DEAR ABBY: I work for supermarkets as a merchandiser, and a day doesn't go by when I don't see customers eat food they have not yet purchased while they shop.
I was taught as a child that items in a supermarket are not yours to consume until they are first paid for at the register. A supermarket is not a restaurant! You pay for the food before you eat it.
I am sure many people "forget" they handed their child a muffin from the bakery display to keep him or her occupied while they shop. And how can a store weigh the grapes you ate while browsing in the aisles? This is stealing, and parents send the wrong message to their children by letting them graze on the products the store is selling.
By the way, employees are not allowed to say anything to customers when they see it happen. This practice not only keeps prices higher, but also is unhygienic. Shopping carts are filthy; they are rarely cleaned. Pushing a cart and eating a cookie is a perfect way to pick up a serious food-borne illness.
Abby, what are your thoughts on the subject? -- SUPERMARKET MERCHANDISER IN NEW YORK
DEAR S.M.: They're the same as yours. Children learn more from the examples set by the adults in their lives than from what they are told. When they see their parents bend the rules, they grow up thinking it's normal. And by the way, this applies not only to what we do, but also to our sins of omission.