Bin Grifting -- Busted at the Grocery Store
I consider myself an honest person (I've never stolen anything, unless you count office supplies, which I don't), so I wasn't worried when Otto, the manager at my local gourmet grocery store stopped me on my way out. Having paid for my groceries I figured he was conducting some sort of customer-satisfaction survey and I planned to tell him thanks, but no thanks, and continue on my way."Hi," he said, a big grin on his face. "I noticed you ate a few of the yogurt pretzels while you were shopping."It was true. I had committed the white-collar crime of the grocery world -- bin grifting -- eating items from the bulk food containers without paying for them. I picked up the habit in college and had been snacking freely ever since. Yes, I knew it was wrong, not to mention unsanitary, but I had always considered it just a bad habit that I had trouble kicking, like nail biting. I'd never known anyone to be reprimanded for the act."Those are sold by weight," Otto continued, "so we're going to have to charge you for them."I smiled and didn't say a word as I followed Grocer Klink to the customer service register. My mind boggled as I considered how they would exact the amount I owed. Would I be weighed and some portion of said weight attributed to yogurt pretzel eating? Maybe they'd use some sort of displacement method reserved for junk-food bingers. In the back of my mind I suppose I always knew the risk I was taking each time I dipped my fingers into the bins, I'd just never imagined a punishment actually being invoked. How embarrassing."I'll estimate that you ate half a pound and charge you for that," my captor continued, clearly relishing ever minute of the exchange. His calm, condescendingly friendly manner told me I was not the first petty theft he had busted.Half a pound! Was he insane? Four or five pretzels, maybe, but it would've taken me hours to down that much, not to mention my skin would have been a putrid green shade from ingesting so much sugar, rather than it's current beet red tone. But I didn't protest. I was the criminal. Remain calm, I told myself. Do as he says and no one gets humiliated.It all happened so fast, I didn't even look up to see if onlookers had gathered. The shame of it all. Would I have to start shopping incognito? Would wanted posters with my likeness hang in the break room where snack police were trained during respites from bagging and checking?And exactly when was it that they had seen me do the deed? I hadn't stood at the bins and snacked, as I saw a number of obvious novices doing that same day. In fact, over the years not only had I devoured more than my fair share of free goodies, but I had, in my opinion, perfected my craft. I would put some of the evidence in a bag, which I of course intended to pay for, then continue to shop, eating a few along the way.As I thought about it now, the newly installed "No grazing" signs posted all over the bins should've tipped me off, but while they momentarily gave me pause, they ultimately did little to deter me. Along with my grifting prowess I had also adopted a distinct criminal, they'll-never-catch-me mentality. (For the record, "Grazing"? Snacking, okay, nibbling, maybe, but grazing sounds so, well, bovine.)"That'll be five dollars," Otto said, looking up from the register. An expensive snack, but I couldn't hand over the money fast enough. I made a mental note never to shop there again, lest I be cited as a repeat offender, and headed to my car, heart pounding and head spinning.They proved their point and cured me of my habit cold turkey. Nothing like a little public humiliation for some quick behavior change. I suppose I should even thank them for the many calories I'll be saving in the future. Then again, I hear the new gourmet market in town has bins.