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June 5, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Shoplifting Is Not In Your Budget

By Goldilocks More Blogs by This Author

We've all seen the mirrors, the cameras, the security guards. We all know that fearful moment as you walk between the detectors at the exit of a store praying that the cashier remembered to take off all the security tags. And that awful moment when it does and you glance over sheepishly at the security guard hoping that he doesn't stare accusingly at you as if you had tried to steal something. As if you were one of those people.

 We've all heard the stories about the dreaded shoplifters.

 But we dismiss them. I mean, what impact could they have on us? We don't shoplift. We shouldn't need to worry, or feel bad, or stress. This is a problem between the store and the shoplifter. And if the thief isn't caught, then the store simply eats the losses and can profit off what you are buying instead.

 While that sounds simple and pleasant, that's not exactly how it works. Shoplifters account for more than 35 million dollars in losses a day. Which is a staggering number. In a year it gets even more mind-boggling 13 billion. That's right 13 billion dollars is lost each year due to shoplifting. Stores are forced to eat these losses, but to compensate for them, they have to raise the prices of other goods. The bottom line? The more people steal, the more you pay.

 Part of the problem is a lack of repercussions. Most shoplifters who are caught aren't prosecuted through the court – and why would they be? It not only backs up our already overloaded court systems but it ties up merchandise as evidence and employees as witnesses when they could be busy selling. Further, it's too petty of a crime to face such a lengthy trial. This leaves thieves off the hook for most of their actions allowing them to steal again and again.

 Another issues is simply the act of stealing itself. For most shoplifters, it is a problem of addiction. That “I got away with it” rush that keeps them coming back for more. This makes most of their shoplifting impulsive and hard to predict. We all know that you can become addicted to certain activities because of a little brain chemical called dopamine. When we do something thrilling our brains release it providing a sort of “rush” or “thrill.” The problem with this is that it is very easy to become addicted to this rush of brain juice and soon you have people, and especially vulnerable teens, who might have had no intention of stealing, walking out of the store with hundreds of dollars worth of unpaid merchandise. What's worse is that the thrill of the first time might prove too much for them and they will return to do it again, to feel that rush one more time.

 The psychological aspect of compulsive stealing also makes it hard to spot a shoplifter – they can't be type cast and they certainly don't fit into any particular mold. Even little old grannies could be shoplifters! And when you hear them calling you honey, are you honestly going to suspect a little old lady of stealing $100 worth of merchandise? This is because most offenders aren't professional thieves – they aren't out to make profits and they don't do it on a regular basis. Most would never dream of stealing from someone's house and might even return your wallet if you dropped it. They are everyday people that get a thrill out of getting away with a crime.

 The act of shoplifting makes us question what we deem to be “stealing” we don't usually call shoplifters thieves or criminals – we call them shoplifters. A very benign term that separates the crime from their actions. Most people steal in their lives without even realizing it. When you have a garage sale, are you really concerned with paying the income tax on the couple of dollars that you'd make? Or when you end up swiping a pen from work or print off a few extra pages while you're in the copy room. These little problems are often given a blind eye in society which means that proper attention is not paid to the larger issues such as shoplifting.

 The problem, then, is a lack of willingness to prosecute. This only worsens as the economic times get tougher. More and more people can't afford the objects that they're stealing and it makes it tougher for stores to catch them. Leaving their profits to grow smaller as they have less resources to secure their stores.

 So what does this have to do with your wallet?

The reason this affects the price you pay at the store is because of how the stores cover the costs of paying for the lost merchandise. The amount that the store's prices go up will depend on their usual profit margin – how much money they make between buying the item and then selling it to you. If the profit margin is low, then they will need to sell a large quantity of goods to make up for one object: however, if it is a high margin... they can cover the costs more effectively without having to sell as much.

 Picture it as you make 1$ profit off everything sold. If someone steals 20$ worth of merchandise, the store needs to sell 20 things just to make up for that one theft. Increasing the prices of the merchandise makes it easier for stores to recover the losses. If you make 2$ profit then you halve the amount you need to sell to return to a profit. Depending on how much the store you're shopping at is affected by this crime, the prices could fluctuate drastically.

 Despite being a massive problem for the retail world, shoplifting should be taken as more than just a theft. It has real psychological problems behind it, and those caught would be better off seeking help than merely being prosecuted. The price of reprimand, though, is burdensome, especially when they go uncaught. It's a price everyone has to pay – not just the stores and shoplifters. We're all affected by this every time we step into a store.

Information and statistics provided by theNational Association for Shoplifting Prevention(NASP)a nonprofit organization providing research-based shoplifting prevention initiatives including education, prevention, justice and rehabilitationprograms. Contact NASP:Click here to email us

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