Is this theft anywhere?

It’s thieving if you try to swap merchandise across two different stores.

“I just took a warm bottle of Coke that one store sold me and put it in the cold fridge of another store and took their cold one. Did I commit theft?” — Swapper, 31 May 2017

Let’s break the situation down to remove the red herrings:—

“… a warm bottle of Coke that one store sold me …”

The store SOLD you that, and presumably that means pragmatically you BOUGHT it. The matter for this stage is wholly unrelated to theft then.

“… put it in … another store and took their cold one.”

It doesn’t matter if you put in a nuclear warhead in the OTHER store. That other store DIDN’T SELL you a Coke. And you DIDN’T BUY one from it.

Everyone is thinking it’s exchanging one thing for another thing of the same nature (Coke). But that ‘swap’ (not a wise one) happened across two different stores.

The fact remains you TOOK something that you DIDN’T BUY.

So, yes, it’s theft all right.

Get with it, please.

One store sold you something, but the other store sold you nothing.

It’s nothing to do with food handling or food safety. The prime liability is taking something that wasn’t bought.

It’s nothing to do with asking for permission to do that. You can’t come to a shop and ask to swap something that you didn’t buy from there in the first place.


Another way of explaining it:—

Okay, some people don’t ‘get it’ about this.

Think of it this way:— Have sex with the wife. Then take the wife to someone’s house and put her there. Have sex with the someone’s wife.

What could possibly be wrong with that? After all, the wife and that woman are both the same thing (female). Notice that the other woman ISN’T YOUR WIFE and you don’t have dibs on her.


You have to be really strict in the interpretation of the word ‘theft,’ but I’m inclined to agree with you.

Lipsync Lawyer writes: The courts anywhere in the world will take a STRICT statutory interpretation anyway, so let’s take a strict line for safety’s sake.

Purchasing a Coke is a contract like any other. There has to be an offer and an acceptance. The second store offered a cold Coke in exchange for a sum of money. The OP took the Coke but didn’t give money in exchange. Therefore, no offer and acceptance, and therefore no contract.

You’re correct insofar as general contract law is concerned.

Yet the fact remains the OP took the Coke without payment despite swapping for one of his own. This isn’t about contract law — that second store never expressly offered to allow the OP to swap anything. A contract doesn’t exist in absence of an express offer, right?

The OP took it upon himself to swap because of being self-blindsided by the red herring that the goods involved were of the same nature. That isn’t of material significance.

What is significant was taking something that wasn’t bought. We could just as well leave a tin of sardines in exchange. It doesn’t change the situation of taking something that wasn’t bought.

Remember, ‘theft’ is misappropriation of goods. The scenario is not an appropriate way of getting goods.

You’re right. Under the law [anywhere], it doesn’t matter what the OP left in exchange — it wasn’t money. I’m surprised at how counter-intuitive I’m finding this. The second store lost literally nothing and wasn’t damaged in any reasonable way. They were a victim of theft. What a great question. What a great answer.


This is exactly the kind of scenario in Year 1 law homework to catch out dozing law students.

© Lipsync Lawyer, 13 Jun 2017. (B17066)

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Author: thenakedlistener

Printbroker, financial printer & editor. Previously in London, Rome, Tokyo & Beirut. Motorbiker & non-practising lawyer. Wears cowboy boots & a ponytail. Fabulous.