When it comes to shoplifting, supermarkets face a never-ending battle, but is one supermarket chain going too far?
Pak ‘n Save in Blenheim drew the ire of a district court judge on Monday after it was revealed in court that the supermarket placed items found on shoplifters, including meat and cheese, back on the shelf.
Judge Bill Hastings was sentencing two German shoplifters on Monday when he remarked his surprise that the supermarket did not seek reparation for the items stashed in their pockets and a backpack.
A rival supermarket chain says it is not their policy to return stolen perishables for sale, but Pak ‘n Save maintain they simply follow food safety procedure.
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Wilhelm Walter Bohmer, 18, and Lennart Alexander Zwolski, 19, were at Pak ‘n Save in Blenheim about 4.30pm on April 8.
Bohmer picked up meat and beer worth $84.65 and hid them “on his person”, a summary of facts said.
Zwolski took cheese, salt and herbs worth $16.17 and also hid them “on his person”.
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They went to the counter and Bohmer paid 99 cents for a bottle of fizzy drink, and they left.
When spoken to by police, Bohmer said they needed the items to take to a barbecue.
The men were each charged with shoplifting, which they admitted in court, but Judge Hastings said he was concerned the stolen items found their way back to the shelves for shoppers.
“Were they resold as well? They were? Ew. Meat and cheese, I dunno,” he said.
“It always disturbs me when no reparation is sought for meat that has been hidden in clothing.”
But Pak ‘n Save owner operator Mark Elkington said his staff checked the quality of items taken by shoplifters before putting them back on the shelves.
The meat was stashed in a backpack, and the cheese was in Zwolski’s pocket, Elkington said.
Staff checked the temperature of refrigerated products returned to the store, and if they were above 7 degrees Celsius, they would be thrown out, he said.
“In this case, both the meat and cheese were vacuum-packed and their seals were intact. Only 10 minutes had elapsed since they were removed from the shelves.
“We don’t like to see food go to waste, and I’m comfortable that my staff followed the correct procedure.”
Supermarket rival Countdown had a different approach to shoplifted perishables.
Spokesman James Walker said the decision was cut-and-dried.
“For us it’s quite simple, we wouldn’t sell it again. It’s customer safety,” he said.
“It isn’t worth the risk.”
Testing food temperature was irrelevant because the supermarket did not know what had happened once the item left the store, he said.
Shoplifted perishables returning to store was not a frequent occurrence but the supermarket took a firm stance when the issue did arise, Walker said.
Bohmer and Zwolski’s lawyer John Holdaway said they were in the country on a work visa, working in the vineyards.
They had just finished the grape harvest and would shortly be harvesting corn, and planned to stay until the end of the year, Holdaway said.
“I’d like to say welcome to New Zealand, but you’ve got a charge now, and this is not good,” Judge Hastings said.
The men were convicted and fined $200 each.