Wal-Mart Charges $175 for ‘Stolen’ Manure
BROWNSVILLE, Ore. (AP) _ It could have happened to anyone: Charles Gastorf and his wife, Cheryl, forgot to pay the $10 tab for 10 bags of steer manure during a recent shopping trip to their local Wal-Mart.
The two say that in the confusion of shopping on that March day they simply forgot to add in the cost of the manure. When the Gastorfs explained their forgetfulness to Lebanon City Attorney Tom McHill, he dropped shoplifting charges against them.
That could have been the end of the story _ except for the letter from the world’s largest retailer that soon arrived in their mailbox, demanding $175 in civil damages.
That’s when the Gastorfs learned about a little-known Oregon law that allows retailers to pursue civil penalties regardless of whether a person is found guilty or innocent of theft.
The Gastorfs _ who live in a manufactured home and are retired _ spoke to an attorney, who told them that challenging the action in court could cost them several thousand dollars, much more than the $175 civil claim.
So the Gastorfs paid Wal-Mart the money.
``We wouldn’t want to embark on a life of crime at our ages and become manure thieves. I mean, if you were going to steal something, would you steal manure?″ Gastorf said.
But Shardon Weber, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, told The Albany Democrat Herald that the company has decided to refund the Gastorfs’ $175.
``It simply seems like the right thing to do,″ she said.