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Ohio State attempting to crack down on food thefts at Ohio Union

February 19, 2014

frank.359@osu.edu
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After multiple thefts at Ohio State dining facilities were reported over the last academic year, a Student Life spokesman said measures are being taken to prevent more of such incidents from happening.

University Police has arrested at least six people for theft of food at Ohio Union’s Union Market since the beginning of the academic year, according to police records.

The value of the food and beverages customers attempted to steal in these cases totaled more than $40, according to University Police reports.

Theft can take several forms, said Dave Isaacs, spokesman for Student Life.

“Someone may be actively putting food in their pockets and trying to steal it, but we also have a great many cases where someone will be standing in line and eating something that they don’t wind up paying for,” Isaacs said.

The type of food stolen varies too, Isaacs said.

“The vast majority are smaller items, in price and size — the sort of thing you can eat while in line, can easily conceal or walk out with without anyone noticing,” Isaacs said.

When staff members catch customers eating or attempting to conceal food they have not paid for, they are instructed to confront the customer, Isaacs said.

“We approach the person. Many times if a staff member points out, ‘Excuse me, but are you going to pay for that?’ and the student says, ‘Yes I will, no problem,’ they pay and all is well,” Isaacs said.

However, further measures need to be taken in some cases, Isaacs said.

“There are other instances where people are repeat offenders, or make an obvious effort to conceal that they’ve taken something. We’ve involved OSU Police and Student Conduct on these cases,” Isaacs said.

According to the OSU Code of Student Conduct, any student found to have engaged or attempted to engage in theft is subject to disciplinary action by the university.

Kelsey Reiner, a second-year in English and employee at the Union Market, has noticed some items are more likely to be stolen, noting that pretzels are a common target for thieves.

“The biggest problem we have here is people eating the (soft) pretzels, or something else like that that doesn’t have a sticker that they can just eat while they’re in line and then crumble the trash up and put in their pockets,” Reiner said, though she added she’s never personally dealt with someone stealing.

A “large pretzel” was among the items stolen in two instances at the Union Market this year, according to University Police records. Reiner said those pretzels cost $2.50.

Issues arise with salads sometimes as well, Reiner said.

“People eat off of their salads and since those are weighed for cost, that affects the price,” Reiner said.

Isaacs said it is hard to pinpoint exact figures on how much food is stolen and the resulting effect on prices.

“There just isn’t the kind of tracking that’s going to let us say (those numbers) … But any time you have theft, your customers wind up ultimately paying for that. That’s true in food service, retail operation and any kind of business. Ultimately, costs get passed to consumers,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs said students aren’t the only perpetrators of food theft, as people unaffiliated with OSU steal as well.

Three of the at least six people arrested this year for stealing or attempting to steal food at Union Market were not affiliated with the university, according to University Police records.

Increased security measures have been taken to reduce theft, Isaacs said.

“For the most part we use building security and where there are particular problems, we have assigned Student Life members to be especially on the lookout,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs said new theft prevention initiatives are in the works.

“We have a program, Student Ambassadors. This is still in the developmental stage, so we haven’t actively moved this forward, but these would be students whose focus would be customer service and customer care (in the dining facilities) … They could be helpful in being vigilant with theft,” Isaacs said.

Jovana Vladicic, a first-year in biology, said she doesn’t understand why other students would steal.

“It seems kind of dumb. If you have blocks with the meal plan, you don’t need to steal food,” Vladicic said.

A meal plan with 350 blocks and $150 BuckID cash costs $1,875 per semester, while a plan with 450 blocks and $150 BuckID cash costs $2,275.

Vladicic said while she has never seen someone stealing, she could easily see it happening in the Union Market. She said it’s “smart” the entrance is a one-way in Marketplace on South Campus, which is set up similarly to Union Market, so students cannot exit the food area without passing cashiers.


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Comments (18)

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  1. Robert says:

    As an alumnus, I think it’s a ridiculous use of resources to have staff on the lookout for these thefts. They have thousands of dollars in sales per day, and those numbers are less than $1/day on average of arrests for theft. I’d be interested to see their actual shrinkage numbers, but feel they lose alot more to waste than theft.

    Even 1 resource at $8/hour for 8 hours per day (7-9am, 11am-1pm, and 5-8pm for example) would cost more in one day than they’ve arrested for since the beginning of the academic year.

    I can understand wanting to stop theft, but sometimes it’s cheaper to just control it as best as possible. EVERY major retailer knows this, why doesn’t OSU given the number of intelligent people there.

  2. billy buttcheese says:

    is the union gonna be arrested for stealing with the insane prices of these items?

  3. Chris Metzger says:

    Shew-wee! At least they are stealing and not “smoking” e-cigs.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Everything there is overpriced as is, Ohio State is making plenty of money and monopolizing students by making them live on campus and use meal plans anyway. Therefore, the university can charge as much as they want for any food item because students have no options due to them being forced into the use of a meal plan, which is thousands of dollars. To me the university is the real problem, not the students stealing $2 items which happens on rare occasions. How about an article like that?

  5. Outraged says:

    I can’t believe the dismissive comments I just read. Theft like this is morally wrong and punishes people that don’t steal because of the higher cost that’s passed onto us. Pretzels at $2.50 each quickly adds up if 20 are stolen a day. Do the math. I’m glad this is not being taken lightly by those in charge. It just figures that a lot of the theft is occurring from people that are not even associated with the university. This is why I never give change to people that are begging on High St. Pay for your pretzels people. And if you’re super hungry and eat it in line at least have the common decency to show the cashier your crumpled up paper and give them the money you owe. A tip would be nice too (if you haven’t given your change to the guy that always says “Spare de change” on High St.

  6. BuckeyeGranny says:

    I stick it in my fanny. So much easier.

  7. angry student says:

    If we do not punish small / petty theft today, that means we are rewarding this kind of coward, illegal behavior. I would like to praise what the university is doing. The message comes from a poor student who once had to be Hungary for the entire afternoon when some cowards stole his lunch.

  8. lolz outraged says:

    I think the guy above outraged, got what is morally wrong — taking advantage of students, while putting a lot of them in massive amounts of debt before they exit college. This coupled with price hikes on, let’s be honest, pretty mediocre food, is more morally dismissive than taking a soft-pretzel that their room/board more than pay for. And a tip? For what? Doing their job? They’re not putting the food on the plate and taking it to your seat for you. And seriously, you’re outraged? I’d hate to see how you get when someone cuts you off.

  9. angry student says:

    The person above has sympathy with criminals. Law is law and I am outraged because people took away my stuff for their own interest when it is their own responsibility to feed themselves. What would I do if someone cut me off? I will respect the traffic law and my right of way.
    Two bad things do not make one right.

  10. angry student says:

    Today is a soft pretzel. Tomorrow might be a few bucks. The day after tomorrow might be an used iPhone 4. One year later?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Maybe if the Union itself wasn’t this conspicuous and laughable spectacle of institutional mismanagement and gross overspending, people wouldn’t be so nonchalant about stealing.

    I’ve never stolen anything myself, ever, but every time I set foot in that stupid, ostentatious building I feel like a Latin American peasant in some lavish resort.

  12. Outraged says:

    FYI: I wasn’t really outraged. I was being sarcastic. Also can I mention that love the accompanying graphic. I’m going to save it and use on my tumblr blog. It’s very funny. I also like people making comments that agree with my original posts and point out that by curbing petty theft we are preventing the growth of a larger societal problem. My personal opinion is that pretzels should be free for everyone. I’m a pretzel communist.

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