Truth behind viral Melbourne ‘shoplifting’ photo revealed

A photo appearing to show police officers searching an “old lady’s” grocery bag outside Coles has sparked outrage on social media but police have revealed the truth behind the viral image.

The photo, shared on X on Wednesday, shows officers speaking to a woman outside a Coles supermarket in Richmond, Melbourne, as a number of her groceries are stacked up on the floor beside her.

“I just saw a poor old lady get forcibly arrested by police and Coles staff for shoplifting food,” the caption reads.

“I told the police that I’ll pay for her food and let her go and then I got threatened with being arrested for ‘obstructing police’ Boycott Coles and Woolworths.”

The post has since wracked up over 1.2 million views, with many online slamming Victoria Police for their “disgusting treatment” amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“This is extremism,” one person wrote.

“This is disgusting treatment by the police and humiliating for the poor woman involved,” said another.

“A decent police officer would have paid for the groceries and driven her home. Surely the desk sergeant will have a heart and let her off with a warning,” another wrote.

“So sad to see, people are hungry because the cost of living has blown out,” another comment read.

“That is absolutely heartbreaking,” said another.

However, can confirm the woman – aged 32 – was not arrested for shoplifting.

Victoria Police said officers attended the Richmond shopping centre at about 3.30pm on Wednesday following reports of shoplifting.

“Officers arrived to discover a woman had been detained on the ground by a loss prevention officer employed by the store,” they said.

“Police separated the parties and spoke with a 32-year-old woman from Glenroy who was cautioned for shoplifting.” has contacted Coles for comment.

It comes after another Coles social media post went viral, prompting the supermarket giant to apologise for “letting down” shoppers.

Joe Salanitri, a comedian from Melbourne, shared a video after a recent visit to Coles, where he detailed how he’d been forced to use a self-service checkout with a whole trolley of groceries.

“I’m working for Coles now, we, we are working for Coles now,” he said in the expletive-filled video.

“So I’m going to send you [Coles] my tax file number so I can start getting paid.”

While Mr Salanitri undoubtedly sprinkled humour throughout the short clip, it clearly resonated with other Australians, amassing over 1 million views and thousands of comments from many who agreed self-service check-outs were “labour”.

Coles responded to the common gripe in the comments section, stating the retailer was “sorry”, and had received the message “loud and clear”.

“Ohh this was a hard watch for us! We’re sorry we let you down,” the response read.

“We should always have a range of checkout options open for the convenience of our customers, but we hear you loud and clear that this didn’t happen when you visited.

“We will share your feedback with our Ops team (feedback as in, your actual video!) because we are always listening and learning, and your vid makes your point clearly.”