There's an old saying that you should never go grocery shopping when you're hungry. If you do, you'll most likely end up buying a bunch of junk food that wasn't on your grocery list.

Cold Drinks
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

I make that mistake quite often. I'm not proud of it, but it happens. That's why I'm a large American. When you're grocery shopping, it's not unusual to see a customer open a bag of chips or a bottled drink while making the rounds in the store before they head to the checkout line.

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Personally, I've opened up a drink on really hot days to keep cool while shopping, but I always paid for it once I got to the register. I decided to do some research to find out whether or not I was breaking the law in Montana, and here's what I found out.

If You Open Something Before You Pay For It, Is It Considered Shoplifting?

According to, opening a package of bottled drink before paying for it may seem like shoplifting, but that isn't always the case. If you grab something with the intent of ditching the evidence or an empty package, that is considered shoplifting.

In other words, you need to have committed the act of taking the item and have the intention of evading the checkout counter in order to be found guilty of shoplifting, according to the law.

Most grocery stores have surveillance cameras that are intended to catch shoplifters in the act, and some larger corporate grocers have Loss Prevention Specialists that walk around the store looking for thieves.


Technically, it is not illegal to open a package before you pay at a grocery store, but it is the customer's responsibility to follow through and actually pay for the item. If you don't, you could get charged with shoplifting and have to pay a hefty fine.

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