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People who eat the food for sale in supermarkets - would you say something?

We were just shopping at a Whole Foods in a very expensive neighborhood. We saw an older couple, well-dressed in very nice sportswear, munch their way through the produce section. They opened bags of grapes, ate some, put the bag back on the display. They opened a container of blueberries, helped themselves, closed the container, and put it back on the display.

I was super-pissed.

However, I didn't say anything. I hate confrontation.

Then I happened to see them at the service deli, where the wife ordered a container of tuna salad. I wanted to ask her if she was planning to eat the tuna before she left the store. I'll bet she did just that - eat some and then leave the container on a shelf somewhere.

I make it a point to mention that they were well-dressed and this store is in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in town because I'm 99.9% certain that these were not poor, hungry people who desperately needed to eat (and even if they were, there are plenty of food banks around here, especially at this time of year).

Plus the fact that they then put the containers back for other unsuspecting buyers was really disgusting.

Would you have said something? If so, what?

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  1. The grapes are one thing as they're sold by weight. Containers of blueberries, however, are not and I probably would have been unable to stop a blurted out, "Hey!"

    More than once I've bought something and taken it home, only to find it half eaten already. Cottage cheese, mixed nuts...

    It's awkward taking it back and having to say that, no you're not the one who ate half!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Violatp

      I have never in all my years picked up cottage cheese or anything else that was half eaten and noticed after I got home. Was it not sealed or what? You make it sound like it happened on a regular basis?:-)

      1. re: miss_belle

        Nothing "half-eaten," but several items, where the seal HAD been broken. Back they went.

        Hunt

        1. re: miss_belle

          I recently bought a big can of nuts at BJs and later noticed it was half empty after I got home. They replaced it of course.

          1. re: miss_belle

            I wouldn't say a regular basis, but definitely more than once! The cheese and the nuts are the ones I remember. I know there have been a few other instances where I wasn't *sure* but suspected. You know, like, did I open that? Doesn't it usually make a specific sound when I open it? That kind of thing.

            The cottage cheese I just didn't notice, even though it had to have been quite a bit lighter than it should have been. I mean, it was literally half gone! And yes, seal gone. I'm sure I just picked one and tossed it in the cart. I remember the nuts because at least I caught that before I went home as I went for the container while I was waiting for the bus. Seal gone, half empty!

            Let's see, the nuts happened at the Lucky on Fulton and the cottage cheese at the Lucky on Ocean. Both in San Francisco.

            1. re: miss_belle

              I recently bought a different brand of cottage cheese (on sale) and when I got home noticed that there was no plastic layer between the cheese and lid. I called the company to complain that they put no seal on the package.... I was told they put a layer of plastic under the lid. So..someone must have helped themselves. Gross

              1. re: cheesecake17

                I'm with you -- not much grosses me out, but as a child of the Tylenol era, that's disturbing and a little scary.

          2. I would have reported it to the store management. When I worked in a supermarket, we
            were told about a woman who was emptying bags of "regular" bulk coffee into the trash and refilling the bag with expensive Kona. They kept an eye on her for a few visits and
            eventually caught her in the act. She shopped in a fur coat and drove a Mercedes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ferventfoodie

              This. Report it to management and let *them* deal with it.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                +1

                It would tick me off for sure, especially if they really seemed able to purchase groceries. I'd feel bad for someone stealing (which is what this amounts to) a pack of bologna and a loaf of bread to feed their family if they are poor/down on their luck and hungry but not well off persons having dinner at the expense of the grocery store!

            2. I am guilty of nibbling from my container of olives from the olive bar, things off my salad from the salad bar. Technically its IS stealing since it hasn't been weighed yet so I try to control myself but sometimes the hunger kicks in, KWIM? However I don't think a single olive or cherry tomato would even register on the weight.

              But opening containers? Opening them and then putting them back?? I would have said something to an employee, manager and let them know. Often times people are serial shoplifters so pointing them out avoids the confrontation on your part but gives the store a heads up to keep an eye out.

              I am curious though about why how they were dressed and being in an "expensive area" matters? Stealing is stealing. Just because you dress well and shop in an expensive neighborhood does not mean you have money to burn and are not living on a fixed income. Would you have felt better or thought it was OK if they looked homeless??

              86 Replies
              1. re: foodieX2

                The point about the clothes was that this couple could afford to purchase this food they were munching on. So they were not stealing food because they were starving and had no choice. They were stealing because they wanted to.

                1. re: Atochabsh

                  But how does what they were wearing tell you that they can afford to buy the food? Seriously, not being snarky. Would it have been morally OK if you knew they were hungry/starving? that there SS check was two weeks away and they had no food? That the cost of their medications left them with barely enough to buy regular food never mind pricey fresh produce? I guess I am curious where you (general you) draw the line.

                  There was a period in my twenties when I lost my six figure job. Being young I had some savings but not a lot and spent quite a bit on window dressing. Well I ended up out of work for well over year. When my unemployment ran out I ended up on food stamps. Looking at me you wouldn't have known it though. I still had my really good handbags and shoes. I still had very nice clothes. I still wore my grandmothers ring and the gold charm bracelet my parents started for me in my teens. I looked like the young professional I *had* been. Don't judge a book by the cover, KWIM?

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    If you are struggling, do you go to the most expensive grocery store in town or do you go to Shopper's Food Warehouse?

                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      If you're not planning to pay, why go to a cheap store? Just sayin'. :-)

                      To answer your question, if it were that blatant and frankly disgusting, I'd alert a store employee.

                      1. re: mcf

                        You make a point. If I was planning on robbing a bank, I would not head to a tiny one, in a rural setting, unless they perhaps handled large transactions for many large farms, or perhaps energy producers. i would rob a really big one! That is IF I was going to rob someone.

                        Hunt

                        1. re: mcf

                          I'd take out my phone and take their photo. Then I'd show it to the management. Stealing pissed me off.

                        2. re: Just Visiting

                          Yes, if that the place I can walk to or if it's the closest. If one can't afford food chances are the can't afford to fill up to drive across town (cost of gas).

                          When it was me I didn't have a car as I lived in the city. I could walk to stop and shop (more $$) but it took 2 buses (or the subway and a bus) to get to Johnnys Foodmaster. Sometimes it was easier to walk so I sucked it up an paid more. <shrug>

                          1. re: Just Visiting

                            Were I in that position, I would go to a "food bank," or to a mission. Few in the US are actually starving, unless they just do not wish to avail themselves of resources.

                            Eating food in a grocery, and not paying is just not a good way to go about life, IMHO.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Bill, a lot more people are hungry than you think. I've been hungry, and that is in Canada, which has better social programmes than the US does.

                              No, I'm not justifying theft, but I'd certainly excuse it more out of hunger than out of greed or not caring about wasting the food thrown away after. "Mitigating" and "aggravating" situations exist even in judicial rulings.

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Not "starving" but US Dept of Agriculture "17.4 million American families - almost 15 percent of U.S. households - are now "food insecure," an almost 30 percent increase since 2006. This means that, during any given month, they will be out of money, out of food, and forced to miss meals or seek assistance to feed themselves."

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  <Eating food in a grocery, and not paying is just not a good way to go about life, IMHO>

                                  Every morning I shop at my neighborhood market. Every morning there is a man, who is homeless, who is invited to come into the market and get his morning coffee and sweet roll. He's a gentleman. He's quiet, unassuming, mannerly and humble.
                                  My feeling is that he's mentally ill and he's alone...nobody in the market knows his story but they know that they like him. I'm not sure how he gets by but I can, intuitively, guarantee that taking anything that's not his would never enter his mind.

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    I think that is an entirely different situation that what the OP referenced. Due to the decline in our mental health systems in the last few decades there are really a huge number of people with mental health issues who struggle to make it on a daily basis. And not just monetarily. It's quite sad the situation they find themselves in.

                                    1. re: Leepa

                                      Of course it is. I never said anything to the contrary and BTW I'm very familiar with the mentally ill who are homeless and hungry and alone. None of them would ever consider stealing something that isn't theirs.
                                      There's never any rationalization for stealing and that's the point i was making.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        I work with many of them every day and I'll freely admit that some will consider it and do. My point, apparently not well made, is that mental illness isn't an excuse. Sometimes it's a reason, but it isn't an excuse.

                                        1. re: Leepa

                                          Everyone's moral compass is different....regardless of who they are.
                                          There's no excuse.

                                2. re: Just Visiting

                                  plenty of people at my trader joe's use foodstamps.
                                  dress well, too.

                                  And yes, it does make a difference if paying customers can afford veggies for their kids, or not.

                            2. re: foodieX2

                              Eating food before it is weighed and paid for is stealing, just in case you were confused on that.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Which is exactly what I said in my post. :)

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  Here's what you said: "I am guilty of nibbling from my container of olives from the olive bar, things off my salad from the salad bar. Technically its IS stealing since it hasn't been weighed yet so I try to control myself but sometimes the hunger kicks in, KWIM? However I don't think a single olive or cherry tomato would even register on the weight."

                                  So 200 people a day nibble from their container of olives, things from the salad bar........wouldn't that start to add up into many pounds of stuff being stolen one bit at a time?

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    I think situations like this always pose the question of "tasting vs stealing". I don't live in the US, but most food vendors where I am openly encourage "tasting". Eating a few cherry tomatoes or grapes to decide if you want to buy them, is welcome. Eating half a pint of blue berries is not. Also, when the vendor is smaller and the "snacking" is basically done under the proprietor's eye then it's more obvious that it's acceptable.

                                    Much like porn, I think the difference often ends up being a case of "I know it when I see it". But it's never so staight forward (for most vendors) where their inventory is built around selling absolutely every grape/olive/ounce of cheese.

                                    1. re: cresyd

                                      most food vendors where I am openly encourage "tasting". Eating a few cherry tomatoes or grapes to decide if you want to buy them, is welcome.
                                      ~~~~~~~~
                                      right, but in this case the customer had already decided to purchase the item, so the "tasting" explanation doesn't apply.

                                      1. re: cresyd

                                        Now, this is being painted with a very, very broad brush, but in the US, many retailers DO have tasting stations, and that is where a patron can sample ____. Most "big-box stores," such as Costco, and Sam's Club, have them at the end of most aisles. Many "dine" at those tasting stations, and never buy the products.

                                        In the UK (London mostly), I do not recall such at a Tesco, or Sainsbury, but might just have missed them.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          It does happen over here in the UK, but not much. Usually on an occasional basis, when a new line is being pushed.

                                          1. re: Robin Joy

                                            Since most of my grocery-shopping forays are rather limited to "downtown" London, and even more in Mayfair, I have just not seen it. That is most probably because of the places, where we have shopped.

                                            Thanks for the information, as I tend to have a very narrow view (albeit a good one), on the UK, due to where we usually are, for our meetings.

                                            This Dec., we DO plan on getting "out" a bit more.

                                            I try to NOT form ideas about the UK, because my travels are so very focused, and my experiences do not even begin to cover much beyond the 'city-center" of London, and then even more focused - Mayfair.

                                            Appreciated,

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Marsha Marsha Marsha ... Mayfair Mayfair Mayfair.

                                      2. re: escondido123

                                        I agree with not eating food before it is weighed, but I would assume that prices are set to account for such projected losses (projected meaning they may or may not occur, but the price accounts for it either way.) I don't think that stores are selling products at prices where they truly lose money if the occasional person nibbles, or even tests a blueberry to see if it tastes good. Is it right? No, but I am betting that prices are set so stores don't lose money.

                                        1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                          So this makes it okay? What if everyone who entered the store did it?

                                          1. re: Leepa

                                            but not everybody does...every store has a percentage that they allow for shrinkage -- and that number will be fairly accurate, because it's based on a moving average of what came up missing in inventories.

                                            They actually look at the shrinkage number to evaluate their store security -- if it goes up, they'll usually increased in-store security.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              But because they expect it then it makes it okay? I just don't get that. Sorry.

                                              I don't really care if they expect it. They expect it because it has happened in the past. If people acted right, then they wouldn't have to expect it and then, perhaps, the cost of groceries would be less commensurately.

                                              1. re: Leepa

                                                I didn't say that. I said that not everybody does it -- it happens at a very predictable rate.

                                                shrinkage also happens via employees and vendors and just plain mistakes.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                So since department store prices include their losses from shoplifting, there's nothing really wrong with shoplifting, as long as it's just small things?

                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                  It's not shoplifting. It's shrinkage. ;)

                                                  1. re: Leepa

                                                    "Shrinkage" is what a guy experiences, when swimming in very cold water. This is NOT "shrinkage," but theft.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      But if one found a store employee and asked permission to taste an olive, or to taste something from the salad bar, it would undoubtedly be permitted. So theft seems like the wrong word to me. Emptying out the cheap coffee and substituting the good stuff--undoubtedly theft (and also wasteful, making it even worse than simply stealing something).

                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                        it would undoubtedly be permitted
                                                        ~~~~~~~~
                                                        you may be right, but you should never assume. the bottom line is that taking something *without permission/consent* is theft.

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            Fortunately for all those here who've been deeply concerned, the poster now has standing permission for her sampling from her store manager. Of the many ethical issues facing us, I have to say this is not the one that concerns me most ...

                                                          2. re: foiegras

                                                            imho,
                                                            stealing seems like the correct word to me.

                                                            taking something WITH permission is inherently different than taking something WITHOUT permission.

                                                            it really doesn't matter whether or not the permission would probably have been granted, what matters is whether the permission WAS IN FACT granted.

                                                      2. re: escondido123

                                                        But wait. If they factor in shoplifting, then who is to say that one should not just steal a St. John ensemble at US $ 6,000? I mean, if stealing small items is OK, why not go for the big ones?

                                                        Now, if THAT was the point, that you were making, with a bit of hyperbole, then ignore my comments, as things just went over my pointed little head. If that was IT, then I completely agree.

                                                        Hunt

                                                    2. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                      Well, any grocer probably factors in theft, and then, all patrons, who actually pay, must cover that.

                                                      Just because a retailer factors in loss, and loss-due-to-theft, does that absolve patrons, when stealing?

                                                      Sorry, but I tend to disagree that stealing from a grocer is OK, regardless of how they factor that eventuality into the cost of goods.

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        With you here,stealing from a grocer is NOT OK.

                                                        In the produce,dairy and other PERISHABLE short date goods loss even without shrinkage of the pilfer type is huge.
                                                        The last profit,$$ numbers I remember in the grocery store,supermarket business are tight,2% and a rare few,nearly 4%.

                                                      2. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                        Certain items are "loss leaders" just as in the restaurant business. However, if "shrinkage' is 5% then you have to multiply the price times 20 in order to figure the Opportunity Cost.

                                                      3. re: escondido123

                                                        So today I did an experiment. I went to whole foods after work to pick up some olives from the olive bar as well as few other things. I decided to grab a salad since I am dining solo tonight. When I got to the register I asked the cashier to humor me and had him weigh both. Then I took 2 olives out and ate them, and ate a piece of chicken from my salad. I had him weigh them again and there was no difference in price. Interesting…

                                                        And then since I am in retail (in my area of business we plan for an average of 1.2% in shrink) and can't let things go I talked to manager (who I know personally) and asked about the no nibbling rule. He basically told me that the markup on the most convenience foods is really high (they charge $7.99 per pound at the salad bar) so they don't sweat the occasional nibble, its more for sanitary reasons. He said you would be amazed at how many uses their hands, cross contaminate utensils, etc. His employees wont really say anything unless its gross abuse.

                                                        I also asked him about things like the grapes, tomatoes, berries etc. He said Whole Foods has no problem with people trying loose produce, he actually encourages people to "try before they buy". He also said they aren't going to sweat the occasional sampling of packed produce- ie raspberries, blueberries etc.. The last thing he said is that he encourages his employees to offer tastes of things people can't reach themselves-gelato, cheeses, deli items. He can't keep track of this so there is no way to tell how many tastes of gelato or high end cheeses go out the door. But they have proven results that most people do buy after they try so the cost in loss revenue is far out weighed by the increase in DPT's and UPT's.

                                                        So does that make what the couple did right? In his case yes because its built into their pricing structure. Would he prefer they asked before opening containers, yes for sanitary reasons. (plus he said you REALLY don't want to eat unwashed produce!). He said in his store if saw someone opening container of berries he would approach them, see if they liked them and then removed the container. His employees are trained to do the same but still he acknowledged you cant catch everything. Lastly, he would appreciate any customer pointing out gross negligence but does not expect it.

                                                        So I learned a lot. I really enjoyed telling him this all started on chowhound, and his reaction was a sarcastic "no surprise there!"

                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                          Was in WF recently and my husband was looking (inspecting) something behind the counter. A employee asked him if he wanted to taste before purchasing. I thought that was pretty cool.

                                                          On another note, I've noticed that a lot of stores have been putting grapes in sealed clamshells

                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                            I'm not sure what a sealed clamshell is, but my guess is that it is something like this giant plastic container that snaps together in ten places and holds the four pounds of grapes I bought from Costco the other day. No, I didn't try to open the container and taste. I wouldn't do that because a closed container says "don't open without permission." The grapes are okay. I had to have them so bought without tasting.

                                                            1. re: Willa

                                                              Yup, those are the containers. I've seen them in stores besides Costco in different sizes. One local store has a sticker with the weight and price covering the edge of the container... So if its opened the sticker would be ripped.

                                                          2. re: foodieX2

                                                            If a person needs to be 'right' then let them be 'right'.
                                                            You go girl.

                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                              foodieX2,
                                                              I love it! I was going to ask if anyone here was in food retail and wanted to weigh in. Thanks for the information.
                                                              Susan

                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                Just because it's built into their pricing structure does not mean it is right. Stealing is an unfortunately common occurrence. It is because it is common that it has to be accounted for. It's sort of like saying because doctors have malpractice insurance, that they are right to take risks... because it is taken care of.

                                                                1. re: kubasd

                                                                  I think you're missing the point about what stealing is. If I have an apple tree, and neighbors take apples from it - then yes, that is stealing. However, if I have an apple tree and I tell one neighbor - please let the neighborhood know that they can take as many apples as they'd like, I don't like apples/can't use all of them and it helps me if you take them. Then if neighbors come/go/bring friends to take apples - that's not stealing.

                                                                  Most green grocers/vendors are happy for you to try produce (as mentioned above in a sanitary and limited way). They know it increases the likelihood that you'll buy. And with something pricier (and easier to contaminate) such as cheese - it's behind a counter and monitored - but the philosophy of sampling is still there.

                                                                  The notion that stuffing a bunch of grapes into your purse is the same as trying one to evaluate whether or not you'd like to buy them is an extremely narrow view of commerce.

                                                                2. re: foodieX2

                                                                  Whole Foods "allows" stealing so that its clientele can have the dubious benefit of feeling that they are above say, Shaw's. Customers who are eating while shopping spend more.

                                                                  1. re: postemotional1

                                                                    Whole Foods "allows" stealing
                                                                    ~~~~~~~
                                                                    you're kidding, right? i've seen numerous WF customers - in various locations - escorted out for helping themselves to unpaid items.

                                                                    and customers who eat while shopping often end up paying *less* if they don't actually pay for what they've eaten! plus, it's common knowledge that you tend to buy more if you shop while you're hungry...so if you eat while you're in the store & take the edge off your hunger, there goes your desire to toss extra items into your cart.

                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      No- they don't "allow stealing". The allow "sampling". There is a big difference.

                                                                      Stuff your purse with grapes and you are going to get busted. Eat a few grapes you won't.

                                                                      Pour a bit of soup into a container to taste. No problem. Fill a container, eat it and throw it away without paying-busted.

                                                                      Open sealed containers (ie: cottage cheese, yogurt, cookies, etc) and eat them as you walk around and then don't pay for them, you are stealing.

                                                                      Are there people who abuse the system? Of course which is why most retailer build in a cushion.

                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                        What happens if I decide to sample, say the Hickory Smoked Ham, the Pumpernickel, some lettuce, maybe a tomato slice, plus a squirt of Gulden's Spicy Mustard. It's OK, but then I decide that I want Smoked Turkey, on Rye, with Boar's Head Spicy Mustard, and put the rest of the stuff back. Is that OK too?

                                                                        Maybe I get a chicken out of the roaster, rip off a big piece of the breast, just to taste, mind you, but decide that I feel more like the salmon that night, and just stick the partially eaten chicken back. That should work, right?

                                                                        Sorry, but I must be loosing IT, as so much that I am reading does not make sense.

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                          LOL...

                                                                          So, Bill Hunt, if you ever find yourself shopping at WF (not sure if I will ever again based on the manager's opinion of how things should be run in his store) remember that anyone can 'munch their way through the produce section' free of charge, with a clear conscience, because "it's built into their pricing structure".
                                                                          If I ever decide to go in and give it a whirl I might just walk on over to the bakery, grab a croissant, make myself a cappuccino and walk to a table outside and see if I like it enough to purchase more.

                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                            Thanks for the H/U, but think that I will pass.

                                                                            When we got our first WF, near us in North Phoenix, I really did like the cheese department. However, something major changed, and it went downhill quickly. Have not been back in quite some time, so that department could now be back on track?

                                                                            Other than offered samples (I turn down most), I'll skip the grazing.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              Actually, the only reason I've found myself going into one is to purchase my liquid vitamin. The store is close to me and it's convenient and I only need to go in once a month.
                                                                              I'm very particular about where I purchase my produce, meat, & cheese and baked goods. I've been *burnt* on one too many occasions, years ago, with the "fishmonger" at my local store who used to sell me fish that, when unwrapped at home, smelled like no fish should smell unless it's been sitting around a little too long. I did that a couple of times, took it back, and received an apology w/ an offer of something different. No thanks. Any fish department that has a distinct smell of that pungent fish smell is not for me. Having been raised in an area where I had my choice of anything I wanted, guaranteed fresher than fresh, I vowed I'd never step into another store, no matter where it's at, for anything but my vitamins. Oh yes, when I'm in there, I've been asked to sample whatever they've decided to offer the public but I've never seen anything that interests me. In and out is just fine with me.

                                                                        2. re: foodieX2

                                                                          i didn't say they allow stealing. postemotional1 did.

                                                                    2. re: foodieX2

                                                                      <He said you would be amazed at how many use their hands, cross contaminate utensils, etc. His employees won't really say anything unless its gross abuse.>

                                                                      I don't want to even imagine what that might be based on what he believes is acceptable. A manager who's not promoting basic sanitary food handling does not deserve my business or anyone else's.

                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                        My sister and I had a fabulous time shopping at Whole Foods today. We were fighting about whether to use pre-shucked oysters for our stuffing or to find good oysters in the shell and shuck them ourselves. She was pushing for the pre-shucked. I insisted that I would not use oysters that I would not eat. So I called Whole Foods. They usually only stock Blue Points which I dislike. But the day before Thanksgiving they had two other varieties. The man in the seafood department said, "come on in and try the oysters!" So we did. We bought four dozen RI oysters. But while tasting a kumamoto, I could tell it was spawning. I said "Ewww, yuck, this one is spawning...." They sent me to the wine counter to sample some wine to wash down the bad creamy spawn flavor of the nasty oyster. Thank you! A lady in the fine cheese section was watching me and my sister make choices in the store close to her section. She got a huge kick out of our enthusiasm and we got into an excellent discussion of the "Babette's Feast holiday" and how important it was to do it right. She kept giving us samples of things. A lot of fun. Couldn't sample everything. For example, I have been soldiering on trying to finish the four pound "clam shell" box of grapes from Costco but lots of them are squishy and mild. So I bought a bag of grapes at Whole Foods. AFter all the commotion, I opted not to taste a grape in advance. Mostly because I was afraid of the unwashed grape. I think the points made about the risk of eating unwashed produce have been excellent and I am cured of my uninvited grape-tasting.

                                                                        I loved the staff at Whole Foods, though. They really shared the spirit of creating a feast and loved helping us shop for the best. I was very impressed when the oyster clerk told us that she had included a number of extra oysters to make sure that if any were bad we had a substitute. Wow. That doesn't happen that often anywhere in Chicago. And the prices were great. So bravo, Whole Foods!

                                                                        1. re: Willa

                                                                          The quinine has done her no good. The unwashed grape has transported her soul to heaven.

                                                                          1. re: MrsBridges

                                                                            No, MrsBridges, it was not the quinine it was the disgusting creamy spawning kumomoto that was not thoroughly rinsed out of my mouth by the authorized but smallish sample of Riesling. If I could have, I would have sampled the quinine. Or the hydrogen peroxide. I HATE spawning oysters. Good thing I was allowed to taste. We are eagerly awaiting the finest oyster stuffing we have ever made, thanks to the ability to taste first and reject the randy spawning oysters.
                                                                            And now we face the question of whether my 21 year old son's homemade eggnog, uncooked, will do any of us in. If it does, it will be a great way to go. Slowly beaten egg yolks with milk, cream and sugar, then egg whites beaten to a stiff peak folded into the custard followed by heavy cream beaten to stiff peaks and folded. The cream and meringue are not completely incorporated and lovely little clouds are floating in the meringue............
                                                                            Unfortunately, I have just thrown out 3 lbs of Costco and Whole Foods grapes because I didn't open the clam shell containers and try them. I tried to eat them and serve them but there were so many soft ones......shudder. What a shame.
                                                                            Shame on the store for selling them. And stupid me for buying them.

                                                                        2. re: foodieX2

                                                                          <<its more for sanitary reasons>>

                                                                          whole foods is the only store at which i won't take any of the samples they put out.
                                                                          the reason is that they put the tongs in their entirety into the food that is out for sampling.
                                                                          this means that when someone takes the tongs in hand and retrieves a sample, the only place to replace the entire set of tongs is to place them on top of the food samples.
                                                                          everyone's hand dirt ends up on the tongs (because the food residue that ends up on the handles will make it stick) and the tongs go right back on top of the food after every serving.

                                                                          i've complained to the whole foods management about this lots of times, but this is their system.

                                                                          other stores, such as gelson's, bristol farms, etc, will put out disposable toothpicks for retrieving the sample or put the samples in individual plastic or paper cups. (much more sanitary)

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                            If the employees are too lazy to put a clean toothpick in each sample, the toothpick means is definitely not perfect. I have seen people accidentally put the toothpick they ate off back in the new toothpick cup.

                                                                            I like the individual cup idea though. That is what they use at the store I frequent and it works well.

                                                                            1. re: Fowler

                                                                              that would be gelson's in my area.
                                                                              another good system, but much more labor-intensive is the trader joe's system, in which an employee mans each sample station and keeps a continuous supply of samples coming out in little pleated paper cups.
                                                                              the whole process is monitored by a human.

                                                                        3. re: escondido123

                                                                          If I'm buying by weight, I'm not eating across the store or in line. Many stores do offer samples (thanks). But, when you buy per weight, then I can't imagine eating before paying. Yes. That is stealing.

                                                                    3. re: foodieX2

                                                                      I can only remember bottles of water or perhaps a soda, but those were reported, to the checkout clerk, to be charged. Other than "samples," I cannot recall ever eating anything.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        As a child my dad would let us eat those animal crackers that came with a string handle or a slice of American cheese which had already been weighed and marked by the deli. But our favorite was torn off pieces of warm Italian bread. We always paid for everything.

                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                          <<We always paid for everything.>>

                                                                          This is a very, very important part of the equation, and one that is missed by some.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                          PS - thanks for the "trip down memory lane." I had forgotten that "string" on the Animal Crackers box.

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            When I take my daughter shopping, she loves to eat a slice of cheese or bakery cookie. I ask for the item to be weighed and ill take the sticker for the cashier to scan. Many times the counter guys (who know us, as we shop often) will wave me off and tell the baby to enjoy.

                                                                            But when it comes to eating a banana in the wagon, I usually take one that's the same size as she's eaten. I tell the cashier that my baby ate one in the wagon and to charge me for the weight of the one I've got. Sometimes they look at me like I'm totally insane

                                                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                              I always had them weigh my keys along with the remainder of the bananas. At that time, I keys for half the universe...so the store came out on top.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Trader joes makes it easy- they price the bananas by the piece, not lb.

                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                  there was no Trader Joe's within 500 miles of where I lived at that time.

                                                                              2. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                I am with you (I think, as my level of confusion is getting higher), in that if it's in the store, and I eat it, I pay for it. Sounds so very simple, but then it appears that many stores expect their patrons to have a good meal, while shopping, and just comp it. Does that include a bottle of wine, that I sample, but decide to not buy it, and put it back?

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                  Funny you mention the wine. I almost mentioned it earlier in the thread but decided not to, but now that you've opened that door... I know a woman who actually did open a bottle of wine and begin drinking it in the store. She was caught by the staff of the store and the management banned her from coming back. And they meant it. She was caught several times trying to go back and was escorted from the premises. Seems like, here in NC, the store could lose it's license to sell beer and wine if a customer were caught consuming within the store. The manager was hugely pissed.

                                                                                  1. re: Leepa

                                                                                    And the thief even more pissed, I suppose?

                                                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                                                      Actually, she was pretty ashamed that it had happened. Shortly after that she went to rehab.

                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                        Lagatta, I saw what you did there.

                                                                                      2. re: Leepa

                                                                                        There are a lot of local and state laws on the consumption of alcohol. That can go from in-store wine bars, to just passing out samples. Also, things DO change, like they did in AZ some years back.

                                                                                        As for "sampling" a bottle in a store, I guess that I would have to bring my own stemware... ?

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                          One of the liquor stores near me has a number of higher end wines in one of those contraptions that keep the oxygen out of the bottle and allows for small amounts to come from the bottle an the rest kept for later. They have stemware, and it is there for sampling :)

                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                            I'm pretty sure she just took off the cap and swigged. ;)

                                                                                2. re: foodieX2

                                                                                  never eat anything unless it is offered to by store employees such as Jungle jim's does in my area.stealing is simple that and not to be justified esp. if you see someone who may pose a health problem.in short ,yes i would contact store about problem.

                                                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                    You really should "nibble" on stuff with a bar code for the product. Don't try to convince us you're being teeny, you're shoplifting, plain and simple. Get something that's in a can or a bar-coded bag or box, eat as much as you want, and claim it at the register, Your "nibbling" is pretty shameless. You're shorting all of us with your shoplifting. I obviously draw a hard line on that, but your "nibbling" costs me money in the long run. Shame on you.

                                                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                      "Technically its IS stealing"

                                                                                      No it's not. Unless by "tecnically" you mean "actually and in fact stealing".

                                                                                    2. I'm going to call you on not saying anything because you didn't want confrontation - that makes you complicit in the theft and, frankly, is this something you teach your kids? To witness wrong doing and ignore it?

                                                                                      I would have at least notified the store management but - more likely for me - I would have confronted the person directly because I hat sh*t like this. It makes the food more expensive for the rest of us because of the level of theft raises food costs.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                                                                                        Don't have any kids. If I did, I am not sure what I would teach them about this kind of thing. Confrontation is something I used to try - and no matter how nicely, it almost always resulted in a nasty reply. I once asked a young woman on the metro - she was almost certainly a local and should have known better - not to eat on the Metro because it makes a mess. She was eating an ice cream cone and did, in fact, let it drip on the floor and the adjacent seat, and then she threw the napkin on the floor. Maybe she was unbalanced but she went bonkers. Ever since then, I just move away.

                                                                                        I agree it makes food more expensive for the rest of us, and it is also unsanitary. That's why it bothers me.

                                                                                        If I saw someone being assaulted I would certainly say something (and hope I didn't also become a victim) and call the police.

                                                                                        In any case, I was asking what others would do. I wasn't asking for your opinion of my decision. So you gave me your answer.

                                                                                        1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                          I'm not saying that it is ok to eat on the Metro, but this is a situation where there really isn't anything that the person could have done about it at the time that you confronted them. Sure, they could have not bought the ice cream cone, but when you spoke to her, she presumably already had it. Not really something that you can stash in your purse for later.

                                                                                          Not an excuse for losing it on you, just saying that there isn't really a solution that could have been accomplished at the point you spoke with her.

                                                                                          1. re: jw615

                                                                                            Get off at the next stop and throw it away. Do not throw the napkin on the floor. Those are things she could have done. Although frankly, maybe I should have put it in her purse for her. Maybe then she would have gotten the point, and at least her freak-out would have been justified. I know that I was hoping the train would stop short and the ice cream would end up all over her.

                                                                                            In any case, my purpose in saying something was to persuade her not to do it again.

                                                                                            1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                              or how about wiping up, or attempting to contain the mess?

                                                                                        2. re: CarrieWas218

                                                                                          In some places I've lived, confronting a person in the grocery store is a good way to get physically assaulted in the parking lot. No thank you.

                                                                                            1. re: CarrieWas218

                                                                                              Everyone is not comfortable with confrontation.

                                                                                              1. re: CarrieWas218

                                                                                                the confrontation, if any, should properly be done by store staff according to the store's policy.

                                                                                                most stores don't want their customers going around playing sheriff for all the obvious reasons.

                                                                                                shrinkage control is something most grocery stores think about and most have policies in place about the way they want things handled.

                                                                                              2. I would have said something to the management and let them deal with it. I reported this elderly lady that was filling a container of soup at the deli counter area, she was looking around questioninly and I though she was looking for a top for the container. So I offered her one as they were on the side where I was. She declined and just left the area slurping down her soup.

                                                                                                31 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Atochabsh

                                                                                                  Frankly if I saw an "elderly woman" taking soup without paying, I would assume she's hungry. I can't imagine arresting or shaming someone for "stealing" soup.

                                                                                                  1. re: Helene Goldberg

                                                                                                    Ha. I live in an area where 'elderly women/men" put on their Sunday best every single day and drive their Mercedes to the neighborhood market. They walk to the deli, after pouring a free sample of coffee when they walk through the door, and ask for a small sample container and go to the hot food buffet and one by one sample each and every item. This is their lunch. The market has, off and on, hired a security guard just to overlook this stealing. Which it is. When asked why people do this, as I've been told by people who work there and I'm very familiar with, they say the people like this feel entitled. They feel that because they spend money at the place, when they're not stealing, they feel they should be able to eat a few olives or grapes or whatever else is loose and unpackaged.

                                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                      Years ago, one of my mother's friends would buy a can of soda at the mall. Then walk through Hickory Farms sampling all the cheese, sausage, crackers etc. they had set out. That was her lunch. She was not cash strapped by any means. I was only a teenager when she regaled us with this story, but even back then it rubbed me the wrong way. Yes. I realize they were free samples but still.. Some people are just like that.

                                                                                                      1. re: miss_belle

                                                                                                        To me, this is totally different. The samples have been set out without any expectation of financial compensation to the store beyond the hope that someone will purchase a full product. A salad bar in a grocery store is set up with the explicit expectation that people will pay for whatever they take.

                                                                                                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                          Yes, I know it's not the same thing.

                                                                                                          1. re: miss_belle

                                                                                                            No, it's not the same thing, obviously. But it is a mindset involved here that, in my opinion, seems to be part of the discussion. Anything that's out in the open, unpackaged and in front of someone to take, no matter what the reason, is fair game. I've seen people actually stand in front of those cheese trays (the ones where an employee has cut them into 1/2 inch squares and put little toothpicks for sampling) and eat the entire pile. Where do you draw the line between sampling and stealing? It's that mindset where people will take advantage a nice gesture and feel entitled to do so.

                                                                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                              I'd say that to open a bottle of jug wine, pour a few glasses, and then put the cap back on, might have crossed the line.

                                                                                                              Of course, for "better wines," one would want to travel with both glassware, and a wine opener (I do, when flying), have a few glasses, then put the rest back on the shelf, if it did not go well with the free cheese, that had been cut into cubes with the toothpicks.

                                                                                                              I just seem to be missing something very important in this thread - "If it's there, then it's OK to eat/drink it, but you do not have to pay for it." Is that correct?

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                I'm afraid so, Bill Hunt.

                                                                                                                Attempting to rationalize grazing by claiming hunger or deciding if it's deserving of purchase is a concept I'm unfamiliar with. To stand at an olive bar and taste a few to decide which one is palatable seems strange but maybe I'm part of a dying breed that thinks this type of behavior is ill mannered. I'm oftentimes hungry in the market but I pay for the food, go home, and sit at my table and eat it. I can't remember a time when I've stood and eaten a piece of food, outside my home, unless I was attending a cocktail party and then it's just a piece or two, if that. The concept of eating or drinking something, that has not been paid for, and has not been offered, is stealing....no matter how hard people try and explain it away.
                                                                                                                It reflects an obvious sense of entitlement.

                                                                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                  Trying to think back, I can only recall a few bottles of water, which were later purchased (bottles empty by then), that we have ever opened. Summer in AZ can be brutal, and often the water in the autos is gone, before we get to the grocery store. I am bound to be forgetting something, but nothing else comes to mind.

                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                  I hate it when I forget my wine key and stemware at the grocery store and have to resort to chugging champagne from the bottle.

                                                                                                                  1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                    Funniest remark in the thread.......

                                                                                                                    1. re: Willa

                                                                                                                      I agree, and as one who always travels with three openers, a Vac-u-Vin with four stoppers, plus a Champagne/Sparkler seal, and often "travel stemware," though never to the grocery store...

                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                  There is a word for people who exhibit this kind of selfish entitled behavior and predictably it is Yiddish. The word is "schnorrer."

                                                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                    truly some of the best words are in Yiddish.

                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                      So true.

                                                                                                                      There's just nothing in the English language that describes things better than Yiddish.

                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                        It really just means moocher, which I think is just as appropriate in this case.

                                                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                          The beauty of Yiddish words is that they take on broad connotations. *Moocher* is just one part of *schnorrer*.
                                                                                                                          Perfect word.

                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                            It must have a bunch of other connotations in "Yiddish/American" it doesn't have in German, then. Schnorren = to mooch. I'm unaware of other meanings.

                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                              Yiddish had its roots in Germany, as did Ladino had its roots in Spain.
                                                                                                                              They're both cultural languages.
                                                                                                                              Yiddish isn't German.

                                                                                                                      2. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                        < predictably it is Yiddish. The word is "schnorrer."

                                                                                                                        Perfect. That word is just one of the *great* words and was used by some pretty wise people with incredible insight :). Yiddish words describe things/people perfectly and the people who used them knew exactly, and in what context, to use them.

                                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                          and in Yiddish you get to cuss up a storm and while people sort of get the gist, few know just how filthy your speech is at the moment!

                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                            Yep. That's one of the reasons I love it :).

                                                                                                                      3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                        A friend of mine used to manage the cheese section of a Whole Foods. Every Sunday, the same woman - neatly presented, apparently coherent, of a weight that would suggest access to regular meals - would come in at the same time of day (generally considered the post-church hour around here, which is the time all waitstaff hate to work), walk around the store, and eat all of every tray of samples set out. She never bought anything, just hovered over the samples until they were all gone.

                                                                                                                        He disliked this woman but wasn't allowed by management to actively confront her, so his solution was to set out the cheese samples slightly later every week, until finally, at her regular time there were no cheese samples to be found anywhere in the store. He said she came in for about two weeks after that and wandered the store as though searching for that free cheese. Now, if she'd come to him and said that she ate the cheese because she was hungry, he'd have given her all the cheese that was his to give, but because she only ever gave the appearance of being greedy he did not feel inclined to be generous. Not long after, she stopped coming in and the cheeses went back on their usual rotation. She hasn't appeared since.

                                                                                                                    2. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                      Samples are one thing. Sampling from the produce, and not paying, is another.

                                                                                                                      With the former, the producer, the distributor, or the retailer, has offered those, and charged them against their advertising/marketing budget.

                                                                                                                      With the latter, people are just stealing.

                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                                        But the samples are set out for people to try, in the expectation that they would actually consider a purchase, whether that day or in the (near) future. To go in there with a soda, more than once, with the intention of just having lunch -- to me, that's stealing. You might be stealing from the marketing budget rather than the cost-of-goods-sold line, but either way it's the profit of the company in a way that is not intended. Not that you always have to match a company's intentions, but trying to justify this one is pretty out there, IMHO.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sweethooch

                                                                                                                          I see what appears to be "dining on samples" in Costco, more than my local groceries, which tend to be a bit more "boutique." At Costco (do not shop Sam's Club, so it might be the same, or differ greatly), I have seen people hit each sample stand, and on a few occasions, more than once. I have seen a couple go up, and take "a taste for my spouse," only to have the spouse do the same thing, moments later.

                                                                                                                          Personally, I seldom will accept a sample, as nearly everything being offered is not something that would likely buy. Now, and at our since-closed boutique A J's, my wife did more samples, than I ever did, and over time, HAS found some neat items, that we HAVE bought - and some, many times. In her case, the marketing DID pay dividends - how I will miss that store!

                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                      2. re: miss_belle

                                                                                                                        I see similar, at Costco stores. Many aisles have "tasting counters," and a lot of folk dine on those samples.

                                                                                                                        Personally, I try to avoid those stations, and go to the "back aisles," as there are often fights, when patrons try to get up to the table, to get more tastings. It can be like Mardi Gras, with people fighting for some cheap beads. Not what I want, when I only need to buy a few items, and not enter into the fray.

                                                                                                                        At smaller grocery stores, I have tried a few samples, but only a very few. Now, my wife has done more, and often bought the product offered.

                                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                          NOT like Mardi Gras: nobody's flashing to get the samples.

                                                                                                                          (Either that, or YOUR Costco is very different from MY Costco!)

                                                                                                                          1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                            Hey, you really need to stop by the Scottsdale Costco on N Hayden!

                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                      3. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                        Latin dancer, I hear you. Scroungy bastards are scroungy bastards, no matter what their income is.

                                                                                                                      4. re: Helene Goldberg

                                                                                                                        Several points of logic here on Helene's 'not shaming or arresting someone over soup" comment (thought I posted it after hers): if she is hungry, and in a store, then she must have gone to said store with the intent of buying some food to feed herself. Unless she went with the intent of NOT paying money for food to feed herself. Stealing is taking somehting that doesn't belong to you, and in a store, it's taking it without paying for it. You get arrested for stealing. Shame is for doing something you know is wrong. It looked like this woman knew what she was doing was suspect.
                                                                                                                        That said,Helene, I'd probably let it go too. We don't know what people's motives or situations are. She did know it was wrong though.