A Japanese food retailer has attracted a storm of criticism after it set prosecutors on one of its part-time employees for making rice balls (onigiri) out of leftover rice due to be thrown out, accusing her of theft.
The legal assault was apparently intended to punish her for having the gall to submit a formal complaint about the company’s alleged non-payment of overtime owed.
The pettiness of the company’s accusations soon incited massive criticism and a major PR disaster…
The lady (41) stands accused in court of using the day’s leftover rice to make no less than six onigiri, depriving the dumpster of the rice.
The company, Sukiya, a chain of shops specialising in gyuudon, is scathing of the alleged rice thief: “Using the rice intended for our products without authorisation is equivalent to theft.”
The lady was summoned to court; thinking it related to her complaint, she attended without a second thought, but on arriving found it was she who was in the dock:
Prosecution: “Today you are here not as victim, but as the accused. Did you eat onigiri made from rice leftover at the shop?”
Accused: “Yes, I certainly did, but…”
Accused: “Well, I thought it would be a waste to just throw it out…”
She was subsequently questioned for 30 minutes about the theft. The prosecution revealed security camera footage showing her making the rice balls, which shocked her:
“I couldn’t use the rice in the customers’ food, and throwing it away would just have been a waste. I had absolutely no intention of theft whatsoever!”
She had apparently cleaned the rice cooker as scheduled, but some bristles from a nylon brush had fallen into the rice, meaning it couldn’t be used.
However, as she was emptying the cooker, she easily removed the green bristles, and decided to salvage the rice rather than throw it away. She ate the onigiri she made with several coworkers on the premises.
The company claimed it was investigating her accusations of unpaid overtime by looking over camera footage, and found evidence not only that she was stealing rice, but also that work records had been improperly altered.
It also points out that the company strictly prohibits any reuse of waste food materials, and that her taking of five bowls of rice was “clearly excessive.”
The detailed reports on the case already run to several pages, so it seems a lucrative case is in the offing for lawyers.
The online response is one of nearly unanimous disgust with the company’s tactics.
Rice in Japan, the ubiquitous staple foodstuff of the nation, is massively inflated in price due to the disproportionate electoral representation of rural voters, who naturally vote in import controls to keep prices high enough to support themselves, using excuses ranging from maintaining a secure food supply to not allowing in inferior foreign rice.
However, in absolute terms even this rice is still inexpensive…