Ridiculousness at the grocery store
July 1, 2006 2:25 PM   Subscribe

This afternoon my boyfriend went to our local Publix supermarket to pick up lunch. He ordered a sub, picked up two bags of chips, and started eating one bag as he walked around finishing up his shopping. When he reached the checkout line he dumped everything on the belt and started reading a magazine as he waited in line to pay the cashier. He paid and then walked out the door with his bags where he was then stopped and told to come back inside.

The guy who stopped him accused him of not paying for the bag of chips that he ate. My boyfriend apologized, said it was a mistake, that he wasn't paying attention and pulled out a dollar to cover the cost of the bag of chips. The guy said he wasn't going to let him get away with it and that he needed to come with him. They brought him to a back room where they repeatedly threatened to call the cops and made a huge deal over this .75 cent bag of chips. He was told he needed to sign some paperwork and they would let him go.

He read over the contract which basically said that he deliberately and intentionally stole the bag of chips and that Publix would be contacting him within the next three weeks to give him a fine. He asked if he could amend the contract and they refused, saying he had to sign it as is and they would then let him go. He reluctantly signed, they gave him a number to call if he didn't hear from Publix and sent him on his way.

So, yes, he is an idiot (trust me, I've told him so). He should never have signed. He should have let them call the cops and then told his side of the story. He should have changed the contract that they gave him to sign. Basically, there are a million things he should have done that he didn't do. I've already called the store, gotten the name of the general manager, spoken to the manager on duty and took the name, company and number of the loss prevention officer that initially stopped him. I asked the manager to fax me a copy of the contract that was signed and he refused, stating that it was the property of Publix. I called the police and requested an officer accompany my boyfriend back to the store when he asks for copies of the paperwork.

It was a genuine accident and my boyfriend was apologetic and offered to pay on the spot. What else can he do? Can he demand a copy of the surveillance tape? Do we really need to get a lawyer? How much weight does this document he signed hold? Can he claim it was signed under duress? The last thing we need is Publix issuing him some ridiculous $500 fine or pushing ahead with other civil or criminal charges.
posted by jessica to Law & Government (48 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
God, I hate it when people eat stuff in the shop -- or, worse, let their kids do it. It's a freakin' supermarket, not some kind of all-you-can-eat buffet.

That said, if you can get this in front of any kind of court, I'm sure they'd laugh Publix out of it. Shouldn't be too hard to do.
posted by reklaw at 2:33 PM on July 1, 2006

Can he claim it was signed under duress?

If he was forceably kept on the premises under threat of signing, he could probably make a good case. See a lawyer.
posted by Mr. Six at 2:34 PM on July 1, 2006

I don't understand what the "contract" says. Is he agreeing to pay some fine in exchange for them not pursuing this with the police? If that is the case (IANAL), the only thing it seems you have to worry about is them calling the police if he doesn't pay this "fine." [Or I guess they could sue you for the breach.]

I guess that means you either take your chances with the police or pay Publix. Publix's behavior may have been slimy and you may be able to get out of it if they try to litigate, but you still would have to deal with the State.

In other words: talk to a lawyer.
posted by Pacheco at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2006

go back to the police station and file kidnapping charges against the publix for detaining him against his will. they have no authority to do so (only the police can) and what they did is illegal.

or you can go back to publix and tell the manager that you might be willing to not file charges against him, publix, and the loss prevention officer if they settles this amicably by giving you or destroying the original copy of the "contract".

posted by eatcake at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2006

Please talk to a lawyer before you do anything close to what eatcake says. Don't mess things up further because of what someone who is not a lawyer says on metafilter. [no offense eatcake, but this is serious shit that may have serious consequences in the future and could involve a sizeable chunk of change]
posted by Pacheco at 2:49 PM on July 1, 2006

When I worked retail, they told us we couldn't forcibly detain shoplifters. All we could do is call the cops while doing the verbally coercive thing, asking the person to come back in the store with us etc., much like what you are describing. Basically we just had to trick the person into staying until the cops came.

I'm really surprised they didn't go ahead and call the police. This tells me maybe they didn't think they had much of a case to start with. I'm not familiar with Publix so I don't know if their employees get a "bounty" for each shoplifter they catch, as some places do. I would suspect from their actions that there was some sort of perk in place for such things, else why not let the cops handle it, or just take the money he offered for the chips.

Just remember for next time that in these situations, they really can't do shit. Once he was out of the store he could have just laughed at them and walked away. In this case, however, I'd suggest calling all those numbers you got and raising ten kinds of hell with every Publix person you can. Be obnoxious and unreasonable if it helps. Legal counsel would be a good last resort, but that will probably cost as much as whatever Publix might "fine" you. So be a pest. Also contact Better Business Bureau--they helped me immensely when a car dealership stole my vehicle once.
posted by First Post at 2:49 PM on July 1, 2006

mmm..the only thing publix can enforce against him is the "contract". as far the law is concerned he has agreed in writing to not paying for the chips and he has agreed in writing to pay a fine.

if what he did was really illegal then they would have waited until th epolice got there and let them handle it. and the police would have either laughed at them or gotten pissed off for wasting their time.

no i'm not a lawyer but i wouldn't worry about.
posted by eatcake at 2:53 PM on July 1, 2006

This is typical of supermarkets. Alton Brown once got nabbed for a similar thing with a doughnut he forgot to pay for. I seem to recall that they dropped it after Kroger found out he was a semi-celebrity with the ability to rain bad publicity down upon them. Probably not so useful for your boyfriend, but he might consider contacting the media as an alternative to a lawyer.
posted by kindall at 3:05 PM on July 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

It looks like they're doing something like what's described in this article - that is, making a civil demand instead of pressing criminal charges. Apparently it's due to new laws that have been passed in many states in the last decade, and is getting more popular for retailers. It must be quite profitable for them (at least, in the short term, until they lose enough customers).
posted by hazyjane at 3:06 PM on July 1, 2006

I'd worry about it. I've had friends get caught shoplifting and forced to sign a similar statement. If the fine isn't paid it's sent to a collection agency. You said it yourself: your boyfriend was an idiot for signing anything. Did he give 'em any information other than his name and address (like SS#, for instance)? If so, he's likely screwed.
posted by item at 3:11 PM on July 1, 2006

IANAL, but, to re-iterate the story: Boyfriend, in front of video surveillance cameras for all or part of this:
  • Opened merchandise for which he hadn't paid, inside the store
  • Consumed it
  • Disposed of or concealed the bag/wrapper (assumed by me, as this action not stated by you)
  • Didn't declare or pay for the merchandise voluntarily
  • Left the premises without paying or declaring the merchandise
  • Upon being challenged by Publix official, re-entered the store voluntarily, and admitted above, with offer to pay
  • Voluntarily signed statement or contract admitting his actions
Good luck taking this to court, and arguing actions or intent. But as a practical matter, most retail stores in most jurisdictions confine their shoplifting prosecutions to juveniles. In some jurisdictions, because of the volume of shoplifting complaints, and the load on police, chain stores enter into agreements with local jurisdictions to handle such matters as much as possible on a consensual basis.

The point of having an adult sign such a form is to create a record that will help to identify repeat offenders, when they will prosecute. Leave it alone, and if contacted pay what is asked, unless you want stink. Publix is a company that does publicly prosecute simple shoplifting.
posted by paulsc at 3:13 PM on July 1, 2006

What reklaw said.
posted by jca at 3:16 PM on July 1, 2006

what did he do with the empty bag?
posted by kimdog at 3:40 PM on July 1, 2006

Yes, what reklaw said. Are people that damn hungry that they can't wait five minutes?

Even if your boyfriend did do something wrong (he probably did) it's a bullshit petty case. Get a lawyer just to make things more difficult for the store.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:43 PM on July 1, 2006

I have also had a friend who was involved in a similiar situation with a Target store. As item noted, her unpaid fine was eventually sent to a collection agency, which continues to pester her to this day. She's been ignoring the phone calls for over a year now (like the good anarchist that she is), however, and nothing more has come of it.
posted by youarenothere at 3:45 PM on July 1, 2006

And yeah, what did he do with the bag? If he intended to pay, I assume he must have kept it in the cart, which would prevent him from forgetting about it.
posted by youarenothere at 3:46 PM on July 1, 2006

To be honest, I also dislike it when people open up food in the store and start eating. However, i happen to have hypoglycemia and there has been a time or two where I needed something sweet (candy or juice) immediately and didn't have time to wait in line to pay before I opened it and started consuming. This was not the situation here, but I understand why some people may not wait.

The bag of chips he purchased was part of sub/drink/chip combo that comes in an open box. The partially consumed bag, along with the second bag of chips he was purchasing were in the box. The box is more of a carrying container and has no lid. The bag was never disposed of in the store, put in his pocket, or left in a cart. It was with all of his other purchases and he had no reason to think the cashier didn't ring it up.

He returned to the store with two city police officers. He requested an opportunity to amend the contract. The manager on duty refused. He requested a copy of the contract, the manager refused. The officers also politely asked the assistant manger to give him a copy and the manager again refused.
posted by jessica at 4:08 PM on July 1, 2006

When did it become OK for people to eat food they hadn't yet paid for? When I was a manager in the grocery store, we regularly made a point to ask for proof of purchase if we saw people eating things in the store, and if they had none, walk them up to the counter so they could pay for that item before they continued shopping... We had some pissed off customers, but they were usually the same type that would let their dairy rot in the fridge for a month, then return it... Best to let them know what the rules are.

Whether he meant to pay for it or not, the appropriate thing to do would be to PAY for the item BEFORE consuming it.

Tape the receipt to the wrapper, then chow down...

On the legal situation, I'm going to agree that it'd be MUCH easier and safer to pay whatever fine... even talking to a lawyer about it will probably cost more than the fine itself. If you break the contract, they can prosecute (based on the signed admission), AND take you to collections (I'm assuming that the contract said "Yes I stole the item, and Yes I will pay the fine", rather than "Yes I stole the item, but will not be prosecuted if I pay the fine")
posted by hatsix at 4:11 PM on July 1, 2006

I believe that the way these contracts work is that he is being charged for the service they provided of stopping and detaining him. The cost of store security is divided by some number or other to supposedly represent what he cost them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2006

jessica: that is a major detail...Are you saying that there is a separate bar code that is scanned that charges for the items all at once? So he really did pay for it?

I guess it can't be stated enough: your boyfriend should not have signed that.

But this Publix store appears to be run by people of very low character and should definitely be reported to the Better Business Bureau.
posted by Pacheco at 4:26 PM on July 1, 2006

okay, now that the fire has died down a bit, things are coming back to him. the entire content of the contract consisted of:

I, XXXX XXXXXXX, intentionally stole dirty salt and pepper potato chips, value of .89 cents from store number XXX.

He was told he could sign it in its current state or be arrested. The security officer sold him on the idea of dealing with Publix rather then the cops. The security officer is the one who informed him of the fine.

the piece of paper he does have has the publix civil theft recovery phone number. they made a photocopy of his drivers license and took his social security number from him.
posted by jessica at 4:32 PM on July 1, 2006

jessica, the empty-bag-in-the-box bit is your case, if you have any now. You need to examine the store receipt, see exactly how the "combo" was rung (as a single "combo" SKU, or as separate SKU codes) , and whether there was, in fact, a separate charge for the second unopened bag of chips. Think about the significance of that last bit regarding the second bag of chips.

Your chances of getting a copy of that agreement, except through a criminal discovery process, are now probably zero. Get an attorney immediately, stop discussing the case publicly except as your attorney directs, and preserve your receipt and whatever packaging the items came in, and were brought home in.

Good luck.
posted by paulsc at 4:40 PM on July 1, 2006

The officers also politely asked the assistant manger to give him a copy and the manager again refused.

What, if anything, did the police say or do about this? Do they now have a report of this whole incident on file? Did they offer any advice?
posted by Gator at 4:52 PM on July 1, 2006

I will bet that the "fine" is over $500.

Update the thread when you find out, will you?
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:18 PM on July 1, 2006

Do you still have the recipt? Maybe it was rung up?
posted by Paris Hilton at 5:27 PM on July 1, 2006

I'm curious how I can prevent all this happening to me... what I'm gathering is that I can say "no thanks" and continue out if I'm stopped, and if I'm physically apprehended then no cooperation until the cops come. Sounds like I'm much better off with the cops (both creditwise and finewise).
posted by chef_boyardee at 5:39 PM on July 1, 2006

(oh, with the caveat being that I'll leave something greater than the item's value to make good on a donut I accidentally carry out -- though I can see this gets sticky)
posted by chef_boyardee at 5:41 PM on July 1, 2006

never mind the slight derail, I'll use my question and post a separate thread in 5 minutes.
posted by chef_boyardee at 5:45 PM on July 1, 2006

i'll take the advice paulsc gave and stay pretty quiet after this (i promise i will update).

He still has the receipt and the combo box packaging. The combo was rung up as a single sku. He argued that it was obvious that both bags were visible in the combo box. The manger argued that it was not the clerks responsibility to check if one or more bags of chips were in the combo box. From one angle you can easily see both bags, from the other angle, not so much.

Basically it came down to the managers discretion. The fact that he opened up the bag and starting eating them is not really important. He never even finished the bag and it was with everything else that he was rung up with. The issue comes down to the manager claiming he willfully tried to hide the one bag of chips underneath the other and didn't place it separately on the counter from the combo box.

The cops didn't file a report. He said they were pretty cool about the entire incident. Both cops gave him their names and badge numbers and told him to call if he needed anything else.

An amusing side note: This isn't the best neighborhood and the area has a number of drug addicts and slightly unsavory types. We are remodeling a house and my boyfriend went to the store in work clothes, covered in paint. Before he met the cops he took a quick shower and changed. When they went back to the store, the manager stood there for a few moments and didn't even recognize him.
posted by jessica at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2006

Is it possible these stores have sub-contracted their security to an independent or semi-independent entity, which the supermarket pays a nominal amount of money, but which makes its real bucks with this kind of abuse? What makes this scenario seem likely to me is the clear difficulty of finding and training people with the rare sorts of personalities your security guards would have to have to make it work.

Maybe they even pay the markets for the privilege of operating there. But in any case, someone thinks they have found a way to turn shoplifting into a profit center, somewhat the way municipalities have illegal parking with parking tickets.

Just imagine how many elderly people in the very early stages of dementia are likely to get caught up in this, or how many mildly deficient adults with something like Down's Syndrome. Both of these populations are typically very compliant, and would probably just pay the fine if they could. An old person could easily end up with a lien on their house -- with all kind of fees tacked on for good measure, of course. Diabetics who have a sudden blood sugar crisis could easily be confused enough to walk out of the store without paying, too.

I think the most effective tactic for you, Jessica, is to call the store manager and threaten to get AARP and other advocacy groups on your side in this, as well as the media. If he won't budge (he may not have authority to) call corporate headquarters and repeat the threat.
posted by jamjam at 6:19 PM on July 1, 2006

The cops didn't file a report. He said they were pretty cool about the entire incident. Both cops gave him their names and badge numbers and told him to call if he needed anything else.

That's 'cause most cops, despite what TV might have people think, are generally nice and level-headed people when it comes to this stuff. They know it's really trivial bullshit, and can spot power-hungry security guards/managers when they see 'em.

Next time, insist on the police.

Sorry to hear about the troubles. Will you update this thread when you know more, or post a separate thread?
posted by Mikey-San at 6:49 PM on July 1, 2006

It's hard to give an opinion without knowing your state and without seeing the contract. That said, there are certain fundamentals of law that apply to your general scenario:

First, let's consider the criminal aspect of this. This is not theft because theft is an intentional crime. That is, to commit a theft you must intend to take something without paying. There are crimes where intention does not matter, but theft is not one of them.

Of course, that's why the market had him sign a document saying he "inentionally" took the item. It appears to be an effort to secure a written confession. However, he would be able to defend himself by saying they held him against his will and would not let him leave until he signed an unamended version and that would weigh in his favor. But, at best, this is a confession that he committed a .75 cent theft and the police do not have time for that -- I assure you. Since only a governmental entity can prosecute a crime, and no governmental body has time for one this ridiculous, he has nothing to worry about. A civil party like a supermarket has no crime enforcement authority so there's no criminal liability to worry about here.

Next is civil liability. He appears to have contracted to pay a fine, but such a contract would be unenforceable. Contracts are only enforceable if there is consideration. Condiseration is something that you give in exchange for a benefit. So, if I wrote a "contract" to give you my coat, but you don't have to do anything in return, it's uneforceable even though it's in writing. It sounds to me like your boyfriend signed a contract to pay a fine but he gets nothing in return for that fine so that is potentially uneforceable. (It's different than say a parking fine which is due under law and not pursuant to contract).

You might be thinking that in exchange for paying the fine the market is not calling the police. That's not "consideration," that's extortion. You simply cannot promise to not prosecute a crime in exchange for money.

My guess is nothing will ever come of this. But if they send you a bill please post again.
posted by GIRLesq at 7:46 PM on July 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

what the employee did was ridiculous but so was going back into the store. i for one make it a point to shoplift whenever possible. screw the bastards
posted by petsounds at 8:43 PM on July 1, 2006

When I worked at a grocery store, one woman's toddler was really hungry and couldn't wait. Normally we didn't mind if they opened a box of crackers or something. But she fed him a banana, and since bananas are charged by weight, she kinda stole it... just weighed another banana though and used that as the charge.

I know it's a huge cliche, but it ticked me off a couple of months ago when I saw an elderly woman just take a grape, eat it, and walk away... didn't even pretend like she was thinking about buying them. I wanted to ask her if she enjoyed being a thief.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:22 PM on July 1, 2006

Hate to be so blunt, but GIRLesq is wrong about there definitely being no consideration in any jurisdiction and thus an unenforceable contract. IANAL (haven't taken the Bar yet) but in most states (but not all), giving up your legal right to press charges is enough to constitute a legal detriment which can be given in exchange for the benefit of your promise to pay the fine. While a baseless promise is not enforceable, they have agreed to not take legal action against you. Plea bargains are based on the same premise. The jurisdictions where this is not allowed are due to statatory constraints over this practice.

P.S. - This is not to say that there isn't some sort of defense which would invalidate the contract. However, my advice would be to wait to find out what the amount the fine would be. If the cost is prohibitive then contact a lawyer. unfortunately, due to the nature of our legal system, some positions, while they may have merit, simply don't justify the cost of proper defense.
posted by JakeLL at 10:03 PM on July 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

the entire content of the contract consisted of:

I, XXXX XXXXXXX, intentionally stole dirty salt and pepper potato chips, value of .89 cents from store number XXX.

I don't see how he agreed to pay any fine in exchange for not being prosecuted. He just signed an admission of guilt (under duress) and was told verbally that there would be a letter giving a fine that would arrive later.

Therefore, he still hasn't made his choice in writing between fine and prosecution. If it were me, and if the fine were outrageous, I'd probably choose prosecution. I'd also call the cops back and ask their opinion - if he chooses to go to court for this, what do they think the judge would decide? Then I'd ask the cops for a written statement that the manager refused to give you a copy of the statement he signed (I don't see how it's a contract from the wording you gave). Of course, if the cops are at all on his side, and willing to appear in court with him, that would be ideal.

Obviously, get a lawyer if you can at all afford one. And try creative ways of consulting a lawyer - student law center if either of you are a student, legal aid if you have a low income, etc.
posted by hazyjane at 1:09 AM on July 2, 2006

Also, be sure to take photographs of the box that the chip bags were in, showing that both bags were visible from the box. You put this box down on the counter to be rung up, both bags were visible, but the cashier neglected to ring one of them up.
posted by hazyjane at 1:33 AM on July 2, 2006

Maria Brous
Director of Media & Community Relations
Publix Super Markets
PO Box 407
Lakeland, FL 33802-0407

Dear Ms. Brous:

I thought I'd take a moment to let you know that Publix is taking a real PR beating over an eighty-nine cents package of potato chips.

Publix would benefit from making a favorable resolution to head off further bad publicly arising from a posting on this web site,


before this is inevitably picked up by the local news media, the wire services, and by other "blog" sites.

I'm sure as the person responsible for the public image of Publix Super Markets, you'll act quickly to prevent this from getting out of hand on your watch.

best of luck,
posted by orthogonality at 3:06 AM on July 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, he did pay for the chips with the rest of the combo pack? So there was no shopplifting, intentional or unintentional.
posted by jb at 4:00 AM on July 2, 2006

jb, he didn't pay for them. He put the half-eaten, opened bag of chips onto the belt (in the combination box of chips, sandwich and drink) with everything else he was buying. The clerk simply rang up the combo box and didn't think to pull the second bag of chips out. They then accused him of intentionally hiding the bag of chips in the combo box in order to get away with the crime of the century.

I really, really wish the chips had been Pirate's Booty.

The only thing that I have to add is that you absolutely should not just ignore the fine because it's unfair. I've done something similar - I blew off a big lease-end charge because I felt it was contractually invalid - and it's been snowballing to an amount I have to pay off in chunks, and haunting me every month. It is so incredibly aggravating to be paying down something so unfair - but once it goes into collections, nobody feels sorry for you anymore, because you've been irresponsible and dropped the ball.

Unfortunately, since he signed this stupid contract, the onus is now on him to fix the situation. The easiest way is to pay the fine, but I would fight it, because I assume the fine is going to be ridiculously high, and because I have that obnoxious "they're not gonna get away with this!" attitude about corporations.

Don't assume that what they're doing is just blatantly illegal, either, IANERAL (I am nothing even resembling a lawyer) but I am sure that Publix has a team of them who have checked over this evil policy of theirs, that I'm certain is designed to recoup costs from shoplifting and then some, and it's probably been designed specifically to make it difficult to wiggle out of without some serious flailing about and lawyer-hiring.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:36 AM on July 2, 2006

Jessica, I really can't believe Publix is doing this. I shop at Publix all the time. Sometimes I buy a fountain drink and share it with my kids while shopping. I forgot to pay for it once, and noticed it in the front of my cart near my 3-year old child while I was in the parking lot.

While I was reading your original question, I thought that your boyfriend might have appeared a certain way. It seems as though somebody was eyeing him the entire time he was in the store, because he looked unsavory in his painting clothes. I can almost bet that if a mother and her children were in the same situation, or a well-dressed woman, or an elderly person, this would not have happened.

Discriminating on appearance is something that peeves me to no end. I have been discriminated against twice because of how I looked. Recently I was in sweaty running clothes and asked for a variance form so I could send my child to another school. They took a look at me, and asked me what city I lived in. After I told them, they refused to hand me a form. Which is not the county's policy. I was very polite to the refusers, but I proceeded to write a letter to the editor of my town's newspaper about school choice. The morning after it was published, the school board was aggressively calling me bright and early on my home phone and cell. Hah! My number isn't even listed. They were desperate to shut me up. I would write a little letter to the newspaper or contact your local news station. This might interest the public.

I am going to be extra careful for now on while shopping in Publix. Actually, this incident makes me upset with Publix--I have a mind not to shop there any longer. I can't believe they wouldn't let him pay for the chips, when it was so obvious that he didn't intend to steal them.

Publix has been in literal panic mode because they are losing so many customers to Super Walmart. I wonder why they have chosen to make such a fuss over something so petty, and risk losing more customers.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:43 AM on July 2, 2006

WTF was he thinking, tossing them in with other things? That was just plain dumb.

I seldom — like, on the order of once every few years — will pre-open a can or bag before paying for it. If I do, you can be damn sure I'm utterly paranoid about making sure it gets paid for in the most obvious manner. Precisely because I want to avoid getting in shit like your boyfriend.

Tell your bf to use his head next time.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2006

Also,if Publix ends up reading this thread, I'd like to mention that I'm certainly not going to set foot in their stores, should the opportunity ever present itself.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 AM on July 2, 2006

Way to go, orthogonality!
posted by jamjam at 9:32 AM on July 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

The issue isn't whether he opened the bag of chips or not: he put the (opened) bag on the check-out belt, so the cashier could ring it up:
When he reached the checkout line he dumped everything on the belt and started reading a magazine as he waited in line to pay the cashier. He paid and then walked out the door with his bags where he was then stopped and told to come back inside.
Apparently the cashier saw the combo-box and assumed the chips were part of it, and failed to ring up the chips separately. That's the cashier's error; the customer did the normal, expected thing by putting the item he wished to purchase on the check-out belt. Whether it was an already opened bag or not is immaterial. Whether in putting down his purchases, the extra bag of chips was "in" the combo box or not is immaterial; how many times have you put down your purchases willy-nilly, and trusted the cashier to do his job right?

How often do any of use go over our grocery receipts line by line, to make sure the cashier has rung everything up? Occasionally I've done so when the total charge seemed too low, and have asked the cashier to charge me for the item he didn't ring up; that's the right thing to do, but it's not a responsibility I can be held liable for not doing. More often, I just trust the cashier did his job properly. A difference of 89 cents isn't likely to pop out at me.

If I fail to notice that a cashier failed to ring up all the items that I put in front of him, that emphatically doesn't make me a thief. If the cashier makes a mistake, it shouldn't result in a customer being threatened, slandered, and bullied into signing something under duress.

A Publix cashier made a mistake; a Publix security guard blamed the customer for the cashier's mistake, and compounded Publix's error; it's now up to Publix to fix its mistake by apologizing to the customer (free lunch combo boxes for a month would be a good start) and retraining or disciplining its staff.
posted by orthogonality at 5:39 PM on July 2, 2006

Any update on this?
posted by ?! at 4:25 PM on February 3, 2007

JakeLL: I hope you brush up on both plea bargains and extortion before the bar.

A plea bargain is used in a criminal case, not a civil case so it is not applicable to civil contract analysis.

In a civil case, you could agree to not pursue your civil remedies in exchange for a settlement payment. Here, however, Publix offered not to press criminal charges -- that is not the same and that is not permissible.

Any time you threaten to report somebody to the authorities if they do not pay you money, that is extortion.
posted by GIRLesq at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2007

« Older Need to carry my camera gear to a World Cup...   |   my filial piety needs reinforcement Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.