No, it’s not a neat hybrid of Hoarders and Extreme Couponing, but merely an impression after viewing a piece of an episode of the latter.

Widely-renowned and nationally-syndicated consumer savings columnist Jill Cataldo broke apart a recent episode of the TLC hit with Zapruder-like detail to reveal what fundamentally is theft, your perception depending on the plumb of your ethical barometer.

Far be it for me to not want a great deal or occasionally sneak one past the goalie.  There’s also the “everyone else is doing it” defense, or the “system allowed it, so it’s fair game.”   I’m very familiar.  A practitioner, in fact.  And honestly, why does a grocery’s UPC system treat all code families from certain product manufacturers as interchangeable?  I don’t know, and none of us can expect a checker to parse through 4 carts of items for validity.  On an off-note, who would pull a stunt like this in public without wanting to go take a long hot shower for want of feeling like such a sleaze?

But, it stands to reason that when you game the system for $1800 worth of merchandise for $100, there’s no down-on-her-luck-plucky determinism origin story that can explain away why the suburban mom needed sixty bottles of yellow mustard to sit on a heavy duty rack in the garage.  You aren’t going to make that much potato salad.  There’s some kind of pathology here.

It’s easy to do because of the remoteness of the nameless, faceless victim.  Guess who it’s not?  It’s not the manufacturer, or even the store.  Its the saps that have to help eat that loss.   The rest of us with a semblance of decorum.

In other news, the show also features “extreme” Nathan Engles, who rather than counting and hoarding groceries, puts together care packages for military families.  Very cool.