Man’s Soda Refill at VA Hospital Costs Him $525

A South Carolina man was facing a potentially expensive fine for his trip to the cafeteria at the downtown Charleston, SC VA medical center.

A South Carolina man was facing a potentially expensive fine for refilling his soda at the downtown Charleston, SC VA Medical center.

Yahoo! News reports that construction worker Christopher Lewis was working on-site at the medical center when he had lunch in the hospital cafeteria. He grabbed a refill of his soda, failing to notice the signs that say one must pay for refills. Lewis admitted that he had refilled his drink in the past without paying as he was unaware of the refill policy.

“As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me, ‘Was I going to pay for that?’ And I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to pay for that,” Lewis said.

He attempted to pay the $0.89 refill fee, but was told he was not allowed to. He was then issued a ticket for $525 for shoplifting by the chief of the federal police force that patrols the VA hospital. He was also banned from the hospital, essentially costing him his construction job.

“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me, you know. I can’t fathom the fact that I made an 89 cent mistake that cost me $525.”

Lewis plans to contest the ticket.

A hospital spokesperson called his actions theft of government property and said it was her understanding that he was aggressive during the confrontation.

The VA initially said in a statement the fine would stay in place but has since reneged. In a new statement issued Thursday, the VA said Lewis will now only get a warning:  “In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case.”

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.