Good Friday resulted in some good time for some shoppers in New Zealand as a computer glitch opened the doors at Pak ‘n Save, a supermarket, at 8am with no staff inside. About 24 people went through the aisles and half of them paid for their groceries but they stopped after someone scanned alcohol, which requires a staff member to check a customer’s age before the system is unlocked.

Police was notified after someone reported people leaving with "truckloads of groceries" from the store.

Victoria University’s professor of religious studies, Paul Morris, said the Easter-time ethical test placed customers in a tricky situation. "It is like real life candid camera where people are clearly faced with this series of moral dilemmas."

There had been a debate about whether you needed to be religious to be moral, he said.

"The Christian Right have tended to think [that] without the Ten Commandments and God’s divining hand we would never have been able to develop a plausible and sustainable morality.

"This [Pak ‘n Save incident] is like some mad experiment, because you’ve sent off to church the religious and it’s the secular who have gone shopping on Good Friday … and you’ve put them to the test.

"Most acted morally and responded in very appropriate ways by trying to pay by using the self-service area. But clearly others saw that fortune had smiled on them in some perverse way."

Supermarket owner Glenn Miller was initially furious over the incidence but watching the security footage – with people initially paying for the groceries before the system locked them out, he felt better.

"I can certainly see the funny side of it … but I’d rather not have the publicity, to be honest. It makes me look a bit of a dickhead."

The security footage showed shoppers were not aware that there were no staff in the supermarket, Mr Miller said.

"They weren’t in for a free-for-all. They were doing their normal shopping and then got to the checkout. Half of them paid and the other half thought, `this is a good deal’ and walked out."

The first customer arrived with a young child, spent 20 minutes selecting groceries, scanned them, paid, and walked out, Mr Miller said. "I still think she probably doesn’t know we weren’t there. It is the funniest thing. You just have to laugh your head off when you watch."

Miller doesn’t intend to take legal action and asked people to pay for the free groceries – all of the cash will be donated to Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. Interestingly, no one is reported to have shown up with the money!

Interesting thing to notice – people paid till they didn’t realize that there was no staff in the store, after which they went free-for-all. I am not sure if I would call it morality or ignorance, the fact that people didn’t show up to pay even when the cash goes to charity does show more about typical human psyche.