Convenience stores are one of those 20th century developments that catered to the impatience of society.  Easy access to liquor and cigarettes proliferated throughout the 1980’s, and now they are practically on every corner.  They also have dubious pricing strategies which can get unsuspecting consumers caught up in a mess.  Now what we have here is an overreaction by the store owner, typical zombie-like lack of empathy from the police, a judge who apparently did not read the case, and a man who just wanted a soda, and likely had to scrounge the streets of Perry County, PA to get it.

A man was arrested in Pennsylvania and is facing felony charges after allegedly paying just 43 cents less than the cost of a soda at a convenience store.  Joseph Sobolewski grabbed a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew at a store in Perry County, Pennsylvania last month. The store was charging $3 for two bottles of the beverage, PennLive first reported.  

Sobolewski put $2 on the counter and left the store.  But a single bottle of the beverage cost $2.29, not $1.50. So, the man was allegedly underpaying by 43 cents, including tax.  The store called police, and Sobolewski was arrested on August 23, according to court records. He was jailed and given a $50,000 bond.  

Theft of 43 cents is not normally a felony under Pennsylvania law. But Sobolewski has multiple previous theft charges, including driving away from a gas station without paying for a tank of gasoline and stealing a pair of shoes from a K-Mart store, according to multiple reports.  The man could be facing between three-and-a-half to seven years in prison for the alleged incident, according to multiple reports. 

Pause.  Let us ask ourselves a couple of questions.  Question 1.  Who calls the police on someone who is .43 cents short on a soda?  Do they not understand the peril anyone is put in that has the cops called on them?  Question 2.  What police department responds to that call?  Once the cops know they were selling sodas at 2 for $3, that becomes, common sense would dictate, more of a miscommunication than a reportable crime.

Question 3.  Oh wait, the judge answers.  The Magesterial Judge, Jacqueline Leister, said she could not remember the exact reasons she assigned the bond, but noted his petty theft past and the fact he is homeless.  Now the bond was changed to unsecured, meaning he could be released without paying first.  But he better make sure the bond is at $50,000 not $75000, and he is not just mistaking two bonds for a $100,000 to be discounted.

For those of you wondering, I do have the answer.  It costs, as of 2017, over $40k per year to house an inmate in the state of Pennsylvania.  

In 2015, Pennsylvania spent $42,727 a year per inmate according to data gathered by the Vera Institute of Justice for their May 2017 report “The Price of Prisons.”

The study included survey data from 45 states. Only 10 of the included states spent more per inmate.

When prison costs are distributed per resident in Pennsylvania, it’s similarly high. Residents pay an average of $168 per year on state prisons, the 9th highest in the nation according to Vera’s data.

Yes it would be cheaper to give Mr. Sobolewski a proper home, and job training, and show him a modicum of humanity.

But that wouldn’t be cruel enough would it?

This is America, 2021.  Where short changing a soda can put you in an orange jumpsuit.  But trying to overthrow an entire government, to this point, gets you a bail condition to leave the country if you have paid for a vacation.

Perhaps if Mr. Sobolewski had written, “F-Biden” on the Mountain Dew in question, he would have a comfy gig at Fox News now.

They take what they want at any cost.


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