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Rip Unravels Family's Shopping Trip

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She declined. Tina then offered to just buy the shirt, which, you'll recall, had never left the store. But the manager said Urban Outfitters would not sell damaged merchandise. She produced a piece of paper and said Tina could go if she signed it. Signing it, Tina said she was told, meant that her daughter -- who at that point was "freaking out and crying" -- could no longer shop at Urban Outfitters.

Said Tina: "I said I'll sign the stupid papers if it means we can't shop here anymore."

If she'd read it more closely, Tina would have seen that the paper was a confession, admitting to shoplifting and leaving open the possibility of further legal action. A few weeks after returning to Greenville, Tina received a letter from the law firm Palmer, Reifler & Associates demanding a $150 "civil penalty." The letter noted that Tina could pay by check, MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Discover.

Tina paid up for the same reason she signed the paper: She didn't want her daughter to go through any more trauma.

"It ruined our whole vacation," Tina said of the experience. For months afterward, Tina's daughter was scared to go into a store, afraid she would be accused of stealing.

I'm sure people shoplift from Urban Outfitters. The store has to be vigilant. But are its employees qualified to serve as police, judge and jury? Whatever really happened -- and I would love to hear the other side -- I see a whole lot of reasonable doubt in this case.

"I should have fought her from the beginning," Tina said. "I should have refused to go with her. I just had never had any experience with this."

Tina filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Because the retailer failed to respond, it has an "unsatisfactory" record, said BBB President and CEO Edward Johnson .

I was able to reach the law firm that Urban Outfitters uses. Attorney Natt Reifler declined to comment on Tina's case. He said courts typically favor these sorts of out-of-court settlements.

Tina admits she should have read the form more carefully before signing it.

"I don't even care about my $150," she told me. "I just don't want this to happen to anyone else."

My advice: If someone from Urban Outfitters asks you to go back into her store, run like hell. Even better: Don't go in there in the first place.


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