"I'm sorry, I was so hungry," Cecily Bauchmann said in a TikTok clip that's been viewed 3.8 million times.
While the clerk assured her she was "good," some commenters reacted harshly against the practice.
Commenters claiming to be cashiers called it annoying when customers handed them trash.
A 12-second clip filmed during an influencer's grocery store checkout has gone viral and sparked an intense debate about whether opening and eating food before checking out is ethical.
In her video posted Wednesday, with 3.8 million views, the TikToker Cecily Bauchmann filmed herself handing her items to the checkout clerk. The mommy vlogger, who has 1.8 million followers and also identifies as a pastor's wife in her bio, captioned the clip, "OPENING FOOD IS A NORMAL THING AT THE GROCERY STORE K?"
"I also opened this in-store," Bauchmann says in the video, holding up an empty sushi container, which she had shown herself picking up and scarfing down in a separate grocery store vlog. "I'm sorry, I was so hungry."
"I can just scan it, you're good," the clerk is heard assuring her in the background of her video.
Though the exchange was short and non-confrontational, it sparked a heated conversation in the comment section, with many feeling Bauchmann's actions were inappropriate — even if she did ultimately pay for the items.
"Not me because it isn't mine until I pay for it in my head its considered stealing," a top commenter with over 27,000 upvotes wrote. Another posed: "What would you do if card would not work?"
Several raised the issue of privilege in this scenario, and that Bauchmann was given the benefit of the doubt.
"Now if a non white person opened up food and ate it before paying it wouldn't be 'cute' you are using your privilege smh," one person wrote.
Commenters claiming to be cashiers also weighed in, with several discouraging the practice. "When I'm a cashier I get annoyed sometimes when people hand me their trash to scan lol," one commenter wrote.
"I hate when people do this," another said. "Especially for their kids.. and then hand us the nasty dirty packages."
Others, however, defended Bauchmann, saying it's natural to get hungry while food-shopping.
"It's a mom thing, my momma be doing this all the time," one said. "Eating at the store is so much better haha," another added.
Some seemed more baffled by how charged some reactions were, adding that the most important context is that she ultimately paid for the groceries she consumed. "Idk why people are mad like as long as you pay for it it's fine?" one top commenter wrote.
Bauchmann did not respond to Insider's requests for comment.
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