BEND, Ore. — A sign hangs amid the bottles of vinegar at Newport Avenue Market. It's simple, to the point: "Thanks to the Balsamic Vinegar Thief this area is now under surveillance. We will get you." The last sentence, it should be noted, is underlined. For about a year, a thief pinched bottle after bottle of balsamic vinegar from the store — and not the low-end stuff.
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No, this thief was after bottles that go for $30 or $40 a pop. "Thieves with good taste." That's how owner Rudy Dory explains them.
The store figured out what was going on when the order writer noticed he was buying a lot more balsamic vinegar than what the store was actually selling. The market has quite a large balsamic collection, but the thefts were noticeable.
So the sign went up.
A couple months ago, workers caught someone who they think may have been the balsamic bandit. The market didn't press charges, just banned the alleged thief from the store. Dory wouldn't say much about the suspect, just that it was a she.
So we are left to speculate. Maybe she needed that that last little ingredient for her many dinner parties. Maybe she was selling it on some sort of gourmet black market.
Whatever it is, Dory said, "it really irritates you."
"We don't know if we got the person or not," he added. The store has seen a slowdown in balsamic loss, but it hasn't stopped.
For now, the sign stays.
Shoplifting, of course, is a problem not limited to this market. Even so, Steve Esselstyn, community liaison for the Bend Police Department, says the police don't get many calls from grocery stores, and when they do it's typically something along the lines of a kid trying to score beer.
But balsamic vinegar?
"Well," Esselstyn said, "they must be a vegetarian."
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