Nibble as you go
May 24th, 2011
02:52 PM ET
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A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum Whole Foods register.

The woman in front of me was merrily nibbling away at the contents of her $7.99-per-pound recyclable container while we waited in line, and it got me thinking - was I witnessing brazen pilfering?

New York is riddled with “pay-per-pound” hot and cold bars where you, in fact, do just that: pay for food by the pound. These spots tend to be most popular at lunchtime where busy worker bees can load up a veritable smörgåsbord to take back to their desk and continue breaking rocks for the man.

They're also Utopia for the indecisive eater. If you're simultaneously hankering for saag paneer, fried catfish and a hard-boiled egg, the world is your buffet.

Granted at some of these places, depending on location and what time of day you go, you can wait upward to 20 minutes to purchase your own personal Matterhorn of quinoa and sprouts - but is there a clear difference between tasting and bold-faced thievery?

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soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel, Lewisville, TX

    The interesting thing here, is that ONLY 48% of the responses, consider stealing to be........stealing.

    The fact that people know longer can recognize something so basic, for what it really is, says everything about the state of the human condition. 50 yrs. ago, the percentage would have been 90%.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Wino de Laurentiis@RM,LT

      Nah. The other 52% are being smart alecks. Look at the comment left by the first guy up there. Smart Aleck – in a witty sort of way.

      May 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
      • The Witty One@Wino

        I only seek to provide post article reading amusement.

        May 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
      • Wino de Laurentiis@The Witty One

        Capeche! ;) That, in itself, is part of the fun!

        May 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  2. Harry

    Just another symptom of our entitled, "me-first", "why should I wait for anything?" culture. Pay for your food before you eat it. It really annoys me to see people do this.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • REDBULL!!!!!!@Harry

      I actually have a me last mentality.


      May 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
      • Memory Keeper

        Not so fast Red Nuts!

        May 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
      • Chris Tucker@Redbull


        May 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  3. I want da gold!

    It's all about grabbing something from the hot part of the deli (Chicken fingers or something), eating it while walking around shopping, and throwing out the container before you hit checkout. That's what they put garbage cans around the store for, isn't it? It makes the shopping experience so much better!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Spanky@I want da gold!

      I like to go the the bakery. I lift the lid on the container of cupcakes, finger the frosting – lick my fingers, close the lid and then leave the store. :)

      May 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Panda1895

    At the Whole Foods near me they have 2 pay-per-pound bars, the salad bar which is self-serve and the meal bar where people serve you. When the people behind the counter print your sticker and slap it on your container, if you snack, it's rude, but it's not as big of a deal because your sticker is what gets scanned. If you are snacking from a container that hasn't been weighed yet, it is completely stealing because the price is determined by weight.

    On a side note, it irritates me when people open their bag of chips to snack, or open a container of something so their kids can snack before paying for it. You aren't going to starve to death waiting to pay for your food.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • BlahBlahBlah

      You don't have kids, eh? It is worth a lot to distract them sometimes...

      May 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
      • fob


        May 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Nessa

      I once saw a 300lb woman riding one of those grocery store scooters with a basket. She had opened a bag of cookies and was stuffing her face in the middle on an aisle. I wouldn't be surprised if she ate the whole bag and stashed the trash in an aisle somewhere.

      May 26, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  5. I want da gold!

    Would it be stealing if I licked it, didn't like it, and placed it back?

    May 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  6. Mare

    While I agree it's stealing to do so, my grocery has 'per pound' bars and produce as well. Most people weigh it, print out a price sticker, and put it on the container. Then they eat it. I've seen plenty of people going through the check out with empty 'per pound' containers. Also, if it's something you haven't had before, my store will let you try a sample, they even have toothpicks and crackers at the Mediterranean olive/hummus bar, small spoons at the Chinese/Indian buffet, and people working the counter at the deli as well as the cheese shoppe who will gladly give you a sample.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  7. AleeD

    "it's all black and white – no gray matter" ;) Stealing is stealing. If there's a sign up that allows for grazing, then have at it. But then I don't know how you would handle keeping it clean. Maybe plastic, one-time-use spoons for tasting – like at Cold Stone.

    I've been in places that sell food items in bulk and they have an honor box set up. Drop a quarter; have a sample. If there was something at like that at the food bar I don't see anything wrong with paying for grazing.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Jerv@AleeD

      Completely agree. I used to work in a restaurant and grazing, though thought of as harmless by some, can kill your cost of goods sold margins.

      May 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  8. I got dat gold!

    You can't nibble all you want cuz I got dat gooold!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • I got dat mold!@I got dat gold!

      Well I got dat moooold!

      May 24, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
      • I want da gold!

        Someone is clueless as to the meaning of the name.

        Gimmie da gold!

        May 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  9. The Witty One

    You have to pay for those things? I just pull up a chair and chow down until they kick me out!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
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