. In 2014, a Costco shopper allegedly refused to show his receipt, which ended up in an altercation and the shopper broke his leg. The point here, is don’t fuck with Costco. The lady who draws a smiley face on the receipt for your toddler is the same person who’s going to grind your Tibia into paste and serve it with crackers on a sample table later that day.

Then there’s actual reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If the store actually sees you shoplifting (or has some other basis for suspecting it), it likely has a policy in place to confront you and address the matter. Some stores wait until a suspect to leave the premises before confrontation. Others may confront on sight. And other merchants may not say anything at all, opting to discreetly call the police. Some states have what is known as a merchant’s privilege or shopkeeper exception, which allows the store to physically restrain a suspect until police can arrive. Generally, detention can’t be for the purposes of getting a confession. And anything outside of reasonable detention could be considered false imprisonment or excessive force. Of course, many stores may eschew restraint completely given the insanely litigious society we live in. 

And if you think that receipt checking is an invasion of your privacy, you should put that in context with the nearly non-stop camera surveillance of all of your actions in public and private. At the same store you were outraged about a receipt check, your every move was being monitored and recorded. Every discreet butt scratch, nose pick and sly ogling of a passing ass was captured, documented and archived. 

Of course, all this will be moot in ten years when stores no longer exist and we’ll be getting all of our non-virtual goods delivered to our houses by drones and self-driving cars. Assuming, of course, that we haven’t all at that point been subsumed into living in virtual reality where tangible items are no longer needed. In fact, we’ll probably use the nation’s quickly emptying malls into vast body maintenance units – kind of like the Matrix but in between a former Hot Topic and Hot Dog on a Stick. Wow. That got dark. 

In any case, if you do get into a situation where you think you’re being wronged, remember to keep your cool and – unless there’s some harm that will come out of it – cooperate while noting your disagreement. Follow up with store management afterwards, or your attorney, if you need to. Hotter heads never prevail in situations like these.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Unwonk. 

Please visit our site at Unwonk.com to submit your questions, and to learn more about the topics discussed on today’s episode.

On the next episode, we learn about:

  • Which federal agency has the best break room snacks,
  • Why a district attorney in pennsylvania is often referred to as a “goochmaster,”
  • Whether it’s illegal in arkansas to wear an image of a peanut on a necktie, and
  • If comcast plans to throttle broadband speed once the internet is ported directly into our spinal cords.