Scarfing At Stew’s

At Stew Leonard’s the customer is always right — it says so right there, in stone — but I wonder what Stewie and Tommy think about the customer I saw a couple of days ago. He grabbed 3 wings from the tray, chomped ’em down, then tossed the bones in a nearby trash can.

Or the woman who — the same day — grabbed bagels for her 3 kids (and 1 for herself). The family devoured them as they strolled through the store.

Or the guy a few days earlier who served himself a heaping dish of ziti and meatballs, then casually ate it all — with his fingers — before checking out.

Sure, there are tons of free samples at Stew’s. You can eat an entire meal there, if you time it right (Sunday afternoon).

But shouldn’t the store be the one to decide what’s on the house?

What’s next — opening wraps and a soda, then digging in?

Asking for a free slice of pizza or sushi?

Putting on a cashmere sweater, then walking out into the parking lot?

I’m a Stew’s customer, but I’m not sure those folks mentioned above are right.

But if they are — great! The lasagna, blackened salmon and enchiladas are calling my name.

31 responses to “Scarfing At Stew’s

  1. Ann Marie Flynn

    Dan,
    terrific write….and photos. five finger discount is still alive and well there. Where do they hide the plastic forks and spoons. Feel a great hunger coming on. wonder if they would open and heat one of the wraps for me ???

  2. Having that food taken is the price they/we pay for having a store that is alive and jumping with music, food and folks having a good time while shopping – without armed guards trolling for freeloaders. The other end of the spectrum was my trip to Moscow about 10 years ago – leaving your knapsacks and other bags at the store entrance while a guard armed with a machine gun checked out the folks coming in thru the turnstile – one at a time!
    I’ll take Stews. Maybe a couple of frowns and tsk tsk’s from those nearby will cut down on those freeloaders.

  3. How about the woman who filled her large Dunkin Donuts cup with Stew’s coffee, cream and sugar and then strolled back out.

  4. Stew is not dumb. We all pay for it at the register! And, at one time or another we are all guilty of this. Bon Appétit

  5. Dick Lowenstein

    Shaming can work wonders. At the olive-oil dipping-and-tasting counter at Fairway in Stamford, there is a warning sign, “Double Dippers WIll Be Embarassed.”

  6. A couple of years ago at Stew’s, I witnessed a man who “helped” himself at the salad bar. He devoured no fewer than 10 meatballs. Eventually, a “loss prevention” member appeared and then instructed the freeloader to follow him to some room nearby.

  7. Ann Marie Flynn

    Wow! wonder what happened in that room??? did he have to swallow a pint of marinara to wash them down???

  8. I’ve been known to eat the bagel as I make my way around a store (and serve my children them as well- when they were young), but I ALWAYS tell the check-out person to “ring them up”. So it is possible not everyone out there is guilty!

  9. This behavior is not unique to Stew’s. I have seen it in Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market among other places. The behavior is criminal and raises the cost of food to those who do not steal. But I am sure the criminals have a great explanation for their behavior. BTW if grapes are $9.99 a pound and you eat four ounces before they are weighed, that is theft.

  10. I doubt if there will be an onslaught of prosecution on “taking a bite.” I will bet that outright theft of merchandise far outweighs popping a grape or the significant spoilage that is a continuing problem for grocery stores.

    • Eating food is theft of merchandise. I don’t expect prosecution, there are many who commit crimes that dwarf stealing food who are not prosecuted because there is little or no payoff to the prosecutor. There is no politcal payoff to prosecuting those who steal food.

  11. it’s very ‘old-school’, charming grocery store etiquette to encourage people to do that sort of eating while shopping. it’s probably that sort of warm ‘welcome to our grocery store’ ambiance that makes stew leonards such a popular market. growing up in New York it was very common to snack while you shop, and just let the cashier know how much you had eaten when you got to the register.

  12. So….customers are stealing from Stew, who was caught years ago stealing from the customers! Interesting.

    • He didn’t steal from the customers

      • He skimmed money so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on all his sales. His customers are taxpayers. Yes, he stole from his customers. During an interview with a local reporter after his incarceration, he proclaimed proudly that he never pocketed the money–it all went back into the business. Um, you own the business, Stew. It all went back to you and your family.

        • How does any of that justify the behavior of those who steal food? Using your rationale of external effects, those who steal from Stew’s steal from all of us, they raise the price of food.

          • Not looking to justify it, just providing information. But you are absolutely correct: those who steal food, steal from all of us.

  13. Ha, happens all the time here in NYC. You’d be amazed by how many olives people can manage to scarf down at the self-serve olive bar.

  14. I’m going anonymous with this one, but when I was actively a compulsive overeater, I would go through a grocery store, take candy, nuts and dried fruit, etc. out of the bins, and put them in the small plastic bags to be weighed later. Then throughout the store my hand would go into the bags, pop things in my mouth surreptitiously and enjoy my treats. When I got to the checkout, I put the depleted bags on the conveyor belt … but it NEVER HIT ME that 2/3s of what I “paid for” was in my stomach and not counted. When I joined a 12-step program, part of my amends was going back to that store to pay for what I now knew I had stolen.

    • Nice. Congrats. I can attest to all my transgressions in life (and there are many) that I have never “snuck a bite” from a grocery store. Stole a few candy bars from A&P and a pot roast once?

  15. VetDoc at Compo

    What goes around, comes around!

    Karma! 😉

  16. To Ironic, Stew Sr and Jr stole/cheated customers by using rigged scales in the produce dept. Of course they also stole from the IRS.

  17. Not really on point with the posting, but a good story to tell. A few weeks ago, I was in the Danbury Mall, waiting to get a free sample of treats from Auntie Anne’s. A group of three or four tween girls were in front of me. One took a bite out of a piece of pretzel and put it back on the plate. Eewwwwwww! After letting her know that was gross, she scoffed it down and sheepishly walked away.

  18. mary ruggiero

    A pot roast??????!!!

  19. Scarfing at Stew’s………..You make me laugh! Dan, there are some “scarfers” at Stew’s but, that day we also had about 10,000 really happy people and families because of all the free samples and “tastings.” When we have our demo’s of free food (100 a week) we get people from local businesses coming in for lunch! What do we do? We can’t let this very small percentage (less than 1%) of our customers dictate our policy.
    This morning I watched a Mom come in the store with her crying baby, she grabbed a bagel and the baby “teethed” on it and stopped crying. She spent over $300 on food. What’s a bagel? If you want to go NUTS, stand by our loose pistachio nut display. I find shells all over the store! When we package the pistachios, sales drop in half. Let them scarf and my brother and I will smile! Happy New Year and, let me treat you to some of my Mom’s lasagna next time you’re in the store!

    • Awesome comment. What a great reply! I’m going to post it as a separate story, so everyone can see it. THANKS. PS: I will take you up on that lasagna…