I Walked Out of a Grocery Store Without Paying..But Then I Turned Around

I was at a grocery store tonight and there was only one active register, which was quite backed up. I decided that I’d go to the self check-out line even though I had a fair number of things to scan. I scanned about 10 items, and then the machine informed me that an employee had been contacted. I think it’s because all my groceries were backing up at the end of the conveyor belt. I saw someone come over to start scanning my items, so I started bagging them so I could get the F out of the store (I always feel like I lose a lot of time in grocery stores). As the employee scanned the last of my items, I had everything bagged and right at hand, so I (without thinking about it) just walked right out of the store. What follows was my series of thoughts.

Walking through the parking lot to the car: “Holy shit. Did I pay? I must have paid, right? Right? Oh shit, I don’t think I paid.”

Putting the groceries in the trunk and getting in the car: “You, sir, just made off with a week’s worth of groceries like a smooth criminal.”

Driving through the parking lot: “Did that store have any security cameras by the register? I can’t remember. But they must have - what kind of store doesn’t have security cameras?”

Pulling into the street: “Oh shit…what if their security cameras saw me? Even if they didn’t get a clear shot of my face, they would be able to see my height and weight and have a general profile.”

Coming up to speed on the road: “Shit, what if they did get a good look at me. Surely someone in the store would recognize me. What if I can’t go back to that store ever again!! …Is that a police siren [it was dark at this time]??”

Cruising away from the store: “Christ, what if the news has a story on a local grocery thief tonight? You’d better turn around. No! You made it off, just shop at another store for a few weeks. Dammit! I’m not going to lay low because of a grocery store! Turn around! Keep going! Back!! Forward!! GO BACK!!!”

And then I turned around and went back to the store. Oddly, when I walked back into the store, the register at the self-checkout line was still awaiting my payment, and no one seemed to be panicking or making police reports or otherwise acting as if anything was out of the ordinary.

Many years ago I did something similar but weirder.

This was about 1970. At the time I was about 17 and earning $44 a week working as a labourer on a building site during the school holidays. We were the highest paid labourers in the industry. A packet of cigarettes cost 40 cents, I think a beer was only 30. I was paid in cash.

A friend and I went out on Friday night. We were going to the pub so I grabbed a $20 bill and off we went. He wanted to stop at a shop to look for a shirt. Nearby in the store was the tobacco counter and I went and purchased a packet of cigarettes. The shop assistant gave me $4.60 in change.

I said, “Excuse me, you’ve given me the wrong change. I gave you a $20.”

She apologised and went back to the till, then came back to me and said, “No that is the right change. You gave me a $5.”

I insisted that I hadn’t had a $5 to give her and that she owed me $15. We argued back and forth for a bit and she said she would have to call the manager. I said that was OK I would wait.

The manager came and she stood at the till and recounted the story to him and showed him the contents of the till. He then approached me and asked why I was so sure I had paid with a $20.

“Because that is all I had in my pocket. Just one note,” I replied.

They went back to the till and conferred and the shop assistant walked over and reluctantly gave me $15. I thanked her and left.

Now all this had taken several minutes and my friend had observed it all while looking through the shirts.

As we walked out he said, “Amazing.”

I agreed that the shop assistant’s stupidity was amazing, “Lucky I only had that $20 when I left the house otherwise I would have had to let her get away with it.”

He replied, “Yeah you did only have that $20 'til we went to the garage and you bought petrol.”

Instantly I realized he was right. I had put a few dollars worth of petrol in the car and got over $15 in change. I had given the shop assistant the $5 for my cigarettes. When I pulled the money out of my pocket I had over $30 despite having spent some. I contemplated going back to return it but I was simply too embarrassed which is odd because I reflexively correct errors in my favour when given change and give the extra back.

My friend had watched the whole thing thinking that it was some elaborate con that I was pulling which is why he didn’t stop looking at shirts. He had been marvelling at my sublime acting skills, at how convincing I was.

Afterwards I couldn’t work out how the manager had justified giving me the money. If there had been no $20 in the till, and I assume there wasn’t, why didn’t he ask me to check my pockets? Had he done that I would have found the other money, apologized for my stupidity, made a joke and got out of there.

hobscrk777, hilarious story. I’m glad you weren’t pulled over to the dark side. . . especially for that small a sum. :wink:

Presumably we should be doing these types of things because they’re correct and moral, not because we might get caught: no?

Please keep the stories coming. I’m learning to run a cash register at Wally world. So your stories are for the education/edification of another doper. Any other good ones?

Love, Phil

About a year ago I was loading my groceries into the car when I discovered 1 unpaid for item I’d left in the basket. There was zero chance of me getting caught. I took it back into the store and paid for it. Don’t remember what it was, but it was only a buck or 2. The damage it would have done to my own morals wasn’t worth a buck or 2.

I once bought groceries, paid for them, and was loading them into my car when I realized that I had not paid for the case of pop on the shelf underneath the cart.

So I took my cash register receipt with me, went back inside the store, and told the checker that my case of pop hadn’t been rung up on the receipt and I needed to pay for it. She told me OK, just go back in the store and get a case, and then go out through her line here. I said no, I didn’t want to do that, I already had the pop. So she said oh, you don’t want to go back, OK, and called over a stockboy and sent him back to bring a case of pop up for me!

So again I explained to her that I already had the pop, I just wanted to pay for it. And explained it to the stockboy, who was now back with a case of pop that he was trying to give to me. Finally, I just put a $5 bill down on the counter and walked out to my car. Being followed by the stockboy, who was still trying to give me the case of pop. I have no idea if that $5 was ever rung up, or just went into somebody’s pocket.

To be fair, the store was real busy, and that checker was trying to keep ringing up customers during this. And neither she nor the stockboy spoke English as their first language – they each spoke different languages, and I know only English.

I had the exact experience of don’t ask except that I had just been to the ATM and I did only have twenties. And the clerk rang up my $8 purchase, put in $20, and then changed her mind and decided I’d only given her a ten.

I protested. She stood firm. Then she said in order to give me money back she’d have to call the manager. I said to call the manager.

The manager said they’d have to count the till and it would take awhile. I said count it.

It took 45 minutes, during which I stood there making all sorts of snide comments to other customers (“Paying by check? That’s a good idea!”)

In the end she was way more than $10 over the amount that should have been in the till, I got my money, and wasted my entire lunch hour.

When I worked in retail–at somewhat higher end stores–we were told in such a dispute with the customer to just give them the change they thought they should have gotten. It only ever happened to me once, and I’m pretty sure the customer was right and I had miscounted.

But, as far as owning up to unintentional dishonesty, I’ve given up on it. Too many times the clerk in question just looks at me like I’m the stupidest person in the world to have come back. Or, once I paid with a leftover traveler’s check. I was pretty sure it was a $20 traveler’s check, but I got change for $50. Since I don’t pay a lot of attention I was stuffing it into my purse and then I started thinking, Gee, this is a lot of cash–what is all this? So I said something to the clerk, and she basically shooed me away so she could take the next person in line.

Before leaving the store I saw something else and was looking at it, and after a couple of minutes the clerk called me back over. She got very sniffy when she told me I was right, it had been $20. She very grudgingly took the extra change back. She made a point of saying that if I’d walked right out of her store like a sane person I’d have gotten away with it. Her whole demeanor said that obviously I was very, very stupid. So then I did walk out of her store, and I never went back.

That pretty much seemed to be the general rule when I was undercharged or overpaid with change.

These days those things don’t happen because I generally pay with a check card, but if they did, whether I went back and did the right thing would depend on how easy it was. If it was really easy and just a matter of handing back money, I’d do it. If I had to go out of my way–say, get into the car and drive back to the store–then, no.

More (unintentional) grocery store hijinks.

So I’m making dinner for a good friend of mine in college, so we both went to the store to pick up some stuff. The lady in front of us had forgot something in the car so her bill was put on hold until she went out to the car. So we go through the line, get all our stuff and get back to her place.

So I get all my stuff ready and start cooking food. Then she says, “What should I do with your 7up.”

“Uhhhhhh…no that’s your 7up.”

“No, I didn’t get 7up.”

“Well neither did I.”

We look in the bag and it was full of items we didn’t pay for. The checker had bagged the lady’s stuff and when she went to her car, he just put our plastic bag right next to her’s. We just cleared the thing of bags (assuming they were all ours) and took off. We still laught about “stealing the lady’s groceries.”

A little trick my mom taught me that I use on the rare occasions I use cash: I name the amount of cash I’m handing over. So if the clerk says “$13.47” I may say “Out of $20” as I hand the bill over. It’s an easy way to avoid a possible problem.

We generally get all our fruit and veg, plus a few other things like eggs, from the Market (I believe the American for this is “farmers market”) in the city - big open air sheds with stalls for all the various stuff.

So I’m getting eggs from the Egg Place down one end - I think the Small Girl was about 3 at the time and the Smaller Girl maybe just one - at any rate, she was riding on my back. We grabbed a carton and filled it up, which is what you do, paid for the eggs, stuffed them in our basket and continued on.

Quite a number of stalls later, I realise (somehow) that the Smaller Girl is fascinatedly investigating an egg. Oops! How the hell did she manage to get that out of the shopping cart way down there?..oh, wait a minute…

So anyway, I’m still not sure at which point Shoplifting Baby managed to reach down and grab an extra egg out of the big basket we were filling our carton from, but we did go back to the Egg Place and make her give it back. I’m just glad she didn’t get bored with it and drop it!

A few years ago, I found a bag of flour that I hadn’t bought in with my groceries when I got home. I checked the receipt,just in case I had been charged for it. When I found that I hadn’t I took the flour back to the store a little later that afternoon. The clerk looked at me like I was crazy, but that’s ok.

It amazes me that people look at you like you’re crazy when you’re trying to be honest.

When I was about 16 I was dispatched to a local fast-food restaurant for a giant order; we had a house full of guests and this was the dinner decision. We lived in a sleepy little town with even sleepier workers at this joint, and it took forever to make up my order (something like 15 sandwiches of different type, fries, apple turnovers, etc.)

When everything was made up, the various sacks were shoved in my direction with a great big “thank you!” No one had asked me to pay, in all the giant-order-taking and making confusion. I of course told them and did pay.

One thing I learned when I was a merchandiser for a beverage distributor and visited grocery stores as part of my job: if a food item is returned by a customer, it gets thrown away, not returned to the shelf, in case of tampering.

In Cameroon I shopped at an old school open air weekly African market. The kind of place that has piles of vegetables, people in strange clothes, and haggling everywhere.

One day I was really excited to see carrots. We only got carrots a few weeks out of the year, and so they were a rare treat. I paid the guy, and then realized that I hadn’t picked up my bag of carrots. So I grabbed the carrots and put them in my sack. The guy selling them gave me a funny look and we didn’t speak the same language, so I pointed to the carrots, pointed to the bag, smiled broadly and went on my way. He kept looking at me funny and I just figured he wasn’t expecting to see a foreigner at this backwoods market.

Of course, when I got home I discovered two bags of carrots in my purse. I’d picked up my carrots, before I paid and forgotten.

An opposite tale:

Once. after getting off my graveyard shift job, I stopped at a McDonald’s for something to eat. Paid at the first window, and then drove off without getting my food at the second window. Realized what I’d done halfway home. Luckily, they remembered me (and were having a good laugh at my expense - which I joined) when I came back for the food.

I feel like that’s what the cashier’s supposed to say. If nothing else, a store is stupid if they don’t train their cashiers to put the given bill on top of the register or sideways on the drawer until the change is handed back. They should never be putting the customer’s given money away until the change is handed back.

Funny, two days ago I had one of these experiences. While grocery shopping with my 8 month old, I was looking for a replacement battery for my Thermapen, which takes an odd battery size I’d never seen before. Luckily I found them, happily paid for them along with the rest of my groceries, and headed to my car.

As I was taking the baby out of her little fabric shopping cart seat cover, I found a package of AAAs that had ridden stealthily next to her thigh right out of the store. It’s not what you think, though. Reconstructing events, I believe I had picked up that package thinking they looked similar to what I needed, and at that moment Claire had bitten off a piece of my grocery list, so I must have dropped the batteries right next to her as I went to sweep the paper out of her mouth - an attempt that was traumatic enough for both of us that I completely forgot I had had anything in my hand.

Given that Claire has a very narrow consciousness window, I didn’t go back in right then, but the batteries are in my purse, to be put back on the rack when I shop next time.

I usually don’t bother to point out small errors in my favor anymore, because every time I used to, the store would refuse to take my money, and it seemed like I was wasting people’s time. Hence the decision in this case to just put the damn things back on my next visit.

Come to think of it, small children must be a great shoplifting tool. They’re excellent distractions, and can easily make all employees in a mad rush to get you checked out. And in the event you get caught, you can blame the swipage on the kid (unless it’s a VCR or something!)

I’ve told this story here before:

Once I stopped off at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few things, including a package of cheese; when the checker told me the total I thought it was a bit low, and asked her to double check that she’d rang up everything correctly (this was in the days before scanners, when everything had the price marked on it and the checker had to manually enter it). She looked at the receipt and the three or four items and insisted that the total was correct. I shrugged and paid. When I got home I looked at the receipt and realized that she had rung up the weight of the cheese instead of the price.

Having lived in Tallahassee for years, I can safely say that with very few exceptions every fast food drive-through worker absolutely hates their job and hates your face because you chose to dine with their establishment.

So one day my mother went through the line at Wendy’s and ordered a salad. When she got to the window an employee handed it to her and walked off, leaving my mom sitting there with her money in her hand. Mom sat there, looking in the window, waiting for her to come back. Finally the girl looked over at her and said to her co-worker, “Why the hell is she still sitting there?” So my mom thought to herself, “Yeah, why the hell am I still sitting here?” and drove off.

Probably would have been better to just ask for a manager, but I have seen so much bad behavior at this places (including my friend being called a bitch because she dared to sound a little testy after being asked to repeat her order for the third time) that I kind of don’t blame her.