Monday, 10 November 2008


It's becoming quite open now. About a month ago, I watched a guy in a Sainsbury's Metro do a one-for-you one-for-me in which for every item he put in his basket he put another in his bag. Then briefly joined the short check-out queue, clicked his tongue in mock frustration, left his basket on the floor and walked out. It was very neatly done. The Nigerian security guard was busy deliberately looking elsewhere - why should he risk a knife in the guts for his employers?

Retailers estimate shoplifting costs at £2bn a year - or £90 a year for each one of us. And as shoplifters face nothing more than an £80 fixed penalty notice these days, where's the disincentive? Of course, the real sufferers are the poor; I wrote a while ago -
Funny old thing, the free market. A leaked Home Office letter predicts a rise in crime - acquisitive crime in particular - as a result of the recession. This will mean more burglary, vehicle thefts and, in London in particular, street robbery as well as a plague of shop thefts. The people hardest hit will be the poorest living in the most deprived areas - traditional Labour voters. As supermarkets raise their prices to pay for theft losses and increased security the poor again will bear the brunt. Crime is an irritation to the insured middle classes, but a curse to the poor. Heroin addicts tend to burgle within a 400m radius of their council flats to feed their habits - and it's the plasma TVs, wiis and Christmas presents of their fellow council tenants that are most at risk.
The Standard reports that Tesco have had a 36% year-on-year increase in shoplifting. And we've hardly even entered the recession yet. Who knows; if things get really sticky next year, the middle classes may join in, scorning the £80 FPN for a bagful of 'Finest' comestibles. Perhaps a thriving wine-bar trade in stolen Queen Scallops and Lemongrass will develop, or you'll be offered a pack of duck breasts with the security tag crudely removed.

O tempera o mores!


Blue Eyes said...

You didn't do a citizen's arrest on him as he left store?!

Nick von Mises said...

And if he'd killed you with one punch (perhaps mistaking your identity) in the queue, he'd have likely gotten community service.

Bill Quango MP said...

Razor blades have been topping the most likely to nick! for ages. Why?

Nick von Mises said...

Razor blades become currency in economic collapse, if that helps. They are small, portable, extremely useful, and require relatively high engineering. When Russia collapsed razors where up there will petrol, food and soap as highly tradable items.

Dmitri Orlov's "Reinventing Collapse" discusses it.

Anonymous said...

"...scorning the £80 FPN..."

Not likely.

Law-abiding middle class people have jobs, mortgages, credit ratings, and identity to worry about.

It's the underclass pondscum who don't have to worry about any of that. They won't lose benefits, they've probably got a record already, they'll never need a mortgage or a job, and they don't care.

Blue Eyes said...

Razor blades have long been tagged - I have always assumed because they are expensive and portable!