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Fat Guy

The ethics of stealing bags (and containers)

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Just out of sheer curiosity....what are you DOING with those produce bags?

Yeah, totally my question too. Why do you need extra flimsy, crappy produce bags at home? Those things aren't much better than tissue paper; they'll rip and split at the slightest jostling. What are you doing with them?

Also, the "ethics of stealing..." - well, since stealing in general is considered by most to be unethical, isn't this question a little... I don't know, ill-defined?


Edited by kitchensqueen (log)

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Lets look at it from another point of view......

As a shop owner I don't begrudge anyone an extra paper carrier bag. If I knew that customer had a closet full of them at home and just collected them not using them, I probably wouldn't.

When I owned a dog, I did help myself to extra bags, but never more than 4 or 5. I help myself to twist ties, usually 20 or so, and I use them at work all the time. I feel this is stealing, but I also feel somewhat justified knowing that I do use these items, and my check- outs are usually well over $120.00 per trip.

Cheap produce bags and twist ties are cheap, deli take out containers-with lids- can cost as much as 35 cents or even more for larger containers. If I was the produce mngr watching a customer help themselves to containers, my thought would be on how much the customer is spending--for large amounts, a few extra containers should be factored in the cost, for a 12 measly olives sans brine, one container is already a lot of cost.

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Stealing and hoarding! Well, I was going to tsk, tsk but then remembered I have a tendency to take an extra raw sugar packet at Starbucks. 2 for my latte and 1 or 2 for my stash at work. Same thing? ps. One of the large grocery chains I shop at has a sign that says grazing is allowed! I'm kinda phobic if I think about how many people have handled the produce and have never had the urge to 'graze' but I guess people do.


"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali

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One of the large grocery chains I shop at has a sign that says grazing is allowed! I'm kinda phobic if I think about how many people have handled the produce and have never had the urge to 'graze' but I guess people do.

I hope they're not using their fingers...

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Let me put it this way: Would you do the same thing to a good friend of yours without asking first? How about if you did it every other time you visited? Perhaps that's not theft per se, but it's certainly a moral issue.

Or this way: Let's say the total value of what you take from the store over a year's time is 79¢. Now let's say someone else doesn't take plastic bags or containers, but once a year shoplifts a 79¢ candy bar. Would you not call that theft?


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Why does the value of an object have anything to do with whether taking it is theft?

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In the scenarios mentioned up thread re: 6 oranges/1 bag each. I'd say if they are getting weighed and accounted for, you are buying them = not stealing but if you put 6 oranges in 1 bag and take 5, it's stealing. Yes? No?


"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali

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Why does the value of an object have anything to do with whether taking it is theft?

If the value is zero it's probably not theft.

In every state I know of, there are levels of larceny with the division between petit and grand falling somewhere around $500. This doesn't mean the smaller amounts are not theft, but it does indicate that one is less serious than the other.

But I don't think the question with something like a produce bag is value. It's more one of implied consent. The bags are out there. They have no purchase price assigned to them. There are no rules written on them ("Take only one bag per six oranges") and most likely no such rules exist even in the corporate manual. Etc.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The produce bags from the store where I shop are quite sturdy. They're useful as small trash bags in the car, for picking up dog poop (though our dog is long gone), for packing a sandwich, for all sorts of things. They perform an equivalent function to large baggies.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But I don't think the question with something like a produce bag is value. It's more one of implied consent. The bags are out there. They have no purchase price assigned to them. There are no rules written on them ("Take only one bag per six oranges") and most likely no such rules exist even in the corporate manual. Etc.

Under this theory, how many items can one take? Is it ok to take a roll of the bags?


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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Under that theory, it would not be a crime to take a roll of bags. The store could tell you not to take them, just as they could tell you not to take one bag. But there wouldn't be a basis to call the police to chase you down and recover the roll. Still, it seems excessive to take more than a few bags.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Cheap produce bags and twist ties are cheap, deli take out containers-with lids- can cost as much as 35 cents or even more for larger containers. If I was the produce mngr watching a customer help themselves to containers, my thought would be on how much the customer is spending--for large amounts, a few extra containers should be factored in the cost, for a 12 measly olives sans brine, one container is already a lot of cost.

If the bags and twist ties are cheap, why aren't you buying them yourself? In your case, the twist ties would be a legitimate business expense which you could claim on your tax return, so there really is no justification for stealing them.

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The produce bags from the store where I shop are quite sturdy. They're useful as small trash bags in the car, for picking up dog poop (though our dog is long gone), for packing a sandwich, for all sorts of things. They perform an equivalent function to large baggies.

But. Why. 100. Of. Them?

Packing sandwiches for 100? Picking up all the errant poop in Central Park? Got 100 cars?

By my yardstick, you should have no more bags than you use in a week. (Assuming you shop for groceries at least once a week -- you can always replenish.)


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Why does the value of an object have anything to do with whether taking it is theft?

If the value is zero it's probably not theft.

In every state I know of, there are levels of larceny with the division between petit and grand falling somewhere around $500. This doesn't mean the smaller amounts are not theft, but it does indicate that one is less serious than the other.

But I don't think the question with something like a produce bag is value. It's more one of implied consent. The bags are out there. They have no purchase price assigned to them. There are no rules written on them ("Take only one bag per six oranges") and most likely no such rules exist even in the corporate manual. Etc.

Hmmm

What if I took all the rolls of veg bags in the whole store?

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The produce bags from the store where I shop are quite sturdy. They're useful as small trash bags in the car, for picking up dog poop (though our dog is long gone), for packing a sandwich, for all sorts of things. They perform an equivalent function to large baggies.

And for what reason do you feel the need to have one hundred or so of them in your home at any one time? I can only think of two, maybe three plausible (or perhaps probable) reasons.

ETA--and why not just buy some plastic bags that you can use as small trash bags, picking up dog poop, packing sandwiches, etc.?


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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Okay, but it's killing me - why do you need to have 100+ of these produce bags at home? Please tell us... :biggrin:

It just seems wasteful...

This is my first reaction, too. Maybe my moral compass is screwed up, but I'm less appalled by whether it's theft than by the unnecessary consumption of plastic. My personal practices re: sustainability are not extreme, but I've been trying hard to minimize my demand for non-recyclable materials, not hoard them. If you already have 100+, why do you need more?



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It's wrong to steal. Bottom line. The bags are provided as a courtesty so you can easily transport your purchases about the store and home. They are not there so that you can just take them for whatever else you think you need them for... that's why plastic baggies/containers/whatever are sold - you can purchase the applicable type for your personal home use.

This is wasteful from both an economic and environmental standpoint as well... we should all be reducing our reliance on plastic bags and containers like this anyway... but I suppose that is a seperate (yet, in my opinion, related) issue.

The fact that you're even asking about the ethics of this scenario makes me think that on some level you're uneasy about it and know it's wrong. And even if others can help you justify this behavior (and perhaps their own, if they share a similar view), does that make it any more right? A mass of people all doing something wrong, is just that - a mass of people doing something wrong.

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By my yardstick, you should have no more bags than you use in a week.

Okay, that's your yardstick. Mine is to have a whole lot of them just in case. Given that I've run out of them in the past I like to have an inventory. I think since the dog died the inventory has been increasing because I just grab some extras each time I shop. But if I stopped taking them altogether I'd go through 100 in a few months, easily, given all the different things I use them for. I used three today. Were every day like today that would be 93 in a month.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The produce bags from the store where I shop are quite sturdy. They're useful as small trash bags in the car, for picking up dog poop (though our dog is long gone), for packing a sandwich, for all sorts of things. They perform an equivalent function to large baggies.

My only question is....are these bags coming from a corporate grocery store or a small local grocery store?

P.S.

I take extra bags as well.

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My only question is....are these bags coming from a corporate grocery store or a small local grocery store?

A regional chain.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My only question is....are these bags coming from a corporate grocery store or a small local grocery store?

A regional chain.

Ok. Why does that matter?

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My only question is....are these bags coming from a corporate grocery store or a small local grocery store?

A regional chain.

In this case, I would definitely not consider this theft. Calling this "true theft" would be like comparing this situation to waltzing into a friends house and pocketing one of their possessions. However, it is interesting to see what others opinions are on this matter.

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For the record, based on a very quick internet search, produce bags cost in the area of $.005 each.

Using rough 2006 figures:

Average weekly customer count for a medium size supermarket - 12,000

Assume one out of ten customers takes 5 bags Weekly cost to market, $30

$30 per week is $1,500 a year.

$1,500 at $10 hourly wage, is 150 hours or the cost of one employee for almost four weeks.

Average weekly sales - $330,000

$30/wk is .01 percent of sales

Average supermarket profit 1.5% of sales


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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