I started shoplifting when I was just a wee lass. Junior high. Wide eyed and wet behind our ears, my friends and I would go to the Landover mall and fill our purses with makeup and candy; whatever we could get our hands on. Back in those days, stealing was an act of rebellion against the tract house suburbia in which we, as young white women, were imprisoned. We stole out of want; not a want for the products themselves, but an intangible want, a want of substance and identity – a want to fill an emotional void that was born with us when we came into a world where the individual was defined more by what they bought than who they were. Stealing things that we not only didn’t need, but also didn’t care for, was a rejection of the increasingly oppressive influence of American corporatism. Also, we did it to impress boys.
Stealing is mainstay of the American identity, and I still shoplift to this day. Mostly for the nostalgia aspect, but also because I believe that it’s our responsibility as individuals to actively participate in and perpetuate our culture as Americans. When you go into Home Depot and put a bunch of watch batteries in your purse, it’s a symbolic patriotic gesture; akin to waving the flag or voting. The singular act of shoplifting doesn’t really have any impact, but collectively, it helps define who we are as a nation.
That being said, I only shoplift from small locally owned stores. I call it organic stealing, and I’m not an economist but I get the impression that it’s better for the economy overall.
A lot of people reject the idea that stealing is acceptable – let alone the concept that stealing is actually good and beneficial for the economy – but those people need to instead reject the things that were drilled into their heads as children. While, at first, it may appear that stealing circumvents an important part of the transaction process, thereby hurting economic growth, it actually fuels the economy because of the work that’s created to deal with the stealing.
It’s called positive appropriation, and it’s actually a conservation effort. It helps preserve local businesses by effectively controlling the population of producers on the market. It’s beneficial to steal in general, but it’s especially effective if you steal from smaller businesses as opposed to large corporate chains.
You see, it costs corporations more money to have a piece of merchandise on their shelves for six months than they would lose if the merchandise were stolen. Corporations factor in a given amount of loss they will experience through shoplifting, because loss is just a part of business. What they don’t expect however, is an excess of product and an inability to move it. That’s why NOT stealing from big box stores actually hurts them more than cramming DVDs into your pants. Eventually they’ll have to downsize, and business will shift back to mom and pop stores.
When you steal from your local bodega, there is of course the immediate loss to the business. But, as more and more stealing occurs, they’ll be forced to acquire things like mirrors and security cameras. Now, what is the shop owner going to do? Is he going to steal that mirror or the camera? No, of course not. He’s going to buy it; which means there’s money going into the pockets of local security camera businesses and the local mirror stores. It also means there’s jobs being created at the camera making place and the mirror factory.
Even more increases in stealing warrant the hiring of a loss prevention manager. Now, you actually have growth of the business as they have one more employee on the ledger and someone in town has a job. Now that the loss prevention manager is employed, he no longer needs to steal, and the money he makes protecting the store will be pumped back into the local economy.
But beyond the economic benefits; stealing from locally-owned stores gives us a shot at reclaiming the America we once had. The America that was based on neighborhoods and human interaction. It harkens back to the America of yesteryear – the one that didn’t need to hire Walmart greeters – because being friendly to strangers was a given. It was an America where you not only trusted your friends – but you stole from them. And just like our forefathers broke bread with the Natives and subsequently raped and murdered their families, so shall we, as free citizens, smile at Gonzolo as we pocket almond croissants in the back of his corner Deli.