LACEY – It all began with a bottle of ketchup but now, it serves more than a container of a tomato paste product, now it is a beacon of light for kindness.
One day in August, one troubled individual stole a bottle of ketchup from the Forked River Perkins Restaurant. Things just started to fall apart after that.
The ketchup thief was so distraught over the crime and the bad luck that followed which included damage to the person’s vehicle and other issues that she left not only a hand written apology note but two replacement bottles that they had purchased from the Walmart a short distance away.
The owner/ manager of the restaurant, Maria DiLeo was so touched that she posted it to a local social media page and the ketchup theft, replacement and apology went viral. The Heinz ketchup company itself became involved in the saga and offered to help repair some of the damage caused by the so-called karma-induced fallout.
Staff at the township Perkins discovered the apology note with two purchased ketchup bottles by sheer chance. The owner said that the missing bottle had not even been missed and was assumed to have been empty. A bag containing the two bottles of ketchup and apology note were nearly missed and almost discarded.
DiLeo said that during her 12 years ago of owning and managing the restaurant she had never experienced anything quite like what happened. She said that as far as missing ketchup bottle went, “I never gave it a second thought. I just thought one of our staff tossed it out after it was empty and forgot to replace it.”
The unidentified note left by the ketchup thief explained that they felt the ketchup bottle theft had left them with a bad taste of karma. The note reads, “A few weeks ago, I had taken one of your ketchup bottles off the table because for some odd reason I thought it’d be ‘risky,’” the note read. “I am as square as they come and this is the worst thing I’ve done.”
Enter Laura Caroccia, who heads the Lacey Food Bank. She recently posted to the organization’s social media site, “unless you’ve been in a deep sleep since summertime you will recall the Heinz Ketchup caper that took place at the Perkins here in Forked River.”
Caroccia noted that after acknowledging a pilfered bottle of ketchup and the subsequent bad luck in a letter of contrition to Maria, the owner of Perkins who she dubbed “the ketchup klepto” was contacted by Heinz and plans were made to make things right.
Heinz upped the ante and recently delivered a load of ketchup to the Forked River Perkins with the invitation to the community to stop by and pick up a free bottle.
Caroccia said “thanks to the influence of the internet and Facebook a suggestion was made to the Perkins customers that they could choose to donate that free bottle of ketchup to the Lacey Food Bank and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
Photos of Perkins staff and Lacey Food Bank volunteers began to be posted on the Lacey Food Bank Facebook page. The photos feature the free ketchup bottles being dropped off in one of the Food Bank’s big blue barrels.
“Our thanks to Heinz for providing the opportunity (and the ketchup) and to Marie at Perkins for being such a good friend to the Lacey Food Bank,” Caroccia said. She also thanked the still anonymous ketchup thief “who unknowingly started this circle of giving.” #payingitforward #ketchupkaper #Heinz #Perkins @Heinz
While the identity of the ketchup thief isn’t publicly known, it appears that her or his true name is known to DiLeo and the staff of Heinz.
Even back in August, DiLeo suspected the ketchup thief was female based on the handwriting of the note. “No man has such good hand writing,” she joked.
“We’ll keep your identity top secret,” Heinz tweeted on August 7. Two days later the ketchup company tweeted that it had tracked down the “reformed ketchup thief. Thank you to all who helped get the word out.”
Lena Skates, the administrator and founder of the Lacey Township Chatter Facebook page where the saga was first posted said, “I went to Perkins for lunch, but let’s stop the charade, it was just to get my ketchup. Do I need free ketchup? Probably not. But I’m considering this a trophy that represents the spirit of what Heinz, and actually the world, is touching on, which is “thank you for reminding us of the simple goodness.”
“These are the stories that interrupt the bad and make us smile,” Skates added.