Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Can You Eat Something at the Supermarket Before You Pay For It? Or is It Breaking the Rules? We Get a Definitive Answer…

Is it ever okay to eat something at the supermarket before you pay for it? Are you disrupting some sort of social code of conduct? Or is there an official supermarket ruling on it? Alice got the answers once and for all!

The free banana had long gone and things were turning south. My two-year-old did not want to be carried, nor he did not want to sit in the trolley. What he did want to do was yell at me that it was time to go, or, tear around the supermarket and pull off anything on the shelves that was at his height and within reach.


For a moment, I considered abandoning our trolley and leaving the supermarket entirely, but then I remembered that I was only there because there were no pick-up or delivery slots left for the day and our cupboards were bare at home.

So, I did the only sane thing I could think of and lured my little guy back into the trolley with a little packet of toddler banana softcorn.

I picked it off the shelf (obviously with the full intention of paying for the empty packet at the checkout) and put it into his very happy little hands, secured safely in the trolley. But I knew not to celebrate just yet – I now had a time trial on my hands: I had to get the remainder of the shopping done, paid for and loaded into the car before that little packet was finished.

But, as I prepared to race down the rest of the aisle, a woman not far from us who clearly didn’t work there (but maybe was doing merchandising for another brand of baby products?!) obviously wanted to talk to us.

Giving a little sing-song theater laugh she then scolded, “Ooooooh, you know I think they prefer you eat the products after you’ve purchased them!”

Now, I’ve thought up several much better comebacks in the shower since, but at the time I ended up just saying, “Oh! I think everyone in the shop would much prefer not hearing my kid screaming while they try to shop!” And then picked up my pace as she furrowed her brow.

Ok, so, although I very much disliked her delivery (mums in supermarkets already have enough to deal with, no?), I figure she had a point – I imagine the supermarket does prefer you pay before you eat. But, surely, especially when young kids are involved, they understand? Or is there a rule that actually says you can’t eat before you buy?

Honestly, I’ve never eaten something before I’ve bought it – it feels, kind of illegal? But, this was certainly not the first time I’ve paid for a little packet of something to allow me to navigate my way through the supermarket without a child losing their God-damed mind. It’s self preservation – for everyone involved. I’ve also seen pregnant women eating crackers as they push their trolleys (my God I understand that one) and have definitely seen people chugging back Powerades before they’ve paid for them after what I can presume was a big night out.

So, are we breaking the supermarket laws? Or, maybe just disrupting some sort of social code of conduct?

I put it to the good folks at Woolworths to see if they have a policy on it and a spokesperson quickly came back and told me:

“Generally we encourage customers to pay for items first, before eating them in store. We know it can be easy to forget to pay for an in-store snack and it’s also a challenge to weigh a half munched apple! But, we’ve all had snack emergencies and if that happens, packets can easily be scanned and handed over at checkout.”

So, yes, the random lady was kind-of right in her line of thinking, but should have just let me be because I was also very right to respond to a snack emergency as I did and let my son eat the packet of popcorn before I’d paid for it.

I’ve been back to Woolworths a few times since – and have had to resort to the packet of popcorn again (although have also found that the free apple lasts much longer than the banana?), but now, I don’t give it a second’s thought in those snack situations.

If the kid is about to scream the house down, just give him the popcorn. And if you see a mum responding to a snack emergency, let her be, or, better still, give her the thumbs up for making the supermarket a calmer place for you to go about your business.

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