A Man Was Fined $525 For Not Paying $.89 To Refill His Soda

A man in Charleston, SC decided to refill his soda cup in the cafeteria of the local Veteran’s Hospital following his lunch, but neglected to pay attention to the signs saying that “refills were not free.” The decision would end up costing a lot more than the $.89 for the refill. From WISTV:

Christopher Lewis, an on-site construction worker, said he didn’t know refills at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston came at a price, and Wednesday, during his lunch hour, he was originally slapped with federal charges. The ticket was issued by the Federal Police Force at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston after Lewis refilled his soda without paying the $0.89. A hospital spokesperson on Wednesday called it a “theft of government property.”

“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me,” Lewis said on Wednesday. “I can’t fathom the fact that I made a $0.89 mistake that cost me $525.”

Lewis is now out of a job. According to a hospital spokesperson, signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons that refills aren’t free. Lewis says he never noticed the signs and admits he had refilled his drink without paying on other occasions.

Theft of government property makes it sound like he stole the Declaration of Independence and embarked on an epic mystery to save his family from a clan of thieves, not refilled a soda cup. But who knows, maybe fountain soda is a major cost for a government office. Refills are cheap, but every loss is a huge hit and requires the full cost to go against the offender, hence $525.

Or maybe the government is full of a bunch of f*cking automatons. After reading the actual series of events that led to the ticket, I have to go with the latter:

“As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to pay for that.”

Lewis says he tried to pay the $0.89 right there, but wasn’t allowed to. He says he wasn’t given the chance to pay the cashier either.

“I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong.”

He says he was taken to a room, given the $525 ticket for shoplifting and told not to return to the property.

“I’m done there, at the VA hospital. I’m not allowed to go on the premises anymore. I asked him can I still work on the job site and just bring my lunch and not got to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off the premises.” (via)

The officials at the scene are saying that Lewis got aggressive, hence the need for the ban, but can you blame him following that fine? Luckily a judge has since lowered his punishment to a warning, but I would say the damage is done.

If this case shows anything, its that our federal fines are a bit outrageous in relation to the crimes. The idea that someone would be fined the same amount for all shoplifting infractions, even if it is for an $.89 refill, is crazy. It’s removing correctness and decision-making from the process and replacing it with an easy blanket statement. Not cool.