One who finds himself short of food on Shabbat for the Shabbat meals, whether on account of poor planning or the arrival of unexpected guests, may approach the owner of a store and ask him for food from his store, with the unspoken understanding that the customer will pay for the food after Shabbat. Payment is not mentioned explicitly. Rather, the customer should request the item from the owner in the same way that he would borrow the food from a neighbor. He should not use the words “buy,” “sell,” or “pay.” He may assure the store owner that later, whether Saturday night or afterward, they will discuss what was taken and settle up. Even though the store owner understands from this assurance that the customer intends to pay him, as long as payment has not been explicitly mentioned (but only hinted at), this is not forbidden.
The store owner and customer should both be careful not to mention the price of a product, nor should they measure it or weigh it out as one would do during the week to determine its price. However, they may fill up a container (not a measuring cup) and agree that the container will be measured on Sunday, with the understanding that the price will be determined based on the amount it holds. One may use a measuring cup to transport food but not to measure out the exact amount to be poured into the customer’s container, because then it is clear that the intention is to measure. For example, one may ask a store owner for five oranges or five bottles because that is the normal way to describe the required quantity. This terminology is not used exclusively for a sale. If this customer has received items from the store owner in the past, the owner may not refer to the accumulating tab nor calculate its updated amount (SA 323:1-4; MB ad loc. 20; SSK 29:18-25).
If the store owner does not trust the customer to remember to pay him after Shabbat, he may ask him to leave an article of clothing or an object, but he should not refer to it as “collateral,” “security deposit,” or the like (Rema 307:11).
One who takes food from a store on Shabbat should not carry it out in a large box, as one would normally do during the week, so that witnesses do not think that he is transporting the food for commercial purposes. Rather, he should hold the items in his hands or place them on his shoulders, as one would normally do when bringing food to a meal. Even if this means he will have to make multiple trips in order to bring all the necessary food, this extra walking is preferable to giving the appearance of doing business. However, if one’s guests are waiting for the meal, then he should hurry and bring all the food at once, even if it means carrying the food as he would during the week. Additionally, if he is walking in a place where there is no chance that anyone will suspect him of doing business, he may carry the food in the normal way in order to minimize the walking (“yesh omrim” in SA 323:5; MB ad loc. 25; Rema 510:8).
If a store or hotel owner would like to make food available on Shabbat for his customers, before Shabbat he may sell different-colored cards or tickets that entitle their bearers to various items. For example, a yellow card presented to a waiter will entitle a guest to Friday night dinner; a green card to lunch on Shabbat day; a red card to a drink; a blue card to cake, etc. If there are not enough different colors for the different options, the names of the options may be written on the cards. However, the prices may not be written on the cards because this would make the cards the equivalent of monetary contracts, which may not be read on Shabbat (MB 307:50 and 323:20; SSK 29:26).