retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB took note the other day of a Pioneer Press report on the case of Erwin Lingitz, who was arrested when he left a Cub store carrying produce bags full of 1.4 pounds of deli meats he did not pay for - but that he'd scooped up from an unattended sampling table. According to the story, Lingitz was detained by a security guard and police while attempting to leave the store; it took three people to place him in custody, where he was charged with disorderly conducting and misdemeanor shoplifting. Eventually those charges were dropped, but Lingitz says he was injured in the fracas and is now suing the store.

A Supervalu spokesman says that Lingitz "violated societal norms" in taking so many samples. Lingitz's wife tells the paper that the amount is "irrelevant because it was free anyway."

My comment, in part:

The sad reality of this situation is that Supervalu and Cub can't win - the samples were free, there do not appear to have been any signs limiting the number of samples that could be taken (betcha that has changed!), and this clown is going to be able to use his own alleged injury to get sympathy and probably get a settlement of some kind. All perfectly legal.

But come on.

There is acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, and this clearly is a case of a person behaving in a way that is unacceptable. It may not be theft in the legal sense, but it is rude, selfish and not very civilized - it is yet another example of what I tend to think of as the gradual unraveling of the fabric of society. (Add it to the list of other ways in which people simply ignore the social compact - going through red lights and not stopping at stop signs are two of my other favorite examples.)

One MNB user wrote:

Let’s see, about $12.00 at retail of meat that was to be given away anyway vs. the commotion on the sales floor and the mess they are in now? Bet that store director wishes they would have just let the customer go. If the  problem persists, just pull said customer aside and deal with him that way. Too bad the $ and resource that will be spent dealing with the situation.

From another reader:

Clearly the intent of sampling a product is to promote sales, not feed the masses.  Even though samples are free to the customer they are not 'free'. A company is paying to promote their product, not to mention the labor cost involved in preparing the samples and the salesperson explaining the benefits. Shame on E. Lingitz for taking advantage of this situation and also for being a pain in the neck when reprimanded.

And another:

Granted there may not have been any laws being broken, but to act this way and sue for injuries…really??  I think this is where a judge should be allowed to utilize what I would like to see passed as the “common sense law”.  Common sense will tell you this man should receive absolutely no monetary settlement as a result of his sad actions.  People will sue for anything these days…it would be great if we could put the “common sense law” into practice to put some of these undeserving, money-hungry people in their place. 

And still another:

This is a result of creating several generations of people who actually believe the rest of the world owes them anything they want.

I actually disagree with this observation. I think there have always been people who think the world owes them. And people who are good and decent and fair. I'm not sure that recent generations have cornered that market.

Then again, I've always believed that the US is made up of two kinds of people - those who believe that the sixties and seventies were the beginning of the end of western civilization, and those who believe that they were an important and ultimately positive time for the US. Count me in the latter group.

Still another MNB user chimed in:

I was very glad to read your comment, "...people simply ignore the social compact..." in the Tuesday item about the Minnesota man detained for cleaning out a store's meat-sample display.  The notion of a "compact" in society can ultimately cover a tremendous amount of moral ground, and the phenomenon of people ignoring compacts, explicit or tacit, seems to be becoming more & more commonplace as time goes on.  And more disturbingly, perhaps, is the seeming growth of "situational ethics" people employ in an effort to somehow morally justify their ignoring evermore long-standing societal compacts.  As if they are thinking "if I can convince myself that Action XYZ isn't absolutely reprehensible, but I stand to benefit from it personally, then it must be okay!"  You are fond of the quote, "just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done" -- a quote, by the way, I first heard uttered a couple years ago by House Speaker Boehner.  The truth & beauty of this quote, I'm afraid, is increasingly being lost -- or simply ignored -- by a "me first society" ever more bent on personal gratification, at the casual expense of "societal compacts."  Sad.

I thought it was Dr. Ian Malcolm who said it, in Jurassic Park. But maybe I'm mis-remembering...

And finally, one MNB user wrote:

The guy who took all the lunchmeat samples gives me hope.

I hope the lunchmeat goes bad before he can eat it.

I hope the jury that hears his lawsuit against the supermarket awards him two cents in damages, just so he can't refile or appeal -- and so lawyers who take such cases on contingency learn the meaning of loss.

I hope the newspaper publishes his picture so people can tell him what they think when he's in line at the food pantry.

I hope all the supermarkets in the area permanently ban him from their premises, and call the cops if he shows up.

I hope he and his wife have a long, long marriage. She deserves him.

KC's View: