TORONTO — The LCBO is changing its return policies after it says a bottle of vodka was deliberately tampered with and replaced with water, while police say this is one of numerous recent incidents across the Greater Toronto Area likely committed by the same person.
Marilyn Crumpton bought a plastic 1.75 litre bottle of Smirnoff vodka from an LCBO in the Kennedy Road and Highway 401 area in Scarborough last Friday, but when her husband Rick went to make his signature drink the “Rickster” they realized there was something wrong.
“I had a couple and I thought by the third one that it just didn’t taste right. It just did not taste the same,” Rick Crumpton said.
“And then I went over and grabbed the bottle and just took a swig out of it and discovered, ‘Wow that’s not vodka.'”
The LCBO sent the bottle out for testing at a third party laboratory for an independent analysis and determined it was not a health concern.
“You have an expectation that things are properly looked after and that when you’re purchasing something it’s gone through the proper quality checks so you wouldn’t think twice about it,” said Marilyn Crumpton.
“There was sediment that started appearing and it was looking really nasty so we were getting really concerned about what would be in the bottle so we were quite anxious to get it tested.”
The LCBO then notified police and searched shelves for tampered bottles and police said there have been several similar recent incidents reported from Hamilton to Scarborough.
Const. Caroline de Kloet said that judging by the surveillance video footage, “it appears that they’ve all been committed by the same person” and police are working to identify them.
“There is sufficient evidence at this time to indicate that this was the result of deliberate product tampering,” LCBO spokeswoman Keeley Rogers said.
“LCBO takes product tampering and fraudulent returns very seriously and we are working closely with local police, as this is a criminal matter.”
The couple said they are glad they went public with the incident and want people to be more cognizant when purchasing alcohol and hope that it might deter people from tampering with liquor bottles in the future.
“I’m really disgusted that someone would think about hurting other people or just faking it with the potential of hurting other people,” said Marilyn Crumpton.
“It could have been a lot worse. Fortunately it wasn’t, but be aware. Be aware when you’re buying something that it’s properly packaged and sealed. We’re certainly going to be more aware of it.”
Rick Crumpton said they will check every bottle they purchase from this point, but are disappointed the incident happened in the first place.
“It’s such a huge trust factor. It’s the government. They own and operate it, it’s the LCBO,” he said.
“I shop there all the time. It wasn’t the corner store where the milk carton looked funny … it was the LCBO.”
Effective immediately, all liquor products in plastic bottles that are returned to the LCBO will no longer be offered for resale, regardless of condition while the LCBO investigates, Rogers said.
Rogers added that the LCBO has also conducted visual inspections on plastic liquor bottle products in all of their 653 retail and 212 agency stores.
“We are also taking the appropriate steps to revise and strengthen our existing policies, procedures where necessary,” Rogers said, adding that all retail employees are required to complete mandatory refresher training.
“We have spoken with the customer who returned the tampered product, who has indicated that he is satisfied with LCBO’s actions, and he has received a full refund.”
Rogers said this was the first customer complaint the Crown corporation has received regarding this issue and that all products undergo two phases of inspection before being sold.
The LCBO said its lab could also issue a province-wide recall on a specific product in cases where the problem is considered serious or appears to be widespread.
The couple said they are happy with how the LCBO handled the incident and the quick response in getting the bottle tested, but are anxious to find out what will come of the police investigation.
“We’ll see what the police have to say,” Marilyn Crumpton said. “I hope they’ll get whoever’s doing that.”
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