28 April 2015


     The Steal: The Cultural History of Shoplifting by Rachel Shtier is a rather unsatisfying book--interesting yes.  She leaves us with the issue of what to do about shoplifting as it seems to be more prevalent now than before and it raises the cost of the stuff we buy.  She enumerates several reasons why people shoplift:  need, obsession, thrill, ideology, and profit.  The gamut of motives are illustrated from Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book to Winona Ryder's episodes in Beverly Hills.

     There are two certainties related to shoplifting:  There will always be shoplifters and corporate America earns immense profits selling us stuff in spite of the amount of goods stolen.  So lets get over the fact that people do steal shit nobody really needs for whatever reason they steal it.  We shouldn't be exorcised over the issue or ring our hands in dismay.

     Our legislative bodies don't appear to understand that shoplifting like burglary and robbery and every other crime are statistical certainties.  We will always have thieves, burglars, and robbers.  I expect our local cave man had to watch his cave carefully to ward off cave invasions.  Most wars in the history of the world were for the purpose of taking things that belonged to someone else including their women.

     Our author seems to note with some consternation that in our consumer society, shoplifting has reached new heights.  Most assuredly it has.  The opportunities for shoplifting are almost limitless  from Walmart to 7 & ll; things to steal are minutes away.  There was a movie many years ago with
George C.  Scott called The Flim-Flam Man.  You can't flim-flam an honest man says George's character.  Fortunately for him there are very few honest men.  A percentage of human kind will take things that don't belong to them if given the chance.

     What one gleans from the book is that shoplifting has also become a contest between the shoplifter and the store and its effort to stop it with its loss prevention people and its technology.  It doesn't seem to be a fair contest.  On one hand you have the shoplifter and on the other hand you have the loss prevention employees, the cameras, the electronic tagging, the police and the courts.  No wonder a successful shoplifting venture brings thrill and satisfaction of a job well done.

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