So you're walking through a store, and free samples are being handed out. You grab one and eat it, not thinking. That was good, I'll go back and get a 2nd, and a 3rd. That is usually frowned upon, but really, no harm done. Now, what if the sample you grab isn't one that is meant to be grabbed?

When You Just Can't Resist Taking Another Bite...

Take grapes for example, you grab a bunch and eat one, while you continue shopping. Is that bad? What about an apple? A doughnut? I'm guilty of that. I make my own dozen box, but only 11 fit in the box, so I take the problem into my own hands, then mouth, then belly. What's the harm? What about grabbing a case of soda? Open it up, and crack open a room temperature one. Are any of these illegal?

I've even seen parents open a box of snacks to feed to their kids, to help keep them behaved. But is that action illegal? We just heard how Walmart is pulling their stores out of Portland due to all the theft and crime in the area. So is eating the food while your shopping against the law? No, and yes. It all depends on what it is and your intent.

Grocery Store with a lady eating grapes, and a guy eating chips and drinking a beer.

Shop And Chomp! Is Eating Food Before Paying Illegal in Oregon?

According to, if you're planning on paying for the thing you decided to store in your belly vs. the cart, then you're not shoplifting. If you walk out the door, without paying, then yep, you broke the law.

If you ring up a dozen doughnuts, but are only carrying 11 of them in their original form, that's fine. You've paid for all that you've eaten and plan to eat. If you open the case of soda, or box of snacks, that package is what is being rang up, so you're all good.

Things can get a little stickier when it comes to items that are sold by weight (produce, dried foods, candies). "You're legally obligated to pay for however much you took from the store. So if you don't pay for what you've already eaten, then technically you've stolen it," reads In matters like this, it's usually up to the store owner.

"Shopkeepers generally have discretion (called the shopkeeper's privilege) when it comes to detaining someone for suspected shoplifting. And because of that, the determination can fall into a legal gray area."

Now you know, it really boils down to intent. Have you had a run in like this with a shopkeeper? Tap the app and let us know, we'd love to hear about it!

Get our free mobile app

Report a typo or correction

Got a news tip? Email us here.


LOOK: What major laws were passed the year you were born?

Data for this list was acquired from trusted online sources and news outlets. Read on to discover what major law was passed the year you were born and learn its name, the vote count (where relevant), and its impact and significance.

Gallery Credit: Katelyn Leboff

Wacky Washington State Laws True or False?