A McDonald's customer in Sydney was questioned by police back in 2018 after failing to return the wrong takeaway order. The customer decided to eat the incorrect order — which exceeded his purchase by approximately $17 — to save himself a trip back to the store. This resulted in police arriving at his house to accuse him of stealing. (Yes, really.) So is it legal to keep takeaway food you receive by accident?
As reported on Yahoo News, Sydneysider Santo Le Rocca attempted to purchase two double cheese burgers, two large chips, a box of nuggets and two frozen Cokes from a Bass Hill McDonald’s drive-through on the evening of 22 March, 2018. However, he was accidentally given another customer's order, which contained significantly more food.
Le Rocca claims to have only discovered the mix up after returning home and opted to stick with what he was given. Two hours later, the men in blue were knocking on his door.
“They accused me of stealing McDonald’s and I thought it was a joke,” Mr Le Rocca said. "It’s a ridiculous waste of time to chase people for getting the wrong Maccas order. Shouldn’t they be fighting crime, not fighting the Hamburglar?"
Most people have been in Le Rocca's shoes before (although in my case, the mixup usually results in less food, not more.) We can therefore appreciate his reluctance to drive all the way back to the McDonald's store to hand over food that would likely be thrown out anyway. But is what he did legal?
As you probably suspect, there is more to this story than the news headlines would have you believe. As Yahoo7 explains in its report (emphasis ours):
A NSW Police spokesman told Yahoo7 police from Bankstown area command spoke with a 44-year-old man at a Georges Hall address about 10.30pm. It followed reports a man had “attended a fast food restaurant about 9pm on Thursday, March 22 and began filming staff without permission and allegedly failed to pay for food”.
There was obviously more going on here than a simple Macca's mixup. Apparently, Le Rocca had been filming McDonald's staff on the mobile app Snapchat at the drive-through, for reasons that remain unclear. This factored into McDonald's decision to contact police.
In any event, the police ultimately refrained from taking any formal action against Le Rocca which effectively clears him of any wrongdoing. To be guilty of fraud, larceny or other stealing offences, the customer would need to have obtained the proffered goods through deception. By contrast, this was an ordering error that the customer presumably played no part in.
In conclusion, the next time you receive some extra goodies in your takeaway order, feel free to scarf it down. The fault lies with the fast food outlet and you are (usually) under no obligation to rectify their mistake. The only exception is when items of value are involved — but we're pretty sure Macca's meal deals don't qualify.
This article has been updated since its original publication in 2018.