By Valerie Hauch
Cheese without the please, that seems to be what’s going on.
It’s bad enough people steal cheese from his family’s Danforth Ave. grocery story, Jerry’s Supermarket.
But geez Louise, manager Dominic Scarangella found it particularly grating when a Parmigiano purloiner tried to sell the stolen product back to him.
That’s what happened a couple of years ago when Scarangella was sitting in a local pub and a man walked in and tried to sell him cheese he’d stolen from Jerry’s. When Scarangella challenged him, the cheese thief whizzed by him and was out the door.
Cheese remains the most stolen food item at the 4,000-sq.-ft. family owned and operated store, which opened in 1978.
And Jerry’s isn’t alone.
Cheese is also the favourite of food thieves at Masellis Supermarket, also on the Danforth.
“We had to put cameras up,’’ said Costantino Masellis, whose family has owned and operated the 3,500-sq.-ft. store since 1958. He figures they lose about $5,000 annually in stolen goods and cheese is the biggest item.
The trend is universal. A 2011 report from the Centre for Retail Research reported that cheese is the most stolen food item worldwide. The British research centre surveyed more than 1,000 retailers in 43 countries and found that cheese’s larcenous popularity was followed by meat and candy. The thefts were attributed to employees and shoplifters.
At Masellis Supermarket, certain expensive cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, are kept behind the counter and customers must ask for them, said Masellis.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of those cheeses “that’s more vulnerable to theft. If it’s sitting in an open cooler, chances are it could end up in someone’s purse,” he said.
A small block of the Italian cheese can easily cost $15 to $20.
Still other valuable cheeses are kept in areas that customers can access directly and the cameras keep watch. Only a small number of people steal, said Masellis. “My clientele is great.”
He also occasionally gets people “coming in off the street trying to resell cheese’’ that is likely stolen. Masellis believes most cheese is stolen for resale, not consumption.
If he catches a cheese thief, he makes them pay but doesn’t bother calling police. “I know nothing will come of it.’’
The same is true at Jerry’s Supermarket.
Even if you catch a thief, “you can’t hold on to them,” Scarangella said. And if it’s someone “like a drug addict, you don’t want to. You try to stop the theft and save some money and they’re on their way.’’
Cheese thieves are “more prevalent” today and they’re hitting all stores, including the big ones, Scarangella said. “They know how to do it ... Many of these guys are pros ... they see the price and they want to resell it.’’
Sam Batel, owner of Fresh Express Fine Foods on Pape Ave. near the Danforth, also said cheese is his store’s most stolen food item.
Conversely, at the specialty shop Cheese Boutique, on Ripley Ave. in the west-end, theft is not a problem, said manager Agim Pristine.
“There’s no real opportunity. We don’t have open counters, we cut the cheese and hand it over ... there’s no opportunity to put something in the pocket,” said Pristine.
The Star was unable to get comments from several major chain supermarkets. Loblaw Companies Ltd.’s public relations department emailed the Star with the response: “We are unfortunately unable to validate any noteworthy trends.’’
- Torstar News Service