Shoplifting in Supermarkets: People Steal Meat and Analgesics

The Freakonomics Blog had an interesting piece the other day about shoplifting in supermarkets. Theft of “Health and Beauty” items (usually the most stolen category) is down this year. The category has been surpassed by “meat and analgesics.” When we’re broke we want to eat a steak and get numb, right? That’s the American dream, right there.

Anyway, supposedly the decline in theft of health and beauty items reflects increased security on products containing pseudoephedrine. Also of note was a statistic about “self check out” lanes. Of the stores that installed said check out lanes, “63.6 percent reported no increase in theft rates.” Which, as Dubner points out, means that 36.4 percent did. —MEGHANN MARCO

Stealing in Supermarkets [Freakonomics Blog]


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  1. Kornkob says:

    ” Which, as Dubner points out, means that 36.4 percent did.”

    Logic flaw. That’s not nessicarily true. Could be that the 36.4% reported a drop in theft. Even the original article on NYT doesn’t make clear what the alternate responses were.

  2. I’d chip in by saying that 36.4% may include some of the basic responses such as Other, Don’t Know and Refused.. There could also be a response item for “No Change”…

  3. etinterrapax says:

    The most-stolen items at the drugstore where I worked in high school were condoms and batteries. Then Wal-Mart #1, jewelry, watches, condoms, CDs. At Wal-Mart #2, it was air fresheners. Seriously, I don’t get that. It was not a more affluent area. If anything, less. It does not lead one to draw savory conclusions.

    I loved hearing the LP guy’s stories; I’m sure he thought I was a freak (or a thief). But I’m just curious about people. He told me that fully 25% of all people who have ever shopped at a Wal-Mart have stolen from them. I guess it still costs them less than getting better security. I think this is another major way that the sheer size of each store works against them.

  4. madderhatter says:

    Right on, Janes Addiction !

  5. Michael says:

    Meat?! Are we talking about two pounds of filet mignon or snapping into a Slim Jim?

  6. bambino says:

    that video really creeped me out as a kid.

  7. Sheik says:

    One time a fried of mine was in a grocery store. He was in the check out and there was a huge woman in front of him in line. All of a sudden a ham fell out from her mumu (sic). she looked up, looked around to see who saw it and then said, “Who trew dat ham at me?” I didn’t believe the story when I first heard it either. But a few months after hearing the story, I moved to NYC. I was telling the story and one of my new co-workers overheard me and said that they saw the exact same thing happen. Not sure if it was the same instance or if this lady was a serial ham thief. Not sure if my friend/coworker were both telling the truth or its an urban legend, but makes for a funny story.

  8. I was told by a manager at a local Walgreens, their biggest theft items were baby formula, and men’s razor blade shaver replacements.

    Thus, they put all those items behind counter, and you either have to get a clerk get them for you, or you take one of the hanging tags with a pic of the product and SKU to the front counter.

    Pain in the arse.