Retail Theft Cripples Commerce
Out of every possible thing that can go wrong for a business, be it a fire, stock market crash or faulty product line, it is retail theft that is the most damaging. Retail theft affects every industry and leaves none immune, and is continually growing as a viable roadblock to the successful operation of a company.
The problem with retail theft is not limited to the damage it causes businesses, but to how it hurts the global economy and even the customers themselves. It is definitely not an innocent crime and has lasting economic repercussions of such scale that most people would be surprised to learn of it.
Retail theft generates an unfortunate looping cycle wherein the theft of products results in a necessary price increase to compensate for the loss, thereby forcing the average consumer to pay more. The result of raised prices means that lower-income members of the public may now find it difficult or impossible to afford what they need, making the more likely to commit retail theft, thereby starting it all once again.
The Bigger Picture
Retail theft comes in many forms, but the most common is definitely the act of physically stealing an item from a shop or warehouse. Whether perpetrated by an organized crime ring or a twelve year old boy, the impact is much the same in that it damages and even cripples a company’s ability to do business.
A less common but still dangerous threat comes from fraud wherein a person uses an illegal means to pay for goods. A stolen credit card and counterfeit money can both result in a loss for the business once this is discovered by banks or law enforcement, which require that the company make reparations for any lost funds.
Fortunately, new security measures are making fraud far more difficult for any common criminal, and reported advancements in credit card design will make that a greater reality within a few short years. Aside from fraud, however, the dangers of retail theft are still prominent.
To expand on the above mentioned cycle, retail theft actually manages to fuel itself. Although stealing an apple or a loaf of bread is not particularly damaging, the common theft of large and expensive objects can cripple a business. The only option left to them is to raise their prices to compensate. Raised prices mean that we as consumers need to shell out more of our money to afford things we need.
The strain of this constant inflation is too much for many lower-income individuals, many of whom find themselves unable to buy food or the basic supplies required to sustain life. Some of these individuals unfortunately resort to retail theft to compensate, thus starting the cycle over once again. Although the theft of a little food is not that serious, some of these people still larger items to sell for cash.
Other Causes of Retail Theft
It isn’t just the poor or needy who are largely responsible for retail theft. One of the top reported sources is employees themselves. It can be easy for employees to organize and orchestrate retail theft due to their access to restricted areas such as loading docks and warehouses. These inside-jobs are just as damaging as pickpockets and shoplifters, and cause the cycle to continue uninhibited.
Companies are fortunately beginning to implement greater security precautions relating to their own staff. Background checks, enhanced security procedures and regulations and the installation of cameras in sensitive areas significantly cut back on inside retail theft, although it remains a serious issue for many businesses.
How to Prevent Retail Theft
Preventing retail theft is something that we can all help with. Although it is discouraged to take vigilante action against criminals, the police and business owners greatly appreciated watchful eyes and quick reports. If you spot someone shoplifting a large or expensive item, by informing the management or security, you can help to stop crime before it happens.
It is never recommended to approach criminals for safety reasons, and so it’s in your best interest to report retail theft sightings right away. It’s quite common for stores to reward people who help them catch criminals, although at the very least you’re rewarding yourself by preventing raised prices to compensate for the retail theft that might have taken place.
Lastly, education is an important factor. Educate your children on the dangers of theft. Rather than simply stating “don’t do it because it’s wrong,” explain how even the seemingly-innocent act of stealing a CD can have global economic repercussions. By putting it that way, children will better understand why retail theft is bad for everyone. By encouraging security and honesty, we can all help prevent retail theft from becoming a bigger issue.
Copyright (c) 2008 Brant Florist
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