The Otago University student, a ‘stolen’ 90c Night ‘n Day sauce sachet and a $300 fine

A student stung with a $300 fine for stealing a 90c packet of sauce wants an apology for others in the same situation.

Night ‘n Day said it had withdrawn the fine due to the ambiguity of the situation, but stiff fines would remain in place to deter shoplifters, regardless of the product stolen.

First-year psychology student Flynn Sharrock said he went to Night ‘n Day on Regent St to buy food on Friday, March 18.

He asked a friend if he had to pay for the sauce, and because he could not see a price he pocketed a sachet, he said.

A plain-clothes security guard stopped him as they walked out.

Despite Sharrock offering to pay, the security guard took him to the back of the store where he was photographed and given a $300 fine along with a trespass notice.

Police were called and “were a bit taken aback” by the hefty fine for the sauce, Sharrock said.

He received a call from the store’s manager several days after his story was published in student magazine Critic.

Sharrock said the trespass notice still stood, but the manager told him the fine had been waived — something he did not believe would have happened if he had not spoken out.

More students fined for allegedly stealing sauce had come forward since his story was published. Some had paid the fine.

The blanket-fine policy did not seem fair and Night ‘n Day should issue an apology to all the people it had happened to, Sharrock said.

Night ‘n Day general manager Matthew Lane said there would be no apology, and the store would continue issuing fines based on intent, not value.

The company had backed down on Sharrock’s fine only because the circumstances were ambiguous, he said.

The fines policy was implemented in 2005 and had been tested in the district court in 2008, when the judge ruled in favour of the company and upped the awarded sum to $300.

Fines were not a revenue-gathering exercise, but were important for deterring shoplifting, which was fundamentally wrong, Lane said.

The practice was a big issue for Night ‘n Day stores, as it was for the entire sector, he said.

Many thefts from Night ‘n Day stores were low in value but the consistent occurrences added up and law-abiding customers ended up paying higher prices.

Signs noting the cost of the sauce had since been put up.

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