Does taking an item from an unmanned store, despite offering to pay for it later on, constitute stealing?
A now-(in)famous Facebook user appears to have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar after writing a negative review against a bakeshop stating they took two boxes of cookies worth P800 from its unmanned kiosk.
"After waiting for 15 minutes, I got cookies and messaged their Facebook account to pay through GCash," the user said about The Manila Baker in a now-deleted review. "The reply was berating messages instead."
"I am not expecting gratitude for my voluntary honesty but professional communication is a minimum requirement of any business. Never buying here again," the user added in their "doesn't recommend" review.
The user also shared screenshots of their conversation with the bakeshop, coming clean about what they did.
The bakeshop explained that their staff posted a "We will be right back" sign, even as she went to the bank and used the restroom. It asked the customer for payment "ASAP."
After the customer sent proof of payment, the shop thanked the customer for the information, but gave a gentle reminder to just drop a message when in a rush moving forward.
"If this was a different situation and nobody informed us, our staff would have been charged with the P800," it said. "I do hope you know where we are coming from and understand why this cannot happen again."
The review got over 10,000 reactions, most of which are "Haha." Many users also poked fun at the customer, even taking them to task.
The user's account appears to have been deactivated, but many users were able to take screenshots of their review and download photos of their conversation with the shop.
But for Atty. Carlo John Pascual of Manalo Valenton Law Offices, that's not the way the cookie crumbles. What the customer did is textbook theft.
Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code states that theft is "committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter's consent."
According to the RPC, a person also commits theft if:
- They fail to deliver a lost property to local authorities or its owner after having found it;
- They removed or made use of the fruits or the object of a property they have maliciously damaged;
- They entered an enclosed estate or a field where trespass is forbidden or which belongs to another—and without the consent of its owner—hunted, fished, or gathered cereals and other farm products.
"Simply, 'mere taking' of a thing consummates the crime of theft," Pascual told PhilSTAR L!fe. "Even if the customer paid thereafter the two boxes of cookies, it did not negate the fact that she took it without the consent of the store as it was unmanned at that time."
Whether the customer took "only" P800—even a peso—Pascual noted there are legal implications if found guilty of theft, adding that attending circumstances of the case may also constitute fines.
However, it still boils down to whether the business owners take criminal or civil actions against the customer.
In a Facebook post later in the day, The Manila Baker thanked patrons for the support—even as it alluded to the incident.
"Sooooo that happened," it said, along with a grinning face with sweat emoji.
"Honestly, we just want to continue serving you all unique, freshly baked, premium, and delicious desserts, so again, maraming maraming SALAMAT." (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)