Upper East Side Mom Fights Lifetime Ban for Shoplifting

Fairway CEO isn't backing down, though

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Players: Elissa Drassinower, a 33-year-old Upper East Side stay-at-home mother; Howie Glickberg, CEO of Fairway Market, a 78-year-old grocery chain with locations on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Harlem and Upper West Side and Red Hook, Brooklyn

The Opening Serve: The New York Post reported yesterday that Fairway had banned Drassinower for shoplifting. "The security guard took my photograph, told me I was banned from Fairway for life and said I was lucky she didn't call the police," said Elissa Drassinower to the Post. "I was crying, my 20-month-old son was crying. It was humiliating." Drassinower said she had forgotten the milk and Corona beer she placed underneath her son's stroller because she was distracted. "If I really meant to shoplift, why would I pay for the $15 brie and the cranberry Stilton only to steal $3.49 milk?" The Post is reporting that Drassinower is still currently fighting the lifetime ban. "It was a harsh penalty for a mistake that could have happened to any parent," Drassinower said.

The Return Volley: Glickberg, Fairway's CEO, defended the store's lifetime ban yesterday to New York City station WPIX. "It's like jaywalking in New York, if you do it, whether you meant to do it or didn't mean to do it, you get a ticket for it, " said Glickberg in a report with surveillance video of Drassinower's transaction (or lack of one). And he's not reversing his decision anytime soon, "We cannot discriminate and say one person can't come back and the next person can come back," he told The Post in an article today.

Glickberg also called Drassinower's character into question. "She threatened ... to go to the press and that she was going to hire a lawyer," he said in the WPIX report. "If we would have had a call saying 'Hey I made a mistake..' I'm sure we could have worked it out." Glickberg went on to say that Drassinower should consider herself lucky that he did not have her arrested.

Drassinower refused an interview with WPIX at her luxury hi-rise apartment last night but still insists that she isn't a thief.

What They Say They're Fighting About: Whether or not Drassinower was stealing and whether milk thieves deserve a second chance. Drassinower argues that the intent defines the crime. She believes it was a mistake of distraction and that she never really intended to steal the milk and beer. Glickberg doesn't agree and doesn't believe in a second chance. He argues that ignorance doesn't protect you from the law, and isn't budging when it comes to her lifetime ban.
What They're Really Fighting About: Hard not to see this as a class issue. Drassinower points to her "$15 brie" and "cranberry Stilton" and parlays those items into a plea for exoneration. Essentially she's saying wouldn't steal what she can afford (hence the attention WPIX paid to her hi-rise apartment). She also points to the rigors of parenthood as an exemption to Fairway's law. Glickberg believes in a harsh blanket-punishment that applies to everyone, regardless of class or intent. He argues once you start picking and choosing who to punish, you end up opening yourself up to discrimination. Also, he's irritated by people whose first instinct is not to talk it out, but rather to call their lawyers.
Who's Winning Now: Glickberg and Fairway. Clearly, if Drassinower is still fighting the ban, Drassinower would still like to shop there which, in a roundabout way, could be read as a stunning endorsement for Fairway--it paints the market as a privilege that shouldn't be taken for granted by its Upper East Side shoppers. Although Glickberg's penalty is harsh, it seems consistent and doesn't discriminate. It's easy to sympathize with Drassinower the harried parent. It's a little less easy to sympathize with Drassinower the "I can't be a thief because I eat brie" theorist.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.