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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70405
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Hi, Last night we purchased some goods from Sainsburys and

Resolved Question:

Hi, Last night we purchased some goods from Sainsbury's and for whatever reason (we still cant quite fathom it out) we had an additional piece of steak valued at approx. £9.47 which did not appear on the receipt.

We used the Sainsbury's fast track and did have a re-scan. It clearly had been missed by us (my wife was suffering from a migraine) and this was absolutely unintentional.

We panicked but deciding honesty was the best policy we decided to phone the store manager, explain and hopefully return said item. We then started to worry about not being believed and having read stories online about the treatment of customers by Sainsbury's under similar circumstances, we decided not to do this.

Ultimately what we decided upon was to return to the store with the meat, go straight to the self service checkout, pay for the goods and return home.

Have we carried out an offence, we are extremely worried we will be prosecuted for what was essentially a very stupid and completely innocent mistake.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.

Jo C. :

Hi. Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this. As far as things stand right now, have you paid for the item?

Just to let you know I’m in court today so I’m unable to respond immediately and there may be a slight delay in getting back to you.

Customer:

Yes, we returned within the hour when we realised the mistake.

Customer:

Our concern is they will try and argue (if indeed we are contacted) that it was intentional. The meat was hidded under our shopping bags, we did not know it was there. It had not been scanned or handed over for the re-scan. I did see it when I packe d the car but assumed it had just fallen out of a bag.

Customer:

When we got home I queried why we had 3 streaks ( there are only 2 of us) and this is when we discovered the error. We are petrified we have committed an offence.

Customer:

sorry that was 3 steaks not streaks !

Customer:

I would also make it clear that Sainsbury did not stop or challenge us, we left the store and voluntarily returned to pay in full for an item which had essentially "slipped through the net" ! We have not been contacted by them at all but are worried that we might receive some form of communication from them.

Jo C. :

Can I just be clear about this?

Jo C. :

In short, you haven't been charged for something and you haven't taken it back?

Customer:

In short, we did not pay for something (accidentally) and returned to pay for it within the hour at an automated till. Our concern is that should we have noticed 1) we had not scanned the item 2) we did not hand it over during the re-scan (because it was hidden)

Customer:

Our concerns is that have we been guilty of an offence (theft/shoplifting) if we noticed the error and returned to pay for said item within 1 hour of the original transaction? We did not alert the staff our oversight, we merely retuned to the store and used an automated (self service) till to pay for the item which was omitted (in error) from the original transaction.

Jo C. :

Would it be possible to tell me whether my summary is correct?

Customer:

Your summary is incorrect !

Customer:

We left the store without paying for an item (accidentally) and returned within 1 hour to pay for it in full without the knowledge of the supermarket concerned.

Jo C. :

Ok.

Jo C. :

So you have paid?

Jo C. :

If so then why should there be any allegations from the supermarket?

Customer:

yes, in a separate later transaction at a self service till, we are concerned they might allege we took the meat without initially paying intentionally,

Customer:

I guess my question is, if we do finally hear from them( we may not) but can prove we paid for the meat, are we guilty of any crime, can they prosecute or start a civil action against us ?

Jo C. :

Isn't there proof of the transaction? How did you pay?

Customer:

The steak was missing from the original receipt.....we have a separate receipt form the later transaction confirming we paid. We left the store and went home in the interim.....have we committed an offence for initially leaving the store without paying even though we subsequently returned to pay for it ?

Jo C. :

No.

Customer:

even if they argue there was intent to steal on the initial failure to pay ?

Jo C. :

The only issue arising from you leaving originally is that it could look as though it was an offence but since you returned to pay they cannot prove dishonesty against you because there was none and so there is no theft.

Jo C. :

Well, that is rather undermined by the fact that you did return.

Customer:

thanks....I don't think my wife and I will make very good master criminals !

Jo C. :

I suppose, in academic law, it could be argued that it was an attempt to commit the offence and you changed your mind and withdrew but nobody would ever even think of prosecuting anything that complicated.

Jo C. :

And its not what happened here.

Jo C. :

This is nothing to worry about. Just keep the receipt if you are worried.

Jo C. :

Stores don't pursue people like this though.

Customer:

so in your opinion, it would be difficult for them to prove anything against us, even if they argued we didn't scan the meat and it was hidden from view (albeit completely accidentally)

Jo C. :

They have huge problems with people with drugs addictions coming in and stealing small high value items like batteries and that will be their emphasis.

Jo C. :

they won't be remotely interested in this.

Jo C. :

Also, if you phoned the store manager then that makes an allegation of dishonesty look weaker.

Jo C. :

There's no case against you.

Jo C. :

This is just a mistake on a bill which you corrected by paying.

Customer:

we did want to call the manager, but after reading reviews of their treatment of customers in this scenario, we decided not to just in case it had implications for us. Should we just carry on with our lives and produce the evidence if we are eventually confronted, which of course we may not be ?

Jo C. :

You won't be confronted. Nothing will ever happen over this.

Jo C. :

Even if you went back in and explained though they wouldn't take any action as there is no case.

Jo C. :

Equally though, going back in is a bit of a waste of time because you've paid so its job done.

Customer:

Ok, thank you for your advice.

Jo C. :

No problem and all the best. Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’. You can also bookmark my profile http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-remus2004/

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