Do You Think It’s Legal to Keep the Wrong Takeaway Order?

Do You Think It’s Legal to Keep the Wrong Takeaway Order?

If you’ve received the wrong takeaway order do you report it or keep the goodies? Let’s investigate.

We’re resurfacing this old case after a recent conversation with friends who were debating this very question and didn’t quite have the answer.

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. 


  • I am pretty sure that if you returned a meal after more than a minute, McDonald’s would probably throw it away as a precaution against tampering. So if the mixup is an acceptable replacement I’d say just eat it and save wastage.

    • Good point. I hadn’t thought of that whole food safety issue. Besides, the people who did order it will most likely have gone their merry way too. So it’s not even like they could pass it to the correct people.

      When this report was on the news last night it sounded dodgy. We’re obviously never going to know the full story but it definitely wasn’t *just* about the order. Made me wonder whether it was meant to be a viral prank that the guy was filming and it went pear shaped.

      As for the incorrect orders, considering how many times Maccas (and other drive-thrus) mess up orders I’d think there’d be no way they could come after you for accepting an incorrect order.

      @goughy, the story I saw said it was a couple drinks and a couple burgers. Just not as many, and not as fancy as the ones he got. To be fair, if he got a bag with say four burgers in it and not two he probably should have thought this seems wrong, but it’s easy enough to not notice that. Now if it had been three bags of food…

      • Some years ago I ordered about 20 cheeseburgers for a group of builders who had stayed overtime working on a home renovation. When I got home I found that none of them had any meat in it.The McDonald’s refused to replace or refund even though you could see from the buns that no meat had touched them.

        • Jeez that’s lousy from them. I can’t even imagine how they could mess that up that bad. Maybe one without a patty, but all of them 0_o

          I’m also surprised they didn’t refund, that seems like a screwup they should have rectified. Dodgy store manager or something.

  • On the news story I saw tonight about this, Macca’s also claimed that his order was only for two drinks and no food, which he obviously refuted. But if that was the case, then when he was handed a bag of food he should have immediately known his order was wrong.

  • It seems obvious that the answer to the question is no. Of course it isn’t legal. How could it be legal? The whole thing borders on farcical, of course. I don’t think police intervention was warranted and there are several practical facets to consider, which have all been raised. But as to the strict question of legality, it can’t possibly be legal.

  • There is no law broken, even with ‘items of value’. Theft requires that there be deception at the time the property is appropriated. The nature of the property, or its value, is irrelevant. There is also no fraud or equivalent (OFAD) as he did not engage in deception. Filming fast food workers without permission is not a crime anywhere in Australia either. The police misused their power and should be reprimanded.

    • I agree with you right up to the last line. The police didn’t charge him with anything. All they did was question him to get both sides of the story. I don’t think it’s a great use of their time, but they are obliged to investigate the complaint maccas made.

  • I first think…what happened to the other customer where their order was then short? No further mention or details.

    My other thought….Can it be considered theft or even a crime…McJunkSlops don’t actually serve ‘food’ which is a major part of their compliant wording.

    Value or overall cost being the deciding lawful factor if it ever came that, there would need to be an example in historical law somewhere to give guidance to the Police. They are paid regardless so their home visit did not cost the public a cent, and could of been a PR run either way.

    BUT, I believe even though it was no part any mistake to be handed the incorrect goods by the customer, it was wrong to blindly do nothing about it. Remember his gain was another’s loss, and that is not fair or right. It is very simple to know it was incorrect goods given the description of the different two orders, and a quick phone call would of solved this easily and amicably for everyone.

    A wrong deed was not corrected by another wrong deed. But another but, as with all publicly shown sensationalist media stories and internet blowouts, do we who are commenting ever get ALL the facts? No. So therefor take my comments with a grain of salt because it could be just another wrong deed.

    Ho hum for free publicity.

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