Increase In Shoplifting May Be Sign Of Economic Recovery

While one might initially expect an increase in shoplifting to be a sign that more people are facing dire financial straits, there are those who believe the recent uptick in retail theft could actually be a hint that the economy is improving.

The National Retail Federation recently announced that losses from retail theft totaled $37.1 billion in 2010, up from $33.5 billion in 2009. How could this increase hint at good things to come?

Well, a good chunk of retail theft is done by employees — like the Office Depot manager accused of stealing millions of dollars in supplies — and when the economy bottomed out a few years back, many retail workers put a priority on keeping their jobs over their unofficial five-finger employee discounts.

“They were so worried about their future, their families and paying the mortgage, they realized this is what is keeping their family afloat,” says the author of the NRF’s annual security study. But as these same people feel more secure in their gigs, some believe they are more apt to take advantage of their employers.

There is another possible reason for the uptick that isn’t necessarily a sign of good things to come. With many retailers cutting staff during these down years, remaining employees have had to take on extra hours and responsibilities.

“When those inequities build up, rationalizing theft is fairly common,” said the study’s author, who added that can be “very tempting” for staffers to shoplift under these circumstances, “especially if they feel that the company can afford it and they’re being paid minimum wage.”

That latest sign of an economic recovery: Shoplifting is back [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Wasn’t there also an article last year attributing the year-over-year increase in shoplifting from 2008 to 2009 to the economic recession?

    So which is it? Maybe it’s both, or neither. People just shoplift, always. Usually the employees.

  2. tomok97 says:

    So it could mean one thing or it could mean the exact opposite. Good to know. lol

    • Coffee says:

      This is what I was thinking…the headline would be more accurate if it ended with “(or not)”.

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    Maybe shoplifting is up because employees get paid so little and have very few benefits while the corporation is making more money as the economy sinks deeper and deeper into recovery.

    Or maybe not.

    • frank64 says:

      Class warfare FTW!

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      The study or author says that some internal theft may be a function of wages or treatment by the employer.

      The report implies revenged filled employees might take payback for working a job they wouldn’t have considered during better economic times which is warped logic in itself.

  4. Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

    I remember an article once talking about guys buying more underwear is also a sign of economic improvement.

    I already did my part :D

    • dolemite says:

      Not me, I’m going to hold out another 2 years and see where this goes.

    • Mike says:

      Yeah but those guys were buying men’s under, not ladies like we both prefer. HEY-OOO

      • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

        Winner! +10000

      • Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

        Heh, never bought ladies undies – I’m not even gonna bother with the “what size does she wear, will she think I think she’s fat if I get the wrong size?” BS.

        But now that I think about it, that article may not have specified what kind of underwear. So I guess maybe it might have been lingerie or a teddy or whatnot.

        Me, I like my UA for the gym, expensive though it may be.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Men buying men’s underwear is actually an interesting scientific study. I wish I could find the article about it.

          Statistically, men only buy their own underwear for short stint between about age 18 and 30. Before 18, their mother buys them their underwear. After they marry, their wife buys them underwear. About the only time they buy new underwear themselves is during their courting years.

  5. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    This may be a factor! Or it may not!

    We don’t evne know anymore! Just click on the headline to generate ad revenue!


    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      I’m waiting for a headline that just reads, “Wal-Mart: Bad!” with 200+ comments.

    • pop top says:

      That’s weird. I don’t see any non-CU ads on here. Hmm.

      • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

        That’s weird. I see ads all over the Chicago Tribune site.

    • skubisnack624 says:

      I’m pretty sure the only ads on this site are for Consumer Reports. I’m not saying this article wasn’t ridiculously vague, but it’s probably not here to generate ad revenue.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        JustAnswer dot com FTW!

        • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

          Ha! I finally saw one of the widgets in the wild last week. I was clicking on a company in the Company Directory and there it was; no articles related to the company showed up.

  6. quijote says:

    Sound economic theory and the law of supply and demand clearly entail that shoplifting stimulates the economy: With the decrease in supply as a result of the shoplifting, an increase in demand is created–paying customers are willing to pay more. Businesses can then charge more without having to spend more. Higher profits mean businesses have more money to pay their employees. Higher wages means more spending. Bam, economic recovery.

    • Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

      I assume you’re being sarcastic? Sounds like the Broken Window fallacy.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:


      Are we supposed to believe that there is SO MUCH inventory lost to shoplifting that the price on remaining goods is noticeably increased?

  7. u1itn0w2day says:

    “…rationalizing theft is fairly common.”

    repeat: rationalizing THEFT-Willie Sutton rationalized robbing banks because that’s where the money is. This is a CRIMINAL mindset.

    There is desperation and then there is CRIMINAL activity. I don’t buy into to all this crap that simply a lack of a job or no money drives people into CRIMINAL activity. It might be the excuse of choice but not the real reason-they were already criminals of one kind or another. Someone who rationalizes CRIMINAL activity because of a bad economy probably was already engaged in alot of unethical or somekind of CRIMINAL behavior long before an economy crashes. At least that’s what I’ve observed.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:


    • pop top says:

      I don’t get it. Are you trying to emphasize a specific point here?

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        The point is the study seems to emphasize how the CRIMINAL mind rationalizes theft or CRIMINAL activity. If you steal from your employer or anyone even if it’s for revenge in your mind it is still theft or a crime perpetrated by a CRIMINAL.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      Sounds like you’ve been hit by a smooth CRIMINAL.

  8. DurkaDurkaDurka says:

    So what the article is saying is that a possible good gauge for the economy is whether employee theft (which accounts for “a good chunk” of shoplifting) is increasing. Defamation much?

  9. Andrew says:

    All I have to say is: OH GOD THAT SIGN!

  10. FrugalFreak says:

    another nonsensical “economy is doing better so do your part” propaganda report. When the jobs return, then I will believe. BTW, What were the unemployment numbers hmmm?

    No jobs means no spending our money for you business. gotta risk You own money before you can risk ours.

  11. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Or it might be due to certain fu*cked-up laws that protect shoplifters from being pursued, detained, questioned, and in some cases (Portland, OR), prosecuted — even if they’re found guilty — for their crimes.

  12. Alter_ego says:

    you know what’s hilarious? Jokes about prison rape.

  13. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I see items in our local newspaper’s police news several times a week about people being apprehended (mostly at Wal-mart) for stealing small amounts of merchandise, some as little as $3 or $4. I had to chuckle when they said one guy stole condoms.

    It seems like some people have gotten the idea that it’s OK just to take stuff, like hair care products, cigarettes, whatever…but then they get caught, go to court, get fined and have a record. Some of the fines are pretty substantial, like $500.00 and then restitution on a $4 item. Why take the risk? Just do without.

  14. LanMan04 says:

    Just curious why prison rape is funny…anyone?

    • Andrew says:

      B/c it probably doesn’t happen as often as media makes it out to be. Yet the fact that they are trying to scare you with it makes it funny.

      • Alter_ego says:

        I’m sure that’s very comforting to the people who do experience rape of any kind, only to have it mocked, or presented as something that they deserved.

        • Andrew says:

          Hey, no one wants to be raped (kinks and fetishes aside) and I never said it was funny to get raped. I was just saying that it is amusing how Prison = Instantly Raped. Not only is it mostly limited to American prisons, statistically it is not as common as most media makes it out to be. In fact, typically it is the sex offenders who get raped (go figure) and not the ones who do the raping, and that is why they typically get segregated from the rest of the population (even mass murderers have some morals, rapists and pedophiles are common targets).

    • Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

      Because in our society when a woman is raped, it’s tragic and the rapist should have his balls ripped off, when a man is raped (like that sort of thing EVER happens) then the dude is, literally, a punk b***ch and who cares about him at that point?


  15. INsano says:

    The raging white-collar theft is encouraging because it means we’ll return to a bubble economy soon; it’s now clear no one will go to prison for anything that happened in the last 5 years in the world of finance and “real” estate, so the crooks on high are coming for the kitchen sink!

  16. mantelope says:

    I find this article interesting, as “shrink” in my store has declined, despite less hours, less employees(equaling less coverage on the floor), etc. I’m seeing less theft, honestly.