Shopper files suit over 'stealing' free samples

A Minnesota man says Supervalu violated his civil rights when he was forcibly arrested for taking more than a pound of complimentary deli meat.

By Jason Notte Apr 19, 2013 7:07AM

Shopper taking a sample from a grocery store deli department (copyright Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images)The first dictionary definition of "sample" is "a small part of anything or one of a number, intended to show the quality, style, or nature of the whole; specimen." Boulder, Colo., jam-rock band The Samples took their name from the free bites they subsisted on at a nearby King Soopers grocery store.

 

Minnesota shopper Erwin Lingitz feels his interpretation of "sample" falls somewhere between the two. It's the crux of a lawsuit he has filed against supermarket chain Supervalu (SVU) alleging that it violated his civil rights by using force to arrest him on grounds he was stealing deli meat samples.

 

Lingitz, a retiree, has sued the chain and several individuals in a claim filed last month, alleging store security and, later, sheriff's officers had no right to forcibly eject him in 2010, given the nature of the food he was consuming. As Lingitz's wife Frankie told The Pioneer Press, "You can't arrest someone for thievery if it is free."

 

Point made, but Supervalu counters that the more than a pound of meat Lingitz took from Cub Foods, a Supervalu subsidiary, is tough to construe as a "sample" under all but the most literal senses of the word.

 

"A reasonable person would not fill two produce bags with 1.4 pounds of deli meat samples to take out of the store," Supervalu spokesman Mike Siemienas told the Pioneer Press. "The plaintiff violated societal norms and common customer understanding regarding free sample practices."

 

It's that "societal norms" bit that's causing Supervalu and the other plaintiffs no shortage of grief as this case unfolds. Supervalu says store managers had warned Lingitz earlier that he was taking too many samples, alleging in their reply to the lawsuit that Lingitz had filled produce bags with up to 20 cookies from the "kids cookie club tray."

 

After Lingitz was kicked out of the store and handcuffed during the meat sample incident, Supervalu attorney Robyn Johnson says, Lingitz's pockets were stuffed with "14-16 packets of soy sauce along with one plastic produce bag containing 0.61 pounds for (sic) summer sausage and another plastic produce bag containing 0.85 pounds of beef stick."

 

Does all of that fall beyond "societal norms"? Perhaps. But Lingitz's attorney, Robert Gardner, says the force that the security guard and deputies allegedly used to subdue 68-year-old Lingitz wasn't quite normal either. Photos included with the lawsuit, taken at a hospital before Lingitz was booked into jail, show him with two black eyes, a slash across the bridge of his nose and cuts and bruises.

 

Lingitz was charged with shoplifting, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer. The charges were all misdemeanors, and he pleaded not guilty. Lingitz completed a year's unsupervised probation, and a judge dismissed the charges last March.

 

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96Comments
Apr 19, 2013 8:44AM
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Unless you've worked in a grocery store, you have no idea what kind of kooks you have to deal with.
Apr 19, 2013 9:09AM
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go ahead dude - SIT in front of a jury and explain that you're not abusing the sample system and are in fact STEALING from the store as well as your neighbors who might have wanted those samples. 
Apr 19, 2013 1:22PM
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maybe he would  benefit from a free sample of our penal system....
Apr 19, 2013 9:25AM
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LOL.. filling bags with samples.. WOW.. thats desperation there.  I think its pretty common or reasonable that most people know when their are samples out for customers, its not there for you to fill your bags and take home, its to try while you are shopping
Apr 19, 2013 9:19AM
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The only way a person like this will learn is if you make an example out of them.  We would all be better off if frivolous law suites like this were punishable… jail or the nuthouse.

Apr 19, 2013 11:50AM
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It is no longer a free sample when you start to fill bags and think that it is okay to depart with everything set out for many people to sample. A sample is not an entire pizza or as much as you can fit in your purse or pockets. It is insane the way people behave in stores and restaurants. It seems that people think they are invisible and they have no shame. It is quite embarrassing to see people behave like squirrels and chipmunks.
Apr 19, 2013 11:04AM
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We had a guy like this who'd come in every day and ASK clerks for samples (was store policy to give samples off the self)     He'd basicly get a meal everytime he came,  whole oranges, cup of hot soup and slice of cheese cake.   

 

Out in the parking lot was a brand new Honda Accord.    He was a cheap A** thief nothing more. 

 

The Store Director told employees to avoid him or hide in the back to keep him from asking.

Apr 19, 2013 2:27PM
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How the hell did he find an attorney to take this case???
Apr 19, 2013 11:50AM
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lol.  I live in MN.  Nice to see this TAKER taken down.
Apr 19, 2013 2:27PM
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Since Robert Gardner (Lingitz's lawyer) is imbecile loser who cant make any money as a attorney taking on reasonable litigation cases,  he decided to ambulance chase Lingitz, offering to sue SuperValu so Gardner can get a retainer on any settlement money.

 

He gets some great publicity as a nincompoop lawyer who will take any case available because he is way too stupid to have a productive job.

 

 

 

Apr 19, 2013 11:27AM
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well Erwin Lingitz  feels like since he is complete idiot and a moron that he should try to find a lawyer who is an imbecile so the two of them can get some money from  Supervalu.

 

 Erwin Lingitz   is an idiot nincompoop and does not have as much money as he desires. so he wants some money from  Supervalu,

 

what kind of a story is this ????

 

 

Apr 19, 2013 2:18PM
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Lingitz was stupid, rude and just plain wrong and he knew he was which explains why he was charged with shoplifting, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.
Apr 19, 2013 12:51PM
Apr 19, 2013 4:17PM
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If the judge doesn't throw out this suit, there's something terribly wrong with the US judicial system.  Plus, the grocery store's attorneys should counter sue for expenses related to this frivolous lawsuit.  This guy is an idiot and his lawyer is a bigger one.
Apr 19, 2013 2:56PM
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Called a store clerk once as a obviously destitute individual was opening a drinking small containers of milk and yogurt in the dairy aisle, they said he came in pretty often and as a side note they would allow him a few minutes to do so before they removed him from the store.  Most of what he took was coming up on sale date and they would throw it away anyway.
Apr 19, 2013 3:31PM
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When I worked in grocery store you would see shoppers get a bag of grapes eat half of them while shopping.  when they were weighed he did not have much left cause he ate half of them.

Apr 19, 2013 3:19PM
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My local grocery store here in San Antonio does sushi samples all the time. You'd be surprised how many losers will stand in line for ONE california roll. Plus, the idiot management of the store sets up the sample table close to the entrance and creates a log jam at the door, preventing people from coming and going. Not very bright people in this world.
Apr 19, 2013 3:52PM
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, I bet he isn't overweight just cheap.  Sounds like his wife could tell you 101 ways to cook stolen deli meat.
Apr 19, 2013 6:09PM
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 Sounds to me like Lingitz put up a fight when getting arrested. Two black eyes and a cut across his face? Throw the book at him!
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