Is this theft? And if it's not, what is it?

I guess this could go here or in IMHO, but there may be a factual answer. If the Mods decide it needs to be moved, so be it.

Here’s the scenario.

In a supermarket. Customer A puts a loaf of nice fresh seven-grain bread in his shopping cart. Customer B also wants a loaf of this bread, but Customer A took the last one. So Customer B waits until Customer A turns away to get something else, and grabs the loaf out of Customer A’s cart.

I’m guessing that, officially at least, the loaf still belongs to the store. And i also assume that, if the store manager wanted to get involved, he or she could dictate who would be allowed to buy the loaf. But, if the store decides not to get involved, does Customer A have any grounds for action?

(I know, i know, a loaf of bread rpobably isn’t enough to get worked up over. But hey, Australlia was founded by a bunch of bread-thieves. :))

IANACop but I’d say no theft. The loaf belongs to the store so as long as B pays for it there’s nothing A can do about it.

IANADA, but I think Otto got it in one.

Poor sportsmanship on the part of Shopper B is about as far as you can get with this.

And this is why you never, ever leave your cart unattended! A few weeks ago, I saw people at a “pack it yourself” grocery picking items out of other peoples’ carts. They weren’t taking the last whatever that was in the store either. They were nabbing boxes of cereal, soap, produce. Other than “They look like they know a good peach, so I’ll take the ones they picked” I don’t know if it was laziness and not wanting to go find the item on the shelf, or just plain antisocial.

How about if you ADD items to someone else’s cart? Not that I would, but I’ve been tempted when bozos leave their carts completely blocking the entrance to an aisle…

This was a question on my Torts final! Well, it was someone taking a whole cartful of groceries. Anyway, I don’t remember the details, but my answer boiled down to there being no cause of action, and it being more the province of the manager of the store than an issue for the courts. FWIW, I passed.

Heh heh.

Never thought of that. Just whack in a pound or two of something expensive.

I’m not so sure.

Not for any other reason than that the law can be quite counter intuitive at times.

Perhaps there’s some sort of an implied contract to purchase?

To my simple mind, this is an example of something that is wrong to do, but not necessarily illegal.

On the other side of the coin, there are also things that are against the law, but are not necessarily wrong. Nonetheless, they are against the law.

I agree. If it’s anything, it’s a tort because there’s no contract and no crime. You could make some tortured argument that it’s tortious interference with economic advantage or tortious interference with contract, based on A’s clearly expressed plan to purchase the bread, but, really, you won’t get past a motion to dismiss on that.

Is there a crime? Not that I can see. The police, if they even came out, would say that this is the store’s problem, not theirs, thankyouverymuch.

Jumbo box of “ribbed for her pleasure” condoms and a biker magazine in that octogenarian’s cart. Biddy shouldn’t have cut me off.

It depends on the name of the person snatching the loaf

There’s not a contract yet. No contract until money is tendered and accepted. (I don’t have a cite for this, but I know it to be the law). Therefore, you’d only have tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. You can only win that type of claim if the defendant acted “for the sole purpose of inflicting intentional harm on plaintiffs.”* E.g.,* (where defendants acted out of self-interest, there was no cause of action for tortious interference). Thus the claim would be a complete non-starter. Funny thing is, I have defended cases just like this (where the defendant acted out of self-interest, but the plaintiff alleged tortious intereference). So somewhere out there, there are plaintiffs’ lawyers who don’t know this, or think that nobody else does.

But I have evidence that Customer B is actually allergic to three of the seven grains in seven grain bread, and, moreover, is on Atkins! In addition, Customer B’s daughter just tried out for the cheerleading squad but lost out to Customer A’s daughter. What say you now, Gfactor, hmmm?

Oh, I think I’m taking this case. Because with my contingency fee (oh, yeah – there’ll be punitives – don’t think your client will get away that easily), I’m going to London!

Boy, I know it isn’t theft, but truly scummy and slimy.
If witnessed, I would hope the Manager would just toss the sneaky customer out the door and ask them to never return.

Hey Campion, could I use this in my thread. It would support my position better than anything I came up with. (I keed, I keed, you thrashed me)

Nope, no thrashing in your thread; we reached an acceptable compromise and agreed to disagree on a few minor points. Besides, you called me “reasonable,” so now we’re best buds.

Psst – besides, take it from me – it’s that Gfactor you gotta look out for, with his slimy bread-stealing client.

Well, that’s a horse of a different color. :wink:

Just don’t claim any pain and suffering or I’ll subpoena all of those embarrassing medical records from the time Customer A “accidentally” sat on a Yoo-Hoo bottle.

Don’t I know you?

Seriously, I have worked with two personal injury attorneys in my career. One analyzed cases exactly like this, had a losing record, was a laughing stock, and was probably the worst lawyer I have ever seen. The other actually reviewed cases and rejected many of them (or rather, had me do it). Lawyer number one’s best case ever was a $2M judgment against Ford that he got by accident (the lawyer for Ford was an in-house guy who was on his way to retirement–he picked his nose and played pocket pool in front of the jury, and that was the good part of his presentation). The judgment was reduced by the trial judge. The reduced judgment was sustained on appeal. He tells people it was a $3M judgment. He had spent every penny of his fee before he ever saw a cent from Ford. Lawyer number two got a $27M settlement (provable damages were substantially more, and possibly subject to trebling; but several parties had subrogation rights, and liability was tough; plus the clients were elderly and the case would have taken years to wend its way through the court system; all in all, a fair settlement) against Bank of America, and pretty much retired.

My current boss (not an attorney, but thinks he is) is a lot like lawyer number one. Constantly coming up with great ideas for lawsuits that we could file–if only the law were anything like he thought it was.


Yes, we have a saying: “Don’t confuse me with irrelevant things like the facts and the law!” Because, really, who needs those?

The other thing that many people forget is that sometimes, bad things happen, and there really isn’t any legal remedy. Like if someone takes the last loaf of seven grain bread. Sometimes life is just hard that way.

We used to joke about how lawyer number one didn’t want to discuss liability; he wanted to go straight to damages.