A woman in Auckland opened a packet of Port Royal to find not tobacco, but a slice of moldy white bread.
A pouch of tobacco swapped for a sandwich left a smoker shocked and a supermarket perplexed.
Sophie, a woman from Auckland, was planning to finish her university exams when she went to New World Victoria Park in November to buy some tobacco and a bottle of wine.
But when she opened Port Royal’s $75 pouch expecting a celebratory cigarette, what she found was a “disgusting” smelly white lump.
She thought the tobacco was moldy – until she showed it to her roommate. “She looked at it and she said, ‘It’s not mold, it’s a sandwich.
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Closer inspection revealed a slice of white bread, folded over, with what looked like peanut butter inside – although Sophie said the deterioration of the sandwich made it difficult to tell what toppings, if any, were present.
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She returned to the New World hoping for a refund, but several staff members refused to accept her version of events.
A manager told her she had to make the sandwich change, she said, leaving her “flabbergasted”.
“I said, ‘I can afford to buy tobacco. I don’t need to try to fool you guys.
Unable to exchange the moldy bread for the tobacco she wanted, Sophie emailed tobacco wholesalers British American Tobacco New Zealand. She soon received a call asking her to explain what had happened.
“I was like, ‘Look, you’re not going to believe me, and this sounds ridiculous, but there was a peanut butter sandwich instead of my tobacco.
“And in the saddest and most sorry voice he said, ‘Sophie, I believe you. It is a permanent problem that we encounter”.
When contacted by ThingBritish American Tobacco did not say whether it was a widespread problem and neither confirmed nor denied the explanation given to Sophie of how a sandwich ended up in her tobacco pouch.
A spokesperson said only that the company “generally would not comment on retail security matters such as these.”
So how did the scam work?
The attacker, Sophie was told, targeted the shops late at night, armed with their bread-filled tobacco pouch. They asked the cashier for the same brand of tobacco and went to pay with an expired card.
When the card was declined, they used the moment of confusion to swap the new tobacco pack for the sandwich pouch.
That pouch full of sandwiches was put back on the shelf, ready for the next unsuspecting customer, and the mugger walked away with the real stuff.
British American Tobacco sent Sophie a packet of replacement tobacco, this time without the sandwich.
Sophie also filed a complaint with New World about the way she was treated.
Emma Wooster, general affairs manager at Foodstuffs NZ, said staff were “really surprised at the time and, looking back, recognize they could have handled it better”.
“This is one of the most extraordinary incidents we have encountered in our 100 years of trading.
“The client returned the tobacco pack with the bread in it in November 2021, and it’s still a complete mystery what happened and how it got there.”
After Thing ask Foodstuffs, the New World store owner contacted Sophie to offer her two packs of tobacco.
In a series of similar events in 2013, three shoppers in West Auckland found what looked like a slice of Molenburg instead of tobacco, prompting a police investigation.
British American Tobacco has not confirmed whether the latest incident was reported to police.