More Than $3 Billion Stolen From Walmart This Year

According to the AP, so-called “shrinkage” at Walmart could rise to more than $3 billion this year. The shrinkage comes from a combination of supplier fraud, employee theft, bad bookkeeping and, of course, shoplifting.

What’s the reason for the increased shrink? It could be tied to Walmart’s decision not to prosecute shoplifters who steal less than $25 worth of merchandise. Another possibility is that Walmart is understaffed, making it easy for organized shoplifters to rip them off. —MEGHANN MARCO

Shoplifting, employee theft plague Wal-Mart [Toronto Star]
(Photo: Clean Walmart)


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  1. asplodzor says:

    And here I was thinking shrinkage had to do with cold water…

  2. catnapped says:

    And I’ll bet Lee Scott got a good chunk of it!

  3. Meg Marco says:

    @asplodzor: note the photo.

  4. Infe says:

    But how does this compare percentage wise to other retailers? 3 Billion doesn’t tell me anything really.

  5. etinterrapax says:

    The LP guy at the last Wal-Mart where I worked, in 2000, said that something like 25% of everyone who has ever shopped at Wal-Mart has stolen from them. I’m not surprised. The abundance of merchandise and the crowds of people make it easy, and neither of the stores I worked for even had alarms at the door. They were once selling TVs right off the front sidewalk and had two stolen out in the open.

    They don’t mention damaged merchandise in the shrinkage statistics, but at my stores, it was all handled the same way. Empty packages, damaged/broken stuff, and open food was all put into bins in the back room, by department. LP would total it up and post running shrinkage statistics by department.

    I don’t believe for a second that their employee satisfaction is rising, but I have to admire their audacity in believing it so publicly and persistently. They must be in real trouble.

  6. nightbird says:


    Interesting blog by a Wal-mart customer service drone. Well written, and good insight into how easily a 3 billion loss is racked up. I forget the exact amount, but she mentions her store alone does somthing in the $100,000 range in losses per month.

  7. dohtem says:

    I’d like to know how other stores are doing. Especially Target (seeing as how they are similar).

    $3 billion is a helluva lot!

  8. homerjay says:

    Well that explains their ridiculously high prices! Someone has to pay for all that loss!

  9. bedofnails says:

    They grossed 312 billion, they’ll be ok.

  10. Bourque77 says:

    @etinterrapax: Employees are the worst for stealing from companies. Think about it a customer can only sneak so much out the front doors. Anyone in the stock room can take truckloads out the back. Or have a friend get them some stuff at a insanly discounted price.

  11. Henri says:

    Here are some figures from a 2000 national retail study:

    Where Inventory Shrinkage Happens

    * Employee Theft 44.5%
    * Shoplifting 32.7%
    * Administrative Error 17.5%
    * Vendor Fraud 5.1%

    Not so much “Bad Consumer” as “Employee Gives Self Raise”. Shoplifters are a problem, but not the biggest one, accounting for less than 1/3 of the losses.

  12. catnapped says:

    @homerjay: Well look at it this way–if the problem disappeared tomorrow, the company would be pocketing those extra bucks and you’d still be paying those high prices.

  13. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Well I say they deserve it. I’d say they deserve to have more merchandise stolen from them. After all, Wal-Mart is the reason people can only afford to shop at Walmart.

  14. mulletmandan says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. Just the other day I was using the self-checkout and noticed that another customer with a cart full of groceries was slipping some of them past the scanner without paying for them. I mentioned this to a cashier, who gave me the classic “I’m only making $6.50 an hour, why should I care?” look.

  15. bedofnails says:


    Did a Walmart greeter punch your grandmother in the face?

  16. The shrinkage comes from a combination of supplier fraud, employee theft, bad bookkeeping and, of course, shoplifting

    The first I didn’t quite except
    The second is no shocker
    The third…iffy
    The fourth, there’s a shocker…

  17. dbeahn says:

    @nightbird: BBCAmerican is a man….

  18. mopar_man says:

    Yep. I’m happy that they lost all that money. They treat their employees like crap and import almost everything in the store from China. They have it coming to them. I hope they lose more money in the future.

  19. Pixel says:


    You guys think this actually hurts walmart? Not a chance.

    People steal from walmart, and walmart responds by raising prices and/or paying employees less to make up the lost money. So the more they have stolen the worse it is for the customers and employees.

    This goes for any retailer.

  20. gmark2000 says:

    Crime is unethical. Don’t support crime.

  21. mrbenning says:

    At a Target I worked at (for the worst three months of my life) they had a problem where employees were throwing high end electronics into a dumpster in the back room, then waiting for it to get wheeled out so they could jump in and take them home.

    Creative, those employee thieves are.

  22. Wormfather says:

    @Papa Midnight: Make no mistake about it, the number one cause of theft is employees. They have access and when they do it once, they do it again and again.

    What you have to remember is that employees can be colusive and all it takes is a compromised security person/manager and the gates fly open.

    No arrest under 25 bucks, I think I’m going to start going there a few times a day now. :-)

  23. caitlinagogo says:

    When I was in high school a Walmart opened in my home town, and some of my classmates had quite a system going. Friends would peruse the electronics department picking up what ever they felt entitled to and pick up a $.25 pack of gum on the way to the register. The employee would ring in his/her friend’s pack of gum and slide the rest to the bagging area. No one ever got caught, and they did it ALL THE TIME.

  24. bbbici says:

    Now that i know that stores don’t bother chasing shoplifters, i’ll be doing it all the time.

  25. AcidReign says:

    …..”Shrinkage” is as widely-used term. It basically means: stuff you pay for and bring in, that doesn’t get sold.

    …..I realize that employee stealing is commonly the largest percentage of theft at most retail places, but I think the self-checkout lines are a big problem, too. You’ve got one employee kinda-sorta looking over four to six checkout counters. I think a lot of people “forget” to scan a few items, or they punch in something cheap, like “yellow onions” on all of their produce. If your final bill is less than $100, you sail through with no human checking your cart, credit card/id, or anything.

  26. Sudonum says:

    @ dbeahn
    BBC American is a woman
    In this one she talks about getting someone to help a male customer and mentions the customer checking out her ass. She made no previous mention that she thought the customer was gay.

    Also the way she describes women, she also talked about a “hot barrista boy” at the local Starbucks.

    The writer may be a man but the “character” is a woman.

  27. mopar_man says:

    Wal-Mart raise prices? Not likely. They’ll just strangle their supplier further. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart but maybe I’ll just go there to steal stuff under $25 and when I need to buy stuff, I’ll go elsewhere.

  28. MonkeySwitch says:

    @caitlinagogo: Hey! I had some friends that used to do that exact same thing when I …I mean they worked at K-Mart!

  29. Uriel says:


  30. FLConsumer says:

    @AcidReign: It’s the store’s damn fault if they don’t feel their merchandise is important enough to justify a minimum wage worker to check it out.

    If they want to go with self-checkouts and force customers to act as employees, they shouldn’t be surprised when some customers act like the thieving employees they’re supposedly “saving” money by not hiring. Meanwhile, self-checkouts are reducing the number of impulse buys made in the checkout line.

    I wonder how many people end up walking away with things from Mal-Wart after seeing 99 checkout lanes available with only 1-2 of them actually open, and lines that are 5-12 people deep. I know I’ve put stuff down and walked away several times at Mal-Wart when I waited 15 minutes in line and it was appearing like it’d be another 10-15 before I’d reach the register. I’m sure others would pocket the items and leave.

  31. ihatemylife says:

    Just an example of how Walmart loses money…

    forget shrinkage and theft… Walmart gives away money… My story:

    I’m a teacher and over several months I bought things for my students on clearance for between $1 and $2. I had about 36 items left out of 100+ , I went to walmart, tried to return them without a receipt and told the person the price I paid… well… I was told my credit would be for $544..

    I was shocked, I told her again that the items only cost between $1-$2 each and was told ” I have to give you the price listed in the system” I just took the gift card and left… I could not convince her that I was being given too much… I bought more things for the students..

    One for the consumer I guess….