Safeway Turns Other Cheek Over Shoplifting Charges

A little discretion can go a long way. Safeway is declining to press charges against a Honolulu couple whose arrests over stolen sandwiches led state workers to take custody of their 2-year-old daughter and sparked nationwide backlash against the supermarket chain.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, company spokeswoman Susan Houghton told the Associated Press that the supermarket informed the Honolulu police it wouldn’t press charges against Nicole and Marcin Leszczynski. The couple was arrested last week when Nicole, who was 30 weeks pregnant, ate a sandwich while shopping and walked out without paying. Their daughter Zofia was taken away by state Child Welfare Services officials and returned 18 hours later.

Karl Schroeder, a Safeway division president, called Nicole Leszczynski on Tuesday, and apologized "for what she's been through," Houghton said. He added that management followed routine shoplifting procedure by contacting police, but Safeway regrets not foreseeing that doing so would cause a child to be separated from her parents. "We want to do the right thing here," Houghton said. "In this case, it was not handled in the appropriate manner and we wanted to correct that," Houghton said.

A Honolulu police spokeswoman said it was routine procedure to call Child Welfare Services if a child is present when both parents are arrested. Nicole Leszczynski told the AP, "I feel relieved that the charges are being dropped and he kind of did make an apology."

The incident proves that sometimes just following procedures and protocols rather than using discretion can land an organization in hot water. Nevertheless, Safeway was smart not to point fingers and characterize the incident as a mistake of its own making—albeit a week late.