Is it theft if a customer purchases an item he knows is incorrectly priced?

Would a situation like this be considered theft? Any reasonable person would know gas being sold for a penny has to be in error. Were the people flocking to the station committing a crime?

I’m confused how this went undetected. Some people may have paid at the pump. But what about the people who paid inside? 20 gallons for 20 cents would be something the clerk couldn’t help but notice.

This type of error could happen with any product. For example a TV priced for $1 at a store. Would it be theft to use the self checkout lane and take the TV for that price?

As to the question, I dunno. I guess if it was a significant amount (that TV for a buck) and they could establish knowledge of the faulty pricing on the part of the buyer, they could make a case.

Many years back I bought something at K-Mart - might have been some automotive accessory. Oh, that’s right, it was a pair of 6x9 speakers. The cashier was weird about it and when I headed for the exit two security goons jumped me. For fifteen minutes they badgered me about switching price tags and theft by deception and how long I was going to go to jail for… until someone checked the pile of speaker boxes and found them all priced at $9.88 instead $29.88 or something. Didn’t even get an apology. Turned to the refund counter and got my $9.88 plus tax back without them asking me to do it, and haven’t set foot in a Krap Mart since.

My arbitrary thinking is that if it’s a TV that’s marked at say… $1500 rather than $1800, then probably not theft- there’s reasonable doubt that maybe it’s indeed marked down for some reason. You have no way of knowing if that’s a mistake or a change in price.

However, a $1800 TV marked down to $50… clearly a mistake or disgruntled employee. Taking advantage of that is tantamount to theft. Same goes for mispriced gas at $0.01 vs 3.35. Just because someone made a mistake, it doesn’t make it right or good to take advantage of it.

As I recall, a website for an airline severely under priced some tickets recently I think the buyers just thought it was some promotion and bought like crazy. I found it:

Given crazy pricing which occurs with all products now and then, I think theft in cases like these, even $0.01 gas, would be hard to prove.

In the late 80s, I was driving in a town and there was a huge line at a gas station. I turned on the radio and it turned out that the gas station was giving away gas. They had a delivery scheduled and needed to get rid of the remaining stock they had (at least, this is what they said on the radio). Of course, gas was a LOT cheaper then. Something like 80 cents a gallon. But there were no signs up or anything, so if you showed up when it first started you would have been baffled!

On the one hand, I’d probably feel pretty guilty about screwing over a small businessman trying to scrape by on a few cents per gallon profit.

On the other hand, most big box stores are making their profits by cutting staff and services to the bone, hiring disaffected workers for the smallest wage possible. I’m not going to weep when their purposeful decision to run a skeleton crew bites them in the ass occasionally.

It looks like the Shell station can’t even be bothered to monitor their own pumps enough to make sure the pricing is right. That company relied on some technology to save themselves money and, in this case, it cost them money when it failed to work correctly.

The gas station priced their gas at 1 cent. People bought it. Welcome to the world of free enterprise, Shell corporation. Don’t forget to pay attention.

I once purchased a book at a mall bookstore. Later that evening I got a call from the manager saying that I was charged the wrong amount and she wanted me to pay the difference. I told her, in effect, to get lost. I paid what I was charged. I thought that was the end of it.

I went into the same store later and found I had placed in the Bad Check file. I contacted my lawyer and had him send here a nastygram, and I was removed from the file.

Whether I knew it was the wrong price is not the issue. It was a legitimate business transaction and I paid the price I was charged. There was nothing wrong with my check and I shouldn’t have been placed in the Bad Check file.

Anyway, if I have not manipulated the price in some why, why would I be liable to legal action in any circumstance where the business was transacted legitimately? Is there some actual law that covers this?

Now, this is different from a case where a wrong price is advertised, I go to the store and they refuse to honor that price because it was a misprint. However, if I went to that store and somehow was able to purchase the product at the misprinted price, I don’t see how I would be guilty of any kind of crime.

shiftless, I would hazard a guess that this Shell station isn’t owned by Shell Co., it’s owned by some dude who paid Shell $3.15/gal for the right to sell gas at 3.30/gal and wound up getting .01/gal instead.

The Shell station got many thousands of dollars worth of free publicity.

My uncle leased a full service station in the 60’s and 70’s. He only made a few cents a gallon on the gas. His real money came from selling tires, oil changes, tune-ups etc. He still had to hustle and sell the gas because he had to meet the oil company’s sales quota. They could break the lease if he wasn’t selling enough gas.

I would question a item that seemed ridiculously under priced. A few bucks off is a sales price and I love getting a good deal. I wouldn’t feel right taking advantage of an obvious pricing mistake.

I would take it as a promotion, I would be pi$$ed at the store if they would not honor it, I would use every method available to me if they accused me of anything. Case closed as no one would ever want to live their life once they pi$$ed me off.

Yes, you are probably right. But we don’t know if he is a struggling single gas station owner or if he owns a thousand of them across the mid west. So I’m having difficulty seeing this a ruthless public taking advantage of a small business owner.

Most gas stations are locally owned and operated, I don’t think Shell took a hit.

Is there a legal answer to the OP’s question?

I’m hoping there is a legal answer or informed opinion.

Especially in the gasoline example. People heard about the 1 cent gas, drove to the station, and lined up to buy it. That kind of premeditation seems to cross a ethical line. But is it illegal?

Yes and no. If you knew of a mistake, and it could be proven, I think there is an argument that you have committed a crime.

For example, I take my item to the checkout. The price says $2.50. That seems really low to me, (I am aware it usually sells for around $25.00)but what the hell, maybe it’s on sale. Who am I to judge?

The clerk says, “I’m sorry sir, that is a mistake, it’s supposed to be $25.00.” “Oh, drat,” I reply, I’ll put it back."

BUT, instead of going back, I go into another check out line and quietly wait while the second clerk let’s it go for $2.50.

In Washington, for exception, it could be “theft by deceiption.”

Well… for centuries advice has been given to buyers as caveat emptor (buyer beware) it’s my sense that there should be an equivalent warning like caveat vendor. For sellers to be sure they aren’t unknowingly selling a Renoir.

Not quite the same as the OP’s question but somewhat related. This occurred to me when I was browsing eBay. There are a many dealers who prey un unknowing sellers.

I’m kinda impressed traffic was so backed up the police had to get involved yet the attendant failed to notice something was wrong.

In any case not theft. The gas station miss priced the gas. For the average person especially those hearing about it on the radio it sounds like a promotion.

It is theft if you intentional alter the price then make the purchase. Such as using a fraudulent coupon or changing the upcoming to a lower priced item.

The customers took no action beyond purchasing the listed price. I can’t see how you would be able to argue theft.

Which is worth exactly nothing. Gas is a commodity and people buy it where it’s cheapest and most convenient, not because one chain station was briefly on the news.