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Sandwich arrest sparks debate: Is it OK to eat groceries before paying?

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Maybe you ate a handful of peanuts that you grabbed from your grocery store bulk bin. You sampled a few grapes from the produce aisle. Or perhaps you took a few gulps from a bottle of juice before adding it to your shopping cart. No big deal right?

The heated mixed response to the widely publicized arrest of Honolulu couple Marcin and Nicole Leszczynski last week over sandwiches they ate (but neglected to pay for) suggests it is actually a big deal. As the Associated Press reports, the couple's arrest, which led to child welfare officials taking away their 2-year-old daughter, has sparked a national debate.

Ms. Leszczynski, 28, who is 30 weeks pregnant and was feeling faint with hunger, and Mr. Leszczynski, 33, each ate a sandwich, together totalling $5 (U.S.), while shopping at a Safeway. She told the AP earlier this week she had saved the wrapping to be scanned later, but forgot about the sandwiches when they checked out with about $50 (U.S.) worth of groceries.

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When the couple was questioned by security and led to the upper floor of the store, store managers refused to let them to pay up and leave, Ms. Leszczynski said. A police officer arrived four hours later to arrest them, and a child welfare official took their daughter away. A Safeway spokeswoman has since said the company won't press charges and has apologized to Ms. Leszczynski.

Some members of the public, however, are siding with the police, arguing it's wrong to consume food and beverages in a store before paying. Meanwhile, others feel the authorities' response was over the top, arguing it's perfectly okay to eat while shopping.

A sampling of shoppers' reactions collected by AP:

"If you want to eat it, you have to purchase it. It's not like Costco where you get free samples." – Gerard Viggayan, 34.

"Just as long as you're going to pay for it and you've got the money, why not? If I'm hungry or thirsty, yeah, I'm guilty of it. I don't see what's the big deal." – Jadene Espinueva, 34.

Where do you stand? Is it okay to eat before paying?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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