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Woman who opens food at the grocery store before paying has started a huge debate over shopping ethics

Is it okay to snack on groceries while you shop?

snacking while shopping, grocery shopping, shopping, cecily bauchmann tiktok
@cecilybauchmann/TikTok

We may never reach an agreement on this.

To snack, or not to snack while grocery shopping? That is the question. At least, that’s been the question for as long as grocery stores have existed: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer through "hanger" and cravings, or take into your arms precious sustenance that fuels you through the shopping trip, so long as you pay for it later.

Apparently, there is very little gray area with this subject. People seem to have very, very strong opinions as to whether or not eating food at the grocery store is appropriate behavior.

Case in point—the heated comments that were ignited after TikTok influencer Cecily Bauchmann filmed herself placing an empty sushi container on the checkout conveyor belt.

“I also opened this in store. I’m sorry, I was so hungry!” Bauchmann explains to the cashier through a giggle.

As she revealed in her caption, this is a regular shopping routine. “Me every time at the grocery store,” she wrote. “Opening food at the grocery store is a normal thing.”

@cecilybauchmann OPENING FOOD IS A NORMAL THING AT THE GROCERY STORE K?🍓✨#relatablemom #relatablemomlife #groceryshopping #groceryhaul #grocerystore ♬ original sound - Cecily Bauchmann

And thus, the war was waged.

“My mama never let us do this and I get lowkey embarrassed when anyone I’m with does this :///” one person wrote.

“Idc how hungry I am, I'd never do this,” another wrote.

One even called out: “It isn’t mine until I pay for it. In my head it’s considered stealing.”

On the other hand, several sided with Bauchmann, saying that they do it themselves when hunger strikes.

“I do that too. If you pay for it at the end then I see no problem,” one person commented.

Many noted that for parents with hungry (and impatient) kiddos, pre-checkout snacking is the only real option for a smooth shopping experience.

“My mom only does this sometimes if we go grocery shopping and my lil siblings really want it,” one person shared.

“I let my child eat a bag of goldfish we hadn’t paid for yet while at Target. I didn’t know this was a controversy?” another seconded.

Even cashiers couldn’t seem to agree.

“When I’m a cashier I get annoyed sometimes when people hand me their trash to scan,” one noted.

Another argued, “I’m a cashier, it’s pretty common lol. I just offer to throw it away for them if it’s empty.”

Still, another wrote, “I worked at a grocery store for 5 years. As long as you don’t eat food that’s cost is by weight and you don’t make a mess it’s fine.”

Zero consensus to be had.

Morals and etiquette aside, what’s the legal stance on this? In the UK, the answer is definitive. It is against the law to snack while you shop. But in the United States, things aren’t so well defined.

According to Betty Wang, attorney and contributor to Find Law, U.S. law requires two elements in order to define an activity as shoplifting. One, taking the item (duh) and two, intentionally evading checking the item out.

Therefore, the argument of “as long as they pay for it later” does somewhat hold up in court, so to speak. However, things change when an item is priced by weight, since you are technically not paying for that which was already consumed.

Also, most stores have individual discretion known as shopkeeper's privilege, meaning that, legally speaking, there really is more of a gray area. Basically, unless you get called out for the snacking by an employee or loss-prevention officer, it’s pretty fair game.


Will there ever be a general consensus on this? Maybe not. We humans have very different moral codes a lot of the time, even when it comes to mundane activities. Sometimes you never know what seemingly harmless thing to you is actually a social faux pas to someone else. But hey, it keeps things interesting.

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