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Shoplifting and Employee Theft in America

EL CERRITO, CA – MAY 21: Customers enter a Home Depot store on May 21, 2013 in El Cerrito, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By some estimates, $37 billion dollars worth of merchandise is stolen from stores every year — about half of that is taken by employees. That’s nearly $101 million dollars every single day. The sad part of this statistic is that many of these employees feel justified in taking merchandise to make up for what they see as making up a disparity between what they feel they are worth and what they are being paid. Habitual shoplifters steal on an average of 1.6 times per week.

Shoplifting in America

More than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the past five years. It adds to the costs of a store’s security expenses, increases the price of goods, costs communities in sales tax, and can create a criminal record that stays with you forever. Shoplifting seems to be equal opportunity. Men and women shoplift about equally. Many shoplifters buy and steal during the same visit usually between $2 to $200 depending on the opportunity.

Seventy-three percent of adults and 72 percent of juvenile shoplifters did not plan to steal in advance of a visit to the store. Three percent of the population can be defined as “professional shoplifters.” Drug addicts, and others who steal for profit, are responsible for about 10 percent of all shoplifting losses.

Bloomingdale’s

According to the National Retail Federation, “return fraud” or “wardrobing,” cost retailers over $8 billion dollars each year. Wardrobing is the practice of buying a piece of clothing, wearing it then returning it for credit.

To combat this practice, the Macy’s owned chain Bloomingdale’s, will begin using three inch black plastic tags attached to clothing in hard to hide places that can’t be removed if customers intend to return them. Not sure how the customer is supposed to remove the tag if they don’t want to return it but I guess it takes knives, pliers and a hammer along with some elbow grease.

Home Depot

Home Depot might be going a little too far in their security efforts. A Home Depot customer bought nearly $1,500 worth of lumber, put on some store gloves to load it and forgot to pay for the gloves.

He was taken to a room and questioned by security, suffered an asthma attack, was handcuffed and eventually “encouraged” to sign an affidavit that amounted to a confession. He then got two letters from Home Depot attorneys demanding $350 to settle the account. A second letter demanded $625 with some helpful tips for five ways he could pay or face legal action if he didn’t. He sued.

Some Final Thoughts

Laws that allow retailers to claim damages from shoplifters are legal in all 50 states. Some states put a limit on the amount of damages. California, for example, is $500 and the state of Montana is $100 but could go as high at $1,000 if you end up in court.

Most people who shoplift think it’s no big deal. They think the store makes so much money that their little removal will have little effect on the store’s bottom line. But due to the total amount of loss that has to be made up by paying customers. If you see shoplifting report it.

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