It began in 1997. Grocery stores in Bucks County, Pennsylvania — about 45 miles from Philadelphia — were all reporting the same things to their distributors. Loaf after loaf of Friehofer’s brand bread, destroyed. Boxes of Archway cookies, rendered unsaleable. The distributors feared sabotage, believing that these foods were damaged by competitors who were looking for any advantage they could find.
For two years, the attacks on gluten continued. Retailers, distributors, and seemingly everyone else was at a loss as to the culprit or motive. Toward the end of 1999, one of the cookie companies decided enough was enough. At the cost of over $5,000, the cookie company outfitted one of their retailers with surveillance equipment, hoping to get to the bottom of the caper. They didn’t find corporate saboteurs.
What they found was a regular guy — regular, except for a unique habit. That guy was over-eager shopper named Samuel Feldman. Over the two year period noted above, in the words of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 30-something year-old Feldman “knowingly poked and prodded baked goods to the point that the goods became permanently damaged.” And it wasn’t a loaf of Wonder Bread here or some English muffins there. Over two years, Feldman, singlehandedly (okay, he probably used both hands), destroyed 175 bags of bagels, 227 bags of potato dinner rolls, and 3,087 bags of sliced bread of various varieties — in total worth, roughly, $7,000. Oh, and he also happened to destroy $800 worth of cookies, acts which collectively earned him the nicknames “the Bread Squeezer” and “the Cookie Crumbler.”
Feldman was charged with two counts of criminal mischief, each carrying a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in prison. He pled not guilty and claimed that, in the words of his attorney (per the BBC), he was “just a picky shopper,” but the jury didn’t see it that way, convicting him of both counts. The court, hopefully in realizing how ridiculous it’d be to send a serial bread squeezer to prison, gave him 90 days probation instead. The court did, however, fine Feldman the maximum $1,000, with $500 going to each of the two distributors affected.
For his part, Feldman acknowledged that he probably shouldn’t be destroying bags of bread — and that he probably can’t help himself. As the Philadelphia Inquirer further reported, Feldman stated that he’s not going to go to the grocery store alone any more: “Anytime I go shopping, my wife will supervise and will be with me.”
From the Archives: The Greatest Thing Since 1928: A brief history of sliced bread (and the time it was banned).
Take the Quiz: There are lots of different types of breads. How many can you name — when their names are scrambled?
Related: Archway Cookies.