Two teenagers exit quickly out of Thrifty’s with mini cupcakes in their hands. They high five each other and I know they have not paid for the sweet treats.
A week later in another grocery store I witness a tall man with a bulky jacket slip a steak into his left pocket and head for the exit.
Food store theft is reaching historic highs as we experience unprecedented inflation. People are desperate, or frustrated with the high cost of food, and so they steal.
My shoplifting rap sheet is tame.
At 13 I stole a package of Thrills chewing gum from a corner store. I have no recollection of why but I never stole again.
Perhaps it was witnessing a red faced girl in the Hudson’s Bay spilling stolen cosmetics from her purse in front of two store detectives that forever deterred me.
I casually told the clerk what I had witnessed. She shrugged and said, “Store policy doesn’t allow us to approach shoplifters.” That makes sense since the risk of injury to employees and customers isn’t worth catching a thief with a pound of butter.
With less staff in stores I’ve started noticing how easy it would be to take the ‘five finger discount’. No security guards or clerks hanging around the exits, and on a busy shopping day you can blend in with the crowd and be unchecked.
Not surprisingly self-check-out machines have encouraged shoplifting, which in turn has contributed to the more than $5 billion loss to theft for retailers in Canada last year. A shocking statistic.
If shoplifting intensifies when food prices go up, grocers admit they raise prices to recoup the cost of the theft. That is a vicious circle that affects us all.
People experiencing food insecurity may feel if food chains are making profits why not steal from the rich to feed the poor, yet shoplifting affects us all no matter what socio economic group you fall into.
April will bring spring flowers but it’s also bringing two federal tax hikes. The carbon gas tax will jump by three cents per litre, and the annual excise tax adjustment for liquor will go up 6.3 per cent, thanks to inflation.
It seems there’s no price break in sight, but shoplifting isn’t the answer, it’s repugnant, and in the end it costs us more.
Ingrid Abbott is a freelance writer who cheered for Robin Hood, but knows his tactics were suspect.