Online and Brick Crime Ecosystem: Not Just Surviving, It Is Thriving

December 28, 2022

For some US cities, looting has become a daily occurrence. Retailers in San Francisco are left helpless as their merchandise is stolen. Looting happens when things become violent during protests centered on ethnicity or politics. It appears looting is a victimless crime, because thieves are hitting up large retail chains and luxury stores. Yahoo! Finance details how Target is facing a huge profit loss because of shoplifting and it is the same for other stores too: “Target: ‘Organized Retail Crime’ Has Driven $400 Million In Extra Profit Loss This Year.”

Target has lost $400 million in gross profit in compared to last year’s third-quarter results and the CEO projects a $600 million loss for all of 2022. Target attributes profit shrinkage to “organized retail crime.” Why are more people stealing these days than before? The Yahoo Finance Editor-In-Chief Andy Serwer summed it up as a zeitgeist issue:

“”Why are people stealing these days? That’s a tough one. To some degree it’s a reflection of our times. Simply put, America’s social contract is straining. Until recently we’ve been able to lay out goods—often in mammoth, big box stores with only a handful of employees. When our social contract is strong—i.e people are getting a fair shake—it’s a model that works. Now it seems more people are stealing instead. (BTW, our stressed social contract may be capping how far we can push this people-light, technology-heavy model. Last month Wegman’s ended its scan-and-go shopping app. Why? Shrinkage, of course.)”

Other factors include a widening wealth gap, companies failing to pay workers a living wage, shoppers being violent toward employees, external thefts, and post-COVID mentalities. The article, however, failed to mention how easy it is to fence stolen products. Online commerce Web sites such as Amazon, eBay, Mercer, Swappa, the Real Real, and social media marketplaces are teaming with stolen goods. It is a little harder to drop luxury items, but everyday products like electronics, baby formula, diapers, toys, and alcohol go quickly. These Web sites do little to vet the sellers, although Amazon has some blocks and eBay scans for “counterfeit goods” and limits the sale of certain items.

These prevention measures do little to stop thieves from hawking their stolen

merchandise online.

Whitney Grace, December 28, 2022


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