A few weeks ago, I was watching some late-night TV and a show about shoplifting in the US was on. It gave some pretty scary statistics about shoplifting in the US (and I’m sure it applies to Canada as well), and how much it affects all of us in our daily lives.
I learned that most of the shoplifting that happens in retail stores happens from the staff members. Often these staff members don’t consider it stealing; they simply feel that the organization owes them something (because of a variety of reasons; maybe they feel underpaid, under appreciated, etc), and they take what they believe is owed to them.
The show followed local retail stores and their local police departments as they profiled, tracked down, and investigated several large theft rings. These people stole millions of dollars worth of merchandise from the retail stores that they targeted. They didn’t steal the items for personal use. These professional shoplifters would bring them back to the organizer, who would sell the goods on sites like Ebay or in flea markets.
Consumers would frequent these flea markets or the Ebay stores to get a good deal on the products that would normally cost 20-50% more in the retail stores (from which the goods were shoplifted).
My case is that when we see products that aren’t damaged for a substantially lower price than we’ve ever seen them in retail stores, somewhere, deep down, as responsible adults – we know that they were probably shoplifted or acquired by unethical means.
Stores like Walmart don’t have the highest of markups. It’s not low, by any means, but it’s not like they markup their products by 50%. Grocery stores (where a lot of the over-the-counter drugs are shoplifted from) only have an average markup of 8-12%. This is no secret. So then, if we stopped and thought about it before snapping up a good at a great deal – would we even care where the good came from? Or the means by which it was acquired?
So say you knew. Or even if you didn’t, you know now. Obviously not ALL discounted goods come from career criminal shoplifting rings, but many do.
So, now, how do you feel about buying those goods?
There are a few ways to look at it, and I’m going to stay as neutral as possible:
It’s OK Because I Didn’t Steal It
Some may feel like buying from flea markets knowing that the goods are stolen is fine, because they didn’t personally steal the item. They wouldn’t steal the item, but they will buy it from somebody who may have.
Steal From the Rich, Give to the Poor
Some think that it should make no difference to Walmart, or other big box stores, because they are so large that they probably wouldn’t notice. Having lower prices helps families who are struggling, so buying from flea markets that sell stolen goods is fine, because it helps the poor.
It’s OK Because I don’t Know 100% If It’s Stolen
Not all flea market or discounted goods are stolen; some were damaged and thus must be sold at a discounted price, some were overstock, etc.
So maybe it’s okay to buy goods that are oddly cheap, because who knows if it was really stolen or not?
It’s Not OK Because It’s Stolen
Some might feel that the purchase of stolen goods is unethical, because they were obtained by illegal methods. They may argue that the purchase of stolen goods is, in itself, a crime.
What is your stance on this? Would you be inclined to buy from vendors that were selling goods that were likely stolen to save a few bucks, or do you find it unethical?