Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shopping and the Entitled Mentality

Current "outrage" story of the week:
Nicole Leszczynski couldn't imagine that two chicken salad sandwiches would land her and her husband in jail and her 2-year-old daughter in state custody. But it happened six days ago, when the 30-weeks-pregnant woman forgot to pay for her snack while grocery shopping.
The short version: the lady, her husband, and their child were shopping in a grocery store. They picked up a couple of sandwiches and ate them while they shopped. Then, they paid for their groceries, but not not sandwiches, and were detained by security who then summoned the police. The police arrested the pair for shoplifting  thus necessitating Child Welfare Services take custody of their child.

Now, that certainly seems like overkill. For such a small crime--petty theft--there's no reason why a child need be taken away from his/her parents in my opinion. Still, the police have guidelines to follow, though it would seem prudent to allow some flexibility in that regard. And I have no doubt that the experience was quite harrowing for the parents, to say nothing of how it must have been for their young child.

That said, they DID commit a crime. They ate food, then failed to pay for it. The excuse that "we forgot to pay for the sandwiches" is just that: an excuse, nothing more. Having worked many years in the grocery business, I can't begin to list the number of times when people tried to make this argument, that they forgot to pay for something, whether is was something they had eaten, slipped into their pocket or purse, or--one time--hidden in the bottom of a stroller ( the item in this last case was wine, for those interested). And when I was the one confronting people for "forgetting" to pay for something, it was pretty damn obvious when they were lying.

Did I always call the police? No. If I had been the one that caught this couple, would I have called the police? Probably not. I reserve going down the road of police involvement for more obvious cases of theft with bigger ticket items, though obnoxious responses--like "how dare YOU accuse ME of STEALING!"--sometimes provoked me, as well.

But the bigger issue here--in my mind--is this assumption that people make in grocery stores that they can freely munch of things as they shop. It really pisses me off, for several reasons:

1. It's unsanitary and messy. Nothing worse than ending up following someone eating--and spilling--chips, cheerios, or grapes as they walk.

2. It's unsafe. Grapes are a particularly noteworthy example, in this regard. A random grape underfoot can send anyone on a ride culminating in a potentially nasty fall. In fact, grapes are often the culprit in slip-and-fall lawsuits. Get this: it's the supermarket's responsibility to keep the floors clean AT ALL TIMES, even as people walk around munching on food.

3. Often, it's just outright stealing, period. Eating things like produce that are sold by the pound means that the remaining amounts is all that can be charged at the register. If you pick up a pound of bananas, then eat two, you don't pay for them.

4. It's just obnoxious. You're shopping for food. You really can't wait til you pay for the stuff before you start digging in? Seriously?

It's the last that reflects--in my opinion--a real loss of manners and sense in our current society. This grazing--as it is called in the business--by customers is common across all income and social strata. And it indicative of an entitlement mentality: I'm shopping, the stuff it here, so I can do what I want; I have a RIGHT to open up food I haven't paid for, based on nothing more than my patronage of the store.

Yes, many people that I caught grazing, actually had the gall to threaten me with "I won't shop here, again!" My response was always "Please don't. Our profit margins are too slim; you cost us money every time you come in here and do what you do." They looked at me dumbfounded, apparently under the illusion that I needed them, that their patronage trumped their dishonesty and theft.

As I've said, there was an overreaction in this case. But I don't want to hear how these people did nothing wrong. They sure as hell did.

Cheers, all.

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