Best Buy Shares Plunge on Margin Pressures, “Organized Retail Crime”: A Look at Organized Retail Crime in the US and How Ecommerce Turned it into a Big Business

Stolen goods get sold to law-abiding Americans by third-party vendors on big ecommerce sites that profit from it. Legislation to control it struggles.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

It’s a big profitable business across the US because the cost of the merchandise is zero: Organize a bunch of people via the social media, raid a store and and run out, arms-full of merchandise, and then sell this stuff into specialized distribution channels from where it gets sold by third-party vendors on some of the best-known ecommerce platforms in the US, such as eBay and Amazon and many others.

Shares of Best Buy [BBY] plunged 12.4% today after the company’s earnings call, during which it discussed a laundry list of headwinds and pressures on its gross profit margins, which, for US sales, fell 60 basis points to 23.4%, “primarily driven,” as CFO Matt Bilunas put it, by product damages and returns compared to last year, lower margins of services, and the infamous “inventory shrink.”

Inventory shrinkage or inventory shrink are the retail industry’s long-established terms for the phenomenon of inventory vanishing from the company due to vendor fraud, employee theft, and retail theft, including organized retail crime.

The total amount of shrink across the US from vendor fraud, employee theft, and retail theft in 2020 was roughly $62 billion, about the same as in 2019 despite many stores being closed for part of 2020, according to the National Retail Federation’s “2021 Retail Security Survey: The state of national retail security and organized retail crime.”

Average shrink from vendor fraud, employee theft, and retail theft amounted to 1.6% of sales in 2020 (at retail prices), according to the NRF’s survey.

It has been going on for a long time, and many retailers have reported the shrink in their financial statements for a long time as one of the costs and margin pressues. But the connection with ecommerce has given it a new business model.

“We are definitely seeing more and more, particularly organized retail crime and incidence of shrink in our locations,” said Best Buy CEO Corie Barry during the conference call (transcript via Seeking Alpha). “And I think you’ve heard other retailers talk about it, and we certainly have seen it as well.”

In the prepared remarks, Barry said that Best Buy will launch a “new capability,” namely using the QR codes for products that are locked up. “Instead of waiting for an associate to unlock the product, the customer can scan the QR code and then proceed to check out to pay and pick up the product,” she said.

“We are doing a number of things to protect our people and our customers. As we talked about in the prepared remarks, we are finding ways where we can lock up product but still make that a good customer experience. In some instances, we’re hiring security. We’re working with our vendors on creative ways we can stage the product. We’re working with trade organizations,” she said.

But all this costs money and if the hoops are high enough for customers to jump through, it costs revenues.

“You can see that pressure in our financials,” she said. “And more importantly, frankly, you can see that pressure our associates. This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable. We are doing everything we can to try to create as safe as possible environments.”

Organized retail crime has been around for about as long as retail itself. But the perpetrators had trouble selling large quantities of merchandise. Selling detergent and consumer electronics and handbags on the sidewalk was hard work and cumbersome.

But now there’s the internet with perfectly legal and huge retail platforms such as Amazon and eBay and many others, where perfectly law-abiding retail customers, who have no idea where the products came from, end up buying this contraband from third-party vendors, thus enabling the sophisticated fencing operations that make organized retail theft possible.

Retailers, including in recent years ecommerce retailers, have long been sitting ducks for criminals, in part because retailers want to create a smooth and hassle-free shopping experience. And they’ve been getting hit by theft from all sides – and organized retail crime is just one of them:

  • Ecommerce crime
  • Organized retail crime
  • Cyber-related incidents
  • Internal theft (by employees)
  • Return fraud (online and brick & mortar)
  • Gift card fraud

The costs of these crimes have always been part of the costs of doing business for retailers. And they have rolled those costs into retail prices. Customers are paying for these crimes.

Measures to prevent retail theft can be costly, and risky. If the prevention methods become inconvenient for customers – such as locking up merchandise or making customers jump through hoops for returns – they will hit revenues because Americans don’t like to jump through hoops to buy stuff or return stuff.

In 2012 already, the connection between legal ecommerce platforms and organized retail crime was pointed out by the Congressional Research Service, in a report for Members of Congress:

“Organized groups of professional shoplifters, or ‘boosters,’ steal or fraudulently obtain merchandise that is then sold, or ‘fenced,’ to individuals and retailers through a variety of venues. In an increasingly globalized society, more and more transactions take place online rather than face-to-face. As such, in addition to relying on physical resale markets, organized retail thieves have turned to online marketplaces as means to fence their ill-gotten goods.”

The 2012 report cited figures from 2010, of total shrink of $35 billion that year, with:

  • $8.5 billion from vendor fraud, error, and unknown sources
  • $15.9 billion from employee theft
  • $10.9 billion from retail theft, including “organized retail crime.”

That was over 10 years ago. Inflation and the ease of selling this stuff on the internet have ballooned the total shrink to $62 billion in 2020.

State legislatures around the US and members of the US Congress have proposed various laws that would require online retailers, such as Amazon, to obtain proof from vendors that they purchased the merchandise legally.

The most recent effort in Congress “to combat the online sale of stolen, counterfeit, and dangerous consumer products” was proposed in October by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act “directs online platforms that allow for third-party sellers of consumer products to verify the identity of high-volume third-party sellers, which will prevent organized retail crime,” according to the press release.

“The bill will also ensure that consumers can verify basic identification and contact information for high-volume third-party sellers of consumer products on online marketplaces,” it said.

“It will protect consumers and legitimate businesses, increase trust in the marketplace, and discourage criminals and fraudsters,” it said.

The big retail platforms that massively profit from stolen goods being sold by third-party vendors to unsuspecting Americans are not happy about this type of legislation, and efforts over the years to disincentivize organized retail crime by gutting its ecommerce-based business model have gone nowhere.

 

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  209 comments for “Best Buy Shares Plunge on Margin Pressures, “Organized Retail Crime”: A Look at Organized Retail Crime in the US and How Ecommerce Turned it into a Big Business

  1. Seneca's cliff says:

    Reminds me of back in the 90’s when stealing of aftermarket car stereos out of cars was a huge thing. I was told by an insider that this car stereo theft wave was driven by crooked car stereo stores because it was one product that most people never saw in its original box. They would choose from a retail display and then make an appointment for installation. This gave the store owner time to place an “order” with theft rings and get the hot stereo in time to install it in the unsuspecting customers car. Mostly came to an end when auto companies started building in good stereos that were fully integrated in to the dash and other electronics so the aftermarket died.

    • NBay says:

      I smell a huge call for “law and order” politicians with VERY negative consequences ONLY for those at the bottom of the wealth ladder….we have been down this shitty road before.

      ANYTHING but a return to FDR/IKE tax schedules and programs….just the way the HAVES and their public/private money extraction CORPORATIONS like it.

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        It’s overwhelmingly low to middle class neighborhoods being “protested” in and suffering the damages.

        There has been a large growing momentum to end the war on drugs.

        Overall, I would say the situation should be improved, I’ve never heard of a police state with a “liberal” drug policy; this is distinct from one that let’s dealers run wild (Mexico and Brazil). Maybe they existed, would have to hear of examples.

        Encouraging the end of the war on drugs is most important thing people seem to agree on.

        • masked ghost says:

          In the 1970’s theft of CB Radios from cars were rampant in Wisconsin.

          I think that if drug addiction became a medical problem, and not a police problem, a lot of theft would go away.

          Odd that Wolf did not mention out the “bust out” method used by the Mafia many years back. They would take over a legitimate business, liquor store, grocery, restaurant, etc etc, order a lot of product, take it out the back way, then go bankrupt. I think the Mafia were the inspiration for a lot of the so called “Venture Funds” and Hedge Funds.

        • NBay says:

          Pauli didn’t like the drug business, either.

    • snickers says:

      A lot like Best Buy and Adobe stole my upgrade from Macromedia for Photoshop right out from under my right hand pocket. Cry in your own beer.

    • Gerry says:

      In New York City, in the 70s and 80s, theft of car casette radios was promoted by auto repair shops buying the stolen cassette radios from the skels who stole them. I remember two news stories then about police who went into repair shops and found auto cassette radios piled high and left to collect dust, dozens of them. The repair shops made hundreds of dollar fixing up the dashboard damage done by the thieves who ripped out the radios. In the 80s, a Blaupunkt Denver auto cassette radio could cost $400, so there could also money to be made recycling the better radios, if you had the right installation parts. And if the thieves had not broken the cassette players as they ripped them out. So, the skels get $10 or $20 for a radio they stole, some then buying narcotics. A cheap price to pay to get customers into your repair shop.

      • roddy6667 says:

        Back in the day, a friend of mine parked on the street to watch a game at the Hartford Civic Center. When she returned to her car, a Jetta, it was heavily damaged. The thieves walk on the hood and jump on the windshield to smash it in. Then they jump on the dashboard until it separates from the car body. The Blaupunkt radio is easily removed from the back of the dashboard. That’s a serious repair bill.

  2. TimTim says:

    Please spare a thought for the employees.

    It must be mortifying if you are explicitly told that you have to stand there and watch what you work for be p*ssed all over by pondlife.

    If any Best buy employees read this, well the best to you.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I’m not sure why you said what you said, but the employees are specifically mentioned in the article. Employees are called “associates.” Best Buy CEO Corie Barry, quoted in the article above:

      “And more importantly, frankly, you can see that pressure our associates. This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable. We are doing everything we can to try to create as safe as possible environments.”

      • Jake W says:

        i think his point is that the employees are told they can’t use force, mainly because of silly liability rules.

        employees or other customers should always be able to use force to apprehend shoplifters, as long as their suspicions are reasonable. and no one, including their employers, should have any liability, unless the act was objectively unreasonable.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You can end up with dead people in the store. As a retail employee, you do NOT want to risk your life. Period. That’s not your job. You’re not paid to risk your life. Your safety comes first. Companies are fully aware of this.

        • LK says:

          100% Wolf, and I really despise these Tough Guy prescriptions that fail to take into considerations what *could* happen.

        • Jake W says:

          i didn’t say it should be their job. but i have friends who when working security would love nothing more than to have been able to kick the crap out of lowlives.

        • otishertz says:

          Shoplifters can be detained and restrained in most places. It’s a matter of will and risk/reward evaluation. It’s just not worth it for a $15/hr employee to mix it up with a thief. I wouldn’t. As an owner I would, but not as an employee.

          I have watched countless shoplifters walk out of Safeway with the taser equipped security guy in a black flack jacket just saying things like, “Hey, You, Stop.” Then shrugging and going back inside, not even trying to take a picture of them or anything.

        • intosh says:

          If you’re the owner of a corner store working with razor thin margins, where the business is your livelihood, yeah, maybe you can justify stopping a shoplifter on his tracks. But companies like Best Buy? There’s no reason to do so — it’s not worth it, catching one wouldn’t make a difference; on the contrary, it would make a scene on the floor and even scare customers away, or worse. Leave the average-guy-turned-hero scenarios to movies.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          For electronics, it’s possible to make them unusable without a code obtained by purchasing it.

          IPhones, Ipads, and newer macs for instance, have the ability to be locked if they are stolen.

          It’s possible to make TV’s, and other electronics have a one time activation code on the receipt. They also if you connect to internet, know they were purchased and unlock automatically. For TV’s this should be once ever, and they can only ever be locked again by store, in event of returns. If you lose code and TV doesn’t connect to internet, you simply enter the serial number on a website and it immediately gives code, because it knows it was purchased, only serial number is needed.

          Within about 10 years, I expect electronics spending to peak and decline quite a lot anyways (prices will drop too).

          For more everyday overpriced things like cosmetics, we would ideally have more competitive and better priced high quality items arrive with simple, easy to knock off packaging, that way if you buy from third-party Amazon sellers, it will be impossible to tell if they are knockoffs and over time, people will stop buying from the third party sellers.

          The store scanners can tell real ones by barcode. Making the packaging very easy to knock off could cut down on alot of theft and encourage real competition. Right now, alot of people buy everyday things by how good the packaging is. Places like Walgreens will have to find new suppliers who are on board with this. Getting people past packaging as a major factor in purchasing decisions, would be a major step towards a better more competitive economy.

        • otishertz says:

          @ TomRob.

          It’s possible to make all hard drives and digital storage media traceable with a unique identifier on the device like an IMEI #.

          Why should anyone feel the need for storing the traces of their lives and expect those thoughts would be treated anonymously?

          If you are not thinking bad thoughts in the first place you should not care if all your thoughts are recorded and categorized by AI in your car or if some app screenshots your face taking a dump.

        • NBay says:

          Jake appears to be having some macho hero daydreams….maybe he watched Rambo last night.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          otishertz,

          If you actually understood technology and read what i said, you would see that what i mentioned doing for TV’s, would be completely Anonymous and wouldn’t track anyone in any way.

          There are computers within the computer within most consumers electronics. The device ships locked and with an anonymous code received once purchased (on receipt), the device is unlocked. Despite their size, TV’s are commonly stolen from stores and they are too big to lock up in most stores. No internet is required for the whole process and you can pay in cash. Every TV would come with a bunch of codes to escape locked mode. If the TV is returned, the store can use a special flash drive or something equivalent to reactivate locked mode (the TV switches from the first lock code to the next pre-installed lock code). Locked mode as I inferred, can only be reinstated with direct physical access. The code process doesn’t require TV to be connected to the internet. Certain other electronics could have this same procedure.

          In general, I don’t think any TV’s sold, should be able to require being connected to internet.

          For warranty reasons, quite alot of electronics already do when sold, have the cash register at store send a sold signal to manufacturer to start the warranty period. At store when they have to find and scan that other bar code, that’s what they are doing, it sends the serial number. If you pay cash, the process is anonymous.

          Phones, tablets, laptops and most other high value electronics are small enough to keep in a locked case.

        • Gandalf says:

          Wolf,

          I’ve always thought that eBay ran one of the biggest fencing operations for stolen goods on the planet, considering all the items that are sold.

        • AlexX says:

          They absolutely don’t care, at least in the two cities I split time in (LA and Atlanta) There is much more brazen theft in LA due to their insane no-prosecute laws but in both places the employees are zombies collecting checks that can barely be bothered to tell you what aisle your product is in, if they know. They have LESS than zero interest in becoming involved with stopping theft, including caring if they see it, let alone physically getting involved. Why on earth would they risk their lives for a s***** retail gig?

      • TimTim says:

        In terms of my post at the beginning of this comment section I mean.

        • TimTim says:

          Please see response lower down.

          I was meaning something slightly different.

          Managing to insert comments in the wrong order.

      • NBay says:

        I only worked retail (all you can eat for$n, but had a good sized booze bar, and K-Mart) a short time. About three weeks in food prep PT, and about 6 months PT in bldg mat’l dept.

        They both used the term “evaporation”, but I always thought it was to replace “stealing”, and mainly by dirt wages employees, so nobody got the notion “everybody else is doing it” in their head.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          That makes sense. When you talk about food and drinks, maybe “evaporation” is better than “shrinkage.” Shrinkage implies that Huge-Macs and Mega-Sodas get smaller, and we couldn’t have that.

        • p coyle says:

          i worked (briefly) at a k-mart when in high school. we got searched by security at the end of our shift, though not very effectively :-)

          we also got paid every week in cash in an envelope. word amongst the long-timers was it was so you would spend as much of said cash as possible on the stuff you looked at all day while doing your job before you went home on payday.

      • CreditGB says:

        Including seminars on social justice. These woke morons are in self destruct mode now, much easier to address the woke snowflake’s problems than fixing their death spiral business model.

        Today’s version of Sears, KMart, and Blockbuster Video.

    • Marcus Aurelius says:

      “Associates” is just another one of those lies used by corporations to make their wage slaves feel they are not wage slaves. Would not an “associate” get some of the profits? Never work for a sleazy company that calls you an “associate”. You are a wage slave. Those who work for me are wage slaves.

      • Petunia says:

        I saw a sales associate video on commissions, from a very high end store, say her commission on a $1K handbag was $1, yes, one dollar.

      • Ron says:

        Not true can always find something different u must pay well to be so arogant

      • otishertz says:

        I’m associated with space cowboy Jeff Bezos’ toy spaceship. He thanked me personally for it on the internet.

        • polecat says:

          Ahh .. the Flying Phallus….

          Cue dramatic,frightening sound score…

          “Sir, are you see this – It looks like a Climaxing Penis in Space!”
          “Yes Helmsman, I see it .. didn’t uhh get up very high though, did it..”

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        Title inflation. If you don’t want to pay a good living wage, well you can always give your employees inflated titles.

      • Old school says:

        Employees don’t take an economic risk. They can choose to work any place that will hire them. If you are owner or shareholder you may put in a million dollars and lose some or all of it.

        A lot of small business owners throw in the towel and decide to become associates because they need secure income.

        • Ethan in NoVA says:

          Employees are the frontline face of the business that lead to it’s success. No one shopping at Best Buy cares about the CEO.

          Employees should get shares as part of tc

      • Augustus Frost says:

        The first problem is that many of these “wage slave” jobs weren’t ever meant to be held by adults as their primary livelihood. It’s supposed to be or originally was a part time job for teenagers and college students or temporary which is now someone’s “career”.

        Second, for those low wage jobs which were held by primary wage earners, yes it’s the result of greedy upper management, to a point. But it’s also the result of the US economy being gutted over the last 40+ years, foreign competition which didn’t exist previously, and the government selling these people out by doing little to stop the flood of illegals depressing wages for low wage earners.

        Thirdly, you can also thank the government and FRB for making life less affordable or unaffordable by debasing the currency. This is at least as big of a problem for lower income households as low wages. In an economy based upon a sound currency (which is none today), moderate deflation would be the norm and purchasing power would increase over time, not decrease.

        Fourthly, there have always been “wage slaves” and will be in any economy because no employer exists to provide anyone with some arbitrary minimum living standard that someone else thinks everyone should have. If anyone has been turned into a type of slave, it’s the tax donkeys subsidizing many of these low wage earners.

        There is an article on CNBC.com on this subject today, discussing the “great resignation”. In this article, it classifies anyone making $60K or less as “low wage”.

        So, someone making close to the median US household income now ($67K) is “low wage”, even as these people are also supposedly “middle class”?

        Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

        • NBay says:

          Fox calls MSNBC “MSDNC”. I propose calling CNBC “Corporate NBC, or maybe C Suites NBC.

          Corporations are the nastiest “legal” money extraction constructs ever invented…..and way too big and powerful….and getting more so.

        • NBay says:

          Or CASINO NBC.

          I still remember all the terror in their usually smug and wise eyes during the GFC stock meltdown, and people losing it entirely and going off script. Was the only funny part of the whole thing.

        • El Katz says:

          I prefer CNBS…. with accent on the BS.

      • NBay says:

        The term we in the trade preferred was “Industrial Shitworker”, usually just shortened to shitworker. I still have my Union t-shirt and “Shitworker of the Year 1976” plaque.
        At that job there was a pretty cool and creative Art Dept.

  3. TRUTHSERUM says:

    You left off one key piece of information:

    “the company is seeing organized theft increase across the country, ****but particularly in San Francisco.****”

    • Wolf Richter says:

      TRUTHSERUM,

      Liar, liar your pants are on fire, hahahaha. Sheesh. Here is the entire transcript of the earnings call. Not a word about San Francisco where Best Buy as 1 single store, out of nearly 1,000 stores in the US. They could steal the entire store, everything in it, and it would only be 1/1,000th of total inventory. Good lordy, what brain-dead nonsense.

      https://seekingalpha.com/article/4471522-best-buy-co-inc-bby-ceo-corie-barry-on-q3-2021-results-earnings-call-transcript

      • Petunia says:

        Wolf,

        You must know about Louie Vuitton and Nordstrom in your area being ransacked. It also happened in LA this past weekend. It’s one ugly Xmas shopping season.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          As I pointed out, it happens everywhere. Total shrink accounts for 1.6% of retail sales across the US. It just doesn’t make headlines when it happens in Tulsa. And it has been going on for many years, but now they’ve figured out how to use the social media to get organized more efficiently, and people take videos of it and post them online, and if it happens in the right city, it goes viral.

          This is a large national problem. And the legislation I mentioned above is trying to gut the financial incentives for doing this. If they cannot sell this stuff in large quantities and easily, they cannot make money stealing it. And then it stops. This is money-driven, and you need to cut the money flow.

        • Goomee says:

          It has happened several times here around Chicago. They even have these thieves on camera. If they get caught there is likely just a slap on the wrist especially in Cook County, unfortunately, I live in CC.

        • MarMar says:

          “It just doesn’t make headlines when it happens in Tulsa”

          Yeah, and when it happens in Walnut Creek, somehow the headline still reads “San Francisco”!

        • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

          I am really curious. Since this is a data first site, may be someone can link to the national stats?

          Impression I have is this is a blue city problem where the culprits get off free without getting charged.

        • NBay says:

          Nacho-

          Great! You figured out you only have an “impression”.

          Your next task is to figure out “how” you got it, and then “who” (plural) would benefit the most from you having it.

          Stay curious, it’s good for you.

        • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

          Empty vessel NBay, you are like an obsessed ex girlfriend who wouldn’t stop stalking. Get a life.

      • Tomaso says:

        Wolf – why are you looking only at the earnings call? The Best Buy CEO said that San Francisco is the worst in a call with the media, not in the earnings call. Source: https://fortune.com/2021/11/23/best-buy-latest-retailer-to-see-shoplifting-spike/. Also, not sure why you are making the point that absolute volume of theft in SF is small, we are talking ratios here.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Tomaso,

          At least read the friggin article you linked, for crying out loud. And quit lying about what it said. I’m so tired of this braindead manipulative BS. And then I have to shoot it down, and it just wastes my time.

          Your sentence “Best Buy CEO said that San Francisco is the worst in a call with the media” is a LIE. It’s not what she said, and it’s not what the article you linked said she said.

          The article that you linked reported on at least four things, in that order:

          1. the earnings call with analysts, and there was no mention of San Francisco.

          2. An organized retail crime that happened in Walnut Creek, not San Francisco, at a Nordstrom not Best Buy.

          3. A controversy in San Francisco unrelated to Best Buy (Walgreen’s BS explanation that I already ripped apart);

          4. And then what CEO Barry said on TV to reporters (CNBC).

          These “reporters” on CNBC pushed her about San Francisco where Best Buy has 1 single lone store, to get that name in, and this is what your linked Fortune article actually said about this:

          “But Barry told reporters on a media call that while was the theft problem was more acute in San Francisco specifically and California generally, Best Buy is seeing ‘pockets of it all over the country.'” (sic)

          Note that the ONLY actual quote from Barry about San Francisco from that CNBC appearance is “pockets of it all over the country.”

          There is 1 Best Bay store in San Francisco, out of nearly 1,000 Best Buy stores around the country.

          Every reporter is trying to get “San Francisco” into these articles by hook or crook to create this clickbait shit. And so did Fortune. And so did CNBC. The CNBC reporters pushed her on San Francisco, and she responded by saying that there are “pockets of it all over the country.” The Fortune article stuck “San Francisco” into it two more times totally unrelated to Best Buy, near the top and 2 paragraphs above Barry’s remark.

        • p coyle says:

          is there a way to find out where these “pockets” are? it might just shed some light on the topic.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Wolf,

          You may want to cut these lemmings some slack.

          For some reason on the East coast, and around here you turn on the local news here or read any of the newspapers you have more news about what is going on in California, and San Fran than you get about what is going on here. We’ve just hit 200 homicides in DC (highest in the last 20 years), and 300 in Baltomore, and what does the news media here cover ->”shoplifting in Walgreens”, “flash mobs at malls” in California. Try to find out what happened with these daily homicides in DC and you get 10 second blurbs on the eve news with no useful information. There are currently an estimated 70,000 felons walking the streets of DC, many armed with guns. The police have lost 400 officers in the last year, all who have quit. The crime has gotten so bad that we are refusing to take any work in DC until after the new year. We just joined the ranks of the unemployed and are enjoying it more than ever.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          I may add that this reporting on the theft of merchandize in California and San Francisco follows a familiar media pattern. They take a narrative and assemble all the raw data to support the narrative, no matter how flimsy the data is. Then the information is fed to the mainstream media outlets like CNBC and Fox to pound into the public’s perception. The sole purpose is to boost the ratings of the news outlets and hence enhance revenues from advertisers. The public and the lemmings that watch this garbage on these networks are “brainwashed”. Occasionally we have to see this crap repeated on this Website.

    • Seneca's cliff says:

      I agree with Wolf, that this is a crime driven by the easy fencing opportunities of e-commerce. But still, I would like to see one of these flash mob theft rings try this on the Cabelas in Dillon Montana (Dillon is too small for a Cabelas but it sounds cool ). I doubt they would make it out of Beaverhead County.

      • RockyCreek says:

        Or Wisdom, Montana.

        “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.” — Josey Wales

      • Trucker guy says:

        And whatever nutjob that guns down several people for stealing a handful of sporting goods will spend the rest of their life in prison just so they could say they saved a few grand for major corporation that would denounce them the second they heard about what they did and would eagerly steal the same amount or more from them if given the chance.

        Shrink of inventory has been around for ages. Adapt or die. It’s the free market after all. Amazon and online stores are beating brick and mortar for a million reasons. Suddenly the brick and mortars find a convenient way of blaming everyone but their failing business and inability to stay competitive. Cry me a river. More engineered divide and conquer nonsense from the ruling class to pit poor people against marginally poorer people.

        • c smith says:

          Right. When you permit stealing, you get more of it. How, exactly, is democratic capitalism “divide and conquer”? Every employee enters into his/her employ of their own volition. Tens of millions of employees end up advancing into management and/or ownership and making great lives for themselves. Most importantly, no other economic system in human history has lifted billions of people out of poverty. None. Your argument for socialistic class warfare has been tried. It led to the deaths of tens of millions of people (and the impoverishment of hundreds of millions more) under Stalin and Mao.

        • NBay says:

          ACE post.

        • NBay says:

          smith-

          Keep on preachin’ that rugged individual FREEDOM brother!!!!!!

          Hell, it’s all predestined, anyway, right?

      • Wolfbay says:

        A friend ordered an item on line ;forgot about it and went on a trip for a month. It sat on his front porch in Coeur dAlene Idaho for a month untouched. Yes it’s anecdotal but maybe there are still places with fewer criminals and not because someone fears getting shot.

      • Old School says:

        The current culture tells certain groups they are victims and some in that group have the morality to think they are owed the stolen goods. Do they have this problem in Japan?

        Plus I think some people see it as a victimless crime. Big corporation or big insurance company picks up the tab. It’s opaque when you don’t see the victim. But the loss is eventually a dollar out of a pensioner’s pocket or a retiree’s pocket. Some individual has a real loss.

  4. BradK says:

    If only the Federal government had some sort of agency or bureau which was empowered to investigate organized interstate fraud…

    • Jake W says:

      they’re too busy investigating “hate crimes.”

      • Up north says:

        Goodness Jake, that is a good point.

      • intosh says:

        You mean crimes where lives are lost instead of those where some stuff are “lost”? What a shame. Our Stuff Matters!

        • Jeremy Wolff says:

          Someone who has died in war for American freedoms as well as someone who has devoted their life to working to support their family proves their is a relationship between stuff and life. There is a gray area between the two, but at some point your cross to a point where you need to protect your stuff.

          Gonna let someone tell you to leave your house and just walk away forever? It is “Stuff” after all.

        • NBay says:

          Jeremy-

          MOST ALL of those who died for “American Freedoms” had NO “STUFF”.

          They were FUCKING POOR KIDS!

          Leave that war shit OUT of your “STUFF” accumulation and protection justification crapp, OK?

    • Anthony A. says:

      Oil company gasoline price jacking is next on the list for crime investigation.

    • Brent says:

      Your prayers are answered before you had time to finish them 😁

      “Homeland Security Joins Retailers in Concern over Organized Retail Crime”
      “Loss Prevention Magazine” -November 19, 2021

      DHS guys with lantern jaws in hats & 3 piece suits,driving black Ford Model A V8,blasting away Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson emerging with loot from LV store…

      HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN,BOSS (Great Depression Song #1)

    • Augustus Frost says:

      I thought that was under the jurisdiction of the FBI. There is no need for yet another government agency.

  5. Depth Charge says:

    If the penalty for retail theft was death, you would hardly see it anymore. This is a case of lax laws enabling theft. I’m not advocating the death penalty for theft, but the situation now is pathetic. We need more teeth in the criminal justice system.

    • Trucker guy says:

      Except studies have proven time and time again that exceptionally harsh punishments don’t deter crime to a reasonably sufficient level as compared to the risks involved. Also, time spent in prison is correlated to higher chances of repeat offending and further advanced criminal behavior.

      If someone faces 20 years for stealing a few grand of crap at a store, they’ll be statistically less likely to be averse to committing bigger crimes to try and get away.

      If someone steals a car and the punishment is a mandatory 15-30 years, it’s not that much further of a stretch to just shoot the witness since murder is 25-life and have a higher chance of getting away.

      And then once they’re in prison for 10 years for shoplifting, they’ll have no opportunities when they are “rehabilitated” and have a decade of criminal experience and exposure. The whole tough on crime nonsense is just a way for the private for profit prison system to get gov money and cheap slave labor.

      • Jake W says:

        make murder a mandatory death penalty with no years of appeals and watch that calculus change

        • Apple says:

          “ If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

          — Cardinal Richelieu

        • Trucker guy says:

          Yeah then it still ends up being anytime someone is attempted to be arrested for murder or has committed murder they get in a life or death shootout with cops.

          What your saying still doesn’t change anything. It only makes it worse.

      • Felix_47 says:

        Not just the private system. Pu lic DAs are well paid. We need a guaranteed annual income for minorities and the poor with all income taxed. If they are driving a Mercedes the gov needs to know how they paid for it like Singapore.

      • MyLadyHumps says:

        That’s right, we need to be nice to criminals. If we make them angry they might decide to hurt us. Don’t upset them, it will only make it worse for everyone.

        The safest thing to do is leave them alone and let them go about their criminal business.

      • IanCad says:

        May as well get hung for a sheep as a lamb.

    • LordSunbeamTheThird says:

      I know this article and your comment is about retail theft for resale, but I’m sure that in the US a lot of the more broadly categorised inventory shrinkage is people stealing food sadly enough.

      The US has the problem that there isn’t a safety net when you hit the bottom because everybody would think thats the end of capitalism, but it isn’t of course.

      • Old School says:

        If you can boil water you can eat for $1.00 per day. $2 per day healthy.

        Dried beans
        rice
        Oatmeal
        Mixed frozen veggies
        Bananas/apples

        Don’t think I have ever seen anyone stealing that stuff.

        • Saxons Wrath says:

          You havent been to many 3rd world countries, eh?
          There, usually about 50% of their daily earnings
          are spent for food.
          But a lot of Muslim countries, who are also poor and 3rd world have severe penalties for theft.
          And they don’t have nearly as a big a problem with theft it seems, sue to those punishments.
          I’ve seen every item you listed stolen before.
          Americans and 1st worlders have the luxury of
          being able to eat tasty, but nutrient poor food.
          And still have $ to spare for whatever.

      • Augustus Frost says:

        Interesting how the lowest income groups are also the most obese. Yet I keep hearing that food insecurity is so widespread.

        Let me guess? Your solution is to have everyone else pay for the safety net you think should exist. That’s what I read from those who support sentiments like yours, every single time. Always willing to volunteer the sacrifice at someone else’s expense and inconvenience.

        Doesn’t matter if there is no accountability (except by the tax payer) and no one has a clue how these people spent their own money or got into their current situation, there should be no limit on open ended entitlements anyway. If you claim otherwise, the country is already spending a lot of money on multiple programs for this social safety net.

        No amount of government spending can ever resolve the problem you want to fix.

        • Jeremy Wolff says:

          Obesity in low-income communities is correlated to the rating of the schools and the distance to grocery stores. Literally, if you happen to live nearer a grocery store, you are less likely to be obese. Low-income people don’t eat more expensive food, they eat lower quality food. In Chicago, thousands of families are closer to McDonalds and Burger King than a grocery store. It is a statistical fact that if those fast food chains were replaced by a grocery store, less families would be obese.

        • RockyCreek says:

          Years ago my wife and I started our own construction company. I was the general contractor and my wife kept the books. We had a crew of 28 good hard working men, some of whom were Mexicans on a work visa. On the corner of Hwy 1 and Rio Road in Carmel, California, there had been a young man in his early 30’s standing there with a sign “will work for food”. I hired him. I started him out as a laborer. He lasted just under 2 weeks and quit saying the work was too hard and he could make more money on the street corner.

          My wife has a friend who is a chef and owns her own restaurant. She participated in a program that takes healthy food to the poorest parts of town. Some were grateful. Others were not saying they preferred their beer and Doritos.

          My wife has a masters in psychology. Her first job after graduating was to help get women off welfare through a grant from the state of New York. It was a very successful program. Using the local vocational school, teachers were paid to come in and teach skills to the women. A school bus went and picked up all of the women and their children. Free daycare and snacks were provided at the school for the children while their mothers learned skills. It was an 8 week program. The program helped women get their GEDs, or get entry level jobs. Some women entered the local community college. A few would drop out of the program. At the end of the 8 weeks there was a graduation and each woman was given a diploma. My wife said some of the women were emotional at the graduation saying it was the first time they felt good about themselves.

        • p coyle says:

          RC:

          tell your wife “thank you” from an internet stranger. she deserves it and much more for her efforts.

      • Happy1 says:

        Have you not heard of SNAP? There is a very robust food safety net in the US. People here aren’t shoplifting food to survive, they’re shoplifting for organized crime syndicates.

    • GrassRange says:

      Once up on a time in merry old England, the penalty for stealing a loaf of bread was the gallows. A lot of bread was still stolen. When people are hungry, the will fill their belly however they can. Nowadays, I doubt these thieves are hungry. It’s just a fairly easy way to make some extra cash or maybe even a living. It’s another field marker for our dystopian future.

      • Jeremy Wolff says:

        The consequence of a crime is correlated to the success rate at capturing the criminal, not just the severity of the crime. The harder it is to capture someone, the more severe the penalty must be. It is not surprise to find the most severe penalties go to the crimes the hardest to capture the thieves. In old England, there were few policemen and security per capita compared to now.

    • Jake W says:

      yes, that’s what i alluded to up above. if a society has problems, it’s because it tolerates it. we had looting in the summer of 2020 because we tolerated it. we have inner city street crime because we tolerate it. notice how china and the soviet union had very little street crime.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Lots of countries have very little street crime, not just China and Russia. In China, punishment will be severe while in Russia, there’s not much to steal. In Saudi, they just cut your hands off.

        • Sams says:

          An interesting observation is that China have less people in jail per 1000 inhabitants than the USA, even if you also count all that are imprisoned in China for political reasons.

          There must be more to the crime rate than the possible punishment.

        • Augustus Frost says:

          Sams.

          A crime is only what the government says is one. Different cultures define “crime” differently. That’s the first reason for the difference in incarceration rates. Many crimes in the US aren’t “real” crimes but political, as no one could have even imagined incarcerating anyone for it prior to my lifetime. An example is “money laundering” where the only “crime” is failing to tell the government what you did.

          For what I would describe as a real crime, it’s also substantially cultural. People will steal to survive (to eat) but that’s not directly behind most property crimes in the US. Some demographics are also more prone to it than others, as evidenced by crime statistics.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Depth Charge,

      On a property crime where people are trying to make money, the best way to stop it is to gut people’s ability to make money. If they cannot sell this stuff on the biggest ecommerce retailers via third party vendors because those retail platforms have to verify their third-party vendors, well then, it’s a lot harder to make money off of theft like this. It takes the incentive away. Right now, the incentives are huge, and there are no laws that force Amazon and others to verify who is selling what on their platforms.

      Back in the day when I was running a big Ford dealership (1980s and 1990s), people stole our cars.

      We had all kinds of systems in place to prevent it, but people would still do it. There were many brazen ways to steal cars from dealership back then, including using stolen documents to buy a car with, or just the old-fashion way of stealing cars.

      They’re still stealing cars today from dealerships, but tech makes it much easier to track the vehicles.

      Back then, those cars just disappeared over the state line or were exported, to never be seen again. It was a big business. And just about every dealer got hit sooner or later.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Jeff Bezos became a billionaire selling counterfeit goods from China. I know, I digress…

      • nearlynapping says:

        Wolf, seems to me that many ignore the need for punishment. There will always be crimes of opportunity. But the likelihood of a significant punishment is a deterrent.

        I moved out of a city and into a suburb because the city’s progressive leadership does not enforce misdemeanor crimes and minor felonies are often plead down to misdemeanors. The result — many more crimes of opportunity happen in the City.

        In the county where the suburb is, much harder to get drugs there because the drug dealers will not cross the county line. The reason that they will not cross the county line is they will go to jail for a long time if they are caught. Yes there are still drug dealers in that county, but may at a ratio of 1 to 20.

        As for the solution of retailers using technology, or laws imposing obligations on sellers to verify their products, that certainly has a place. But I would not excuse the criminals conduct by blaming the retailers.

      • AlexX says:

        A friend of mine with a vintage modern furniture and art store who’d had a space in the City for 5 years shut it down last month, due to high rent and endless theft. What is the organized crime syndicate for 20th century decorative art and small sculpture and accessories which she was being robbed blind of? And only really severely since reopening post Covid. Independent small business brick & mortar is dying in SF, and it’s a premeditated crime. Where does she sell now? Online exclusively of course.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        When I was in Guam, the motorcycle theft was rampant. The game was steal the motorcycle and then disassemble the bike and ship the parts to Siapan and Tinian. It was a booming business.

    • Truckman says:

      We don’t have any crime at all where I live, and we are mostly poor. There are lots of places like this. Might be worth trying to see why.
      I think it’s probably something to do with Dunbar’s Number, and that the organization of towns and cities should be redone to take account of this. Politics also. Each group of 150 has one rep. We’d need government to have less to do do, which would be no bad thing, so that each rep wasn’t a full time politician. This would also reduce the problem of the country being run by people who’ve never had a real job. Each group of 150 reps has one higher rep. You’d only need 4 layers to run the country.

      • c smith says:

        Oh…you mean like the CCP?

        • Truckman says:

          No.
          You get to choose your own rep ;)
          Personally, I think one needs to get rid of political parties also. Restricting funding to small amount from individuals only, and banning lobbying would be a start.

    • polecat says:

      Surely not the criminal Just US system!! PO’d parents facing idiot schoolboards get more grief than ANY of these sticky-fingered ‘miscreants’.

  6. Marcus Aurelius says:

    I suggest a couple of solutions. What has existed, as retail, in America for the last 100 years can not last.

    1) Membership Store (and Malls). You pay a yearly membership fee. Like a Country Club or Golf Course Club. You have a back-ground check. You are photographed and fingerprinted. Since Cameras and the Software for Photo ID recognition is so cheap, you can be monitored constantly in the store or mall. The nicer the Mall, the higher the Members Only fees. Imagine how peaceful and pleasant this could be. Like the 1960’s experience. You “check in’ at the front and then enjoy the Mall experience.

    2) Everything is put behind Plexiglas (Polycarbonate). Just like the late 1800’s early 1900’s Pre-Self Service retail, the clerk will go and get what you want. You stay at the counter. So, today, stores can have walls of Plexiglas (Polycarbonate, Lucite) where you stand behind and you can point to the clerk what you want.

    3) Limit the number of customers in the store. I experienced this when I lived in South Africa. In addition, you were not allowed to carry ANY bags or large purses into the store. They had little lockers. This was a brilliant idea. So, today, stores can have walls of Plexiglas (Polycarbonate, Lucite) where you stand behind and you can point to the clerk what you want.

    • Truckman says:

      Interesting, but there are problems.
      Membership clubs create de facto monopolies, nevermind the abuses possible for deciding who is a member.
      If the customer can’t inspect the goods, why not buy online?
      The more you create inconvenience, the more casual trade you lose. All these old arrangements died out for a reason.
      Nothing is going to work if you have a fundamentally corrupt society. The framers of the Constitution knew that and said so. How many lawmakers now can be held up as good moral examples?

      • Sams says:

        To the retailer, a de facto monopoly is not that bad. Neither is the possibility to filter out unwanted customers.

        Looking around, some practise this kind of store where people can inspect the goods, but only the showroom example. A showroom example that is chained to the shelf and/or have whatever other security measures. The concept is the showroom store. The clerk will get you goods from behind the counter at purchase.

        If it will work in a fundamentally corrupt society?
        Well, maybe better than the alternatives.

        • Truckman says:

          I’ve no objection to any mall becoming a club. What concerns me is that they will influence city government to effectively prohibit (e. by zoning restrictions) any other stores setting up in competition.

      • c smith says:

        These days, even yesterday’s heroes are bums. The Jefferson bust was removed from NY city hall just yesterday.

        • NBay says:

          Nothing lasts forever…..so slave owning is out…..but having “independent contractors” is in. Put a Bezos or Uber CEO bust in his place….no big deal…..still just tribute to those who run the show, right?

    • Jeremy Wolff says:

      point one makes sense for some things. but at some point people may not want everyone to track them as this could be an easy way to be framed for a crime or have private information stolen. people have shown they don’t care much now, but eventually we may cross into a dystopia where people are fed up with cameras and fingerprinting etc.

      but when many people shop for many things, they don’t want to wait for a clerk (these businesses have as few employees as possible). and many people want the lowest price. people also demand speed. so your idea (which was in Looking Back) might not work for convenience things.

      • p coyle says:

        my first choice is to wait in a line for a human to ring up my purchase. it is an inconvenience, but when the lines get long, they tend to open up another register. if more people did this, more cashiers would be employed.

        yes, i am one of those weirdos that gives a $#!T about their local economy.

      • NBay says:

        Just wall off the whole “peaceful and pleasant” place (like on “Hunger Games”) and don’t get so lost in stupid details.

        Hope you didn’t spend too much time thinking that scheme up.

  7. otishertz says:

    Lordy me, never spected no crime for crime sake. Why can’t we make people as poor as we used to do? Like the perfect, right level of poor, poor in the right way. Poor and malleable, compliant, manageable. We need more putty of the poor, poor putty, for the plutocrats to shape into little horses and goblins with their tiny little grubby hands and place in a window frame… to justify their radical activist charade.

  8. Crush the Peasants! says:

    E-commerce turned people into criminals? Remarkable claim.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Crush the Peasants!

      Remarkable BS. No one claimed that. What I said was that Ecommerce allows those fencing rings to sell their products on huge and perfectly legal platforms to unsuspecting Americans.

      • COWG says:

        Correct… theft has and always will be around…

        One of the major differences is the ability of anomymous arms length transactions that occur… lots safer if you don’t know me and I don’t know you and the po-po don’t know either of us and the item in question is a thousand miles away for $10 in shipping…

        I do check seller data when I buy and won’t usually buy from someone who doesn’t also have a physical store or business or no telephone contact…

        Unless it’s a $3 flashlight, them meh, I do t care…

        • otishertz says:

          Pretty sure that home rolled fencing of stolen goods happens on the internet. Just get the extended warranty.

        • NBay says:

          Yeah….we have come a long way since the guy in the trench coat with all the watches and jewelry.

      • Jeremy Wolff says:

        Just a product of our times. And look at the stock buy backs. And the wealth gap. And white collar crime. And the fed interest rate repression. If people don’t think financial crimes are easier to get away with now than before the internet, they need to look around.

  9. drifterprof says:

    Wondering what the career life expectancy is of those gangsters who participate in flash mob heists.

    • COWG says:

      “ Today” is how many of them see it…

    • RockyCreek says:

      Look no further than JP Morgan Chase’s smash and grab heists. JP Morgan Chase has admitted to 5 separate felony counts. And for that the CEO gets a $50 million dollar bonus and gets to continue to lead the firm for a significant number of years. That’s a nice career life expectancy.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Yes, that’s one of the REAL problems when it comes to property crimes in the US. The really big crimes perpetrated by the rich just lead to more wealth for the perpetrators.

        • historicus says:

          $4 Trillion from savers leaps to mind…

          The Fed, intended to be the buyer of last resort for the banking system is now the buyer of last resort for Wall St, IMO. (or will be soon)

        • Wolfbay says:

          The rich also don’t have to live in neighborhoods negatively impacted by “small “ crime.

        • polecat says:

          I say we wack the big lunkers first, then work our way down the ‘stealer’s fish ladder’. You know … that rotting from the head thing ..

          And honest to God, CONgress are the worstess, most stinkiest fish alive! They make jellyfish seem spineful.

        • p coyle says:

          wolf, this should be the slogan on the new and improved beer mug.

    • Jeremy Wolff says:

      In Chicago, our life expectancy between highest and lowest rates by neighborhood are 14 years apart. So this may not correlate to flash mob participants exactly, but it is a reasonable number to start with.

  10. drt2oil says:

    otishertz, Huh?

  11. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    A simple way to stop this would be to pass a law making the CEO’s of all the e commerce sites personally criminally and civilly liable for any stolen merchandise trafficked on their site. What is fair for the one man pawnshop is fair for Amazon.

    • Apple says:

      Jeff Bezos would never let a law like that passed.

    • otishertz says:

      How about this, enforce the IRS regulations that make any transaction in barter above $100 in value reportable to the IRS?

      There are estimates of the value of monetizing an individual’s data. It’s often above $100. The Transfer of those rights to “FaceGoogTwitshame” is a barter transaction. Thus taxable.

    • historicus says:

      But the State will get sales tax, so its okay.

  12. Bobber says:

    Wall Street can pillage a retail outfit much more effectively with a leveraged buyout.

  13. Eastern Bunny says:

    Why should taxpayers provide security to those businesses.
    Let them hire their own security or sell online, get rid of the stores.

    • drifterprof says:

      One possible reason for government to
      participate in civil mainstreet security would be that businesses pass the expense onto customers anyway.

      I’m doubtful that the libertarian ideal of everyone protecting themselves would work well. You’d have mobster protection rackets running the show.

      • Sams says:

        “You’d have mobster protection rackets running the show.”
        Maybe at the low end. The big corporations would run private armies and contract out the dirty work to “entrepeneurs”.

  14. makruger says:

    The local Walmart store in my small Boston North Shore enclave recently installed a locked cabinet to secure high value smoking cessation products (e.g. nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, etc.).

    Kind of surprised it’s only happening now since this kind of stuff has been behind the checkout counter at CVS and Walgreens for literally decades.

    About 20 years ago I worked for a large discount retailer and theft was a big issue. One day I saw a guy load up his shopping cart with a big George Foreman grill and casually skipped the checkout line, and rolled right out the door with it. At that point, the gravity of it began to sink in.

  15. KPL says:

    Could this be a candidate for blockchain?

    blockchain is used in supply chain.
    once stolen, the product (identified by its blockchain credentials) is marked as stolen
    before a product is displayed on ecommerce sites its blockchain credentials are checked and if stolen it is not displayed.

  16. TimTim says:

    I was meaning less traumatising, more infuriating. With every stolen item goes another reason for the company to keep a particular store open in a particular area.

    If the store closes, the employees could rightly surmise that they had spent weeks and months watching the reason they lost their jobs walk in and out with nothing they could do about it. Mortifying.

    Now, that does not mean they should intervene personally. They could, literally get shot.

    But they could be rightfully angry with their elected representatives etc, for representing the thieves with more care and attention than them.

  17. Justin says:

    It is not a good trend. More theft of physical shops only encourages more locked cabinets and more ecommerce for the affluent who can’t be bothered to wait. As more places close, there will be more degenerates looking for a quick buck. Once the quick pickings go dry, homes and personal property will be next.

    Legislation and jurisprudence will not solve this systemic issue.

    • c smith says:

      Not true. The problem was worse in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Law and order polices (i.e.; stop & frisk…prosecute window breaking) solved it then, and can work again.

  18. DR DOOM says:

    If Eric Holder was still the AG he would tell us that just like the money laundering banks Amazon and E-bay are too big to prosecute. The pawn shop on the corner however had better have the life history of everything in the shop or some puffed up DA on the local MSM affiliate will point his finger and tell you we are a nation of laws while he puts them out of business. Law is for sale in America.

    • Robert Russell says:

      In California the pawn brokers have already bought legislative protection, so now, even if the rightful owner can document ownership and can show the goods were stolen, the broker will still be awarded his cost of goods before they can take possession.

  19. Robert Russell says:

    Consider that honest small business start-ups fail at RATE BETWEEN 80-90%, but theft is prosecuted at a rate of 20-30%. Crime is the profitable business of choice. However, the recent developments of large numbers of looters attacking at once, and the sophisticated fencing that can move the product throughout the nation, and then make use of the widespread availability of the internet to liquidate the loot, all this has changed the game from shoplifting to organized crime. Now we need to see these events prosecuted as organized crime, including those who are fencing and the Tech companies who are profiting. Can’t you just salivate at the prospect of Zuck being prosecuted under RICO?! Or maybe Jeff Bezos?

    • DR DOOM says:

      According to you the pawn brokers in California can fence stolen goods and have no jeporday under the law plus demand “cost of goods” to boot. If this is the law in California the Pawn brokers have bought the law. Do you not think that Zuck or Bezos will not buy it from Congress for all the states? They already have a lot of the “law makers” in Congress on the payroll. Remember when you leave Congress your lobby grift or “un-spent campaign” money is yours. This in itself is what RICO was supposed to prevent. Only little piss ants have ever been prosecuted under the RICO act. Lobbyist pay Congress for their laws and write them to boot. RICO is used to push out the competrtion so regulatory capture and their lobbyist, political grifters and organized insider trading and information harvesting using Raceetering Influence peddling Corrution and Organizational structures of the the Gov’t for massive gains. Follow the money.

      • Perpetual Perp says:

        The Supreme Court passed (through interpretation) laws enabling campaign bribery, as well as laws enabling voting and civil rights repression. By definition (an ‘identity’ as in accounting) this makes our highest judicial court a fountain of corruption. Reminds one of NYC ‘Boss Tweed,’ who said “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

  20. Miatadon says:

    Harsh penalties don’t solve the problem of high crime rates and recidivism that we have in this country. And a large wealth gap between the richest at he top and the poorest at the bottom doesn’t help matters either.

    https://www.vera.org/publications/sentencing-and-prison-practices-in-germany-and-the-netherlands-implications-for-the-united-states

  21. Michael Engel says:

    1) In Nov 5/10 SPX daily built a new backbone, but there is nothing is going on.
    2) In Nov 30/ Dec 1 2017 SPX built a backbone, but there was nothing was going on.
    3) Dec 2017 was total tranquility. SPX couldn’t get it up. In Jan 2018 SPX went vertical, all the way up, until Jan 26 2018.
    4) SPX first plunged under the backbone was in Feb 2018.
    5) Again, in Mar, Apr and May 2017. SPX went crazy, osc wildly around it, until finally prices moved up to Sept 2018 high.
    6) But in Oct 2018 this backbone was visited again. SPX plunged to
    Dec 2018 low and up to Feb 2020 high, a popup…..
    7) Covid struck SPX. Price breached the 2017 backbone. The last tough was Apr 7 2020.
    8) Trump backbone will not leave us alone.

  22. Al Loco says:

    The Service Merchandise model solves a lot of these issues. Abt Electronics in the Chicago suburbs perfected the model. Invest in your showroom and most importantly your employees it will work.

    Best Buy has been going downhill for years and it’s not only from inventory shrink. Using the Weak Squad to absolve themselves of responsibility of defective products is why I stopped shipping there years ago.

  23. Michael Engel says:

    1) There is a store with several revolving doors. Inside, hundreds of Xmas shoppers with great spirit, on the floor.
    2) A thief was intercepted at the door. A security guard held the revolving door and wouldn’t let go.
    3) The doors is one way. The store mgr and other security guards insist on teaching him a lesson, otherwise he will never learn.
    4) The thief is screaming like a chicken, before the slaughter.
    5) People gather around, inside and outside the store to see what’s going on. The Xmas spirit is dimmed. Cashiers lines are frozen.
    6) For $5 wholesale cost, at most, the store is losing thousands in sales.
    6) Instead of ordering security to arrest him outside the store mgr insist
    to dragging him inside, screaming.

  24. c smith says:

    “This is money-driven, and you need to cut the money flow.”

    Stop it at the source. Build more local jails, reinstate high cash bail, get rid of idiotic thresholds for retail theft and hold the perps for the maximum time stricter anti-theft laws allow. The left made stealing an “acceptable” way to make money, and now the right needs to undo it.

    • Paulo says:

      From the Bureau of prisons….latest stats I could find.

      The fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates was $34,704.12 ($94.82 per day) in FY 2016 and $36,299.25 ($99.45 per day) in FY 2017. The average annual cost to confine an inmate in a Residential Re-entry Center was $29,166.54 ($79.69 per day) for FY 2016 and $32,309.80 ($88.52 per day) for FY 2017.

      So just build more prisons isn’t a very good solution. Saw Leadbelly last night on TCM. Could always rebuild those chain gang road building prisons with horse riding whip toting guards willing to shoot first, or maybe the lock box out in the Texas sun for the back talkers.

      If the right builds more prisons it will be for the contracts and cash, like it already is.

      There is no punishment solution.

      Why do they steal? What can the store do to prevent it? Clearly, there are a few simple options such as controlled exits with emergency overrides. Yes online resales could be tracked. But the problem is the buyers of stolen goods….just like there are always dealers for drug users. Go after the online sales connections and if there are re sellers that appear to be legit but are crooks, stop them. If there are algorithms that discern who likes who/what, they can develop them for who is selling and where is the supply coming from……track the life of a product through a registered bar code….no code no online access.

      It’s just stuff. There are already more incarcerated people in the US than any other country by a wide wide wide margin. There are already more gun toting nuts out there than anyone believed possible. Time to quit banging heads against the wall…..over and over. Insanity. The World needs more McMichaels out there chasing suspects down with pickups. Not.

      • c smith says:

        “It’s just stuff.”

        So, so easy to say when its not your “stuff”…

        • Sams says:

          USA have about 700 in jail for each 100 000 inhabitants. About 2.1 million in total. Now, multiply that with the cost of each. Someone have to pay, do you want to?

          I guess a lot have done the calculations, the cost of jailing every shoplifter far exceed the losses to the shop. The additional tax on the store itself to put away more shoplifters may even make it a loss to the individual shop.

          Tracing goods and transactions is probably far more cost effective. And if the end buyer knows that they to get punished a far better deterrent. The Chinese know how, they have a system of social score. Buying contraband would dent that one.

        • Augustus Frost says:

          Sams,

          What kind of social scoring system do you envision? I’m not even familiar with the details but there isn’t going to be one like China’s in the US.

          In the US, if no one is going to be incarcerated, it would have to be a “shaming score”. This presumes enough people actually care where the evidence indicates they don’t. as increasingly, no one is embarrassed about anything.

          Yes, it’s another indicator this country is on the road to collapse.

        • Sams says:

          August Frost, Social scoring in the USA?
          An extension of the credit score maybe? Public, and with more implications. No social shame, rather loss of more than just credit score. Caught buying stolen goods on the internet to many times, the credit and debit cards get restricted to store purchases only. Involved in aircraft rage, no airline tickets for a while. Involved in road rage, no driving license for a while. Repeat and wait longer the next time.

          Punishment can be a lot more than imprisonment, and equal harsh.

    • Ron says:

      How about creating jobs in America instead of China Vietnam and Mexico problems fixed mostly but always been a issue goes back to beginning of mankind

      • Marcus Aurelius says:

        Those who do this stealing, don’t want those jobs.

        Stealing if fun, quicker, and far more profitable.

        • p coyle says:

          people don’t want the jobs because the jobs don’t pay enough to do them.

          have you been paying attention?

  25. Mike says:

    Some of the smart TV’s and other tech being stolen the retailer can notify the vendor of the serial number and when the item is connect to WiFi for the first time it is checked against a stolen list and if it matches is then blocked.

    I can see retailers installing revolving doors again then only one thief at a time can enter or leave.

  26. historicus says:

    In some communities if the theft is less than $900, there will be no prosecution….

    Now, because of inflation, the Looters are demanding that be raised to $954 (6% raise)…./s

    And that’s consistent with the absurdity

  27. LibDis says:

    It is not just eCommerce. There is a good size chain of resale stores, I shall not mention the name as to ruin it, who must be peddling this stuff.

    My wife comes home with designer label purses, clothes, home decor, pots pans, all kinds of crazy stuff, many with the tags still on it. The place is literally SWARMING with ebay resellers.

    After her second visit I commented they must be fencing all the stolen goods from up north and out west where the suckers live.

    6 month later she finally agrees.

    On the flip side all of the companies getting ripped off support leftism and the laws that come with it, so they can eat dirt, as well as the people living in those areas who also vote that way.

    Destruction of their business and way of life is the just reward.

  28. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    This article made me realize the true form or modern economy has taken and the parts being played by its richest figure heads. It is much like the old days when whole cities were run by the mob. Today’s mobsters have exactly the same jobs on a much bigger scale. Jeff Bezos is “ the fence”, Jamie Dimon and his pals are “the bookies”. Zuckerberg with facebooks spying on people’s info is , “ the snitch”. Musk is the “ confidence man.” And J Powell is “ the counterfeiter” My question is “ where is Eliot Ness when you need him?

  29. Willy2 says:

    – There is however a very simple solution for this “Organized Retail Crime”: double the wages of (all) the workers & write off A LOT OF debt. Then these workers have less incentive to steal those goods from their employers.
    – Why do we need more legislation ? I assume there is already enough legislation that would make “theft” a “crime”.

  30. Sams says:

    The USA have become capitalistic to the core from top to bottom. Only the bottom-line counts. By all means. Legal or not do not matter as long as you get away with it. With legality less of a problem at the top, then you can buy new law’s to get legal. If someone lower down act illegal, well, ok as long as there is money to be made.

    • Marcus Aurelius says:

      Capitalism has nothing to do with this.

      You are describing Human-Animal nature. Feudalism had the top at the top. Nazism had the top at the top. Communism…same. Fascism, same. Even the Southern Plantation Economic System had the same legal set up and top people.

      One can go back to Early Agriculture. At the top were the “top” and their Rights were backed by the Priests.

      Hunting groups had the same hierarchy. The stronger was the King-Leader who got first dibs, then the Priests (Shamans, etc.) the next of the kill. Women and kids got what was left over. Thus, The Hunting System was evil?

      Capitalism has nothing to do with any of this.

  31. Cobalt Programmer says:

    1. I donot advocate that severe punishment, but all criminals must be arrested and punished appropriately.
    2. However, most of the shoplifting is not considered as a crime and not pursed. They were just stealing bread in the best buy.
    3. Even a strong policy to arrest the criminals would deter most of the wannabe baby face teenagers vibin with the rappers.
    4. One good thing is, they are “organized”. This is not like the government.
    5. Online retailers who sell stolen goods are actually stealing jobs from street hustlers.
    6. Happy thanksgiving everybody. Remember a decade ago, we have to stand in line, even by midnight very cold. There were fights and pepper spray to get the items they need. A mini riot. Decay of western capitalism. Now, we can order from the comfort of our homes.

  32. GSH says:

    Last spring I observed a family (Mom, Dad, 2 kids) steal a large stainless steel grill at Home Depot. Not an easy task but they obviously had given this a lot of thought.
    The dad helped load the heavy grill onto one of the flat bed dollies, then vanished. The mother bought a small $10 item at the service check out counter making a fuss about something. Put the small item onto the cart. Gave the receipt to the kids and then left the store. The kids then pushed the cart past the checkout theft sensors waving the receipt. They train them young.

  33. Michael Engel says:

    1) Go for half the of middle or index finger.
    2) For the cost of a minor industrial accident, Free SF from the looters.
    3) If the looters misbehave, plenty inventory left.
    4) Go for coyotes, let them float in the river. It will stop the drugs and the invasion brigades.

  34. Silverdog says:

    The fact that the media/corporate America is blaming shoplifters for the underlying weakness in the American economy is laughable. Remember the last crash in 2009 that was also the fault of the public.

    Just shows how weak the economy really is, the end to this crazyness is near, not many buyers this time around to the narrative.

    • El Katz says:

      I dunno….. I doubt that you’re assessment of the media “blaming” shoplifters for the downturn in brick and mortar retail is “laughable”. Let’s use BBY as an example.

      A 2019 survey claims that the average “shrinkage” in retail is 1.38%. Using that average and the 2020 BBY revenues of $43.6B, that’s @$600M in shrinkage. With a margin of @4% net, the break even is @$2.4B in gross sales to simply cover the loss.

      In finer detail: Some fine citizen boosts a $100 item and the enterprise has to generate @ $2,500 in revenue to break even.

      Laughable, indeed.

  35. Swamp Creature says:

    Safeway here is having a problem with theft of shopping carts. You see them all over the Metro stations, in parking lots, homeless tent cities etc. They’ve now instituted locking devices on the carts so that you can’t take them out of the store. They freeze up the wheels at the exit door. Great! So now you have to lug all your groceries to your car which may be hundreds of feet way. Safeway has the worst management of any grocery store chain in modern history.

    • josap says:

      At our local grocer, they put some kind of sensor under the pavement. This was installed around the perimeter of the parking lot. I’m sure it cost much more to secure the entire parking lot than just the exit door of the store.

    • NJGeezer says:

      Hello SC,
      Concur completely on Safeway being the most poorly managed grocery chain. Probably a result of the takeover by PE firm (or LBO) many years ago. Absolutely refuse to shop there.

      • NBay says:

        I took one of those wheels apart maybe 10 years ago (Target) Kinda like drum brakes but with teeth and a receiver that starts a small motor and plenty gearing to expand the brakes when signal is lost. Big industrial lithium batt. Probably checks intermittently for signal loss.

        Safeway’s looks beefier, maybe not all plastic, and easily forced and defeated (found this one in creek and came back with tools) like Target’s was.
        Gotta call BS on locking at exit, though. Not sure why you invent stories here….doesn’t matter.

        • NBay says:

          Oops again….meant for SC.

        • NBay says:

          Josap-
          Never saw the digging installation, just assumed Target’s wheel transmitter was at store. My Safeway one does lock up at lot perimeter, actually handy, keeps cart from rolling while I unload.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          NBay,

          Maybe you should stop responding to my posts when you don’t know what you are talking about. Swamp doesn’t invent stories when the truth is the facts. Call the local Safeway here in Rockville Maryland and talk to the manager, who I called to make a complaint about this procedure. Here’s his phone number

          David Mott, Manager Safeway Store 3257 1800 Rockville Pk , Rockville, MD 20852

          Telephone number 301 945-3610

          He told me to get permission from the manager before exiting the store with my cart, or it would be locked up, which it did.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        The only reason I even shop at Safeway is the store is never crowded, as no one here shops there anymore. With Covid, I like an empty store. Also the main store I use, Giant Food, has also gone downhill after it was bought out by Stop & Shop in Boston, and then taken over by some foreign conglomerate in the Netherlands. They have a massive supply chain problem, and are out of essential items all the time. Hence I’m stuck going to Safeway.

  36. George Wood says:

    I brought back 30+ packages to the Fedex warehouse on Sunday night.

    For my end of day package reconciliation I reported them all as “not on van”. I don’t know how many packages were actually left in the van.

    The rear, cargo, sliding door was broken and nearly impossible to open.
    You would need to manually move the locking mechanism while attempting to force the door up. This is standard procedure.

    The loading dock people are not allowed to access the van or open the door. I parked the van in the wrong spot as a van was parked in my spot.

    This was a huge liability for me as a driver and one of the reasons I quit Fedex.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      George Wood,

      When did you quit FedEx? And where are you working now?

      • George Wood says:

        I start back with Amazon on 11/26, I did not have to go through the rehire process.

        I quit because I was making a lot less at Fedex than I was at Amazon. I was paid per hour at Amazon, most drivers at Amazon are paid a fixed rate. Fedex( my contractor ) pays per stop/package, they pay a minimum of $140 a day. I never exceeded
        this amount. The package size/weight and Fedex’s chaotic processes make it very difficult to do so.

        I gave my two-week notice on Sunday morning.

        Last Sunday, I arrived to find a van, full of over sized packages.
        Many 6 feet long in length and weighing in at over 150 pounds.
        Seeing that my van was full and likely did not have 140 packages in total, I new I had to quit.
        The guy loading my van apologized to me and explained that most of the other vans were not overloaded. This happens all the time…
        I arrived at 8:00 am, I left the warehouse at 9:30 after my van was finally loaded. Despite all the labor shortage nonsense, Fedex has not updated their pay structure. I will be paid the same amount as I would have been paid, 1, 2 or even 5 years ago.
        I am paid per stop, not to load my own van or wait for someone to do so.

        The Anti theft device on the van was malfunctioning and I was told to put the van in neutral and use the parking brake to avoid having to engage the anti theft device.

        The step side van had 313,000 miles on it and the power steering was failing, very badly. When, I tired to put my seat belt on, it did not fasten. I recklously drove that van home on the highway. If the the HWP had pulled me over, I likely would be in jail.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Thanks. This sounds like a horrible mess. Crazy.

          I hope Amazon works out better for you.

          Just to let you know, shipping my beer mugs with FedEx (OneRate, Pak) is now 27% more expensive than 2 years ago. I’m not sure what they’re doing with all this extra money, but it doesn’t sound like you (or any of the drivers) got any of it.

        • George Wood says:

          Not all SID’s are unique.

          This is one of the primary reasons, I feel the CEO at fedex should not be let back into the building.

          So, logistically, everything is driven by the SID listed on each package.
          There should be a sticker on each package that lists the truck/route first and then the package number.
          Example SID: 112 1500
          The van is loaded by the second number 1000, 1500, 2000 up to 8500. All the 1000 should be in the same location etc.
          The route should also follow in sequential number but it often does not.
          When the driver pulls up to the first stop say 1010, that is the package that is delivered.
          A stop can have multiple packages all marked as 1010 which makes sense.
          When a package is returned to the station, the old SID is not removed, a new one is attached to the package but that is not the real problem.

          For whatever reason, whole number SID’s like 2000, 5500, 8500 can be assigned to completely different addresses. So you might end up with 3 SID’s on a van, all with different address with the same SID say 8500. There is no way to know how many 8500 are on the van, there might be 3 8500 stops.

          I learned this the hard way as a rolled up to the second 8500 SID address and realized the package I already delivered to was sitting on the porch at the wrong address.

          Every route that fedex delivers too, likely has duplicate SID’s.

  37. Kk says:

    Most shop theft, from my experience, (ie by volume and value) is by managers who have developed systematic ways of doing it. The lowlife who steal bits and pieces are easily caught and blamed.

    • NBay says:

      Sounds right from my Postal experience. Heard some managers were nailed by inspectors at SF MSC….not sure what for, but it was letter stuff (food stamps) I think…pre card, around 2000. Never heard the penalty, either, but two of them used to be Tour Supervisors sometimes at our MSC.
      Tour=Shift….lotta para-military terms, AWOL, Direct Order, etc. MSC might have been GMF then, too….FN managers love changing terms and acronyms….don’t do much else…same as private industry.
      Thanks to you and George for info.

  38. marina says:

    There’s a better way to steal. Inflate the money.
    And not 1 in a million will understand what happened.
    But the ones doing the inflation will reap the profits.
    And destroy society.
    That’s the plan.

  39. 271 Days says:

    Walking out of Best Buy with electronics seems so unsophisticated compared with having your buddies give you money at 0.05% interest and then loaning it out at 29.9% APR.

  40. Swamp Creature says:

    One of the greatest untold theft is from confiscated items at the TSA checkpoints. While on TDY in St Louis’s Lambart airport I was taking a shuttle back to my car. Two security agents were bragging about the haul they made from items taken from passengers while boarding aircraft.

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