Mom Leaves Unpaid Groceries In Stroller, Banned From Supermarket For Life

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When my little guy was a baby and in the “bucket” stage of life – you know, where they sleep all the time and you have to carry around that horrid car seat bucket contraption with you everywhere – it was always challenging to get things done. Grocery shopping required a PhD just to figure out to push the cart around while holding the bucket (some of the larger chains have carts that can accommodate these buckets – but not the smaller mom and pop shops that I frequent). Even more challenging was figuring out how to push both a stroller and a shopping cart around simultaneously (impossible). So I did what most moms do: use the bottom of the stroller as a shopping cart.

A stay-at-home mom in New York’s Upper East Side did just that the other day and guess what? She was stopped by security and accused of shoplifting when she forgot to pay for a half-gallon of milk that she accidentally left in her stroller. The New York  Post reports that Elissa Drassinower, 33, was shopping at Fairway when she was surrounded by a team of security guards. As Drassinower explains:

“My handbasket was getting so heavy, my arm was turning red. So I put the milk and a six pack of Corona under the stroller. When I was checking out, my son, who was really cranky, started acting up, and I forgot to pay for the milk and the beer.”

She did, however, pay $15 for a chunk of brie and cranberry Stilton. But the guard was still unconvinced.

“She said she saw me put the milk and beer under the stroller. I apologized, explained what happened, said it was an honest mistake and that I fully intended to pay, but she just nodded her head and told me I was shoplifting… The security guard took my photograph, told me I was banned from Fairway for life and said I was lucky she didn’t call the police. I was crying, my 20-month-old son was crying. It was humiliating.”

Drassinower, who has no criminal record, reportedly asked to speak with a store manager but was told there wasn’t one on duty. If she enters Fairway again, she’ll be arrested for trespassing.

In the comments section of the New York Post, lots of haters have weighed in with their whole “shoplifting is shoplifting no matter how you slice it” mantra. I completely disagree! Most moms are usually torn in a hundred different directions and multitasking like mad. Add a cranky toddler to the equation and you’re bound to make an honest mistake like this one. In fact, one Mommyish staffer told me she once walked out of a store, got in the car and then realized her daughter had thrown some barrettes into the “purse” she was carrying. They went back into the store to pay for them, only to be told by a rude and threatening manager: “If you can’t control your daughter, neither of you can be guests of our store.” Wow.

Meanwhile, when I read this story about Drassinower, I immediately thought of a close friend in New York who had a similar experience in the exact same store! She was four months pregnant at the time and had just finished a long day at work as a public school special-ed teacher, followed by a workout at the gym. She was exhausted and wasn’t feeling so hot (you know how it is when you’re 16 weeks pregs). Anyway, she bought around $50 worth of groceries, grabbed her bags and went outside to hail a cab – only to be approached by “a big, scary man” who said, “Ma’am, can I please see your bill?”

Turns out she hadn’t paid for the salmon, which she didn’t realize at the time (she accidentally left it in her shopping cart while unloading and paying for the other items. Then, when she loaded the cart back up with her paid groceries, she absent-mindedly figured the salmon had just fallen out of one of the bags). So this security guard took her up to a little room at Fairway, where she was forced to show her ID, sign a bunch of documents and have her photo taken.

“I was hysterical crying. I told them I was pregnant, asked if I could make a phone call. They said no, not until you leave the store. They told me that if I didn’t sign papers they’d call the cops,” she recalls. “Then they escorted me out and told me I was banned for life.” Following countless phone calls to the store manager and company headquarters, she was allowed back in after six weeks. You might be wondering why she didn’t just shop elsewhere but she insists Fairway is the only quality store in her ‘hood that’s on her route home from work. Now, when she shops there with her two-year-old daughter, she says she “tears apart” the entire stroller to ensure there are no unpaid groceries accidentally lurking in there. “I’m super paranoid now,” she explains.

While I respect that shoplifting is a problem in general and that these people are trying to run a business, I do think a little common sense and compassion go a long way. I really feel for Drassinower and all the other women out there who’ve been humiliated for an honest mistake. Personally, I once forgot to pay for a bag of apples that I had stored in the bottom of my stroller. I realized this once I got home and immediately returned to the store to pay. It was a small little fruit market in my neighborhood and, when I got there, the owner thanked me for my honesty and refused to take my money. You better believe I will be shopping there for life.

(Photo: George Doyle)