Who Steals the Most from Stores?

Every year, the average American family unknowingly spends an extra $500 on food and essential items due to the shoplifting habits of others. But the worst part is, many of the people doing the stealing could easily afford those things. According to an oft-cited 2008 study, people who earn at least $70,000 a year are 30 percent more likely to shoplift than those earning $20,000 or less.

In her book The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, author Rachel Shteir writes that about 27 million Americans attempt shoplifting on a regular basis, but it's usually not because they are needy or hungry. Instead, they steal because they want to, and because it gives them a sense of control.

In The Steal, Shteir's aim is to upend the preconceived notions we have about shoplifting and to offer an overview of with some historical context. For example, she writes that since the Great Recession of the late 2000s, stores have lost an additional 8.8 percent to shoplifting. And the crime affects everyone, as evidenced by the increasing cost of products. For example, Shteir says that if one person steals a single heirloom tomato from Whole Foods, the store needs to sell $166 worth of items to recoup the loss.

Facts about sticky fingers:

  • Men and women shoplift at about the same rate, and 55 percent of them started when they were teens.
  • Close to 98% of shoplifters get away with the crime; of those who are caught, about half are handed over to the police for prosecution.
  • The most popular items among shoplifters include chewing gum, cell phones, medication, deodorant, cosmetics, and energy drinks.
More Info: NPR

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