Shoplifting At Wal-Mart

According to NY Times accounts, Wal-Mart has decided to cut shoplifters a bit of slack. If you’re under 18 or over 65, and try to swipe merchandise under $25 (and it’s your first time being caught by Wal-Mart security), they’ll give you a tough lecture and send you packing. Why the generosity? The article suggests – and this is surely true – that the local infrastructure (i.e., the cops and local prosecutors) don’t like to foot the bill for enforcing shoplifting laws. This raises some interesting questions. First, should shoplifting be a crime? Probably, if only because if allowed to grow, it would (in aggregate) devastate retailing. Second, who should bear the cost of shoplifting enforcement? Perhaps the right answer is the retailer. Offenders are the logical payors, but they are often too poor to bear actual costs. And while society at large could pay the cost (and does, right now), it seems to me that it would be easier to impose the tax on the retailer. Why? Because, in many respects, the retailer is in the best position to reduce theft. Cameras, good layout, ever-present security all help reduce attempted thefts. If stores see that they save more than mere shrinkage by stopping shoplifting, perhaps they’ll introduce those preventive steps.

In my experience, shoplifting cases are a major source of docket junk in criminal courts. DA’s typically don’t care much about them. The victims – and there are real victims – are mostly corporations, and these corporations don’t get exercised like other victims. To the DA, the company’s face is the security guard who shows up to testify – and he or she is usually a low-paid worker bee who doesn’t much care the outcome of the case.

Sounds to me like Wal-Mart is just trying to get along better with the local community. Perhaps they should talk to Target, a leader in the national fight against crime, for tips.

You may also like...

29 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    should shoplifting be a crime?

    This has me scratching my head like when people in Clinton’s days debated whether oral sex was adultery. Of course it’s a crime. It’s theft! How to structure punishment (leniency for first-time offenders, etc..) is up for debate, but who can seriously argue that theft is not a crime?

  2. Frank says:

    To me, this is th type of info that should not be reported. It almost seems to be an invitation to young and old thieves to try stealing! On the other hand, perhaps few see the law as the bad man does.

  3. Yes, it is a crime. But I have a huge problem trying to shift the cost of enforcement to the retailer is ridiculous.

    First, many retailers already employee most if not all of the measures you say they should employee. What else can they do? They already have to catch the crook. They don’t bring cops in to patrol the stores! If the security guard is a witness in the case, the retailer should pay him / her for the time they appear in court.

    Second, when they catch the criminal, they call the cops for prosecution. That is how our system works for CRIMINALS. You are trying to change the system for a particular crime just because some cops don’t want to do their job. That is beyond ridiculous, and the cops that have that attitude and react slower to these types of crimes should be kicked out of the force. That is why WE pay them.

    Third, how is it fair to the retailer to shift the cost of prosecution to them when they are the victim? They are simply trying to run a business and are already losing millions and millions a year due to these crooks. Why should they be taxed further? Do you tell a rape victim to pay for the prosecution of her attacker? Come on.

  4. MT says:

    If companies like Wal-Mart paid their workers a dignifying salary I suspect people would do the dignified thing and purchase, not steal, merchandise from cmopanies like Wal-Mart who have used the stroke of the pen to ‘steal’ dignity from the people that have worked to make companies like Wal-Mart beyond wealthy.

  5. Rob says:

    “If companies like Wal-Mart paid their workers a dignifying salary I suspect people would do the dignified thing and purchase, not steal, merchandise from cmopanies like Wal-Mart who have used the stroke of the pen to ‘steal’ dignity from the people that have worked to make companies like Wal-Mart beyond wealthy.”

    That’s great rhetoric; I’ll look for it in the upcoming election season. In the meantime, lets think about how silly this comment really is. This poster believes that shoplifters, apparently all ex-Wal-Mart employees, would not do so if they were paid a higher wage.

    To start, this completely ignores the many people who steal for a thrill or just to see if they can get away with it. In fact, a quarter of those prosecuted for shoplifting fall between the ages of 13-17- likely not an age group stealing to pay the bills. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, the majority of the remaining shoplifters are amateurs who simply see something they want (as opposed to need) and think they aren’t going to get caught. Also according to the NCPC, “Desperate people steal because they need food—but they make up only a very small number of shoplifters.” While I wish there were some exact figures to accompany this statement hopefully this puts to bed this notion that all those who are stealing are all poor/needy/Wal-Mart victims.

    As far as the solution MT proposes, simply raising salaries is, at best, a dubious solution to solving the problem of shoplifting. I suspect this would only serve to raise prices and/or price smaller manufacturers out of the market and if such a solution were so easy, I am sure it would have been tried by now..

    On a side note, I have no problem with the wages that Wal-Mart or other large companies pay their entry level employees. Wages should be based on how much the work is worth, employee’s skills, and the overall market for the job. Should a greeter really be paid 20 bucks an hour? Hardly. Anyone can fill that job along with 95% of the jobs at Wal-Mart. Now if the greeter exhibits impressive customer service skills, the greeter will likely be promoted to a position that better matches their skills, along with that promotion comes higher wages. In that respect I suspect that very few people stay at the bottom of the corporate ladder for very long. And even if they do…isnt that what the market dictates? If a person has no skill sets, why should it be the companies responsibility to pay a higher value for the labor then what they are recieving, that just seems like bad business..

  6. Tom Gownley says:

    I tend to agree with your outlook of how this named action is a crime. It is theft and nothing more. Society has dressed it up with a name that detracts from what it really is “shop lifting”. It does not even sound illegal.

    Perhaps prosecution and jail time is not the way to proceed with “first timers”. Technology could give prosecutors and judges a simple way to proceed if there is a quilty verdict. Post picture, crime, place, date, name and address of person who committed crime for the duration of sentance. Post in several prominent places throughout the community.

  7. robert waller says:

    Walmart doesn’t seem to care about shoplifting and almost encourages it. Greeters are not allowed to stop shoplifters or people suspected of shoplifting.

    Losses incurred by shoplifting just get taken off the bottom line and at the end of the year the employees lose their bonus.

    All Walmart cares about is the mighty dollar.

    Sam Walton would be ashamed of the present stance the the Greed-Lords.

  8. Helen Price says:

    Yes, they found the easiest way out. To reduce bonuses! But on the other hand staff should be alert and watch customers for potential shoplifting more thorough.

  9. alejandra says:

    walmart hires mentally ill employees along with the nonmentally ill employees, which is great…but do you think this could be an easy way out for the average shoplifter?

  10. christine says:

    I Tink dat walmatz iz askin fo it by hirin thez mentally ill employeez. and i also tink dat every one haz stolenz sumtin from walmatz weather it bez on accident or on purpose. itz not rightz but they needz to do their jobz and check da damn merchandise rollin out dey doorz if they dun wann be stolen frum.

  11. D Vader says:

    I am a lpo at walmart, I see the stuff walking out the door but in Canada we have to have “Finds Committing”, we have to actually see it or have someone who did with us at least thats what the criminal code says. I have been told by walmart associates that they saw someone take whatever but all I can say is thanks, Wal-mart policy does not allow me to pursue that person even if I have an associate as witness. Plain Crazy

  12. BrandonS says:

    That is probably because they do not want employees charged with assault or to get sued for millions :-/

  13. L.Frederikson says:

    I had a friend who got caught stealing a pen from walmart, first time ever and winded up getting banned from the entire mall as well as the walmart for 1 year, do you think this is a bit excesive?

  14. Trevor Pike and Chris Barbee says:

    Hell no! shopplifting is cool, me and my friend were just banned from Walmart for stealing about 200 dollars worth of stuff. I say no matter how much stuff you steal, if its your first time stealing from Walmart, you should get away with it. Its not like its hurting anyone

  15. Meatman says:

    Why steal from wal-mart when the stuff is so goddamn cheap. Then again they are asking for it by making other businesses fail by selling them out. They don’t even sell insane clown posse cds. Thanks to them i dont have a place to buy anime dvds other than pokemon and yugioh (crappy kiddie shows)because they tore the hastings down to build wal-mart. But still i dont shoplift

  16. Meatman says:

    Why steal from wal-mart when the stuff is so cheap. Then again they are asking for it by making other businesses fail by selling them out. They don’t even sell insane clown posse cds. Thanks to them i dont have a place to buy anime dvds other than pokemon and yugioh (kiddie shows) because they tore the hastings down to build wal-mart. But still i dont shoplift

  17. Bumper says:

    I work at Walmart in East Greenville,PA and we have had sooo many Employees arrested for stealing it is crazy. I was raised that you worked for what you got and that stealing was very wrong. I don’t know where people get off thinking it is alright to steal????? I do agree Walmart needs to pay its employees better,they are some hard working people! Well, thats all for now. Betty

  18. lessworknow says:

    i worked in walmart stores for many years and quit after no better pay for part time worker. a sad story.

    walmart workers get so low pay. MOST store thiefs are the employees. employees and LP people take care themselves and not get caught. few customers get caught. if they do, they go free all the time. if police come in they get the case settled there and customers go off. big lectures tactics. customers sign papers so they won’t come back to that store for a time like 6 months.

    if you want to come back, wear different clothes and change hairstyles.

    by the time the bad customers come back after so many months or more the LP people and those employees are long gone or who remember you as customers????????????? because the customers say they don’t remember the employees and LP people and will want to sue the store because the customers are harrassed and a long list of reason. some customers actually got the police come in and walmart store got into trouble. the store end up doing some thing to make customers feel good.

    customers always can sue the store for anything. and the store managers will want to make the customers feel good.

    remember this. walmart rule is to treat ALL customers feel good. walmart store can get sued if the workers do or say anything not right or wrong to the customers.

    LP people are mostly layoff or replaced or closed.

    walmart employees are the biggest losers!!!!!!!!!

  19. niita says:

    my friend got caught stealing frum walmart and shes an employeee and so am i at the same walmart. im not too sure wtz going to happen but there wuz a cop there but they didnt call him he wuz just there. my friend didnt get no papaer no one said she wuz getting charged they told her that she wuz suspended for furthur notice and she shud wait for a call frum the store manager ….wtz going on? im scared shes scared.. but if i wuz in this case i really rather just get fired then charged but reading above customers get off by getting banned? i dont know wtz happening…anywun have any input?

  20. Frank says:

    I and a friend at a wal-mart are both associates… I did not steal, but I think he stole a small pack of batteries as we walked back to shipping and receiving… I say *think* because he asked me if I was going to snitch on him, I said naw and walked back to the front of the store as he walked away down a different isle with pack in hand… I havent, and won’t tell anyone at the store… If he gets caught though am I liable? I was not planning on telling anyone anyways because I have no idea if he stole them or not, since dont know if he even opened the pack and took them…

  21. Dev says:

    You wont get in trouble because you were not physically helping the person. It is your word against theirs. You werent there when he took them so you arent considered an accessory.

    I almost got caught stealing from walmart. I ran away from the undercover detective. I ran through the parking lot. This lady got the cops I think. She didnt see me get my car. Thank god it was on the other side of where she was. I felt pretty bad and havent stolen since.

  22. jay says:

    I do unloading at Wal-Mart for $6.70 an hour. I’m lifting heavy objects a lot and I work for 8 hours + 1 hour break and two 15 minute breaks. They pay only $6.70 an hour. SIX SEVENTY AN HOUR! I can’t live off of that much money. Wal-Mart makes like $10 billion annually, so there workers deserve better pay. $8.00-$9.00 minimum for unloading. They could raise the prices a couples cents on their items to pay for it.

    If their workers were paid more there would be less theft and they would probably be better workers. I am being paid so little (and my feet are hurting right now and so are my hands/fingers from cardboard rubbing all over them) that I am actually considering stealing from them here and there to make a little extra money.

    It’s crazy. Wal-Mart has the money to pay its employees better, but they prefer slave laborers. They claim to care and be about family and junk yet they don’t pay us enough to even support ourselves, much less a family. Fuck Wal-Mart…it’s a giant corperation that pulls in ungodly amounts of profits while screwing the people who help make it what it is today.

    Maybe the executives should take a pay cut too! There are ways around this, but Wal-Mart wants to be a greedy evil corporation.

  23. James Hudson says:

    Walmart pays so little because it is owned by jews. Jewish people are known for being rich and very stingy with their money.

  24. Sushant says:

    You have a really good and resourceful post!! know more about LPO Jobs, Jobs in LPO, LPO Companies

  25. Tasha says:

    i think that everyone who steals under 25 dollars should not be punished simply because do you now how many shoplifters there are? And apparently they are wabting something simple for somones birthday and has no cash so i think anyone who steals 25 or less should not be punished

  26. Josh says:

    first off I want to say to Trevor Pike…you are an eeffing dumbass….I lock idiots like you up everyday..and it is because of little shits like you that prices go up..for all the merchandise that gets stolen, retailers have to make up their money..and for Frank….yes, if you knew about it and did not say anyhting (and dont say you are not sure if he took anything) if you did not say anything then you can be charged as an accomplice..then lastly..for Jay…you only make 6 something an this economy you should be thankful that you even have a job..and if you steal from your employer I am pretty sure there are plenty of unemployeed people that would love to have you job…and sore fingers…

  27. issa says:

    Josh, I hope your not the same Josh ruttner, who
    is a robo cop in florida, so sad if you are

  28. Derek says:

    Walmart lets people go free if they steal under 25.00 thats insane. I was arrested and beat on by 4 walmart wannabe cops/staff and then they persued criminal charges of assault against me. Yes thats right I had to fight these charges as well was injured physically and mentally all for …..bbrrrrrummmmp drum roll all for nothing yes thats right it was all over them making a mistake thinking I stole a 40 inch t.v. which in court they tried to deny. This all as your canadian lpo pointed out (as this happend in edmonton alberta)was illegal so now because of their bad policies I will need to sue to regain my losses how is this fair or right? For all who will say that I am not innoccent tell it to the judge who found me innoccent, not just lack of evidence but found the walmart witnesses lied in direct contradiction to the security videos.

  29. don slipp says:

    What I have enjoyed even more than shoplifting is messing with security. The basic idea is to make them THINK that you have shoplifted something, get them to search/stop/or attempt to arrest you – then act out! This is a blast, and an example (like computer hacking) of what I call “human hacking.”

    For example, you spot the stop-loss guy and then deliberately let them “see” you “shoplifting” – appearing to conceal the merchandise, and so forth. The clandestine step is to take the stuff back out of your pants and put it BACK on the shelf – without being seen. You then make some regular purchases, acting normal, and on your way out the store you are stopped. You go into “defense mode” immediately, acting coy, denying that you took anything, etc…to further “draw fire.” If you can get them to touch you, or become “physical” – then it really gets fun! I have dumped or thrown from the shopping cart, cartons of eggs, gallons of milk or juice, etc, etc, and all kinds of other food or merchandise all over the floor — and made huge messes — while screaming like I was being raped. If the store has alot of people, all the better. Acting in this way is exactly the opposite of what most people do when stopped or busted by security. They do NOT want other customers to see it….usually embarrassed and so forth. Of course, that is because they got caught for REALLY ripping something off. But not you. No, you are an honest and honorable citizen who is now being maliciously and falsely accused!

    When they find nothing and can prove nothing – and you have your receipt for everything in the cart and on your person…there is nothing they can do. You scream and demand you’re returning all the merchandise you just purchased, you want all your money back and you are boycotting the store, threaten lawsuits…and on and on etc…

    I leave the store angrily cursing and swearing while the poor manager is pleading and apologizing for everything…once I am in my car and out of the parking lot I cannot stop laughing for the rest of the day.

    Best of all, the stop loss guy – usually flunkees from community college criminal justice classes or other cop training – probably gets fired…..hahahhaha