Retail theft is out of control.
According to Mark Mathews at the National Retail Federation, “The kind of theft that’s mostly happening isn’t run-of-the-mill shoplifting. It’s organized crime.”
In Charlotte, NC, one ring of thieves stole millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise.
The thieves were shoplifting over-the-counter drugs, focusing on stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target.
Over the last three years, the group of organized criminals stole over $5 million from these stores.
They targeted busy stores in the Charlotte area, stealing over-the-counter medications, and then selling them online.
According to police, the suspects were recruited to be part of the crime ring and were very good at what they did.
Police used surveillance footage to figure out who was part of the crime ring. They were able to discover who the ringleader was.
Dozens of law enforcement officers served four search warrants at the same time to make arrests of members of the ring.
They recovered over $160,000 in stolen medications and over 20 firearms. The suspects also had 20,000 rounds of ammo and suppressors for weapons.
In 2021, retail theft increased by 21% from the previous year. 2022 will likely be worse.
And retail theft costs the economy a staggering $127 billion a year – and climbing.
It’s not just the theft of merchandise that hurts the economy. Retail theft costs federal and state governments almost $15 billion in tax revenues.
Nearly 70% of storefronts have had a problem with retail theft, and most retailers believe it will get worse.
When the economy is in a downturn there is an increase in retail theft.
In addition, many police departments are understaffed. This means it takes them longer to respond to these types of crimes.
Plus, police usually devote their resources to violent crimes where people are harmed. They put fewer resources into retail theft since they don’t have the manpower.
Even if you aren’t a retail store owner you will still feel the effects of the massive increase we are seeing in thefts.
Here are a few ways you will be affected by retail theft:
Returns are harder:
Whether you are buying things at a storefront or online, retailers are making it harder for you to return items.
Many retailers are creating new return policies to limit return fraud.
For example, sometimes thieves will buy an item while it is on sale, then return the item when it’s not on sale.
The goal is to receive a larger amount of money during the return, compared to what they paid.
Some retailers are making the return period shorter, even if you have a receipt.
Returns open up a completely new way for fraud, so retailers are cracking down.
You pay more:
When retailers experience theft they have no choice but to pass the loss on to customers.
Consumers typically see a price increase of 3-5 percent because of retail theft.
Everything that retailers have on their shelves has already been paid for. If those items are stolen the retailers lose money and raise prices.
Retailers already deal with inflation, rising costs of goods, and supply chain issues.
When you combine these factors with theft, the retailers have to make up for their loss somehow.
And it’s typically done by charging the consumer more.
You are treated like a thief:
A friend of mine lives in Las Vegas. The other day he went to buy Chapstick. The $1.99 Chapstick was locked up, so he had to have a store associate get the item for him.
Sadly, since they have no other option, retailers are taking a heavy-handed approach to prevent theft.
More retailers are locking up items because the statistics show that locking up items is effective at stopping theft.
Also, retailers are increasing the number of loss prevention employees.
Plus, you will likely see more retailers checking receipts as you leave their stores (similar to what Costco has always done).
All this could make your shopping experience frustrating, but retailers are choosing this route since it’s effective at reducing theft.