Thursday, October 27, 2011

PSA: $5 could equal jail and CPS custody of your children.

We've all heard crazy stories.

This week, this pregnant woman's story about being arrested for $5 gets to me. She and her husband went to the deli for 2 sandwiches, because she was tired, hot, dizzy, and pregnant. There was no one there to check them out and she needed to eat, so she ate and placed the wrappers in the cart, intending to pay for them later.

As we all know, shopping with a child can be frazzling, and this woman had her young daughter in tow. They finally finished buying $50 worth of groceries, and she was pregnant and worn out. She hardly thought to double-check that the wrappers had been brought out and paid for -- and she certainly hadn't intended to steal $5 sandwiches only to pay $50 in groceries! So, because of one little lapse of brain function (commonly known as baby brain), she and her husband walked out of the store and were detained by employees. Ultimately, the Safeway store manager demanded the arrest of the mother and father, despite them being more than willing to pay for the sandwiches and explaining the situation. And their child was sent to CPS custody overnight.

This horrifies me. Granted, yes, everyone can argue that the couple should have been more diligent. That they should have gone straight to wherever any employee was and gotten checked out, to avoid this mistake. But how many of us do this? We open sodas or other food items in the store to snack on, or for our children to snack on. And most of us do not intend to defraud the store or walk out without paying for these items.

For those of you who do, shame on you. But this family was different.

Apparently, "store policy" did not allow the manager the leeway to allow the parents to pay for the $5 sandwiches and move on, realizing an important lesson in paying before eating, because you never know if you'll forget to pay down the line. Instead, they arrest the couple and traumatize their child, leaving the mother wondering -- did her baby girl brush her teeth? Cry herself to sleep? Ask about mommy and daddy?

I'm not saying that the couple is blameless. I just believe that the response to this incident was overbearing and ridiculous. Yes, of course we should be strict with theft. Loss prevention is important. But so is being human.

Safeway, the way you have handled this is pathetic. All of your shoppers are people, generally with families. This hits home to all of us. After all -- who's next? And certainly, since the wrappers were in the cart, your cashier could have been a little more observant, too... and asked politely, "Were you going to pay for that?" Because Lord knows, it could be yet another of us next, because somebody didn't catch the Pepsi that fell to the bottom of the cart. or the case of water under the cart. Or the Skittles our 2-year-old was holding.

Redeem thyself, Safeway.

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