Whether or not you have participated, it’s likely that you have been to the grocery store and witnessed someone devouring a can of Pringles, or something of the like. It’s one of those questions that always comes to mind when seeing it taking place: is it illegal to eat or drink something at the grocery store before you pay for it?  The short version is that it depends on where you are.

After doing some research, I couldn’t find any reliable sources that state that it is in fact illegal, but I did see a few sources explaining that local laws and store policies may have a law in place that considers it stealing.

Your stance on the subject may be that you're starving and haven’t had an opportunity to eat anything all day, so what’s the harm? You’re going to pay for it anyway, right?

Then there’s the other side that feel that it’s inappropriate, and goes against the rules that the grocery stores have in place to maintain a clean and hygienic environment and prevent theft.

From my experience, I have never seen an altercation of any kind when I’ve witnessed this, but it’s important to remember that depending on the store’s policy and the associate that sees you chugging down a Vitamin Water in the frozen food section, that you may be called out, asked to pay for the item and leave the store, or even have the cops called on you. The last one is probably unlikely, but would be quite embarrassing for most shoppers.

Do Mainers help themselves to a snack before hitting the checkout? According to a local Facebook poll, it was actually split pretty evenly, with half saying 'yes' and the other half saying 'no'.


The topic of testing out the grapes before purchasing them was pretty popular. I was slightly surprised by the results, expecting them to lean more towards shoppers waiting until their receipt is in their hands. In closing, although I could not find any specific states or stores that deem it illegal, if your stomach is growling or you’re absolutely parched, your best bet might be to play it safe and pay for the item before going shopping.

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