Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shame and Shoplifting at Walmart

There is a very good article in Business Week about the rising shrinkage at large stores like Walmart. Shrinkage is basically loss of inventory from employee and customer theft. One of the ways this is being combatted, in one small Alabama town, is to "shame" the perpetuator rather than fine or jail him or her. As punishment, the thief has to stand outside Walmart, or another public building, wearing a big sign that says something like "I'm a thief, I stole from Walmart."

This is a really innovative approach, and one I can see working. For a lot of crooks who don't face a lot of jailtime for what they do, I find that publicly exposing them is often more effective. Take Dateline and the "To Catch a Predator" segments. These guys meet children for sex, and they're apprehended by the police. The jailtime they end up serving usually isn't that much, it's usually a couple of years at most. But the fact that they were exposed on national television, along with being a Registered Sex Offender for life, is a much more lasting punishment.

I managed a retail store for three years, I caught some people stealing, and I'm sure there were others who were able to steal and get away with it. So I loathe thiefs, they're probably near the bottom of my personal morality totem pole. If you want something, you buy it. You don't steal. If you don't have the money, too fuckin' bad. You go without. Law enforcement and the legal system don't take theft seriously enough. I hear that in the Koran, and under some Muslim law, the penalty of stealing is punishable by having one of your hands cut off. To me, that's even better. But no, we're too "civilized" for that, we have to treat these scum like they're decent human beings.

Anyway, read this article from Business Week: http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jul2007/db20070723_644443.htm?chan=rss_topStories_ssi_5

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