Fort Walgreens
January 23, 2023 5:39 PM   Subscribe

The recent spike in shoplifting is both overblown and real. And almost everyone is profiting from it (including you). [Curbed.com]

“They’re professional and self-employed,” said David Rey, who, after years overseeing security teams in New York department stores, published Larceny on 34th Street: An In-Depth Look at Professional Shoplifting in One of the World’s Largest Stores. “Just like what we do for a living — going to work — they pay their bills and rent and raise their children off the proceeds that they get from shoplifting.”

None of the boosters interviewed for this story could name someone who shoplifted for any other reason than to support a drug habit.
posted by riruro (92 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lowe’s invested in radio-frequency tags and blockchain technology to record legitimate sales of its products.

apparently I should short LOW
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:56 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


This is fascinating. I wonder how much of this kind of crime focused on commodities is also related to contactless payments, and to the less and less cash circulating as part of retail (and thus vulnerable to becoming an object of theft)?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:11 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]






The kiosks promised to make life easier for shoppers and stores.

Really? I remember the promise of those things being "a slight uptick in thefts will be cheaper than paying a cashier."

Remember the rule: if you see somebody stealing food or diapers? No, you did not.
posted by mhoye at 6:23 PM on January 23 [90 favorites]


And almost everyone is profiting from it (including you).

The average ethical person is the loser, really. Thieves get away with $90 billion in theft per year, and the retailers pass that loss onto ethical paying customers who must pay an inflated price for those goods. Then companies spend billions trying to mitigate theft (sensors, cameras, detectives, tags, guards, locking cabinets) and... you pay for it as well, as ethical customers.

I don't see anything in the article that explains in a compelling way how I profit from it...

(Maybe they are saying I ate some stolen food once, or something?)
posted by xdvesper at 6:24 PM on January 23 [19 favorites]


or retail goods; which you pay normal prices for, through the channels they mention so yeah

TFA sucks, people who are members of self described "boosting" crews are not the entire picture.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:27 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


The average ethical person is the loser, really. Thieves get away with $90 billion in theft per year, and the retailers pass that loss onto ethical paying customers who must pay an inflated price for those goods. Then companies spend billions trying to mitigate theft (sensors, cameras, detectives, tags, guards, locking cabinets) and... you pay for it as well, as ethical customers.

No they aren't. It's bullshit propaganda that the capitalists use to set the middle and working class against each other. Economics doesn't even work like that. Large retailers try to find the equilibrium price on the supply and demand curve. The price is already ahead of what the retailer buys it for wholesale. If the retailer increases prices to above the equilibrium price they'll sell less and lower their overall profit hence the desire to find a price as close to the equilibrium as possible. Petty theft is at worst an informal tax on that profit, not an amount to be recouped by the retailer as a collective punishment for the "ethical".
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:30 PM on January 23 [73 favorites]


Remember the rule: if you see somebody stealing food or diapers? No, you did not.

I once did not see a woman stealing baby formula. ah She saw me not see her.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 6:32 PM on January 23 [16 favorites]


“The Volume of News,” Alec Karakatsanis, Alec’s Copaganda Newsletter, 09 January 2023
Finally, in the summer of 2021, a right-wing local journalist posted a 21-second video of an alleged shoplifting in San Francisco. If you recall, this was during a public relations push by Walgreens, police unions, far-right media, and billionaire-funded DA recall activists to drive fear around “retail theft” that mainstream media quickly and weirdly adopted. The fantastic journalists at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) did an analysis and found that this single video spawned 309 separate articles about the Walgreens incident in the 28 days after it was posted. The researchers found that there was not a single article about a multi-million dollar wage theft settlement paid out by Walgreens to its California employees. (On January 5, 2023, after I wrote this essay, a Walgreens executive admitted publicly that the company had overblown their claims about retail theft.)
posted by ob1quixote at 6:40 PM on January 23 [61 favorites]


2022, the Prosecutors Alliance of California estimated that $500 billion worth of stolen or counterfeit goods changes hands online annually.
That's 0.5% of worldwide GDP. Seems a bit high.
posted by Mitheral at 6:45 PM on January 23 [11 favorites]


Xdvesper, do you like buying random items from reseller sites? A lot of us do.
posted by Selena777 at 6:47 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Thieves get away with $90 billion in theft per year, and the retailers pass that loss onto ethical paying customers who must pay an inflated price for those goods.

The $94.5B cited in the article was about shrink, not shoplifting. Even the article notes that it only includes theft. Other estimates are that shoplifting accounts for around $14.7 billion per year, which pales in comparison to only one form of wage theft. Do we ethical paying customers get that money back?
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 PM on January 23 [31 favorites]


Every other time I have gone to the Kroger owned QFC on Broadway in Seattle, I have watched someone waltz out with a couple of sacks of groceries they have bagged in the self service section, bagged and scanned but not paid for. Or they dropped a couple of bottles of wine in their long coat pockets up by the liquor store on the 2nd floor.

And they are almost never stopped -- I would have said never ever but yesterday was the first time ever that I saw the security guards go out on the sidewalk and take a bag full of wine bottles back from a shoplifter. Before that they would just watch them walk out with the rest of us.

And they have walled off the wine bottles by putting in backed shelves facing the door of the liquor store on the second floor. It's like a little fort up there now. Plus that QFC has moved everything.

It used to be -- and still is everywhere else in Seattle -- that you could walk into a QFC or a Safeway or a Home Depot and find the same layout everywhere. Beer and wine were over here, dry goods over there and so on.

Not anymore. Now it's a pointillistic Georges Seurat meets Jackson Pollock scavenger hunt: nothing is next to what it used to be next to and every exit is shut but one.

I went up to the Safeway on 15th E and it's the same story. One entrance only instead of the former two and everything inside has been moved.

I was so shocked to see that guy stopped in QFC yesterday. That was a first for me.
posted by y2karl at 7:01 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Economics doesn't even work like that.

It absolutely does, once you think your way through the entire economic model.

Yes, in terms of first order effects, a retailer will find that

- their prices are constrained by their competition
- their volumes are determined by their costs

If a competitor sells an item for $5, then their prices are constrained to $5 regardless of their costs - whether or not their costs are $3 or $4, it doesn't make a difference.

So at first approximation, an increase in costs only decreases supplier profits, and doesn't affect the price the customer pays.

However, if costs increase beyond $5, then their volume sold goes to zero since they can't operate any longer. And costs are variable to some degree - overtime costs more, for example, so if they find some cost efficiencies they can pump volume up to gain market share and maintain their profit margins, and with larger supply in the market you will see prices drop across the board in response to a decrease in costs - and vice versa.

Lastly, bear in mind that supermarkets and retail work on razor thin margins (2% typically)

So yes, as a first order effect, costs don't influence prices, but with second order effects they absolutely do.

So what happens when crime in specific locations pushes costs upwards and stores become unprofitable? They either shut down, or raise prices to stay afloat.

Eg this story in the LA Times -

"Supermarket owners, most of whom operate on razor-thin profit margins of less than 2%, cite high insurance, security problems and outmoded stores as the reasons for their migration to newer, usually more affluent suburbs."

"They have left this area of mostly poor black and Latino residents to smaller markets and a few independent stores--operations that a committee of Congress said charge prices that are 20% to 30% higher than supermarkets."

"Tong Chau, assistant manager at the tiny John’s Market at 10826 Central Ave. in Watts, for instance, said his prices average 20% higher than major supermarkets because of high insurance costs and his inability to buy in large enough volume to obtain discounts."

"Boys officials said prices are higher in their stores where theft, crime and liability lawsuits are more widespread."

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-01-02-mn-68-story.html
posted by xdvesper at 7:09 PM on January 23 [15 favorites]


I will add this to what I wrote above: it used to be that you could only buy distilled alcohol at a Washington State Liquor Store -- of which we still have a few -- until Kroger and other big chain grocery stores funded an initiative in 2011 to allow them to sell the hard stuff too. I think that brought its own endemic crime wave with it. So, I blame Kroger because why not & well, duh.
posted by y2karl at 7:30 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I’m guessing some comments come from people who don’t work in retail. Shoplifters are very common and infuriating in my store; they are not stealing food or necessities from us. Commonly stolen things are video games and consoles, manga, LPs, Tarot decks, bibles, CDs & DVDs. In short, either small or expensive or both. The motives seem to be either resale or “I don’t want to pay for it”.
I am definitely not profiting from it.
posted by librosegretti at 7:33 PM on January 23 [24 favorites]


well tarot cards don't work right unless you steal them
posted by logicpunk at 7:45 PM on January 23 [26 favorites]


that explains this deck of tarot cards I bought off a reseller site where every card spread I drew said that I'm going to prison for my crimes
posted by Merus at 8:07 PM on January 23 [25 favorites]


Large retailers try to find the equilibrium price on the supply and demand curve. The price is already ahead of what the retailer buys it for wholesale. If the retailer increases prices to above the equilibrium price they'll sell less and lower their overall profit hence the desire to find a price as close to the equilibrium as possible.

This may just a different way of saying what xdvesper said, but...Yes, the equilibrium price. The price where the number of people willing to buy at that price matches the number of people willing to sell at that price. Well, when shoplifting goes up and costs go up, the number of people willing to sell at a given price drops. This shifts the supply curve to the left. And guess what that does to the equilibrium price?

I don't disagree that many of these big retailers probably steal as much as or more than they're stolen from and we all benefit from that, too (because if Walmart paid people for all the time they worked, you can bet stuff sold at Walmart would cost more and if stuff sold at Walmart cost more, stuff sold everywhere else would cost more, too). But it doesn't then follow from that that high levels of shoplifting (or even perceived high levels of shoplifting that stores then spend money trying to prevent) aren't likely to result in higher prices.

But yeah, I can't imagine ever seeing someone stealing food or diapers.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:11 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


OTOH, one time I thwarted a shoplifter who ran out of a liquor store with an armload of bottles. The store staff stopped chasing at the door to the shop, bu I jogged after the guy, yelling. He was 100+ ft ahead of me and I wasn't even thinking of trying to stop him, I just wanted to follow him and fuck up his escape plan, or at least make him work for it.

He kept looking back over his shoulder at me, until he tripped over a curb and dropped all the loot, lmao.
posted by ryanrs at 8:31 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Bad headline. Good article.

My takeaways
- there isn't a huge spike in shoplifting
- there would probably be even less if American drug policy was "better"
- it's easier to be a fence than it once was
posted by booooooze at 8:42 PM on January 23 [14 favorites]


I expect shoplifting really does result in higher prices, although estimating the difference would be a real project.

However in terms of pure economic logic, shoplifting can also result in lower prices, because shoplifting competes with buying. If a product is expensive enough, some people who were going to buy it will steal it instead. The prospect of stealing thus puts downward pressure on prices. Whether the upward or downward pressure predominates depends on the market.

Digital music is a market where stealing has probably lowered prices. The huge spread of file-sharing in the late '90s / early '00s forced companies to offer digital downloads for cheap, because they knew that if the price was a pain point people would just keep pirating instead. I suspect the current streaming economy, with its $10/mo all you can eat offers, is still shaped by these pressures.

Now lower prices are not necessarily good. They may mean less resources are available for musicians (although again this is actually rather difficult to determine).

But the correspondence "Stealing ➡ higher prices" is not the kind of thing you can actually know from pure theory. It depends on the complicated world.
posted by grobstein at 8:44 PM on January 23 [13 favorites]


As already pointed out, the real story here is about the news. Our news media is so easily manipulated for the interests of capital. It's really depressing. Let's go after Walgreens for wage theft as aggressively as they're complaining about shoplifting.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:49 PM on January 23 [52 favorites]


It's bullshit propaganda that the capitalists use to set the middle and working class against each other.

I strongly suspect that most of the working and middle classes are pretty much in agreement about being anti-shoplifting.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:26 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


their volumes are determined by their costs

One of your assumptions here is that the other costs are basically just and inexorable. But the grocery store could, after all, not do a fucking bullshit ridiculous dividend recap-driven merger and instead use that money to keep prices down.
posted by praemunire at 9:28 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


I strongly suspect that most of the working and middle classes are pretty much in agreement about being anti-shoplifting.

Well...I'm somewhat sympathetic to the store staff, I suppose, as I know it's a stressful experience for them. But in weighing the wellbeing of CVS shareholders against Bob Two-Fingers getting well that night from the proceeds of two things of laundry detergent before going off to sleep in some miserable hellhole somewhere, I find it otherwise hard to get too worked up about it.

And I just find the absurd rhetoric around it offensive, because it assumes we are slow-witted as hell. Shoplifting is a thing. But I can show you the local street market where they resell stuff obviously shoplifted in twos and threes from the nearby drugstores. These are not highly organized gangs moving pallets on Amazon, and indeed it's hard to imagine how you'd do that. It's basically another moral panic pumped up by rent-a-cops as a distraction from the fact that they overexpanded in the last decade and online shopping is eating their lunch, and at the heart of every moral panic is voluntary or involuntary stupidity.
posted by praemunire at 9:34 PM on January 23 [29 favorites]


Theft of goods has to raise overall cost, and right now I assume it’s not the monopsonies that are going to pay that cost. Me or, more likely, the producer, as in grobstein’s music example.

This doesn’t mean shoplifting is anywhere near the top of the list of Things to Fix, but it also probably isn’t Sticking it to the Man.
posted by clew at 9:36 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Remember the rule: if you see somebody stealing food or diapers? No, you did not.

"Son, you got a panty on yore haid."
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:50 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


None of the boosters interviewed for this story could name someone who shoplifted for any other reason than to support a drug habit.

That’s really the heart of this piece, I think. Just another battle in the “war on drugs” that we are losing.

(And as the owner of an art supply store, the array of Golden fluid acrylics in one of the photos of stolen goods hit close to home.)
posted by jimw at 9:53 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


From a planning point of view, theft is a real effect, and that has driven major shifts in retail over the long term—the security of malls was one of their major attractions for small retailers in the late 20thC, since they could pool costs and share a lockable place, and street retail suffered accordingly. It's one of the competitive advantages enjoyed by urban fringe big-box retailers over local or 'high street' retailers, who, in places where perceived theft is high, are out-competed by other kinds of shops: ones where you pay upfront (cafes, fast food, bars), where you have to ask a worker to get you something (shoe shops, butcher shops), where theft is really hard (furniture, whitegoods) pointless (bead shops, junk stores) or where shoplifting doesn't apply (haircuts, home loans, manicures). I am absolutely certain that urban planners at Amazon know in detail about these effects.

The kind of shops where commodities are set out on display, to take to a cashier who is not directly engaged in sales, are not historically typical, really became popular only in the post-WWII, they depend on a high level of trust in their customers and/or goods that aren't worth stealing, and there's really no rule they have to exist into the future either.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:56 PM on January 23 [30 favorites]


And I just find the absurd rhetoric around it offensive, because it assumes we are slow-witted as hell. Shoplifting is a thing. But I can show you the local street market where they resell stuff obviously shoplifted in twos and threes from the nearby drugstores. These are not highly organized gangs moving pallets on Amazon, and indeed it's hard to imagine how you'd do that. It's basically another moral panic pumped up by rent-a-cops as a distraction from ...

I find it weird how people seem to insist on a binary here. There are clearly desperate junkies doing an awful lot of shoplifting. It appears that there are also more sophisticated criminals and networks involved in some of this activity.

Recognizing the latter does not mean denying the former. Nor does it mean blindly accepting some kind of totally fictional capitalist propaganda that's been concocted to deceive us.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:24 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Starting the blaze and fanning the flames of the shoplifting panic was a key tactic in right wing media's strategy to help elect Republicans last November.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 PM on January 23 [27 favorites]


It appears that there are also more sophisticated criminals and networks involved in some of this activity.

Really? From what does this appear? In particular, from what does it appear that it would justify the outsized place this supposed phenomenon gets in the media and politics?

Who do you think are the imagined thieves here? What do you think is claimed to be the cause of their supposed boldness? Who is the imagined savior, what are the policies that will supposedly save us? If, here in the year of our lord 2023, you don’t recognize right-wing red-meat rhetoric, I don’t know what to tell you.
posted by praemunire at 11:01 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


there's really no rule they have to exist into the future either

The typical small food shop in Central Asia and I suppose much of the ex-USSR is goods along the wall ringed by a counter, alnd a salesperson who gathers your order for you. Suits me just fine.

I imagine Duane Reade and CVS could easily move to the fast food model, where you pick and pay on a touch screen out in the public area and the workers gather your stuff in the warehouse section in back, hand you your pre-paid sack of stuff.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:56 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


Spare me the right wing red meat rhetoric --it can be a case of two mints in one if not more, y'know.

Shoplifting is happening way more than it used to happen for whatever reason -- shit is flying out of QFC. It was never like this three, four years ago. And if you can't believe me, I don't know what to tell you. I know what I am seeing with my own eyes.

Another thing I see when I walk to QFC is dogs barking at other dogs because they're undersocialized. As well as are people. We have been walking around in masks for a couple of years and I know that has been hard for dogs because they couldn't read our faces like they used to be able to do. It's been that way with people, too, in my experience.

I am not shy with dogs or people and I talk to strangers with ease. Yet for more personal anecdotal evidence, the number of unfriendly people with unfriendly dogs I encounter has shot up quite a bit.

More people I meet want no part of my polite phatic pleasantries and return my affable attempts at small talk with silent hostile looks away.

It's like Oligolopoly meet the pandemic -- we are a lot less in touch with one another in person than we used to be. All these averted faces suit the lying right wing red meat rhetoricians just fine and dandy. As in divide and conquer. Which is much easier to do if we come in container ships full of don't-talk-to-me windowless monads by the twelve pack. We are all in this together alone by our sullen single selves anymore. Hard to organize a community out of that.
posted by y2karl at 1:58 AM on January 24 [13 favorites]


honestly I kind of imagine that if a junkie can do it, someone organised can probably do it way more effectively. I've heard credible evidence that organised crime was involved in the avocado trade. They sold Team Fortress 2 hats at one point. While it is good to be suspicious of the moral panic, it's also good to be suspicious of the idea that shoplifting is a welfare program for those battling a drug addiction.
posted by Merus at 3:36 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


honestly I kind of imagine that if a junkie can do it, someone organised can probably do it way more effectively. I've heard credible evidence that organised crime was involved in the avocado trade. They sold Team Fortress 2 hats at one point. While it is good to be suspicious of the moral panic, it's also good to be suspicious of the idea that shoplifting is a welfare program for those battling a drug addiction

This is sort of the disconnect though. Organized crime by and large doesn't do shoplifting because shoplifting is a very low margin very high risk type crime that's hard to do in bulk.

I work as a public defender and man do cops love retail thefts. Everybody is on camera, everybody gets caught. They clear these things in minutes. Which is why the people doing the shoplifting aren't thinking beyond their next six hours.

You know why organized crime is involved in the avocado trade? Because they have zones where they are immune to prosecution (the whole ass state of Jalisco, e.g.) where they can capture the trade. High volume, high margin, low risk. It's the exact same reason that they aren't into retail theft.

Anybody arguing different needs data, not anecdotes
posted by TheProfessor at 4:07 AM on January 24 [40 favorites]


I'll give a shit about shrinkage/shoplifting when employers cease wage theft.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:09 AM on January 24 [28 favorites]


I imagine Duane Reade and CVS could easily move to the fast food model, where you pick and pay on a touch screen out in the public area and the workers gather your stuff in the warehouse section in back, hand you your pre-paid sack of stuff.

The main issue is that setup requires more employees. Retailers absolutely do not want to pay more workers. I’ve always had sympathy for the retail workers who are running around like crazy, because they’re in a store that’s very obviously understaffed. I don’t expect that shareholders will accept stores needing several more people per shift.
posted by azpenguin at 5:23 AM on January 24 [11 favorites]


. I imagine Duane Reade and CVS could easily move to the fast food model, where you pick and pay on a touch screen out in the public area and the workers gather your stuff in the warehouse section in back, hand you your pre-paid sack of stuff

We already have this in the UK, it's Argos. This is entirely what Argos do. And they sell cheap crap and have a general reputation for poor quality and the kind of clientele who buy a toaster and then return it with their old broken toaster in the box instead. And the staff don't check because, again, they don't want to pay the wages to get sufficient staff who actually care. So instead of straight up theft, they eat the cost of dodgy returns by accepting basically anything as a return.

I think the association with Argos has rather poisoned the well for other, more up market stores to use the same model, and there are probably reasons why Argos ended up this way in the first place.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:51 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The phrase "ethical customers" is really obnoxious. The article is clear that the majority of shoplifters profiled there, at least, are addicted to drugs. That, to me, doesn't make their crimes unethical. Their crimes are a result of their illness.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:02 AM on January 24 [14 favorites]


Shoplifters are very common and infuriating in my store; they are not stealing food or necessities from us.

To a drug addict, the non-necessities do indeed buy a necessity.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:04 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


We already have this in the UK, it's Argos.

And Screwfix, Toolstation, MKM to a slightly lesser extent... Most builders' merchants seem to work this way.
posted by Dysk at 6:54 AM on January 24


The typical small food shop in Central Asia and I suppose much of the ex-USSR is goods along the wall ringed by a counter, and a salesperson who gathers your order for you.

This used to be a thing in the US as well (and elsewhere). I think there's one in O Brother Where Art Thou? I don't think I've seen a food store set up this way in the contemporary US, but even in the 90s I would occasionally wander into an old hardware store that had everything behind the counter, and auto parts stores are still mostly like this.

Of course that approach doesn't typically scale well; it's one thing if you have three shelves of canned goods, and another if you have acres of merchandise.

In terms of getting customers to do the work of shopping so you had to pay fewer people, I suppose the forerunner of the self-checkout was ... the modern retail checkout itself.
posted by Not A Thing at 7:07 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


None of the boosters interviewed for this story could name someone who shoplifted for any other reason than to support a drug habit.

*checks statute of limitations*

When I was in my 20s I boosted Chunky candy bars to support my Chunky candy bar habit, maybe twice.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:58 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I also used to smuggle Bubble Yum in high school and sell each piece for a quarter.

And that's the extent of my sweets-based criminal career.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:03 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I like how this is presented as somehow a new trend. When I was in high school 30 years ago I had a classmate who ran a pre-internet Postmates style shoplifting business and bookee operation out of his locker. You said what you wanted and he would get it for you at about 10% of cost. He had a crew and they ran a distraction heist where they would do things like let a stray dog into the store and then clear candy shelves while the cashier was distracted. Every bit of pornography I saw as a teen was shoplifted and abandoned in the woods for the next kid to find. The high-school guys operation only stopped when he couldn't cover a superbowl as a bookie and had the crap beat of him by a few disgruntled bettors.

I imagine Duane Reade and CVS could easily move to the fast food model, where you pick and pay on a touch screen out in the public area and the workers gather your stuff in the warehouse section in back, hand you your pre-paid sack of stuff

At the age of 14 I was the first warehouse/cashier dual tasker at Consumer's Distributing (Canada's version of Argos) in my local shopping mall (I laughably thought this was a big deal back then). Catalogue selection with a 7 digit code. Warehouse picker sends it up from downstairs on a conveyor built to a cashier who then rings through the sale (except for large items which required the customer to pay and then drive around to the back of the mall where the store's loading bay was). Solved customer shoplifting but replaced it with largescale warehouse theft as workers would have their friends drive around back and pick up TVs as if they were customers. It's also where I learned about Semantic Satiation because doing inventory required reading out hundreds of 7 digit codes and that quickly becomes really trippy.

Ubiquitous video surveillance changes the dynamic quite a bit to encouraging somewhat more intimidating techniques but the shoplifting/theft game remains largely the same except for a few wrinkles. The difference now is that it seems to have become a political issue rather than a pragmatic business loss-prevention one because businesses want to offload to problem of inventory security onto the public balance sheet rather than their own.
posted by srboisvert at 8:14 AM on January 24 [10 favorites]


I refused to shop at National Wholesale Liquidators because their security practices were just so ridiculous and out of line with being an off-brand discount store.

The one time I was in there, the PA system was constantly making announcements like "Security please report to Sportswear" and "Security needed in Electronics". It made me so uncomfortable that I felt like I'd have to buy something just to leave the store, so I grabbed a $3 set of earbuds.

The checkout line was five feet from the exit which had a door checker. I paid for my $3 earbuds, and was handed them in a small plastic bag. I then started to walk past the door checker--who had just watched me buy the earbuds--and he stopped me. "I need to see your receipt and check your bag".

Normally I'm pretty chill about letting retail workers do their performative bullshit to satisfy their bosses, but the combination of having to both check my receipt AND inspect the bag was just too much, and I appealed. "You just watched me buy this! The cashier handed me the bag! We made eye contact! You smiled!" but of course it was no use. "Store policy".

So I made it a policy never to shop there again.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:14 AM on January 24


Normally I'm pretty chill about letting retail workers do their performative bullshit to satisfy their bosses, but the combination of having to both check my receipt AND inspect the bag was just too much, and I appealed. "You just watched me buy this! The cashier handed me the bag! We made eye contact! You smiled!" but of course it was no use. "Store policy".

Just as an FYI no store has the right to search your bag on exit ever. They can call the police and when the police arrive they can report the crime and the police can search you if they believe the store staff. This requires the store staff to confirm that are sure they actually saw you shoplift and puts them at risk of making a false report and improper detention.
posted by srboisvert at 8:21 AM on January 24 [11 favorites]


More people I meet want no part of my polite phatic pleasantries and return my affable attempts at small talk with silent hostile looks away.

I think you may have been unknowingly transported here to Estonia. Or maybe Finland.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 8:31 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


This used to be a thing in the US as well (and elsewhere). I think there's one in O Brother Where Art Thou?

It was that way until Piggly Wiggly invented the self-service grocery store. Memphis' Pink Palace Museum (built in the unfinished mansion of Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly) has a reproduction of their original grocery store in the museum--it's about the size of an average American convenience store--and the store has little signs instructing customers to bring the goods up to the checkout station, and also not to break up packages even if they only needed a cup of flour and not a whole pound.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


It's coming back with online shopping and delivery-only supermarkets.

Just as an FYI no store has the right to search your bag on exit ever.

Caveat: Costco is a "warehouse club", technically not open to the public, so they can revoke your membership.
posted by meowzilla at 9:27 AM on January 24 [4 favorites]


the door checker [...] "I need to see your receipt and check your bag"

Apart from the prices going up, these extra inconveniences and small humiliations are what we (the innocent buyer) ends up with, because of the theft problem. Don't blame the shop – they wouldn't be doing this if they hadn't been forced into it by the actions of the thieves.
posted by vincebowdren at 9:34 AM on January 24




It appears that there are also more sophisticated criminals and networks involved in some of this activity.

Really? From what does this appear?

RTFA.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:43 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I should also note that several stores along San Francisco's Market Street now have security guards at the entrance to their stores with cordons so that one must ask to be admitted. Obnoxious enough at the luxury stores like Michael Kors, but this is also the policy at Ross, which is utterly ridiculous. Way to keep casual browsers out of your stores, people.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 9:46 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Who do you think are the imagined thieves here? What do you think is claimed to be the cause of their supposed boldness? Who is the imagined savior, what are the policies that will supposedly save us? If, here in the year of our lord 2023, you don’t recognize right-wing red-meat rhetoric, I don’t know what to tell you.

You're imagining a bunch of stuff that's not in the article, then saying I'm a chump because... I don't see it in the article? OK.

I'm aware of all the anti-crime hysteria that's in the atmosphere at the moment, believe me. This article is not that. It's fairly nuanced.

Also: There has in fact been a genuine uptick in crime in the last few years. It's worth analyzing this phenomenon in order to better understand it, rather than simply accusing those who are trying to do so of being capitalist stooges.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:49 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I quibble with the idea that this crime is even increasing.

Even as retailers sound the alarm on shoplifting, grasping the scope of the problem is maddeningly difficult. The term shoplifter, as used by the media, often lumps candy-bar thieves in with cosmetics boosters, who get lumped in with smash-and-grab gangs and large-scale-robbery rings. Data from the FBI suggests the incidence of shoplifting has remained relatively steady, but a significant number of state and local law-enforcement agencies don’t share their data with the FBI. Many incidents go unreported because employees don’t call the police — a poll of loss-prevention managers put that number between 50 and 95 percent of known thefts. And, of course, no agency’s data set will include the times boosters slipped away undetected.

What we’re left with is a conversation driven by theories and numbers provided almost exclusively by retailers.

posted by tiny frying pan at 9:59 AM on January 24 [7 favorites]




meowzilla: Caveat: Costco is a "warehouse club", technically not open to the public, so they can revoke your membership.

I’m reminded of a jewelry store not far from my grandparents house growing up that had a “members only” sign on the door, requiring patrons be buzzed in and out. I imagine it was a dodge to deny entry to whomever the proprietor didn’t like the looks of; I’ve never heard of a “members only” jewelry store outside of a Price Club/BJs or the like.
posted by dr_dank at 10:29 AM on January 24


I strongly suspect that most of the working and middle classes are pretty much in agreement about being anti-shoplifting.

Then you don’t know us very well.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:40 AM on January 24 [13 favorites]


Not anymore. Now it's a pointillistic Georges Seurat meets Jackson Pollock scavenger hunt: nothing is next to what it used to be next to and every exit is shut but one.

The Seattle QFC on Broadway used to be a thief's dream, as near as I could tell: dead spots, dead corners -- exits everywhere: front, back, upstairs, downstairs. A seemingly porous design. I haven't been to that QFC in a couple years so I'm not sure if it is any harder to lift now, but most every grocery store I go to now has fewer hours and, after a certain time of day, all but one exit gets locked up. Alcohol purchases will often involve staff bringing the item to the register with you. Drug stores have security guards posted at the entrance who yell hello at you very loudly when you come in.

Everyone here knows the deal. Whatever the objections of Metafilter, Seattle retailers have a very real problem with shoplifting, tied to homelessness and associated substance abuse, which has been worsening since the early 2010s. You can go out to the usual drug blocks and see addicts hawking random stolen goods on a regular basis, to trade for cash to buy drugs. It became enough of a visible problem in 2020 to help the current mayor get elected in 2021, some of whose policies have been directed at mostly moving the problem out of downtown and into the surrounding neighborhoods.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:41 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I strongly suspect that most of the working and middle classes are pretty much in agreement about being anti-shoplifting.

Then you don’t know us very well.


I am included in the aforementioned categories, so I'm pretty sure I know "us" at least as well as you do.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:16 AM on January 24


One thing that I haven't seen mentioned yet (apologies in advance if I missed it) is the fact that a certain amount of inventory shrinkage is from the store employees themselves. When I was a janitor, thirty-odd years ago, one of the places that I cleaned was the local Target, and when we went in to clean (we cleaned on the graveyard shift), our clothes and personal belongings were inventoried at the beginning and end of every shift; there were also CCTV cameras, of course, and occasionally we could hear security people moving along the catwalk under the dropped ceiling overhead. Despite their suspicions, apparently all the in-house shrinkage was the fault of the actual Target employees (we were outside contractors).

Not long after that, I got my first library job--as a clerk at the university where I'd eventually get my library degree--and briefly moonlit as a checkout clerk at a local chain drug store. About 90% of my employee training was watching videos that all said the same thing: DON'T EVEN THINK OF STEALING FROM US, WE HAVE CAMERAS EVERYWHERE AND WE'LL CATCH YOU. Amusingly, that just led me to try to figure out how I'd do it if I did, which I didn't.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:32 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


It seems like two things are true: there has been a noticeable uptick in brazen shoplifting in certain geographical areas, and there is no concrete evidence that shoplifting (or even shrinkage) losses have increased globally or even nationwide. Out here in Nobody Cares, USA, I haven't seen or heard much of anything that would indicate increased shoplifting locally. (Then again, I might not see or hear that anyway, because [see place name].)

It would be really interesting to know what the geographic breakdown is here -- is shoplifting increasing in some areas and decreasing in others?

But I guess that gets to a broader issue, touched on in the article: ultimately the store owners are the people who could share this data in a transparent way that would support informed policy choices. The fact that they don't do so, while also insisting that shoplifting is a serious public policy problem, does not do wonders for their credibility.
posted by Not A Thing at 11:47 AM on January 24 [9 favorites]


" Don't blame the shop – they wouldn't be doing this if they hadn't been forced into it by the actions of the thieves."

Funny how Walmart didn't need 90 year old guys checking your bags on the way out back before they replaced 24 cashiers with 24 self-checkout stations watched by one 17 year old kid.

I never stop at WalMart on the way out.

"I’m reminded of a jewelry store not far from my grandparents house growing up that had a “members only” sign on the door, requiring patrons be buzzed in and out. "

I'm very suspicious that jewelry was not only thing they were selling in that store.
posted by COD at 12:40 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


this is pretty tangential, but the one time I chased someone down it happened so fast I did not have time to think about things

there were 3 of us on the floor of a chain record store in a mall, it was pretty slow, and a guy approached us to inform us that two guys were shoveling armloads of CDs into duffels on the other side of a merchandiser and crouching to avoid scrutiny. They were visible to anyone in the main thoroughfare, guess they were taking their chances during a slow evening? I gave chase, out the food court and one guy got away but I caught the other guy by his jacket and held on, and ended up spending hours in a weird little cramped mall security office before I could go back to the store. I appeared at a court hearing months later and the case was struck, I don't think the guys even showed up (the other guy was caught by an RCMP who happened to be coming off duty and saw him running across the mall parking lot).

Knowing what I know, it was a dumb thing for the guys to do (I learned the one guy, the one I caught, was a college student and I don't think he thought things through and he seemed pretty scared the whole time) and maybe a dumber thing for me to do (give chase). Ask me about the person who lifted an entire box of "Braveheart" VHS tapes from the floor once, ask me if I lose sleep over that.

Sure this probably "costs" all of us in some way, but there are hundreds of costs we are incurring before that particular cost amounts to anything. There is theft happening right now, and we all know it, and the thieves literally get away with murder and we're talking about food items, personal electronics, etc, it's a fucking distraction as far as I'm concerned.
posted by elkevelvet at 1:14 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Ask me about the person who lifted an entire box of "Braveheart" VHS tapes from the floor once

Did they tell “Freedom!” As they left?
posted by nubs at 2:19 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


ultimately the store owners are the people who could share this data in a transparent way that would support informed policy choices. The fact that they don't do so, while also insisting that shoplifting is a serious public policy problem, does not do wonders for their credibility.

I don't think the data really exists. There's definitely theft, you see it every day if you work retail. We had the same shady characters stuff their bags full of items and refuse inspection and just walk out. Some get banned, store detectives follow others around, CCTV captures people in the act of stealing. How can you quantify what was stolen by customers, vs what was stolen by employees, vs what was simply carelessly lost? What about when customers just pick up a frozen prime rib, then leave it on a random shelf in the hardware section, that's a full loss as well, all put down to unethical customers.

On the other hand, as a cashier I could also never get my till to balance at the end of the day. Some days it was under, other days it was over, also multiple people worked the same till in shifts but it only gets a full count at closing. So, again, employee theft? User error and honest mistake?
posted by xdvesper at 2:34 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


On attitudes toward shoplifting I have only anecdata, but from personal experience on both sides of the counter I’d attest that a surprisingly wide swathe of people are totes cool with it and willing to rationalize it depending on circumstance. As highlighted in this very thread about turning a blind eye when certain necessities are involved, but plenty of folks just do it because they can get away with it and/or “want something and don’t wanna pay for it” (dah dah dah dah dahdada buhdada dah dah dada dah).
posted by aspersioncast at 2:50 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I don't think the data really exists.... How can you quantify what was stolen by customers, vs what was stolen by employees, vs what was simply carelessly lost?

Chains are sophisticated enough that they send ads for baby clothes to people who don't know they're pregnant yet, but we're supposed to believe that they can't possibly quantify their losses to shoplifting, and yet they tell us that shoplifting is a huge problem, trust us, here's a tape of some guy grabbing a box of diapers.
posted by Etrigan at 3:09 PM on January 24 [12 favorites]


Ask me about the person who lifted an entire box of "Braveheart" VHS tapes from the floor once, ask me if I lose sleep over that.

At some point the scale of the larceny becomes impressive in and of itself. Some twelve-year-old boosts a Snickers bar, whatever; a pro filches a six-hundred-dollar pair of earrings, that’s lousy. However, I used to go out with someone who worked in a bar in the nineties, and she told me how the bar lost five or six video game machines. Three guys in coveralls turned up with a cube van and a dolly, had the bartender sign some papers on a clipboard (and left him with carbon copies), and loaded the machines one by one onto the truck and drove away with them.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:13 PM on January 24 [14 favorites]


wide swathe of people are totes cool with it and willing to rationalize it depending on circumstance.

replace god with all the cameras in the world and the ability to control the narrative "theft costs us all" and it starts to feel a lot like the contortions we go through in our households: did I rinse this enough, am I recycling enough, to what degree am I the reason the world is dying

we are awash in garbage, we are incentivized to constantly want garbage, we've been born into this for generations, I'm not sure what lessons we're supposed to take. I judge no-one.
posted by elkevelvet at 3:17 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I find it weird how people seem to insist on a binary here. There are clearly desperate junkies doing an awful lot of shoplifting. It appears that there are also more sophisticated criminals and networks involved in some of this activity.

I feel like some people are also setting their expectations too high for what “organized” means. I had an acquaintance who had once been involved in an “organized” and semi-sophisticated retail theft operation of… two people. That was also 15+ years ago, though, so I also think the recent narratives leave a lot to be desired, as far as substantiation and coherent explanation of alleged trends.
posted by atoxyl at 4:57 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


I do believe that shoplifting is a problem, but I don’t believe it’s that much worse than it’s ever been. My uncle worked at a grocery store for 30 plus years and has all sorts of stories. More/better video and a police narrative probable makes it seem worse.

I also believe that employee facilitated theft is a large percentage in terms of total dollars. Much easier to get big tickets items out the back door than slip them in your coat
posted by CostcoCultist at 5:33 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Wage theft is more than this BS distraction

Who cares about real people stealing from corporations when corporations steal much more from real people
posted by eustatic at 9:42 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Has the ratio of shoplifting to internal theft changed recently? I used to hear that the latter was responsible for more shrinkage than the former.
posted by Selena777 at 10:44 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Aldi just added self checkout, with no item limit. In a store where bags are optional, I have zero idea of how they intend to stop shoplifting when people are literally scanning and immediately returning things unbagged to the same cart.

Also, it's a shitshow and slows everything down. Aldi cashiers were skilled pros who could empty a cart in 30 seconds.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:58 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Has the ratio of shoplifting to internal theft changed recently? I used to hear that the latter was responsible for more shrinkage than the former.

Judging by the number of cameras pointed at cashiers, I doubt it.

I have zero idea of how they intend to stop shoplifting when people are literally scanning and immediately returning things unbagged to the same cart.

That's how warehouse stores work, and as more stores charge for bags, same. If it's a problem, they will put an empty shopping cart at the end, and you move from in-store shopping cart to exiting shopping cart. Also lots of cameras, and new grocery scanners attempt to identify missed/fake scans, ie: ones that don't hit a barcode.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:51 AM on January 25


I've heard credible evidence that organised crime was involved in the avocado trade.

What does this have to do with organized shoplifting rings?

Organized crime is involved in all sorts of seemingly legitimate businesses, because it is profitable to do so and because they can use violence (both actual and threatened) to undercut legitimate operators or dominate the industry altogether, which seems to be the case in much of the avocado trade, except for the odd group of farmers who hire armed security (essentially mercenaries who may themselves technically be engaging in organized crime if they are acting outside the law in the course of, you know, gunning down cartels threatening the farming community).

This is all interesting, but has seemingly little to do with shoplifting, regardless of whether or not some shoplifters are organized and semi-professional.
posted by asnider at 9:26 AM on January 25


In a store where bags are optional,

Are there stores where bags are non-optional? I can't imagine a store making you use a bag. Why do they care? I've never heard of this.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:46 PM on January 25


There are definitely many stores where you will get hassled by security for not using a bag. (Because shoplifting, I guess?)

There was also that one otherwise delightful neighborhood grocery store where the cashier said I was "country " for not using a bag.

TBH, IDK what these stores' problem is, but it's definitely a whole thing.
posted by Not A Thing at 3:59 PM on January 25


Labor productivity is a function of capital - a single farmer using millions of dollars of machinery, say AI driven harvesters and planters - can be a thousand times more productive than a farmer using his bare hands to grow food.

But capital is not only physical, it's social as well. You only need to live for awhile in a high and low HDI country (Say Australia / Germany versus Malaysia or South Africa) to immediately see that it's not just physical capital that is the problem, or even main problem.

There's corruption, mistrust of authority, mistrust of each other, rampant criminality, a dysfunctional judiciary. Even if you imported a billion dollars of the most advanced automation and set up a state of the art factory in that country, you would never be able to achieve even 20% of the productivity you would if you set it up in Australia or Germany.

Arguably social capital is more important than physical capital.

Random anecdote - my friends from the US or Malaysia are shocked you can just fill your car up with petrol in Australia and then walk into the store to pay later. Yes, some people could fill up and drive off without paying, and they do. But it's tiny details like that, multiplied a million times and scaled up - where you can trust 99% of people to do the right thing - that makes doing business or getting anything done way more efficient, and cheaper, lowering the cost for everyone, and increasing everyone's prosperity.

And it's a self fulfilling cycle. A society which trusts each other to do the right thing is more likely to spend on social interventions - stronger welfare safety nets, better minimum wages, education, rehabilitation - because they trust that their money is not being "wasted".

Nothing is worse for society than an entire underclass of people who feel they no future - because now they have nothing to lose.

Shoplifting - and the costly measures to counteract it - is just one symptom of this. Because why wouldn't they, with nothing to lose.
posted by xdvesper at 4:13 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]


I also believe that employee facilitated theft is a large percentage in terms of total dollars. Much easier to get big tickets items out the back door than slip them in your coat

True story: some thirty years ago I toiled for Sony selling Walkmans and Discmans and other personal audio devices. My immediate overseer was a dim and angry fellow who I will call Mark, as that was his name. He was in our store maybe once a week or two, as he had a bunch of places to oversee gaze stupidly at and interfere with.

One day he assessed a bit of clutter in the back room: mostly some empty packaging from recent deliveries and returns, some old catalogues, a few stray instruction manuals. He appraised it critically on one visit.

“Ricochet, I want you to toss everything between this shelf and the door in the garbage.”

“But Mark, there’s a —“

“I don’t care. All of it. Garbage. Do I make myself clear?”

“Sure, but —“

“Look, don’t argue with me, just throw all this out!”

“Okay.”

Sitting in prominent view in the area he wanted cleaned up was the highest-end Walkman Sony made available in this country; in 2023 dollars, it was about $750 retail. I shrugged and put it aside when I tossed everything else.

Mark, if you’re reading this and you ever got in crap from Alan at the regional office about a missing WM-520, I promise I will throw it out as soon as it stops working.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:38 PM on January 25 [14 favorites]


anecdotally, all the boosters i know/knew did it for drugs or alternately for food because they spent all their money on drugs and needed food. They often specialize: Like one dude is the steak man and he got nothing but steaks - whatever cut you desire; and like then you got your hardware man he's got your batteries and power tools and stuff, maybe he steals them from a construction site? It's quite possible I own a pair of pants that was boosted. Incidentally, they're great but I can't find another pair for sale anywhere, which is a shame cuz they're good enough to pay retail price for.


I remember some article, think it was posted here on the blue, about some Tide Laundry Powder Detergent theft ring in like new York or something and I'm still pretty sure that was all BS.
posted by some loser at 6:08 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


my friends from the US or Malaysia are shocked you can just fill your car up with petrol in Australia and then walk into the store to pay later. Yes, some people could fill up and drive off without paying, and they do.

When capital convinced the government here to make the unpopular prepay mandatory (acting unilaterally would have reduced their business) they did it with the blow smoke up our butts justification that it was for the safety of gas station workers. Because of minimum wage gas station employees who were so dedicated to the company store they would run after gas and run perpetrators and be injured. Which actually happened a few times despite all cars having license plates and all stations being equipped with cameras making stealing gas one of the easiest crimes to solve ever.
posted by Mitheral at 7:41 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


making stealing gas one of the easiest crimes to solve ever.

What usually happens is the thieves just park next to a car of similar make, get their screwdriver out, steal their plates, then go fill up petrol and leave... and let some other random poor shmuck get arrested and charged with stealing petrol - "easiest crime to solve ever" indeed. Of course if they're smart they'll immediately lodge a "my plates were stolen" report but it's still a huge hassle to sort out especially if it happens immediately before the paperwork has gone through and the police start hunting you down.
posted by xdvesper at 8:13 PM on January 25


Out here one of the main reasons gas is prepay is because the police told stores they were no longer going to respond to calls for gas drive-offs. Too many of those calls and the cops had other things to bother with besides people stealing ten bucks worth of gas (this was before gas prices started going up much past $1.50.) I wish they would tell WalMart the same thing regarding self-checkout. There’s a particular store here, in a decently well-off part of town, that calls the cops all the time to arrest people that their security goons detained, often over small amounts of money, and even straight up mistakes. They’re externalizing the costs of not employing cashiers, and I wish the official police policy would be “if you wanna make people do the work employees should be doing, then we’re not going to be your backup for that.”
posted by azpenguin at 1:19 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Out here one of the main reasons gas is prepay is because the police told stores they were no longer going to respond to calls for gas drive-offs. Too many of those calls and the cops had other things to bother with besides people stealing ten bucks worth of gas

This is actually another interesting concept that's been tested here... stealing gas, or shoplifting, if you squint a bit... can be seen as being covered under civil law - breach of contract - rather than criminal law.

For example, if you decide not to pay your plumber because your toilet wasn't fixed to your satisfaction, this failure to pay isn't a criminal action which requires the police to come to your house to arrest you. No, if you have a civil dispute, you go to civil court and fight it out, and get a judgement. The police have zero interest in this.

On the other hand, if you break into someone's home, or even a store in the night while it's closed, there's no contract, so it's automatically a criminal matter.

With a supermarket or petrol station, there is a contract. Doesn't have to be written. The law recognizes that

1. there's an offer (goods on display with placarded price)
2. acceptance (buyer takes possession)
3. an intention to create a legal relationship (you're allowed to return a defective item for just compensation)
4. and consideration (money).

So this means, failure to pay could be seen as a civil issue of breach of contract, not criminal... if you squint a certain way. In 2013 Victoria declared petrol theft a civil matter and police would not be involved - they said, if the business creates an insecure situation that encourages theft, it's not up to taxpayer funded police to fix the problem for them. Petrol stations were knowingly accepting the risk of people not paying because the convenience and people walking into the store after filling created a lucrative opportunity for sales of high margin items. They reversed their stance in 2022, after lobbying from the petrol retailers association, but it remains conceptually interesting.
posted by xdvesper at 1:57 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


I found the style of this article irritating and felt like the author was always trying to claim too much while hedging their bets. "Whether the crisis is real or the continuation of a long-standing trend remains up for debate." You don't say?

I had quite a lot of experience/observation of shoplifting while working for one of the few remaining bookstore chains in the US. I definitely got the sense that internal shrink was huge, both in terms of products going missing and funny deals. They used to make a very big production about how it was your obligation to report but I don't know, if you've been working there a week and you see your manager very obviously hiding stuff in a dumpster for retrieval later? You must feel like it's an open secret and people will hate you for telling.

Shoplifting itself? Some of it was certainly about resale, often centered on a narrow category of product. There was a period of news coverage of this, much of which was extremely racist with offensive labels being used on TV. In the stores themselves, the profiling was just blatant and management never seemed to notice they weren't catching anyone or preventing loss that way or to reflect that maybe the offenders were people who looked harmless to them? I came to believe that good number of the shoplifters had developed a dislike of the store and felt unseen, neglected and frustrated when they came in, and that was their main motivation.

I found this article focused on class in a way that was strange. It's really humiliating for the author to have to ask for products that are locked up? Why, because it makes you look like the sort of person who would shoplift?
posted by BibiRose at 4:57 AM on January 26


Are there stores where bags are non-optional?

Not exactly, but in most grocery stores in the US, whether something is bagged is used as a visual indicator for whether it has been rung up/paid for. Not always true for a single item or two, but very much true for a cart full of stuff.

The reason the self-checkout/no bags combo at Aldi is weird is because it means there is absolutely no visual way to assess what has or has not been scanned. In the regular lines with checkers, they move your stuff to a different cart.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:47 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


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