Help yourself ... to a theft charge

Sneaky shoppers who like to pinch a lolly or two from the pick and mix aisles in Blenheim often don't realise they're committing a crime, says a supermarket operator.

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said customers often thought it was OK to just sample sweets and nuts in bulk bins as they walked past.

It wasn't unheard of to see customers trying different lollies and continuing with their shopping, Shallue said.

Foodstuffs operates both Pak 'n Save and New World in Blenheim.

Earlier this week, two French women were convicted of shoplifting after they ate pick and mix items on their way round Blenheim Pak 'n Save. The women took about $35 worth of food between them over three supermarket visits.

While that might be acceptable in some countries, particularly across Europe where it might be common to sample items, in New Zealand it was considered shoplifting, Shallue said.

"In reality, if you are consuming product from the supermarket that you haven't paid for, this is theft."

Adults, rather than children, were the biggest culprits when it came to helping themselves at Pak 'n Save Blenheim and New World, she said.

Each owner-operator at those supermarkets worked hard to prevent and reduce product loss and anyone caught shoplifting would be prosecuted, regardless of the quantity stolen, she said.

Shallue wouldn't comment on how much pick and mix or bulk food bin items were stolen from New World and Pak 'n Save as it would be too "time consuming" to get the figures.

Countdown Blenheim would not comment because the information was considered "commercially sensitive".

However, store manager Kaye Wood said most customers knew they had to pay for an item before they ate it.

People sampling from the pick and mix or bulk bins wasn't a huge issue at the supermarket, she said.

"When we see someone helping themselves to a product before paying for it, we remind them that they need to pay at the checkout first," she said.

Blenheim Night & Day manager Marion Gargiulo said the store didn't have any issues with pick and mix theft.

"Our bins are right at the front of the shop, so they're well in view," she said.

Constable Andrew Holdaway, of Blenheim, said police got the odd report of pick and mix theft from Blenheim supermarkets.

Regardless of the quantity stolen, theft was theft, he said.

"People are just as likely to get arrested for shoplifting pick and mix as they are for stealing clothes from a shop," he said.

"It doesn't matter if you pinch 50 cents worth of lollies or $100 worth of lollies, all theft is illegal."

The Marlborough Express