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Shop Calls Police Over Employee Eating Leftover Rice

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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…”
Prosecution: “Why?”
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.

Via Sankei.

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…

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103 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    All the elements of the earth are there for us to eat and grow. What we humans created is evil element of the dollar.

    We waste shit every day not only food, like gas and water. in the name of the dollar. so the earth dies faster than ever lol.

  • kibble and koryu says:

    So you think throwing away day old rice is bad? you want to give leftover rice to the hungry/homeless? let me tell you something from my 20++ years of eating rice…it needs to be used within 24 hours of cooking(even that needs to be re-heated properly), and even fresh cooked ones go stale real quick–like in a couple of hours–if you don’t cool em properly.

    i say if she wants to steal leftover rice, steal em and eat em. if she gets the food poisoning, well, that’s her own risk!

  • Asian mentality of treating workers like shit is evergreen. Not just Japan but the rest of Asian nations too which most of them frowned equal pay, trade unionism and overtime pays.

    This is just a mild case, to be honest.

  • Anonymous says:

    My company actually donates the days leftover food to local soup kitchens that help feed the homeless, which imo makes them far more humane,superior, and socially attentive than other companies who force the leftover food to be thrown away instead of being used in a productive way(which also could be used as a tax writeoff here in the USA in some cases).If that company had been here in the US and i were a customer, i would stop shopping there in protest of the way they are treating this woman.It makes them sound like they learned a few employee toture tactics from the Walmart Employee Mistreatment Encycolpedia.

  • I get the feeling many companies see letting their employees have free food as a loss of profit from the meal they may have paid to eat there otherwise. Or maybe they believe it will lead to stealing. I worked at a Taco Bell once and ate as much as I wanted to. Gained 20 pounds! Now I work at an Arby’s and there’s no chance of free food if the higher-up managers are there. They’ve even stopped letting us use real cups for beverages and forced us down to the tiny paper cones. Wouldn’t be as big a deal if the freaking air conditioner worked… Arby’s is easily the most overpriced fast food in the US and they can’t spare the water cups customers already get for free?

  • Ichigo69 says:

    You guys seem to be missing the point that the woman was trying to get the company to pay her for the overtime she worked. This was retalliation. They probably wouldn’t have cared 2 shits whether or not she ate the rice if she wasn’t trying to (in their, most likely flawed, opinion) screw them over for overtime that she probably worked and deserved.

  • I eat rice everyday, so I sympathize, due to the fact that I’ll even eat leftover rice when I am desperate or when i need to salvage food. Being asian this kind of situation is sort of perplexing. I would think that since is rice you can’t give to customers it be alright to make onigiri out of it. Japan you scare me.

  • yeah, wife used to work at a place that you were fired if you ate any food what so ever, and she worked at a buffet, so there were always leftover food, just got tossed in the trash and thrown… sad really

    but now i work at a hotel, and they don’t have that problem.. well they still throw away alot of food, but thats mainly on used plates after a party. but if ther’s leftover food, they uselually leave it out for the workers, or night cleaners to eat.. no problems there!

  • fatimmortal says:

    I work for Yoshinoya.

    ALSO an outlet that sells Gyuudon (Beef bowls).

    Yet, there aren’t any rules about us not being allowed to eat leftovers.

    In fact, the only rule about leftovers that we have was, we may not bring any food home. Of course, we may eat them up if we wanted to.

    Punishing someone for using up leftover rice is really retarded.

    It’s RICE, not abalone or some leftover otoro. It’s not gonna cost them a bomb.

  • Anonymous says:

    It’s like with chefs, if the dish isn’t made to their standard by their subordinates they throw it away, which in some cases is a lot of money gone
    Not to mention the actual food itself considering world hunger…

  • Necromas says:

    I used to work at a rainbow foods and we gave the old bread and stuff to charity every day, as long as it wasn’t more than 1-2 days past the sell time*. There are no liability issues because A. It really is fine to eat, and B. They are aware they are accepting old food that may be past the official sell by date, and I’m sure they had to sign something to that effect.

    *Food is not expected to actually go bad right after the sell by date, the sell by date is set such that a person can buy the food on the day of the sell by date and keep it for at least a week without it being dangerous, though there are some exceptions with foods that expire very fast.

    Anyways, suing someone for taking a few rice balls from garbage rice is just ridiculous no matter how you spin it. It’s obvious they were just bitter because of her overtime complaint.

  • Cho_Hakkai says:

    Well this also happens to bakery/ bread shop where they trow away the leftover bread that is unsold on that day.

    I still think it is noble of Azuma from Yakitate Japan that remade those leftover bread for people to eat.

  • Sinjitsu says:

    This is not uncommon. When I was a teen, I worked at Micky D’s and the amount of food they throw away at the end of day was appalling. They had very strict policies on employees not eating leftovers…

    • Ichigo69 says:

      Believe it or not, there’s a somewhat reasonable, but fucked up reason for this.

      ‘Hmm… let’s see, I’m kinda hungry… I’ll just drop all these beef patties and buns on the ground. Oh darn. guess I gotta throw them away now. Wait! They’re just trash now, right? Sure, if they’re just gonna be thrown away, I might as well take them home, right?

      One bad apple, kids… One bad apple…

      This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • eww, they’re going to throw it away aren’t they…?
    like some non-24-hours fast food restaurant sometimes give the employees to take the leftovers.

    or some bread chain store I knew, delivers all the leftover breads to orphanage at night, since they wan’t to give custmers freshly baked breads, and their breads can last for days.

    • Anonymous says:

      I used to get leftovers all the time after my shifts at McDonalds, depending on the manager sometimes you can even make your own stuff. Good old American companies supplying the world and its employees with junkfood. Have no idea why this Japanese retail chain is raging over a few bowls of rice, and the employee did the right thing improvised rather than just waste the food.

      • Waterfall Towers says:

        Well, if they throw it away in some countries, they leave it to Freeters, lol. Might as well eat it.

        Anyways, I read about another example of this (also happened in Japan) of a delivery guy who got fired because he helped an elderly lady move a box on one of his jobs.

  • Anonymous says:

    Sometimes work in a convenience store and if you don’t pay for food to be disposed off, you are fired.

    It’s everywhere the same. It’s stupid, but it’s not only in Japan.

  • Otakumanichiwa says:

    why can’t just they give it (I mean the clean, uncontaminated ones) to charities..

    through these, establishments who gave leftover foods will be hailed as benefactors by the charities while at the same time solving their problem on waste management.

    • Mostly becouse of capitalism,eh money.
      Secondly becouse everyone would actualy try to wait until it’s thrown away and would wait in a line to get it.
      People don’t want to waste their job time for no profit at all.And even if they would decide to sell it for less,this is when the third point comes into action.
      Third becouse it could be their fault if people get somekind of infections,unless everybody would have to sign taking this at their own risk.

      The only way they could manage this properly,if those people who are truly homeless and poor had somekind of a card that proves that by the goverment.The goverment would also have to pay them for giving them leftover food.
      But guess what.The goverment doesn’t care enough for these people,no matter if it was their fault or not and they can just die in goverments view.Since they don’t care

    • Anonymous says:

      “why can’t just they give it (I mean the clean, uncontaminated ones) to charities..”

      Because it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. If, say, McDonalds was to give away the burgers it had left over at night to the homeless, and one of those homeless got sick, then McDonalds would be liable for it. It’s just not worth the risk, from a corporate perspective.

      • then make a non-profit, organization in charged of this which overwatches this procedures and is capable of getting big corps. ^&^%^$ of the way if that happens, it’s just a question of thinking what is best for the society.

        This may be cruel… but… if i had 1000 people who are starving I would gladly take those burgers (or whatever), even if 10-20 of them got sick by eating them… i mean… im still saving at least 990-980 of them… so… criticall measures to counter criticall situations!

        just a random thought…

      • Otakumanichiwa says:

        that’s why I said “clean, uncontaminated ones”..

        of course when you’re going to give someone something as a gift, of course you’ll check if he/she like it or, in this scenario, germ and disease free, amirite?

        if you’re too chicken to give some of you’re blessing just bcoz you think it might risk their health, better check the customers first..

  • Anonymous says:

    Not entirely uncommon. Here in Germany a cashier was fired after 30 years because the company suspected (no evidence) that the lady stole a coupon worth 1.50€. They went to court and the company got right.

    • In German labour law there is no such a thing as a minimum value when it comes to infidelity. For employees that is. Employers can pretty much be as disloyal to their employees as they want. You can expect to be instantly dismissed for eating an expired yoghurt or unintentionally taking home a cheap ballpen.

      What makes things even worse is that it’s usually the employee that has to prove his/her innocence in court and not the other way around. Needless to say this is a great tool to get rid of employees that are usually hard to fire like workers’ representatives and it could also be useful to blackmail your jobholders.

      Seems like the labour law is still based on the laws that were in effect at the time when we still had an emperor and thus it’s VERY employer-friendly.

  • Well, every company doesnt allow this for some stupid reason, any supermarket worker will tell you that you throw out the unused products without question because its policy even if its 40 chickens

    • northpole776 says:

      Yeah. I work at a big supermarket here (not a small local one which doesn’t waste as much). We ditch hundreds of dollars of good stuff just because the packaging is damaged, it’s a day past best before and etc.

      The process is so strict too; we have to scan off each product into the system so it is recorded, then we have to print out a report of that waste and the products are not allowed to leave the actual warehouse until the dock manager has seen and signed the report to say that everything going into the bin has been recorded.

      Technically, he’s supposed to check every single item, but we don’t scan everything off properly and he doesn’t check everything, otherwise it would take hours.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeh we have the same system in place. We have to do all that but nobody ever checks it including the higher ups.
        Fortunately we take all the clearance stuff anyway which our manager turns a blind eye too. What the bosses don’t know won’t hurt them 😉

        • northpole776 says:

          The butchers are right next to us (I work in dairy) and they’ll shark anything they see that looks like they can use in their stuff, like out-of-code butter and moldy cheese, which they just cut the cheese off.

          We’re a top store, so I feel kinda weird doing it. If a customer buys something made from bad butter and cheese and gets sick, the butchers are screwed, the guy that’s signing off the report is screwed, and we’re screwed for turning the blind eye.

          Never happens though. Customers buy yogurt on the day of expiry and come back a month later telling us they ate it yesterday and it was delicious.

        • northpole776 says:

          Really, it comes down to the fact that if you give away the leftovers to the poor/hungry/homeless, it will become a problem during times when there is not much or no waste at all. And then these people will start asking why their free food isn’t coming in anymore. Or people will stop buying the products just so that they become waste to go to them.

          No matter how you try to help people, sharks will always take advantage of the situation to your expense.

          It’s a harsh reality.

        • People starve because of faulty food distribution, not because there is not enough food. More food can always be made cheaply.

          In many cases it would not be realistic to provide leftovers to anyone but staff on the day – where are you going to ship cooked rice before it turns into a nasty mess?

        • NightFoxXIII says:

          Lol at this.

          But anyways, I work at a fast food chain as well (Tim Horton’s for you Canadians) and we have to throw the donuts out as well.

          It’s sad that we have to throw such a huge amount, but it’s just how it is nowadays. It’s a shame they can’t give it some of it’s employees or donate a portion of it to charity or something