I cut the tough, woody ends off the asparagus...in the store. Did I steal?

Yesterday I was at the grocery store buying asparagus. It was expensive, and also the bunches they had consisted of long stalks with an excessive amount of the nearly-inedible, thick, tough, woody ends on. I would be paying a premium price for a product that I could only use about half of. Suddenly I remembered that I had my pocket knife with me. Not bothering to be terribly discreet about it, I dug out my knife, cut the tough woody ends off one of the asparagus bunches, then bagged up the edible part and purchased it. I left the tough woody ends, still neatly rubber-banded, in the asparagus bin. I cut off exactly the amount that I would have discarded at home.

What did I just do, exactly? I didn’t buy what I didn’t want, but did I steal? I certainly know that in some way this was wrong and that the store would undoubtedly frown on my action. But what exactly was my crime?

Destruction of private property?

Hell yes you stole. The store buys whole stalks of asparagus by the pound and sells whole stalks of asparagus by the pound. Would you core apples before buying them? Peel bananas?

If it’s priced per pound, then you stole. Better to have asked someone in the produce dept about it before that. After all, you don’ t peel the bananas before you pay for them, do you?

Destruction of property seems appropriate - until you pay for them at the checkout, they’re not yours to cut.

Yes, you stole. As has already been pointed out, the store paid by the pound when they bought the asparagus, and they are selling it by the pound to you. That price includes the entire asparagus stalk. Also, you left a mess that someone in the store is going to have to clean up. What, they don’t have a garbage can anywhere in this store?

Besides, asparagus just snaps naturally at the point where it goes from woody (heh, heh) to soft. You could have been more discreet.

No, but it’s not quite the same. Grocery stores don’t sell cored applies or peeled bananas. But they do sell trimmed asparagus. However in this case, way too much unusable, inedible stalk was left on, doubtless on purpose, in order to inflate the total weight of the product, and thereby make extra profit for the store. Again, I’m not saying that what I did was in any way right. But I don’t quite think it was a cut and dried case of stealing either. Something in between I think.

Nope. Cut and dried. You stole.

If anyone left the stalks on purposely, it’s going to be the producer, not the store - so although they profit from selling you stalks, they also take a hit on the cost of buying them - although I suppose it’s conceivable that their produce buyer may have imposed a penalty deduction on the payment to the producer, if the produce contained more than the expected amount of stalk.

So it’s your contention that the store trims the asparagus? I’ve purchased asparagus wholesale and it comes from the vendor exactly how you see it in a store. And even if the store does trim it, so what? You are free to buy asparagus elsewhere. You are not free to damage someone else’s property.

You took possession of a product that did not belong to you and reduced it’s value. You stole from the store the amount of money represented by that reduced value.

The trimmed asparagus, like anything else that has been more processed (sliced apples, washed and trimmed celery) costs more. You stole. The price is the price per pound, and if you think it’s too expensive then don’t buy it. They sell boneless chicken thighs, but you can’t go to the meat department and bone the bone-in ones to get the lower price.

But do they sell trimmed asparagus for the same price as the untrimmed asparagus you were buying? I’ve never bought fresh asparagus, but I’ve seen the same thing with broccoli; broccoli crowns, which do not have the stems attached, are more expensive than “whole broccoli” which usually has 4" to 6" of stem attached. Admittedly, the broccoli stems are edible, but not as good as the crowns, but I would never just snap off the stems at the store so I’m only paying for the crowns at the lower price.

Yes, it’s the same. When a store sells trimmed asparagus, the price is higher than untrimmed. My store sells them side-by-side all the time.

Yep. I like to buy skinless chicken w/ the bone in. They don’t sell that, but the butchers are happy to skin it and leave the bone in for me. However, they weigh it before the skin is taken off and I pay that price.

OK, if we want to engage in semantics, maybe you are guilty of fraud, not theft. You made the store think you were making a transaction with them under the terms they had presented - so much per pound for these asparagus, woody stems and all. You modified things so that they were only weighing part of the merchandise that they had offered.

I don’t know how you could think it wasn’t dishonest. The per pound price of food items includes any non-edible portions which may be attached. That they also offer another version with that portion trimmed off, presumably for a higher price, doesn’t enter into it. You get to choose which you think is a better deal. Note that they often do the same with broccoli, for instance. You may buy broccoli crowns, or ones with the stems attached. That they will also muddy the issue by pricing one by the pound and another by the bunch doesn’t change it either. You get to choose among the offers they are making.

The proper response when you feel something is priced inappropriately, is to refuse to purchase the item.

I never said I didn’t think it was dishonest. I was just musing about exactly how it’s dishonest.


I’m going to go with “Stalking.”

I doubt I’d cut the stalks off asparagus but I do eat my grapes as I traipse through the store. I don’t do so discreetly either but I can’t imagine 10-20 grapes is going to cost much by weight per pound either.