Why it’s hard to buy deodorant in Manhattan

208 points15
fragmede13 hours ago

I've lived in the same city now (not NYC) for 10+ years, so I'm moderately connected with all sorts of people and not just a bubble of affluent tech people. So I'll be real, I know some sketchy people that probably do drugs or at least know where to find some. What I don't know, however, is any "fences". That is, someone that traffics in stolen goods. Or maybe I do, they don't exactly advertise their services. I've never been offered speakers that fell off the back of a truck, however. Maybe that's just me being naive.

Anyway, to get to my point; turns out I do know fences - basically anyone with an Amazon account, and I know a lot of fuckers with Prime. For the low investment of polyfill bags and other shipping materials, and this one weird trick called stealing, you too can make money online! Just take your stolen goods, send them to Amazon, and they'll take care of selling them for you. All you gotta do is some computer shit, and some packaging, and then send it off to Amazon. Because your supply costs are cheap, you can undercut your competitors (but not by too much) and rake in the profit. Amazon supposedly is cracking down on this but I have yet to see any meaningful evidence of any real enforcement.

The economist article avoids naming names, but what you're looking for to get started is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

el_nahual11 hours ago

To further underline your point, if the chain is (thief)→(amazon)→(end user) then the fence isn't "anyone with an Amazon" account: the fence is amazon.

bushbaba6 hours ago

Except products like deodorant are considered health products. Amazon doesn’t just let you easily sell health products, you need to produce invoices, receipts, etc.

More likely this stuff is sold on ebay

eek21215 hours ago

No, instead they reach out to Amazon to school a sweet deal directly. I think a lot of people forget that a typical retailer relationship is manufacturer => distributor => retailer. Large companies like Amazon often can (and do) negotiate directly with manufacturers, however, sometimes larger distributors can offer a better deal. This is why, for example, you'll sometimes find Amazon themselves selling fake SD cards.

tacker20003 hours ago

Sure, but Amazon chooses the companies they buy directly from (its called Amazon Vendor Central) very carefully and they only buy from people who are already established 3rd party sellers on Seller Central, so im not sure these small time thieves are able to do that.

But it could be that maybe one of them is a legit seller/vendor and buys these stolen goods off of these crooks or doesnt even know about the fact that they are stolen.

There are lots of Facebook groups for amazon sellers where people often post “liquidation” sales so maybe this could be a way to do it.

aliqot6 hours ago

> Except products like deodorant are considered health products. Amazon doesn’t just let you easily sell health products, you need to produce invoices, receipts, etc.

I have doubts about this.

themitigating5 hours ago

It appears to be true. This page describes the categories and there seems to be an approval process to prevent what this article is talking about.

It does link to Amazon's seller central but I don't have an account to see the actual list.

echelon5 hours ago

> Amazon doesn’t just let you easily sell health products, you need to produce invoices, receipts, etc.

I sure hope so.

Amazon seems to only carry many common household items through dubious 3rd party sellers.

On the subject of deodorant, I've received the wrong type from Amazon multiple times, including some that obviously came from a foreign market. I ordered Dove. That can't be difficult to source from the manufacturer.

I just want Target to bring back Subscribe and Save so I can ditch Amazon completely. Third party fulfillment ruined Amazon's store.

ekianjo3 hours ago

I dont know about Unilever (Dove) but actually a lot of manufacturers do not sell directly thru Amazon. For numerous reasons.

Manuel_D10 hours ago

Isn't the chain: (thief) -> (fence) -> (Amazon) -> (customer)? If a fence sells his wares in a bazaar, the bazaar is the fence? No, the fence is the fence the bazaar is the marketplace.

lupire10 hours ago

If Amazon is commingling inventory and Fulfilled By Amazon, it's not a bazaar, it is the fence.

codetrotter10 hours ago
thaumasiotes7 hours ago

There's actually an interesting point here. We can easily imagine a scenario where someone steals a bicycle, lists it for sale on Amazon, and ships it off to the customer themselves. Amazon was just a billboard in that case, kind of.

A fence is providing a few semiseparate services:

1. They will buy stolen goods. You get a lower price, but you don't have to face nasty questions like "how did you get this?"

2. They may assume the risk of policing. If you stole something surprisingly important and it gets thoroughly investigated, the fence goes to jail, and you don't.

3. They locate people who want to buy stolen goods. It's easy to conceive of this as a service they provide for their own benefit, after buying your stuff (#1), but in reality you can't really do either without the other one.

Amazon commingling inventory lets it provide service #2. The police can establish that a stolen object was delivered to an Amazon customer, but if it came from a commingled pool, they can't establish who sold it.

But Amazon's whole concept is to provide service(s) 1 and 3. This would make it fairly strongly parallel to a fence who, when the police show up, lets them know where to find you. But even then Amazon is still doing the largest part of fencing; usually the police don't show up. The hard part is locating the customers, and that's what Amazon does.

wrasee1 hour ago

Perhaps the definition is that to be a fence you have had to buy the good and take ownership (and responsibility) for the goods yourself. You then resell them to pass on ownership. Otherwise you're just providing services, whether that's storage, transport or whatever. So do Amazon take ownership, or do they just sell them on your behalf?

tomxor7 hours ago

An even more perverse chain is: (thief) -> (fence) -> (Amazon) -> (delivery) -> (thief) -> (fence) -> (Amazon) ...

At least it's Amazon losing money then rather than Amazon benefiting from crime against competitors.

wizofaus7 hours ago

But what's the cathedral?

quickthrower27 hours ago

Amazon would say it is merely the credit card processor, the web store provider and provides ad space.

Same as if stripe, google ads and shopify were used.

They don’t take possession of the items at any time. Even if they warehouse has them, they are in the same boat as uhaul or a storage company.

woodruffw7 hours ago

I think this would be a stretch on their part: unlike a storage company, these products get put into an SKU bin in the Amazon warehouse. They get mixed with other Amazon stock, show up in inventory DBs, and are ultimately shipped in Amazon-branded packages with Amazon-originated shipping labels. Users track their packages containing these products on Amazon's website.

dylan6049 hours ago

>Because your supply costs are cheap, you can undercut your competitors (but not by too much)

or, take the other approach, and sell it slightly higher. this will easily remove the suspicion that you are selling stolen goods. in fact, you might get more sales from people deliberately looking to not purchase from the lowest price seller. it's genius, and i see no fault in this plan whatsoever.

timakro12 hours ago

Amazon makes it easy to sell especially with FBA. That's as much a good thing as it can be misused. It allows new businesses to get started when they cannot afford to handle shipping to customers themselves.

bradleyjg11 hours ago

What’s a new company doing selling old spice deodorant? What possible legitimate angle could it have?

Robotbeat11 hours ago

Same as any small business reselling stuff bought in bulk that people need like one or two of every year?

aliqot6 hours ago
Spooky2310 hours ago

There used to be a pretty active market in selling clearance stuff on Amazon and eBay.

lupire10 hours ago
bradleyjg9 hours ago
lifeisstillgood12 hours ago


So I steal some consumer goods, put them in individual boxes, send them to Amazon warehouse and they distribute for me.

I simply never put that together.

But surely Amazon is literally handling stolen goods?

Is there a smoking gun email?

mikeyouse10 hours ago

In the big $8 million bust a few years back in the Bay Area, it turned out that they were paying street criminals more to steal specific items like toothpaste, but the police were frustrated by Amazon’s lack of assistance in figuring out all of the involved parties. Can’t find the specific article at the moment but that really stood out to me at the time.

lupire10 hours ago

Amazing that a corpo can get away with "lack of assistance" when it is participating in a crime syndicate. Imagine if you or I tried that.

bombcar10 hours ago
alfiedotwtf7 hours ago

I have bought a lot of books from Amazon, and if you look past the scrubbing with a marker, it's always some library within America - so yes even books from Amazon are just books taken from public libraries.

toast06 hours ago

Like the other poster said, that's what libraries do when they're done with books. I help at my kid's school library, mostly shelving books, but also processing discards, which is remove from catalog, remove or mark over the barcode and library stamps so the book doesn't come back, then the librarian has to do some procedural junk and if nobody at the school wants the books, they get sold to a used book wholesaler and then hopefully to someone who wants it. The wholesalers don't pay much, but it helps buy new books the discarding has made room for.

MichaelCollins7 hours ago

That's not necessarily a smoking gun; public libraries often give away old books they don't want to keep around anymore. About a quarter of the books in my personal library are ex-library books, but none were stolen.

Of course if it's some popular in-demand book, it was almost certainly stolen. Most of the free library books I've scored are 50 year old textbooks about obscure/obsolete topics.

MichaelCollins7 hours ago

> But surely Amazon is literally handling stolen goods? Is there a smoking gun email?

If Amazon were a mom and pop fence, the local cops could bust them in a sting. But Amazon is a huge megacorp, so even if the cops try to catch them in a sting nothing will stick because Amazon will claim their shear scale rendered them completely oblivious to everything and therefore not criminally culpable.

Yeah, it's bullshit.

philwelch5 hours ago

I mean, RICO was designed for this sort of use case. But Amazon does have lucrative deals with the intelligence community.

coredog6412 hours ago

Chains in Manhattan put stickers on the merchandise that tell you where it came from. While you could remove them, it’s a PITA and cuts into your margins. If you don’t remove it, there is a clear signal to Amazon that these are stolen goods.

adrr10 hours ago

There’s a whole industry based around arbitraging price differences between Amazon and brick and mortar merchants. Just search YouTube for “get rich with FBA”. How would Amazon know if it was stolen or retail arbitrage?

JCharante6 hours ago

Wow this opened me up to a whole new world. Even managing to flip items with a 1% loss would let you spend $25k for only $250 (the amount of spend you need on delta co-branded cards to hit the MQD waiver for up to platinum).

anonu9 hours ago

Who wants to buy a $10 deodorant from a NYC CVS when you can buy the same thing for much cheaper online. The thieves are only accelerating the demise of overpriced brick and mortar stores. Plus the experience of going into a CVS and having to press a button and wait for an employee to hand you a deodorant is horrible. (Not condoning theft, but at least the free market is speaking here somewhat)

kube-system7 hours ago
Reason07746 minutes ago

> "Who wants to buy a $10 deodorant from a NYC CVS when you can buy the same thing for much cheaper online."

The reverse is usually true in the UK. Amazon is great for convenience, but most of the time, physical pharmacies and/or supermarkets are cheaper for these type of products. Not to mention discount stores like Poundland.

adrr9 hours ago
deadbolt10 hours ago

I've found these in CVS's near Detroit. I had no idea it was due to people stealing them and reselling on Amazon.

notch656a11 hours ago

Is it illegal to sell deodorant you got from the store after they put a tag on it?

lisper10 hours ago

Of course not. But it is really hard to turn a profit reselling a product you purchased at retail.

bombcar10 hours ago
birdman31318 hours ago

The trick is to get it on clearance. Some local stores will sell for a massive discount off amazon.

I do more ebay as I won't touch selling used on amazon but in the past I have bought pallets of new stuff at local auctions and sold them on amazon for significant profit. Ended up with several cases of Ember mugs once. Forget the price per mug but think I paid ~$600 and sold em for ~$2400 on amazon.

lupire10 hours ago
lostlogin9 hours ago

Scalping deodorant as a startup?

notch656a10 hours ago

Sometimes consumers sell something they decided not to use. Either directly to another consumer, or to an aggregator who can turn a profit on the consumer's loss by obtaining lots of previously retail bought goods.

It's sunk cost fallacy to just think "I must use this thing if I can only sell it at a loss."

MichaelCollins7 hours ago

> cuts into your margins

It's not as though the thieves hire workers to do this for them. It's something they can do themselves while tweaking.

prvit9 hours ago
musicale12 hours ago

> Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

Perhaps thats why I've noticed a large number of complaints related to CVS-type items sold on Amazon: used items, counterfeit items, diluted items, etc..

psychphysic12 hours ago

Isn't eBay the same?

So many sellers you see selling 5 of some random.

It's basically those guys with a suitcase in markets selling whatever they got hold of that week.

nostromo12 hours ago

Blaming Amazon is misplaced.

Blame the people stealing and the system that refuses to prosecute them.

mbreese11 hours ago

You can tackle a problem from multiple directions. So while direct prosecution is important, cutting off a method for converting stolen goods to money is also important. As soon as that method become unprofitable, the activity will either stop or switch to something else.

subradios11 hours ago

Regulating legitimate business activity out of existence to support progressive prosecutors ideas about shoplifting and street crime is the opposite of a solution.

jrumbut10 hours ago
ryan_lane11 hours ago
PragmaticPulp10 hours ago

This is one of those statements that feels good when no specifics are on the table, but if it was ever implemented we’d be seeing countless HN stories complaining about how Amazon is requiring sellers to provide too much documentation or closing their accounts for suspected dealing in stolen goods or something.

Heavy handed regulation always sounds better in hypothetical perfect knowledge scenarios, but kind of sucks for everyone in the real world.

_carbyau_8 hours ago
ars10 hours ago

How exactly do you plan to do with without also blocking a regular person from doing price arbitrage? Or selling extra items they have in the house?

There's tons of stuff on Amazon that goes for more than retail, and people buy it for the delivery convenience. And there's nothing wrong with that.

blululu11 hours ago

Nope. In most states (CA for example) it is a felony to sell stolen goods when the amount exceeds a pretty modest threshold. If, as alleged in the parent comment, they are committing a crime on a large scale then the blame is very well placed.

*of course this does not exonerate the original thieves, but as a matter of practicality it is going to be easier to hit a single large offender than a myriad of small ones.

SpelingBeeChamp10 hours ago

I am fairly sure that trafficking in stolen goods is only a crime if the person knew, or if a reasonable person should have known, that the goods were stolen.

HDThoreaun7 hours ago
pclmulqdq9 hours ago

This depends - if a person goes out of their way not to find out whether the goods are legitimate, it's equally bad.

Either way, if you possess stolen goods, they will usually be taken from you and returned to their owner. If that happened to a lot of Amazon customers, the refund volume would encourage Amazon to crack down on their supply chain.

Teever10 hours ago
notch656a11 hours ago

mens rea

pclmulqdq9 hours ago
lupire10 hours ago
balls1879 hours ago

It’s not about blame.

If Amazon can ship products to my house within 2-hours, it certainly can crack down on selling stolen goods. It just has zero incentive to.

nostromo4 hours ago

New York City has tens of thousands of cops - they certainly can crack down on theft better than can Amazon.

d3nj4l12 hours ago

> the system that refuses to prosecute them.

TFA addresses this directly.

JCharante5 hours ago

Why doesn't amazon just simply require receipts or invoices when you send stuff to their warehouses for FBA?

nostromo4 hours ago

Receipts and invoices are dead simple to forge.

Besides, if I want to sell a used book on Amazon, maybe I don’t have the receipt anymore.

No, the easiest solution is to prosecute shoplifters - not to reorganize honest society around them.

If cities don’t want to do that anymore then products will be expensive and difficult to buy - and eventually there will only be Amazon left.

ALittleLight11 hours ago

But also blame Amazon. If you ran a store that repeatedly sold stolen goods do you think local police and prosecutors would ignore you?

Trafficking in stolen property is a felony. That's true whether you definitely know it's stolen property or if you definitely should have known (recklessly trafficking). You, if you repeatedly did it out of your small business and ignored complaints, would face prison. Why does the law apply differently to Amazon?

My guess is, if you told Amazon's CEO that he had one month to substantially reduce trafficking or face felony prosecution and prison time - I bet you'd see severe reductions.

prvit9 hours ago

>If you ran a store that repeatedly sold stolen goods do you think local police and prosecutors would ignore you?

Yes, if you operated your business in a way similar to Amazon the cops and prosecutors would in fact almost certainly ignore you.

rdtwo9 hours ago
ALittleLight8 hours ago
ReflectedImage10 hours ago

Most major stores and chains are willing to sell stolen goods.

duxup12 hours ago

Craigslist seems to still be a popular place for that too.

prvit9 hours ago

Amazon should not try to do anything about this, because there is nothing Amazon can do about this.

Amazon should not be required to do anything about this, that’s why we pay cops.

peyton9 hours ago

It’s called receipt of stolen property, and it’s a crime. Doesn’t matter if you’re Amazon.

prvit9 hours ago

Without mens rea this is not a crime in (almost?) any jurisdiction, doesn’t matter if you’re Amazon.

No matter what kind of weird games you choose to play, there’s no way amazon has a guilty mind here.

peyton9 hours ago
HDThoreaun7 hours ago
ars10 hours ago

> basically anyone with an Amazon account ... Amazon supposedly is cracking down on this but I have yet to see any meaningful evidence of any real enforcement.

Amazon has "Amazon Invoice Verification" for sellers selling large quantities of merchandise. But I personally do not want Amazon trying to check if Mr. Doe just wants to sell a couple extra tubes of deodorant he bought by mistake.

Can that be abused by thieves? Sure, but not everything is fixable.

prvit9 hours ago

You’d also have to have suffered severe brain damage in order to not be able to fake the documents for “Amazon Invoice Verification” (Or any similar scheme that could be implemented in the real world)

Not fixable.

axutio11 hours ago

Most of the comments here are ignoring the difference between regular old shoplifting and the trend driving the increase discussed in the article, which they're referring to as "organized retail crime".

I think it's very fair to have differing attitudes/moral thresholds for an impoverished mother shoplifting a week's worth of baby formula versus "a couple in Alabama [which] pled guilty to shifting $300,000-worth of stolen baby formula on eBay".

My reading of the article suggests that the trend discussed is a result of the latter, which is more recent and problematic, and not the former. Comments here discussing the morality of crime or a desire for policy change are missing this distinction.

PragmaticPulp9 hours ago

> I think it's very fair to have differing attitudes/moral thresholds for an impoverished mother shoplifting a week's worth of baby formula versus "a couple in Alabama [which] pled guilty to shifting $300,000-worth of stolen baby formula on eBay".

I’ve also noticed a weird tendency to downplay theft lately, either through projecting a theoretical moral justification on to the shoplifter or by insinuating that retail stores are evil corporations and therefore deserve no sympathy.

Knowing some people who work in retail, the impact of rampant theft (organized or random) is really quite unsettling on the people who have to be around it. Retail store policies are very much about not interfering with the thieves, but it’s quite upsetting when you realize you’re in an environment where the law doesn’t really mean anything and consequences basically don’t exist for breaking the law. The few people I know in retail (including retail management) are looking to get out ASAP because it just feels so vaguely unsafe and, worse yet, large swaths of the public seem to thing the thieves are the good guys and the retail employees are the bad ones because they’re associated with a corporation.

ryandrake6 hours ago

> I’ve also noticed a weird tendency to downplay theft lately, either through projecting a theoretical moral justification on to the shoplifter or by insinuating that retail stores are evil corporations and therefore deserve no sympathy.

Let me try to convince you without defending the morality of the shoplifter or declaring corporations evil.

1. On the totem pole of crimes, petty shoplifting (without violence) is pretty close to the bottom when it comes to harm done the public. Jaywalking and smoking weed are lower.

2. These corporations that are being robbed already build shrinkage into their budgets. $300k of baby food is nothing to Walmart, a rounding error, and I doubt you can even see it in their bottom line. Even a smaller shop is not going to go out of business if someone walks out with all their toothpaste. It’s not analogous to stealing from an individual.

3. There are a limited number of police and I’d rather them be out there deterring violent and serious crime than protecting the inventory of companies. When every rapist, murderer, white collar fraudster, and drunk driver is behind bars, and the police have nothing left to do, then sure, go bust those dastardly deodorant thieves.

WalterBright4 hours ago

From the article:

"Rite Aid, a pharmacy, closed a branch in Hell’s Kitchen in February after losing $200,000 worth of stuff last winter. And last week Target, a big retailer, reported that a rise in “shrink” (to use the industry jargon) had reduced its gross profit margin by $400m so far this year. The National Retail Federation says inventory loss, largely driven by theft, cost retailers a record $95bn last year."

It seems that $300k is several orders of magnitude off.

The harm to the public is when the stores find it unprofitable to exist in certain neighborhoods, which makes the neighborhoods even worse off. If the stores don't close, then prices have to rise to pay for the shrinkage, which the public has to pay for.

generj1 hour ago

Just as an addition, it’s worth noting most store theft comes from employees not the public.

It’s expensive to minimize opportunities for the public to steal. Basic speed bumps preventing employees (who can steal more extensively) are less expensive and tend to be the focus.

pbhjpbhj3 hours ago
leni5364 hours ago

> These corporations that are being robbed already build shrinkage into their budgets.

Doesn't this just mean that it is priced in? So thiefs are stealing from paying customers.

thfuran3 hours ago

Yes, it does.

concordDance3 hours ago

Two things:

Shoplifting results in shops closing down in poorer areas or raising prices. This is quite bad for the poor.

People getting away with shoplifting and seeing others get away with it makes them feel they are not in a law abiding environment and makes them far more willing to break other laws and do things like deal drugs, beat up/kill their enemies and take the law into their own hands. A look at the murder rate in poor areas is suggestive.

monero-xmr4 hours ago

It’s morally wrong to steal, and has been since the beginning of civilization.

“Though shalt not steal” - Ten Commandments

“If a man has stolen goods from a temple, or house, he shall be put to death; and he that has received the stolen property from him shall be put to death.” - Code of Hammurabi

Private property is the foundation of civilization and pretending theft doesn’t matter undermines the basis of our world. All theft is wrong.

falcor841 hour ago

While I agree that it's morally wrong to steal, you lost me at "All theft is wrong". I think there's a deep reason why stories about moral (or at least mostly ambiguous) thieves are so prevalent. Two major examples are Robin Hood and more recently Andor, both about stealing as a way to rebel against an overwhelmingly powerful and negative authority.

mschuster911 hour ago

And yet, even the Bible has provisions for poor people [1]:

> “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. 25 If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.


raverbashing4 hours ago

> already build shrinkage into their budgets

This is a shortsighted take. This is as stupid as the corporations buying "cyber insurance" not realizing the cases are going up and that prevention and processes are needed. Then comes next year their premiums shoot up. Who would have thought it?!

Yes they "build shrinkage" for a forecasted number. If that number goes up and you get people swiping large amounts of products that number becomes meaningless. Then people wonder why did the store close or why a deodorant there costs $10 and is locked behind the counter

paul79864 hours ago

Allowing those to shoplift / turn a blind eye to it is a breakdown of society!

What are the good reasons that led to and allows this?

mschuster911 hour ago

> I’ve also noticed a weird tendency to downplay theft lately, either through projecting a theoretical moral justification on to the shoplifter or by insinuating that retail stores are evil corporations and therefore deserve no sympathy.

Well... it's not that weird. The big chain stores like Walmart ruthlessly exploit their workers to the point of them being forced to apply for food stamps [1], while the owner class makes literally a dozen billions of dollars a year in net profits [2]. Additionally, Walmart is infamous for killing off small businesses around them [3]. So, I don't have much sympathy at all for these corporations and Walmart in particular.

With ever more and more people being unable to make a honest living - over half the US has less than 1000$ in savings [4] - it's no surprise that shoplifting for survival is on the rise and at least somewhat accepted in society.

Unfortunately, small stores get caught up in the crossfire as they can't afford to bear the rising cost of shoplifting.

We need better wages for the 99% and higher taxes for the 1% so that we can get away from forcing people to steal to survive.





marricks9 hours ago
capitalsigma8 hours ago
dls20169 hours ago

> Most of the comments here are ignoring the difference between regular old shoplifting and the trend driving the increase discussed in the article, which they're referring to as "organized retail crime".

I guess, but conversely I'd argue that organized retail theft has been around pretty much as long as supply chains have existed. That's the mob's bread and butter. The phrase "riding shotgun" is in common use. Perhaps mass shoplifting from the store is a new tactic, but personally I look at this situation and ask, "what has changed"?

For one, we've sort of collectively realized how terrible modern jails are (Rikers anyone?). And that's good.

A second conclusion I draw is that retail stores have been gutted... walmart-ized... every ounce of efficiency wrung out of them. Have you ever been to one of these massive retail outlets and had trouble finding anyone that works there? A few months ago everyone was clutching pearls about some 150 yd stretch of train track in LA that was continually being robbed... and I can make a wild guess that this was the result of 1) skeleton crews, 2) minimal security on the ground and 3) shipping containers that are running with sub-standard defense mechanisms because they're simply too much work (slows down loading, probably break a lot, etc.).

Yes organized crime should be punished, but these companies seem to throw up they're hands and say "Gee golly, we have no idea why $20 million dollars of merchandise watched by 5 overworked, low wage employees and 1 loss prevention officer is such a target! It's a mystery!"

I don't hate mega corporations (ok maybe a little), but they definitely have a hand in creating this situation. And it's rarely commented upon when discussing the recent rise in shoplifting.

(Edit: I forgot my favorite shoplifting fact... up until recently, reports showed that both shoplifting and wage theft "cost the economy" around $40 billion per year. Comparing prosecution rates of the two crimes is left as an exercise for the reader.)

kriskrunch5 hours ago

You have it backwards. Saying it's the store's fault is like blaming a victim of rape.

Once I chased a thief out to the waiting car, and blocked the door from closing, leaned into the car, and came to my senses...

I let them go. It was only worth $750. And I wasn't about to brawl inside a car with two thugs.

I could have been stabbed or shot. It's not worth the risk. And I was the store owner. Let me tell you straight up: it's not understaffing.

I would expressly tell my staff to not risk their safety for merch.

A couple years after I sold the store, they had an armed robbery at closing and lost about a hundred thousand. Also, break-ins went up: they tried cutting the safe out but couldn't reach the rear bolts to cut them. They even stole the security cameras.

I only reported once because I knew the guy and I felt betrayed. I don't know for certain, but I think the vast majority of retail theft goes unreported.

And your favorite shoplifting fact is down-right offensive. If you were more balanced in your counterargument you'd also ask the reader: What is the cost to the public for added security, staff, deterrence tech, and lost merch? And lost sense of safety and security? Those are priceless in the eyes of most reasonable people.

It's sad to think we may have lived through the golden era of retail where stores were relatively safe and pallets of merch could be left out unguarded.

These gangs are ruining it for everyone. We shouldn't even have this discussion. We should all unify with retailers of all sizes. Theft is straight up wrong, and the thieves should be punished.

capitalsigma8 hours ago

Understaffing doesn't justify crime. You probably understaff your home security, leaving it empty all day while you're at work. Do you deserve to be robbed?

Broken_Hippo4 hours ago

These aren't the same.

Understaffing and such things are like having locks on your house, yet only locking the windows while leaving the house, garage, and shed doors open. You may not deserve to have your stuff taken, but everyone can understand why they chose your house instead of the one next door. If you aren't willing to do the bare minimum - shutting doors and locking them - you were minimally more OK with the risk.

And to be fair, retail places usually aren't "robbed". They have their stuff shoplifted and stolen: Robbing a store generally creates images of armed intruders, and most of it isn't like that.

dls20167 hours ago

> Understaffing doesn't justify crime.

Noting the existence of theft throughout the ages is not an endorsement.

My point is that we should be careful who we ask to pay for enforcement. It's expensive to maintain a system of courts and jails for petty crimes. Rikers is a rather egregious example, but almost $1 billion per year where 85% of detainees are pretrial!

I think it's legitimate to ask to what exent the community should cover the enforcement cost.

karatinversion4 hours ago

The community pays either way - they are the source of the revenue that has to cover any private enforcement! Law enforcement is a public good and will be under supplied by private parties that cannot internalise all the gain!

bobbylarrybobby7 hours ago

When you spread the risk out among thousands of homes near you, a door with a lock may well be a “sufficiently staffed” home. Meanwhile stores may be the only game for several blocks, miles even depending on which part of the country.

taurath35 minutes ago

> The phrase "riding shotgun" is in common use.

I’m in my 30s and this is the first time I’ve ever actually understood the historical meaning of this

concordDance3 hours ago

Having extra staff will have no effect on shoplifting if it isn't prosecuted and the police don't arest for it.

And note that security measures are deadweight loss to society.

partiallypro11 hours ago

This is such a big nationwide problem that Target actually mentioned it during their earnings report (this is stated in the article.) Some states/cities have made it near impossible to prosecute these people, so the risk/reward is very favorable to stealing and reselling. Some stores have even closed down in certain areas because of it. When we talk about "food deserts" in some cities, it could one day be we have massive deserts of no retailers at all, and it will largely be a government policy failure.

The videos of organized ransacking of stores are honestly insane. The stores are somewhat powerless because of liability, and the new laws that have raised the level in which the law even cares. I don't think the "broken window" policy is the end-all, it has some problems but allowing "small" theft rings does not generally put areas on a good trajectory. These goods are almost always getting 3rd party listed, be it Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, etc.

fosk2 hours ago

This is mostly a function of policies that explicitly allow and tolerate this sort of behavior as a sort of “pay back” and “release valve” for the poor, addicts or generally speaking under represented social classes.

As the wage gap and opportunity gap widens in the US, allowing shoplifting is actually an intentional release valve that is being tolerated and even outright legally permitted (California Prop 47), because - without it - we would see more home break-ins, kidnappings of wealthy people and more severe offenses. Instead, shoplifting is relatively harmless and prevents this type of escalation of crime.

“Panem et circenses” said the Romans, shoplifting is a form of “panem”. I think many don’t understand the incredible pressure pot that is the US at the moment with vast negative social pressures and inequality. If it explodes, all bets are off: the US could look a lot like South Africa and Brazil than what it is now.

This plus some political survivorship too: votes are all equal, and when most people are disadvantaged or about to become disadvantaged, politicians cater more and more to them (populism) in order to survive and dominate in the political arena.

SpelingBeeChamp10 hours ago

I don’t know of any states that have made it near impossible to prosecute shoplifters. What are you referring to?

nxm10 hours ago

Having the penalty be a slap on the wrist and having the person is released same day, it’s essentially the same as not prosecuting them. NY state bail reforms, and in San Fran; “ In 2014, a ballot referendum passed that downgraded the theft of property less than $950 in value from a felony charge to a misdemeanor.”

acdha10 hours ago

That’s not the same claim at all - those people can and are being prosecuted: bail wouldn’t matter if they weren’t! Similarly, changing the threshold for a felony theft charge doesn’t prevent anyone from being prosecuted.

factsarelolz9 hours ago
magicalist9 hours ago

> having the person is released same day, it’s essentially the same as not prosecuting them

No, it's called not imprisoning someone who isn't an imminent threat for weeks or months without a trial while they're waiting for one.

Reform the court system to get to trial faster if you want a change, in the meantime cash bail is an affront to everyone's rights.

ransom153810 hours ago

I have no idea how a prosecutor can take down these organized rings. The entire method prosecutors use for say exotic drugs, guns, etc: "Ok we have you for 5 years here, who do you work for, make these phone calls, we can get your sentence down to parole". This allows prosecutors to work their way up. But if a prosecutor is sitting in front of a low level shop lifter - who gets out that day - i don't see any prosecutor leverage.

LawTalkingGuy9 hours ago

Conspiracy charges? Airtags in their shoes?

prvit9 hours ago
rootusrootus9 hours ago

Somehow in Europe they have a similar shrinkage rate to the US.

prvit8 hours ago
TillE9 hours ago

Without American cop show bluster, without pretrial detention except for serious crimes, and without lengthy prison sentences.

pyuser5835 hours ago

And without the same commitment to privacy. Police have much greater search powers in Europe and there is massive surveillance of public spaces.

In the UK, junior policemen walk up to you and ask you to remove your hat. So the camera can see your face.

prvit9 hours ago
mixmastamyk10 hours ago

What is the real liability to apprehend when someone is attempting to steal a large amount of merch?

bombcar10 hours ago

You delegate and subdivide. I get a gang together and each person steals $50 at a time, no more; if they get caught they get let go or it’s very minor.

You collect the materials and farm them off to Amazon.

dsfyu404ed10 hours ago

>and it will largely be a government policy failure.

You mean feature.

If you tell voters in no uncertain terms what will happen if they piss on the electric fence and they piss on it then it's safe to assume they wanted the results. Make no mistake, people were told certain policy would lead to businesses leaving these areas resulting in <thing> deserts. Voters voted for it anyway.

qwerpy10 hours ago

I’d be fine with this as long as people then don’t decry the eventual <thing> deserts as discriminatory.

factsarelolz9 hours ago
josephcsible6 hours ago

If this only harmed the people who voted for it, then I'd have no problem with it. The problem is that it's also harming all of the people who voted for the opposite but lost.

public_defender11 hours ago

Expert in stolen goods here.

I was talking to a NYC colleague the other day about how there are trends in favor of not punishing people for certain criminal activity in the city. We were talking about driving with a suspended license, but I asked about shoplifting. She said, "Oh, no. That's on the opposite trend. Not only are they prosecuting it to the maximum, but they just changed the law to make it easier to hold people on bail for shoplifting." She made it clear that shoplifting was never a low priority for prosecution, but now it's a higher one.

I understand that the claim in this article is that aggregators/sellers/fences whatever should be surveilled and prosecuted (more), but just wanted to add this tale from the courthouse and emphasize that the street-level shoplifter will be the target of most policy interventions here, which is the least effective and least humane strategy.

bhk10 hours ago

This is clearly not true.

> Manhattan D.A. Acts on Vow to Seek Incarceration Only for Worst Crimes

> The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told prosecutors in his office in a memo that they should ask judges for jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses — including murder, sexual assault and economic crimes involving vast sums of money — unless the law requires them to do otherwise.

And this isn't entirely new with Bragg...

public_defender9 hours ago

It clearly is true. I can actually watch it happen. You can too, if you go to arraignments in NYC. The line ADAs have no discretion to dismiss petit larceny (shoplifting) at arraignment. They need supervisor approval. There are other cases like driving under suspension (VTL 511 -- mentioned in GP) where they do have this discretion. There is a reason for the difference, which is that petit larceny is a priority.

Also, the DAs supported the "harm over harm" amendment to bail reform (CPL 510.10(4)t) for the explicit purpose of seeking bail in repeat shoplifting cases. And can you guess how they're using it?

You are conflating DA public statements with actual operational policy. It is nothing new that DAs claim to prioritize things that are not on their roadmaps.

bhk9 hours ago

So on the one side I see news reports of dozens of cases of serial shoplifting offenders out on the streets, and the NYC DA informing his staff and letting the public know that if you steal less than $500 you will not go to jail.

But you're claiming that the DA actually intended to send them to jail. So he was baiting them to commit the crime? I don't buy it.

And you're claiming that his prosecutors have no discretion in prosecuting these cases? I don't buy it, but if you have some references to support that claim, other than word of mouth, I'm all ears.

I can't find precisely what the amendment was and when it took effect, but the subject of the article was a surge in retail theft over several years, so if you're talking about some changes in the past year, then maybe we will be able to see some effects in the next year.

public_defender8 hours ago
crackercrews4 hours ago

Aren't most shoplifters not even caught? Police don't investigate because the city won't prosecute. And shops won't report because police won't investigate.

Maybe what you say is true about arraignments. But that assumes that someone has been reported, investigated, and caught.

rahilb3 hours ago

It can both true that those shoplifters getting caught are punished to the full extent of the law and that it is hard to catch 50/50 people who were in a shop for 30 seconds and arrest them for shoplifting. So hard in fact that if the police are not physically there before it is happening there is likely zero chance to catch anyone in these groups.

The crime is perfect.

Oxidation3 hours ago

The other thing that's interesting from their state graph is that it disagrees with the "people fleeing anarchist California to orderly Texas to escape rampant crime" meme.

Not only does Texas have higher rates of larceny theft[1], it is the biggest outlier on the graph in terms of lack of prosecution for it - no other state is further below the trend line.


Thorrez6 hours ago

Ideally they would get the street-level shoplifter to inform on the shoplifter's boss in order to get a low sentence or immunity, so that the real kingpin can be caught.

rullelito4 hours ago

Expert in making stuff up perhaps.

jfengel10 hours ago

What is more effective and humane? Is it about removing the poverty that drives that kind of theft, or were you thinking of something more direct?

mlyle10 hours ago

This is about organized retail bulk theft. Punishing the individual shoplifters is useful. But it's also useful to crack down on secondary markets through which (mostly) stolen goods are shifted.

prvit9 hours ago

How? Should we ban Amazon and Ebay?

mlyle8 hours ago
LawTalkingGuy10 hours ago

> the street-level shoplifter will be the target of most policy interventions here, which is the least effective and least humane strategy.

Getting a low-level criminal or junkie off the street, alive, is worth a lot. You can then offer them a chance to turn their sentence into rehab or something if they don't need jail.

And there's no reason we can't go for the higher ups too, there's (jail)time for everyone!

public_defender9 hours ago

> Getting a low-level criminal or junkie off the street, alive, is worth a lot.

Off the street and on to Riker's Island. A jail so dangerous that it has a high likelihood of being put into federal receivership in the next year. People are safer on the street. Full stop.

oerpli7 hours ago

But the streets are safer with some of those people in Riker.

jahnu4 hours ago
MichaelCollins7 hours ago

> People are safer on the street.

Only if you narrowly define 'people' to mean the tiny minority of people who are thieves, and exclude the overwhelming majority of people who aren't thieves. Thieves are safer on the street but everybody else is safer with thieves off the street. You've got your priorities skewed.

steve7610 hours ago
someguydave10 hours ago

It seems you are a fan of closing down urban retail

meanmrmustard9211 hours ago

Some speculated that prosecutors had gone soft on looting after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But it is hard to see any such trend in the data: generally states with more shoplifting prosecute more shoplifters

The claim is about the time-series comparison, and the rebuttal is about the cross section comparison. Is the journalist in question stupid, gaslighting, or both?

lupire10 hours ago

The rebuttal was explaining the trend that does exist.

pitaj8 hours ago

Where do they explain that the trend doesn't exist? They make no statement that applies over time.

Our_Benefactors10 hours ago
hellfish9 hours ago

You just don't get the message ig? Maybe if you just stop thinking and accept that 2+2=5 it will make sense :)

chriscjcj6 hours ago

443 comments as I write this. I searched for the word "boost" and "Fentanyl" and was surprised that neither word had been mentioned.

There is another engine driving this phenomenon: addicts "boosting" to feed their addiction. Drug use is another crime that society seems uninterested in prosecuting or punishing as of late. Add illicitly manufactured Fentanyl (1) to that recipe and you have an absolute onslaught of retail theft.

In interview after interview with addicts, it's clear that boosting is one of the primary methods of funding drug use. (2) If we are not interested in curbing drug trafficking, sales, and abuse, we will continue to have a huge problem with retail theft. (And also an unconscionable death toll that is growing rapidly.)

(1) (2)

abvdasker6 hours ago

We already tried this. It was called The War on Drugs and it failed totally, completely and unambiguously. If there's one thing to understand about the last 60 years of United States drug criminalization and enforcement, it's that those policies have utterly failed to curb drug abuse and addiction. There are a mind-boggling number of studies which show that criminalizing drug use doesn't create fewer drug addicts.

magic_hamster5 hours ago

What is a better solution?

etage33 hours ago

Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2000 and this is regarded as a better solution. Drug use is treated as a health issue rather than a crime issue, and the results are better. See here :

rocqua51 minutes ago

Decriminalize drug use, thorough social services support, start treating drug-users as patients with an illness rather than criminals with a moral-failing.

This will probably require some decriminalization of drug sales. Just to get the drug-users out of constant contact with crime.

gambiting2 hours ago

And also - it's not like Americans are uniquely prone to opioid addiction, why isn't the rest of the world seeing this problem on anything approaching similar scale? What are they doing differently?

williamvds2 hours ago

I get the impression America is uniquely vulnerable among the wealthiest nations. Private healthcare providers, a defanged health regulator, and rampant corporate bribery/advertising. Purdue salespeople lobbied doctors directly to prescribe their opioids to patients, while Purdue suppressed knowledge their incredibly addictive nature, and later offloaded blame to the addicts they largely created.

Here's a long overview of the Sackler family and their involvement in creating the opioid epidemic

npteljes2 hours ago

I think you'd want to look into the Opioid Epidemic.

somberi12 hours ago

It just so happened my wife and I were in a CVS (a US pharmacy chain) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (think pooches inside Gucci bags), and I wanted to get a Deodorant.

We had to call the staff to unlock small pigeon hole after another just to see what was written on the labels.

As always it is not just one thing - the lady that came to help us was in a Hijab and was studying medicine and was helping her parents who immigrated from Turkey and own the operation rights of that store, on thanksgiving eve.

May be I am Old, but I did not mind the locked shelves after meeting her.

z9znz11 hours ago

Maybe I'm not putting all the pieces together correctly.

What is the significance of her wearing a hijab? Why is that worthy of mention, or the fact that the owner family was from Turkey? And also the Thanksgiving eve bit?

yadaeno7 hours ago

Op is explaining why this particular interaction was "worthwhile" enough to justify the inconvenience of pressing the assistance button.

If this had been Gary whose worked at CVS for 17 years and hates his job i'm sure the detail would have been left out.

unsupp0rted7 hours ago

And Gary’s just as worthy of an income as any other person, hijab or no, immigrant or no.

OP is doing that thing in which immigrants aren’t people, but rather a cute special needy class of virtuous go-getters.

As an immigrant, I don’t like it. We’re approximately as nice and as lousy as anybody else.

nuclearnice311 hours ago

They are just details. Let them echo around in your head as you like.

Maybe she's from a conservative part of the world that doesn't have too many woman turning out as doctors. Maybe supporting her family of immigrants, who might not have a ton of money and are dealing with some of the hard things that being new in a strange country brings. Maybe in the deep background you can sense an unhappy reason they left Turkey in the first place. And all this taking place on a holiday eve when she and your narrator would rather be home with a hot tea and a book. She's a fighter, up against long odds, having overcome some adversity to get here. I don't mind a short wait.

Or maybe something totally different.

someguydave10 hours ago

It seems like you are a big fan of judging people on the basis of superficial appearances.

short_throw9 hours ago

It seems you're a big fan of judging people on superficial details of their internet comments.

The point was pretty clear to me...that there's a person and a family on the losing end of all this. Giving the owners of a store a backstory is humanizing, OP gave as much detail as he knew which wasn't much and that's fine. It's a shame we're all so tense about cultural details that people get attacked for trying to say something nice.

wand3r10 hours ago
8n4vidtmkvmk10 hours ago

my coworker is from turkey. wears a hijab. or did until very recently, interestingly enough. nice woman. very smart. fiesty.

z9znz10 hours ago
cpursley10 hours ago

It sounds like somberi is bringing home the point that they went really far out of their way to a very different culture to work hard and make a way for themselves and try to beat the odds? Isn't that the very idea of America?

z9znz10 hours ago

You are filling in so many details that are not there. But whether that is correct or not is not the point.

The point is, why mention it? Should we be surprised, or should we be impressed that an immigrant Muslim family was involved? I just don't know what the OP wants me to feel. It's touchy, but it is ambiguous.

Is that good? Is that bad? Is it stereotypical? Is it challenging expectations?

mattkrause8 hours ago
mensetmanusman10 hours ago

It’s a very American story, because American is the most diverse country.

dkdbejwi3833 hours ago

The most diverse country? Not even in the top 50, nor the most diverse in the Americas.

alar4410 hours ago

It's normal for humans to describe things. Get out more.

xwdv10 hours ago

It shows that she’s an outsider, and it foreshadows the kind of doctor that she will eventually be.

z9znz10 hours ago


Perhaps I really am missing something obvious.

What kind of doctor will she be?

oaktrout8 hours ago

Well, she was unlocking small pigeon holes so that they could read the labels (reveal the mystery inside), clearly she will do gastroenterology or gynecology.

xwdv9 hours ago
taolegal7 hours ago

Not sure what you're trying to get across. Am I supposed to think that locked shelves is normal or ok, should we minimize yet another needlessly bizarre and inconvenient impediment in ordinary life? Because of some romantic anecdote about a second-generation model minority?

555558 hours ago

You sound like a really nice person but I agree with the sibling commenters and I also wonder if your understanding of Turkey is accurate and balanced.

adventured11 hours ago

CVS doesn't lease out or franchise operating rights to their stores in the US. They own and operate all of them exclusively. They operate similarly to Walgreens in that respect.

teg4n_11 hours ago

lmao so the parent post just made up their story? on the internet no less!?

adventured11 hours ago

I'd assume there was a miscommunication with the person that was working at the CVS store. She may have been talking about another store that her parents have the operating rights to or such.

ryan_lane11 hours ago
saberience5 hours ago

I can only read this as a racist anecdote. You think it's better we lock up goods on the shelves after realizing the owner of the store was a Muslim immigrant?

bobbylarrybobby14 hours ago

The article says prosecutors don't go after these thefts but I'd think the issue is with the cops and the number of arrests. After the BLM protests of 2020 (George Floyd) cops basically went hands off on these so called minor crimes, and so I'd imagine many of them don't even make it to prosecutors. We'd need a graph of incidents and arrests for years prior to 2020 (or months in early vs late 2020) to see the change.

compiler-guy14 hours ago

The article claims that the BLM protests made little difference, and include a graph of various states comparing the amount of shoplifting with the amount of prosecution. Generally there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between states with large BLM protests and reduced prosecution.

For example, Oregon had huge protests and weak government responses, and yet prosecutes large amounts of shoplifting.

Blaming this on the response to BLM seems intuitive, but I have yet to see data that supports it.

tyrfing13 hours ago

> For example, Oregon had huge protests and weak government responses, and yet prosecutes large amounts of shoplifting.

There were not protests state wide, they were in a single county, the one in which shoplifting isn't prosecuted as much. A couple miles away, with different DAs, you will get arrested and prosecuted for even very minor theft.

> Unseating [Washington Co DA] Barton has been a priority for national progressive groups funding criminal justice reform in Oregon.

> “Washington County is the most extreme county I’ve ever worked in, and that’s because of the tough on crime, war on drugs, lock 'em up and throw away the key fanaticism coming from the DA’s office,” Decker said.

This is the person responsible for a 93% prosecution rate, being re-elected on the basis of "law and order" and relatively conservative viewpoints, backlash against the BLM protest responses that you talk about.

rhaway8477312 hours ago

And yet the shoplifting problem is across those county lines and across state lines even.

Whit contradicts the idea that the BLM protests are responsible.

Retric12 hours ago

Protests draw from a much wider area than just where they physically take place.

hn_throwaway_995 hours ago

As others have said, aggregating at the state level makes no sense.

For example, in Austin, TX, I can't speak for retail crimes in particular but there has most definitely been a change in prosecuting other crimes. Hit-and-runs are an epidemic now in the city, primarily because the police won't even respond unless there is a major injury. I was in a hit and run, I got a detailed description of the car and license plate, and yet there were 0 consequences to the person that hit me. It actually makes more sense to run if you hit someone because there are literally no downsides (except for people with a conscience, of course).

But if you looked across TX as a whole, this data would definitely not show up.

cm218714 hours ago

Law enforcement is not done at the state level but at the city level.

compiler-guy14 hours ago

The stats are prosecutions aggregated by state, not state prosecutions.

cm218712 hours ago

My point is that you can have a democrat city abdicating law enforcement in a republican state. What matters for local crime is the city, not the wider state.

AuthorizedCust14 hours ago

False. Law enforcement has many layers with concurrent jurisdiction. It’s not just city. How each jurisdiction polices can vary widely depending on where you are.

cm218712 hours ago

State police doesn't deal with shoplifting.

throw__away73919 hours ago

And what do you suppose would happen to the career of a researcher who published a study showing such a correlation?

psychphysic12 hours ago

Invariably people will blame BLM there's a lot of latent disgruntlement.

nverno11 hours ago

People love simple explanations. BLM obviously wasn't a causal factor, but general mayhem/disorder certainly facilitated things like shoplifting. There were a lot of people doing what sublime did back in '92 [1].


NotYourLawyer10 hours ago

Policing, not prosecutions.

Bud14 hours ago
zone41112 hours ago

In Chicago there has been a dramatic drop off: the arrest rate for retail theft went from 43%-54% in 2016-2019 to 18% in 2021 and the number of cases brought to Chicago police has dropped from 8986-10792/year to 6166.

lupire10 hours ago

What is the cause of the arrest drop?

Prosecutor policy, police strike, Covid masking and office closures confounding the operation of the law enforcement system, or something else?

HDThoreaun7 hours ago

As a Chicago resident I’d say it’s mostly “quite quitting” by cops. You never see them working anymore, and the people I’ve talked to about their experience with police basically all say that they never even showed up, and if they did they refused to even fill out a report.

The union even officially called for work stoppages due to vaccine mandates.

nxm10 hours ago

Prosecutor policy results in police saying “what’s the point”?

V-eHGsd_14 hours ago

> The article says prosecutors don't go after these thefts

the article says that was speculated but not borne out by the data.

> What is behind this unwelcome rise? Some speculated that prosecutors had gone soft on looting after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But it is hard to see any such trend in the data: generally states with more shoplifting prosecute more shoplifters (see chart).

wholinator210 hours ago

As stated in another comment, the articles claim makes no sense. More shoplifting = more prosecuting has nothing to do with there having been a change after some event. There could still be a linear relationship between incidents and prosecutions, but a lower line after George Floyd. Specifically, a single cross sectional data point cannot prove anything about a time series or a claim about it.

soperj14 hours ago

Has the number of cops shooting people actually decreased? Considering that they've never even looked for a bicycle, which is many times more expensive than a stick of deodorant, I'm seriously doubtful that they've ever have been hands on for these thefts.

yieldcrv14 hours ago

no, avoiding minor crimes has no bearing on whether the cops “feared for their lives” during the times they did show up

d3nj4l14 hours ago
mancerayder12 hours ago

What's amazing is how no one is honing in on the real reason this is happening, the DA's office combined with state laws make it hard to bail people and send people to prison. That's the decision made, and it's referred to as the carceral system. It's something viewed as urgently needing reform, and that's how the progressive DA's operate. Look at Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA's program (

If cops are standing around doing nothing, it's because it's pointless to engage with a suspect physically, risking yourself while by the way people around whip out their phones to video you, if the suspect will be released on their own recognizance on some lowered charge, if the charge isn't dropped anyway.

You can also add, if you want to criticize cops, that they're civil workers at the end of the day, and most are in for the benefits, such as pension and healthcare, rather than pretending to be superheroes or vigilantes.

brutusborn10 hours ago

I wish that DA had added some references to the studies that support less incarceration. It just doesn't make sense to me, he admits that Manhattan is the worst burrough for crime, then states that it is over incarcerating. How does one determine that?

Also he mentions social programs as an alternative to incarceration, but are these programs actually available? The crime rate suggests they are not, so reducing incarceration may be counterproductive until they are better established.

mancerayder9 hours ago

>It just doesn't make sense to me, he admits that Manhattan is the worst burrough for crime, then states that it is over incarcerating. How does one determine that?

It's tied in this foundational belief (and it's mentioned as one of the points) that incarceration leads to more recidivism. How one can reach this conclusion by taking overall violent crime stats into account (also all but one out of seven felony types are up in NYC) requires some logical legwork.

The fact that increases of petty crime and increases of serious crime are both happening yearly should be a red flag that makes us question the policy decisions, which again are based on not 'over policing' or 'over incarcerating'. It could be the two are connected, but you'd be accused of Broken Windows Theory.

It's hard not to see a general chaos as being contributing. The plexiglass seems like a symbol of that to many people.

balderdash8 hours ago

seems like the problem is not too much incarceration, but the wrong type of incarceration (i.e. not having prison be a dangerous and dehumanizing experience). if you didn't have a broken prison system that leads to recidivism, then you could safely use incarceration as a deterrent to crime

brutusborn8 hours ago

I think you're spot on. Well designed prisons should not institutionalize people. In my mind the ideal situation would be prisons that act like adult schools that teach how to best live on the straight and narrow.

Though based on the public curriculum of my state, I'm not confident that current governments have enough talented people to make this a reality. Maybe somewhere someday.

brutusborn8 hours ago

It's amazing how popular this beleif is, and how confident adherents are that it is true. It's epistemological arrogance, people simply have an unjustified confidence in social science studies.

What do you mean by general chaos and plexiglass?

mancerayder7 hours ago

>What do you mean by general chaos and plexiglass?

The plastic casing around goods in all the chain pharmacies now, requiring staff to unlock. There's also hired private security now on top of it. It might not be Plexiglass, to be fair.

nkrisc12 hours ago

The real reason is mentioned I the article: it’s absurdly easy to sell bulk stolen goods online. As long as that’s possible, there will always be someone stealing it, no matter how many people you lock up.

joenot44312 hours ago

Why is it specifically a problem here in New York then, but wherever else I go in the country I don't see things nearly as locked up? Geography presumably shouldn't be a factor if shoplifters are only selling their loot online.

zuminator7 hours ago

Population density makes it easier to hide in a crowd and also easier to recruit teams of shoplifters. The estensive subway system in Manhattan makes it easy to escape underground. Due to traffic, police response times may be longer. Manhattan has dozens of pharmacies in the business areas, which makes it easier to hit several stores in succession and get a substantial haul.

klooney7 hours ago

It's like that in San Francisco and Oakland too, although the suburbs in the bay are mostly much more chill.

mancerayder12 hours ago

That sounds like we're pointing to an external force (the ease of selling stolen goods online), as if it were some sort of magnetic draw, an irresistible temptation.

What's tempting is that there's a lack of punishment. Do you propose we lecture to thieves to dissuade them?

It's like arguing people run red lights because they get distracted due to phone notifications and so maybe we shouldn't punish them with points that could lead to a license suspension.

nkrisc9 hours ago

> Do you propose we lecture to thieves to dissuade them?


> as if it were some sort of magnetic draw, an irresistible temptation.

The shoplifting itself is committed by individuals and individual cases of shoplifting should be a reasonably light punishment. It’s not murder.

But a single person is not shoplifting $300,000 worth of merchandise. There’s two culprits: the ease of selling vast quantities of stolen items and from which follows the organized crime rings that facilitate it.

If you want to stop it, you need to crack down on both the fences (eBay, Amazon, etc.) and the organizers of these shoplifting sprees. Sure, punish the shoplifters too, but going after them won’t end it - there will always be someone in need of easy cash who can be recruited in their place.

evancox1006 hours ago

> It's like arguing people run red lights because they get distracted due to phone notifications and so maybe we shouldn't punish them with points that could lead to a license suspension.

Don’t give them any ideas!

standardUser12 hours ago

Do you honestly think shoplifters should be locked in a cage?

concordDance3 hours ago

Ideally they'd be given corporal punishment by perfectly morally upstanding cops. This is cheap, fast, doesn't stop them working and doesn't put them in an environment where they're around lots of hardened convicts.

I leave the problem of getting perfectly upstanding policemen who will not abuse their powers as an exercise to the reader.

Vaslo12 hours ago

What punishment do you suggest then? The unacceptable answer is none.

rtpg11 hours ago

If bankers can get away with treble damages, then maybe shoplifters should to.

Even if you are super cynical, throwing a shoplifter in jail accomplishes what? If they have a job, they'll lose their job. If they have a home, they'll probably get evicted. They'll have to go through a court system that has to deal with this. People will have to do a bunch of work to move this person through the system.

And at the end of the day someone goes to jail a bit and leaves, and there's no safety net, so they're just permanently worse off. Congrats, you not only wasted an outsized amount of resources for petty theft, but now the person is back in society with less means of getting anything done in a legal way.

If you consider people to actually be people who you want to see improve, there's a hell of a lot better things to be done than putting people in jail for petty theft. At least in the US system.

erfgh1 hour ago

Throwing shoplifters in jail results in other people afraid of trying shoplifting because if they do they might end up in jail.

_-david-_8 hours ago

>If bankers can get away with treble damages, then maybe shoplifters should to

What other crimes do you hold this standard with? Should rapists and murders not go to jail since bankers get away with crimes?

>Even if you are super cynical, throwing a shoplifter in jail accomplishes what?

It removes a person willing to shoplift from society.

>If they have a job, they'll lose their job. If they have a home, they'll probably get evicted. They'll have to go through a court system that has to deal with this. People will have to do a bunch of work to move this person through the system.

Same thing happens with any criminal. Why not avoid the paper work and avoid arresting murderers.

>And at the end of the day someone goes to jail a bit and leaves, and there's no safety net, so they're just permanently worse off. Congrats, you not only wasted an outsized amount of resources for petty theft, but now the person is back in society with less means of getting anything done in a legal way.

>If you consider people to actually be people who you want to see improve, there's a hell of a lot better things to be done than putting people in jail for petty theft. At least in the US system.

Perhaps this is true, but you are putting the cart before the horse. We need to fix the things you mentioned before we avoid jail time.

google23412311 hours ago
standardUser12 hours ago

The fact that the only solution you see is "punishment" is exactly the problem. No reasonable punishment will stop these crimes. Period. And unreasonable punishments, like locking a human in a cage without rehabilitation for years of their life, only make the problem worse and cost us a ridiculous amount of money (and humanity).

So maybe take a step back, or five, and think about the causes of petty crimes and why they happen here more than other nations.

mancerayder9 hours ago

>The fact that the only solution you see is "punishment" is exactly the problem. No reasonable punishment will stop these crimes. Period.

Reasonableness can be debated. That these crimes are unstoppable less so; not only is any crime stoppable, if stoppable means reducing the yearly instances of it. It's disproven because the crime numbers have gone up since these policies have been implemented and we've reduced incarceration rates. It's a correlation that you can't ignore.

Your humanitarian argument is absolutely legitimate, how we deal with people who steal, often out of necessity due to addiction, mental illness, or other desperation. It's hard to say that punishment is always an inhumane option though. We can't run a society and dense cities without an enforcement of some order, since that concerns the other 99% who aren't committing these crimes. If pharmacies close and parks are unusable, everyone suffers.

bhk9 hours ago

A big cause of petty crimes (and more serious ones) is people growing up among criminals and seeing them not face harsh consequences. The reality experienced by a group of people shapes their mores over time.

taolegal7 hours ago

Punishment is about desert, rooted in morality. A sin/crime/misdeed just definitionally deserves punishment.

Read The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment by CS Lewis [1].

The other position is that humans need to be cured of their problems. At which point the "humanitarians" who arbitrarily decide these things, basically will endlessly torture people into conformance. They medicalize justice. With the permission of their own conscience, they will cure people of things they may not even regard as a state of disease. Of course these "diseases" are a subjective matter. What some people regard as unpleasant ways to live, others don't.


Epitom35 hours ago

Can't even argue with someone who thinks like this. But in an ideal situation, you would get to live in a city with no prosecution for theft and I get to live somewhere with harsh punishment for theft.

The problem is I have to live under the mayors you vote for because there's a few more of you than me.

ryan9311 hours ago

max shoplifting penalty in nyc is a year and thats for repeat offenders. its mostly fines. you are right putting people in prison for years for shoplifting is bad. it doesnt really happen

mancerayder12 hours ago

Certainly not for one offense, or even two. Someone who behaves outside the law consistently needs to be dissuaded though. What suggestions do you have?

robertoandred12 hours ago

Why not? They’re a danger to society otherwise.

standardUser11 hours ago

If a person steals some makeup from a drug store, what danger do you face? What exactly is the danger you feel you are in?

yadaeno7 hours ago

The danger is sliding the Overton window so that society becomes accepting of theft, which makes life objectively worse for everyone including the thieves.

Look at things like food deserts for an example of why allowing high theft is bad. Crime is so normal in these areas that its not even viable to bring in food in exchange for money.

balderdash8 hours ago

tell that to the people that work in theses stores and are being threatened and menaced

nxm10 hours ago
lmm12 hours ago

Yes, or worse. Fuck 'em, frankly.

standardUser11 hours ago

We have been, obviously. That's why we have the largest prison population in the world (and we have to pay for it). It just doesn't work. So if you actually care about reducing crime, and not just getting petty revenge, shouldn't we try something different finally?

lmm10 hours ago

And yet the bump in property crime is coincident with noticeable recent slackening off, especially on property crime. I'm all for exploring what works, but not prosecuting shoplifters goes in the failed experiment bucket at this point IMO.

vinyl710 hours ago

Why not both instead of relying on one? Fix the broken economy, and punish people. That should reduce crime, lower the prison population, while still punishing those who actually deserve it.

Unfortunately economy is boring and the media/congress would rather talk about stupid side issues that effect no one.

uejfiweun10 hours ago

> It just doesn't work.

Raises hand: uh, I think harshly punishing crimes works just fine. Things were pretty safe while I was growing up, in fact it was even getting safer every year. It really wasn't until we actually did "try something different" with these DAs who don't believe in prosecution and the defund movements that crime actually started to go up again.

hellfish8 hours ago

There's a simple solution to this: just leave, and take your taxable income with you. If a jurisdiction can't do a basic function of government, why the fuck would you want to perpetuate the administrative disease any further? Paying taxes to these jurisdictions is like enabling an abusive relationship

abvdasker6 hours ago

Ah yes, the "simple solution" of uprooting your entire life because it takes ~2 minutes longer to buy deodorant.

HDThoreaun7 hours ago

New York is where the jobs are. Just leave and get another 200k job as a banker where?

hellfish7 hours ago

> New York is where the jobs are. Just leave and get another 200k job as a banker where?

If you scale that 200k for cost of living it shouldn't be very hard to find an alternative

hn_throwaway_995 hours ago

This economics point is often misunderstood, because at the high-end of the earnings spectrum, a large portion of income can go to savings, and cost-of-living differences make no impact on that.

That is, if you're making a $200k salary in NYC, let's say you spend 50k a year on housing and 50k a year on other expenses, but the rest you can put towards savings.

Then you move somewhere that is 50% cheaper, but you make 50% less. So now you can get the same quality apartment for $25k and your other expenses are only $25k, but you're only saving $50k a year instead of $100.

Obviously this is a gross oversimplification, but the vast majority of time if you move to a place with a much lower cost of living, your reduction in salary, if looking at local jobs, is unlikely to make up for it. Never mind the fact that for many industries there are only a few places where you can live if you really want a career: if you work in high finance or fashion in the US, you probably want to live in NYC. Film or TV, you'll be in LA, etc.

lelanthran6 hours ago

> New York is where the jobs are. Just leave and get another 200k job as a banker where?

What percentage of New York makes over 200k? They can stay, the rest can leave.

IOW, it takes all sorts to make a city work, and if you have labor (those people who work, at whatever wage) move away because the policies favour non-labour (those people whose income is from theft) it doesn't really matter how many 200k stockbrokers want to stay - they'll have to move eventually too.

Reason07750 minutes ago

Don't stores in Manhattan employ security guards? Most busy central London shops certainly do, at least at busy times of day. That seems to sufficiently deter shrinkage, without having to resort to lock boxes on the shelves.

Sometimes you'll see high-value items (like expensive bottles of alcohol) with security tags that need to be removed at checkout, but I don't recall seeing locked down shelves.

c_hackett11 hours ago

As someone not from the US can anyone shed some light why deodorant and other personal care goods are so expensive in the US? The prices are so ludicrous compared to the UK that on my trip I had to take a photo as friends would have thought I was exaggerating when telling them!

Take for example Dove Men+Care antiperspirant. In the US what is a rather compact can 3.8oz/107g was on the shelf at $9.55 (plus sales tax). I've just checked a well known UK chemist (boots) and 150ml of the same brand is £1.70 and 250ml is £2.00 (both including sales tax). Not really sure why the US measure aerosols in g and the UK measures them in ml but the price difference alone is jaw dropping.

ksenzee11 hours ago

The prices here vary wildly depending on where you're shopping. In a Manhattan CVS I wouldn't be surprised to see prices three or four times what you would see in a Nebraska Walmart. I live in the Seattle suburbs and $9.55 for deodorant makes my eyes bug out. I don't think that's normal.

pnutjam10 hours ago

I'm in the midwest and that doesn't sound too far off. I think the fancy Dove deodorant my wife buys is around $8 at Kroger or Target. We only buy it at a Sam's club.

marmetio11 hours ago

You paid the "convenience tax". Big expensive city, prices to offset shoplifting, and you didn't know where to go for cheaper product. Otherwise, prices are about the same. I've seen the same expensive deodorant in Europe too.

c_hackett11 hours ago

I did not pay. It was more what was observed at multiple stores, chains and locations.

marmetio10 hours ago

Haha ok well then you _observed_ the convenience tax.

zarzavat6 hours ago

The US is a much richer country than the UK. Wages are higher and thus the market can bear higher prices. For example experienced nurses in the US can make six figures whereas in the UK nurses start on a poverty salary and through experience can upgrade that to mid five figures.

Moreover the UK has undergone dollar deflation in recent years that we are only just catching up to. The pound dropped from $1.70 to $1.20 in the last decade. But £ inflation over that period was low. So prices were in fact falling in dollar terms until the recent inflationary period.

balls1878 hours ago

Prices are based on what the market will bare.

In 2004 I spent part of my honeymoon in London. At a pub, I paid £10.95 for a burger. At the time it was ~$2 to £1, so it was effectively a $20 burger. My friends thought I was full of it when I said I paid $20 for a burger.

greggman38 hours ago

Paid $20 for a burrito and a coke in a dive taqueria in the SF mission. Just a few years ago that would have been under $10. Curious if they give a discount to the local Latino population who's average income is fairly low.

balls1877 hours ago

Was just telling my girlfriend—the nice thing about inflation is hotel restaurant prices haven’t yet caught up.

flutas7 hours ago

> Take for example Dove Men+Care antiperspirant. In the US what is a rather compact can 3.8oz/107g was on the shelf at $9.55 (plus sales tax). I've just checked a well known UK chemist (boots) and 150ml of the same brand is £1.70 and 250ml is £2.00 (both including sales tax). Not really sure why the US measure aerosols in g and the UK measures them in ml but the price difference alone is jaw dropping.

First for the price info. I live in [state capital city] but we're not a big tourist destination and that can ranges between $4.09 and $10 locally. Prices can vary drastically based on the retailer and location in even a city.

For the actual difference in product, I'm fairly sure this is just a misunderstanding (and a reasonable one at that due to our crappy weight system).

The US version is listed at 3.8OZ "NET WT." not "FL. OZ", so the 3.8oz should be the weight of the actual deodorant inside, not the volume of it. Whereas the UK version being listed at 250ml I assume it is the volume.

I don't have a good estimate on the actual volume/weight difference of the two products though.

Maybe someone could grab a can from a US store and do the math on the actual volume of the container?

amscanne9 hours ago

I think aerosol deodorants are less popular in the US. Are they popular in the UK? This may factor into the pricing. Marmite costs a fortune in the US!

bsagdiyev11 hours ago

That's an insane price. I just paid ~$6 for two sticks of regular Old Spice stick deodorant the other day.

bluedino11 hours ago

Aerosols are expensive but you can get a stick of anti-perspiring or deodorant for $2 at most Walmarts etc

opportune10 hours ago

You are probably getting them from touristy places or convenience stores. You should instead buy packs of 4+ from like Walmart or online if you want a good price

alar4411 hours ago

Where is "the US"? You realize that's an entire fucking continent with vastly different economic situations? Just looked it up on instacart, it's $4.29 here.

c_hackett10 hours ago

This comment is not only rude but also inaccurate regarding basic geography.

On the topic of price the item in question shows as been between $8.50 - $11.50 depending on store in the first zip that instacart loaded (94105). Checking another zip (07081) it's between $7.50 - $11.50. As a result $9.95 does not seem outside normal parameters for this item.

The US item is also materially smaller than the UK version. Even if they was the same volume, at $4.29 this is still a considerable increase in cost compared to the UK price.

flutas7 hours ago

I can get that 3.8oz can at $4.09 via instacart as well.

> The US item is also materially smaller than the UK version.

I'm fairly sure the US version is weight of the product (not including the can), and the UK version is volume.

US version is listed at "NET WT 3.8OZ/107g", where if it was volume (like the UK) it would be listed as "3.8 FL. OZ". [0]

UK version is listed at 250ML (can't find a good image of the listing on the label), so I suspect is volume rather than weight.


> Fluid ounces measures the volume of a liquid and net weight measures the mass of a solid. You may have heard of ‘gross weight’ but it shouldn’t be listed on product labels because it can be confusing and misleading to consumers. Gross weight combines the weight of the contents and container, whereas the net weight only measures the contents.

> Since fluid ounces and net weight measure different things, they don’t equal each other. For example, 8 fl. oz. of juice doesn’t equal 8 net wt. oz. of chips.

ulfw10 hours ago

The US is not a continent, let alone "an entire fucking" one. Sorry mate.

renlo10 hours ago

In that case neither is Europe or Asia ;)

alkonaut4 hours ago

I don't think anyone claims Europe or Asia are "Continents" or "Entire continents".

Terretta14 hours ago

I'd wondered if someone figured out how to turn deodorant into meth, since they started protecting it like Sudafed even after Sudafed was removed from the Sudafed boxes sold as Sudafed (phenylphrine is not pseudoephedrine and is not effective).

Sudafed, baby formula, deodorant, and razor blades, together could sound like a Jesse Pinkman shopping list before he found a high school chemistry teacher to help him.

At the same time, since nobody is making retail chains put lock boxes on the deodorant aisle, shrinkage best meets Occam's razor. Or would if it hadn't been shoplifted.

xyzzyz14 hours ago

“Sudafed” labeled pseudoephedrine is still available for sale, I have some in my cabinet, bought this spring.

Terretta14 hours ago

Your comment doesn't refute my comment.

It's true they removed Sudafed from most (by and large all, except by request) boxes labeled Sudafed (sub-labeling them Sudafed PE), and PE is not effective. Many consumers never realized, and even if they do, they generally do not realize the substitute doesn't really work.

Thanks to in most states you cannot buy it off the shelf yourself (only behind the counter and often with ID), some locales it's prescription only, and it's only this year that Oregon started letting you get it without a prescription again:

“People shouldn’t be asked to visit a doctor to obtain a prescription for common cold medicine, especially when Oregon is the only state requiring a prescription," Post said in a statement when the bill passed. "We can trust Oregonians more than that.”

xyzzyz14 hours ago

I agree, my point was only that Sudafed today is not solely phenylephrine.

Terretta14 hours ago
nomel13 hours ago

Where I am in the US, there’s a pretty strict rate limit.

x3n0ph3n314 hours ago

True, but it's more complicated to acquire and not available right off the shelf.

bsder14 hours ago

"A Simple and Convenient Synthesis of Pseudoephedrine From N-Methylamphetamine"

hyperdimension9 hours ago

One of my favorite papers. :)

LawTalkingGuy9 hours ago

Which is easily available in San Francisco, Vancouver, LA, etc.

User2312 hours ago

> phenylphrine is not pseudoephedrine and is not effective

This is a scientific fact supported by all the research. And yet for some reason the FDA approved it as effective.

macinjosh5 hours ago

you don't say!

tootie11 hours ago

The article says it's organized. Meaning you hire a dozen thieves and send them after the same few items. Go grab as much Old Spice Sport and Burt's Bees lip balm and whatever else and then you setup as an Amazon reseller with what looks like a real inventory. Then you can fence nationwide with almost no overhead.

Georgelemental8 hours ago

> "generally states with more shoplifting prosecute more shoplifters"

Caveat: In states where the law isn't enforced, people often don't bother to report minor crimes, because there is no point in doing so.

alkonaut4 hours ago

A cheap deodorant (Dove/whatever) is like $2-3 in expensive parts of Europe. That's not worth stealing. What makes them $8 or $10 in manhattan? It's an expensive area and I guess there aren't many large stores to buy from but more smaller pharmacies, but that still doesn't explain why there is a 2-3x price difference for deodorants in particular.

Ekaros4 hours ago

Commercial real-estate. When your store cost at least 10k or even more in rent. You have to sell awfully many deodorants to cover it. And labour isn't exactly cheap either if you want to get some.

alkonaut2 hours ago

That's a good explanation of general price differences between an expensive and a cheaper area, e.g. that Manhattan prices would be 50% higher than more rural New York prices. But I was under the impression here that deodorants in particular were 2-3x more expensive on manhattan, but that the difference was smaller for other goods.

Usually the US (Even the most expensive parts) would be a lot cheaper than e.g. Oslo or Zurich. That's not the case unless there is something else going on here , e.g. that they aren't the same product due to different size and so on.

dlkf3 hours ago

In Sweden, deodorant sticks are smaller than what I’d get in Canada. There’s also an appalling lack of variety. In particular, you never see Old Spice. I think there is a lucrative business opportunity in bringing American deodorant maximalism to the nordics.

hbossy2 hours ago

A lot of American products have strong scents that are not really liked in Europe. Old spice started really aggressive advertising campaign a few years ago here. They had frequent and obviously high-budget commercials in TV and stocked middle shelves in popular stores, but no one wanted to buy it. People say it simply stinks. It's another Hershey chocolate.

alkonaut2 hours ago

> deodorant sticks are smaller than what I’d get in Canada.

This must be due to the size of the north american armpit.

> There’s also an appalling lack of variety. In particular, you never see Old Spice.

There aren't any Tim Hortons either but I'm not sure if "Brand X is missing" and "There is no variety" is generally the same thing.

yalogin12 hours ago

Piggybacking on this thread, is stealing a common thing across the whole of the US or is it restricted to some areas? I keep getting asked how people in n San Francisco are living with crime so rampant and they send a video of gangs stealing from a store/mall.

ksenzee11 hours ago

Right, so this is a hugely political issue right now. Don't be surprised to get wildly differing answers. Republicans are pointing at public disorder and screaming about crime, and Democrats are accusing them of being fragile suburbanites who can't handle normal urban life. I'm a left-leaning independent, and I tend to agree with Democrats on a lot of their talking points, but I will say that everywhere I go I see more public disorder than I did a few years ago. There are more locked shelves everywhere, and I think people's perceptions of crime and disorder are also affected by the fact that there are way more encampments of people living in tents and RVs (which leads to more litter on the streets etc.). I live southeast of Seattle, in a straight-up middle-class area, and our local Target now has OTC pain relief behind locked glass doors. I stopped dead and stared. I'd never seen that except in a big city.

As for the issue of unhoused people, which I don't think is related to the actual crime rate but is very much related to perceptions of crime, we also have some tent encampments down in my area. In Seattle (I visit the International District weekly) a year ago there were huge tent cities under freeway overpasses, actual structures hacked together on sidewalks, people living in deplorable conditions. There have always been unhoused people in Seattle but it was an order of magnitude worse than normal. In the last several months Washington state and Seattle have made a huge effort to clear the tent cities and get people into transitional housing, and from what I can tell it's working: the sidewalk shacks are gone, the tents are gone, the areas are fenced off, and by all accounts they've gotten almost all the people living there into shelter of some kind. I'm paying attention to whether I hear less squawking about crime now that there's less visible disorder.

LawTalkingGuy9 hours ago

How's the housing work? Victoria and Vancouver tried this by buying old hotels and turning them into apartments but they filled them with junkies and were surprised that they soon became worse than the outdoor camps.

Any solution that doesn't segregate the sick can't work.

ksenzee6 hours ago

Depends how you define "work." It would have to be pretty damn bad to be worse than what we had. I think King County is doing the "buy hotels and turn them into housing-first apartments" thing, so I do expect those to turn into really bad places. I would also rather have the really bad places behind walls and a roof.

ryan_lane10 hours ago

I'd like the organized retail theft (gangs of people robbing a store) cracked down on, but in general I'd prefer a softer touch on general petty shop lifting.

These are different things, with different motivations, and cracking down on someone stealing because they have nothing doesn't actually prevent that from happening more (you need to address the underlying issue).

The organized crime, however, should be harshly treated, because these folks are doing this to enrich themselves, and it's organized. The biggest problem here is that stopping this requires more than just police arresting people. It requires actual investigation work, and it seems that police funding tends to go to patrols and not investigation. Close rates for investigations are at all time lows. I really wish this was the focus of law & order republicans, rather than "we need to arrest people", because that only catches the easy, petty criminals.

listenallyall10 hours ago

Although I generally agree there's little positive effect from harshly punishing very petty thieves, saying "address the underlying issue" is a major cop-out basically indicating you have no interest in fixing anything.

What do you think the "underlying issue" is? Drug abuse? Lack of education? Paucity of low-skill jobs? Not enough affordable housing? Discrimination? Lack of opportunities for ex-prisoners? Inflation? Point is, there are plenty of reasons, not just one, that could lead a person to steal a few items from CVS, and they are far too numerous and widespread to believe you'll be able to do anything meaningful to "address" them.

pj_mukh7 hours ago

This is such a weird statement.

"The causes of the disease is so complicated, that anyone looking to do anything other than treat the symptoms must be disingenuous" ? :/

It is a long list of problems that most other advanced countries seem to have mitigated. Why must we throw our hands up like, "ugh, Its too hard, I need something simpler"?

ryan_lane5 hours ago

It's not a cop-out, it's exactly how other countries have eliminated this problem.

The US is the largest incarcerator in the world, yet it still has these problems. Your suggestion is that we can imprison our way out of this, but prison makes people poorer, in some cases permanently, which ultimately makes the problem worse.

concordDance2 hours ago

> cracking down on someone stealing because they have nothing doesn't actually prevent that from happening more (you need to address the underlying issue).

The petty shoplifters steal mostly because they can. They're not stealing a bag of rice because they're starving, they're stealing a new pair of jeans because there's no need to pay.

There being unpleasant consequences for stealing actually would deter them.

prawn10 hours ago

"I'd like the organized retail theft (gangs of people robbing a store) cracked down on, but in general I'd prefer a softer touch on general petty shop lifting. "

What about door frames that launch an array of taser lines when someone hits a panic button?

thewebcount11 hours ago

It’s very much specific to particular areas. In Los Angeles, a CVS or RiteAid in a less well-off area will have things behind plexiglass. The same store just outside Pepperdine (a very expensive university in the very wealthy Malibu area) has the same things and more expensive stuff just available on the shelves without restriction.

ipnon12 hours ago

Organized retail theft is common in big cities. Most Americans do not live in big cities. This is not an issue for most Americans, and the stores they shop at do not have restrictive shelving nor go out of business do to "shrinking."

quag11 hours ago

The "Most Americans do not live in bit cities" comment caught my eye. I wasn't sure if it was true or not, so I ran some numbers. Using

Assuming 331M people in the USA, 164M (50%) live in a metropolitan area of at least 1.6M people. 189M people (57%) live in an area with at least 1M people. 230M (70%) live in an area with at least 500K people.

My conclusion is that most Americans do live in big cities. However, even if all big cities have restrictive shelving practices, there are still 3 out of 10 Americans (outside of the 500K cities) that do no experience these practices.

I'm in an area with 4M people and have seen the shelving practices. So I can concluded that at least 34% of Americans (who are in larger areas) have also experienced these restrictions.

kjeetgill10 hours ago

I'm not sure how to consider the stats you're using here. Metropolitan areas aren't cities, the whole reason for the term is to include not just adjacent suburbs, but whole adjacent cities to major urban cities. Do we really consider an hour away and for cities over living in San Francisco?

Macha9 hours ago

I mean, from a European perspective who has been to the bay area semi-often, SF - San Mateo - Redwood City - Palo Alto - Mountain View - Santa Clara - San Jose is pretty clearly a continuous urban area and the fact that the subdivisions are considered separate towns and cities more an anomaly of historical origins and local government setup rather than something you would decide working from the definition of town or city.

In Europe, places that have been swallowed up by urban sprawl like that usually stop being called as such given time - no one persists in calling Chelsea, Charlton or Westminster cities now they're well inside the London urban area, and I suspect the same will happen to bay area towns and cities over the next 200 years unless it undergoes a significant population decline.

dsfyu404ed10 hours ago

You're just lying with extra steps.

The definition of an MSA is basically the "economic gravity well" of an urban areas. This is casually obvious just by looking at the nice green map they give you on that page.

If you think some guy 2hr northwest of Bangor or 3hr out of Vegas into the Nevada desert is in an urban area I'll sell you some beach front property in Arizona.

Gigachad11 hours ago

Meanwhile in Tokyo you have self serve 24/7 convenience stores. And I’m not talking about vending machines. This is where you grab the item, enter on a screen what you got, pay for it, and walk out. No staff needed.

chrisjharris9 hours ago

These are still pretty rare, and there's always a member of staff present, usually at the counter right next to the self-checkout till.

ryan_lane10 hours ago

Though I know these exist somewhere, I haven't personally seen one in the 3 years I've been here.

Petty theft does occur in Tokyo, and there's organized crime as well. You don't see this kind of organized retail theft because the police would actually investigate it, rather than do nothing and cry about "the crackdown on police rights".

prawn10 hours ago

More extreme instances likely restricted to particular areas but much more widespread is locking up seemingly cheap stuff behind cage/plastic.

In Australia, spraypaint in a hardware store is locked up but often not much else that I can recall. In Home Depot in the US, power tools even in the $30-80 range can be, amongst other things. In supermarkets in most states/cities I've been to, cheap toiletries can require help from staff with a key, plus some electronics in the automotive section. Seems to be a reaction to targeted theft rather than just value of items.

balderdash8 hours ago

its incredibly localized, the us is so large and heterogeneous in many respects

dsfyu404ed10 hours ago

Restricted to some areas.

I live in the kind of city that most HNers would sneer at (we're kind of known for being rough) and it's not like described.

kylehotchkiss7 hours ago

Target’s cameras have facial recognition. They can even identity people by gait. When these people return to the store, they can probably tell with some level of confidence they previously robbed a target. Why not stop them from entering? Or try to inconvenience them significantly?

Drop a bag of slime on them as they exit? Make the floor slippery as they try to run out? There are smart people working at target; they need to be less shy about protecting their store, which is an American treasure

factsarelolz7 hours ago

> When these people return to the store, they can probably tell with some level of confidence they previously robbed a target.

They still need a cop to show up and actually trespass the individual. Cops refuse to show up, take hours if they do and perhaps even then still not be convinced to spend their time doing to report. The cops know the person will be back, the company knows the person will be back, and even the person knows they'll be back. Unfortunately there's nothing the owner of the store can do except attempt to reduce all liability of said person being on property.

bryanrasmussen3 hours ago

So not getting in to read article - but

Given the amount of theft in America, and size of Amazon's American revenue and sales, can we figure out what percentage of Amazon's revenue is generated from fencing stolen goods?

on edit: IIRC AWS is 70%, Ad revenue is half of retail (30%), that means criminal revenue has to be less than 15% and I would think probably significantly less than half of that even. Maybe 2% at most?

on second edit: I wonder if every corporation has a percentage of its revenue that is criminal, like how processed food has a percentage of bug parts. You would think not, initially, but just voicing the idea makes it strangely attractive as a concept.

ragazzina2 hours ago

I love how the article explains to me, a non-native English speaker, not from the US, what the very popular "Rite Aid" and "Target" are, but lets me understand the industry jargon "shrink" from the context by myself.

giggyhack10 hours ago

Thieves are the problem, not Amazon FBA. Yes, there are stolen goods there, but the vast majority of sellers are legitimate businesses who buy wholesale and sell things like deodorant/graphics cards/phone cases/canned soup.

simple105 hours ago

"Organised retail crime gangs are behind a shoplifting spike."

skymast14 hours ago

Manhattan is getting the law enforcement it demanded.

jakelazaroff14 hours ago

Not really. Walk around the city and you see more cops than ever. The issue is that police don’t actually prevent crime. Putting more cops on the street is like trying to use water to extinguish a grease fire.

pclmulqdq14 hours ago

The cops are generally part of the crime problem in NYC. They also don't go after people for anything short of attempted murder (even when it's done in front of their faces), so lots of crime goes unreported.

jakelazaroff13 hours ago

Yes, that’s a big part of the problem. By far the most common lawbreakers I see in my day-to-day are cops committing traffic infractions. You can tell you’re by a police station solely by how impassable the sidewalk becomes for pedestrians.

There was an incident recently in which someone removed an obstruction from a license plate. The police ignored the illegally obscured plate but arrested the person clearing it for “criminal mischief”. The lawlessness and selective enforcement is astonishing.

paulgb11 hours ago

> There was an incident recently in which someone removed an obstruction from a license plate[…]

Fortunately, the incident seems to only have encouraged him, and he’s continued to “fix” plate obstructions.

concordDance2 hours ago

You should never base opinions off single instances you see a news story of. Both because of the misleading nature of such stories in terms of the information they include or miss out and because single cherry picked instances are not representative.

philwelch13 hours ago

NYC used to have a solution for this, it was called broken windows policing.

jakelazaroff13 hours ago

The issue is that the people most often breaking the metaphorical windows are the police themselves.

pclmulqdq12 hours ago

Broken windows policing doesn't work when the cops have the city's largest supply of bricks.

hindsightbias12 hours ago

or broken pens. If it isn’t written up, it did not happen.

silisili13 hours ago

Well, if law enforcement proves useless, give shopowners protection for handling it themselves. Our current attitude of just deal with it/ignore it is not only insanity, it's infuriating.

jakelazaroff13 hours ago

Assuming you mean allowing them to use violence against shoplifters, I’m curious how far you think we should take this. Should we allow employees to use violent force to recover stolen wages from their employers? After all, orders of magnitude more is stolen via wage theft than shoplifting.

silisili13 hours ago
analog318 hours ago

In a sense they are. The article talks about putting deodorant behind a locked panel. I'm hoping you're not talking about something like an physical confrontation, since that would strike me as dangerous and unmanageable. That's the last thing I'd want to expose employees and customers to.

tdehnel12 hours ago

This is possibly the most ridiculous argument being used today. Anyone who has looked at their speed and slowed down while driving past a cop can confirm that you’re full of it.

5802864112 hours ago

Speeding is not shoplifting

Spivak12 hours ago

Yeah, and then they speed right back up after once out of view. The best you can say is that cops prevent crimes when they make their presence known and have the would-be crime doer in their sight.

So sure, if you post an officer every 50 feet you might actually start deterring crime. But when we’re talking about increasing police density from basically zero to basically zero it’s not gonna do much.

One method of deterring crime is the “fuck you in particular” method of ramping up the punishment crazy disproportionately to the crime but how this really works in practice is the “two americas” problem where if you’re not a group cops are targeting you’re probably not gonna get caught and made an example of. Also despite it working I think this is crazy unethical to the people caught.

hindsightbias12 hours ago

NYC cops don’t have radar guns

lupire10 hours ago

> Research on the police–crime relationship generally shows police levels have little impact on crime rates.

> Two recent studies presented evidence that prior police–crime studies were methodologically flawed and found that increased police levels reduced crime.

Look like nutrition "science".

LAC-Tech12 hours ago

So you need military, not police?

jakelazaroff12 hours ago

One prevalent narrative in NYC is that there’s an epidemic of people being pushed onto the tracks. We need more police in the subway to prevent this from happening.

I was in Singapore recently. Most people there take the subway. Yet no one gets pushed onto the tracks. Why is that?

It has nothing to do with cops — you rarely see them on the subway there. Instead, they have a wall between the platform and the tracks.

So many problems like this have non-carceral solutions. The reactionary reach for police to solve ever problem we see is inhumane. It makes society worse.

LAC-Tech12 hours ago
zdragnar7 hours ago
mario970v13 hours ago

The police are not preventing crime because DeBlasio/Adams stripped the NYPD of all their power post-2020

somehnguy13 hours ago

Can you explain how exactly they were stripped of all their power please?

qaz_plm14 hours ago


fareesh5 hours ago

Is there a way to analyze how other cities in the USA are dealing with crime in a way that NYC does not? Perhaps therein lies the answer.

throwaway0x7E66 hours ago

>On October 17th the Department of Homeland Security launched “Operation Boiling Point”, a co-ordinated federal and local effort to disrupt orc gangs.

lol, lmao

nhoughto14 hours ago

Same in SF, I assumed it was because of the homelessness problem. Seems more likely than shoplifting gangs..

HWR_1414 hours ago

The homeless population (including those in shelters and cars) is < 1% of SF's population. Even if they used products at the same rate as the rest of the population and stole 100% of what they used, they would be responsible for less than half of retail shrinkage.

xyzzyz14 hours ago

Homeless people steal stuff mostly not for their own consumption, but to sell it.

compiler-guy14 hours ago

Which would make this a gang problem, rather than a homeless problem.

atdrummond14 hours ago

No? Plenty of them do it as independent freelancers and fence it at less than reputable locations throughout the Tenderloin.

Eleison2312 hours ago

Do we now? Please tell me other ways homeless people are dishonest criminals in your eyes.

gnu812 hours ago

Of course they are stealing things for their own consumption. They are merely choosing to steal a particular thing that is easy to steal and easy to convert to cash, which they can then use to purchase the diverse things they need to survive.

nhoughto14 hours ago

Yeah good point, not something I’d properly thought about.

jandrese14 hours ago

What if they were selling it to get money for drugs?

jowsie11 hours ago

Does it matter?

bsder14 hours ago

It always amazes me that people somehow attribute solid executive criminal function to a bunch of people who can't actually keep a roof over their heads.

The shoplifting "epidemic" has been due to organized gangs for quite a while as the increasing legality of marijuana is impacting their revenue streams.

public_defender11 hours ago

Both can be true. Being the street-level operator for a crime gang isn't exactly a union job. The people doing the actual shoplifting are variously unhoused, mentally ill, substance dependent, and desperate. It kind of depresses me how people think it's Kurt Russell with an eye patch stealing Ensure from Walgreens.

notch656a11 hours ago

It makes the emotional aspect of the public defender more palatable in certain cases if he imagines his clients might depend on shoplifting out of absolute necessity a bit more than may actually be the case.

public_defender10 hours ago

I read this as a joke. Touché, you've scored a point on the public defender meme account.

In case someone reads this as sincere:

This type of cognitive dissonance is neither necessary nor allowed for a public defender. In the first instance the day-to-day reality of unjust governmental administration is so insane that, not only would nobody from outside believe it, but it becomes counterproductive to engage in rationalization fantasies like the parent describes. I don't need to concoct a reason to feel sorry for my client--there are too many obvious real ones. I also don't need to feel sorry for every client to do my job well.

In the second instance, I am actually confronted by evidence all the time in a high-stakes adversarial environment. My client is going to jail for stealing diapers. If he makes up a story that he's not reselling them on ebay and I believe that story, I'd better be sure that I'm not going to get some PayPal statements in discovery the night before trial.

Finnucane12 hours ago

Is there anywhere this is not the case now? At many drug stores here a lot of stuff is locked up. A lot of drug stores are woefully understaffed because they all want to rely on automated checkout and not have anyone in the store.

welder12 hours ago

> Is there anywhere this is not the case now?

I just visited Texas and they didn't have this problem, but it was hella boring there. A lot of places outside the USA also don't have this problem even in the big cities.

CPLX14 hours ago

Without clicking is the answer people stealing and it ending up “fulfilled by Amazon”?

jandrese14 hours ago

The article suggests "organized crime". Basically it's gone beyond petty theft to organized rings who have efficient fencing organizations. In the old days it would be hard to get much money for the stick of deodorant you just stole, but apparently criminals have figured out how to use online market places to make it profitable and have started organizing large numbers of street level thieves to get their supply.

jldugger14 hours ago

Well, the only company mentioned by name is eBay, which was used as a fence for 300k in stolen goods by a single couple.

So you could maybe make a case that Amazon makes it easier for retail theft, but you also have to seemingly ban all online retailing, which seems rather anticompetitive.

easton12 hours ago
Laarlf2 hours ago

Well that stinks

squokko10 hours ago

LOL. I thought this was going to be an article about why people in Manhattan don't wear deodorant because the city already smells so bad.

anovikov7 hours ago

Why stores simply don't improve physical security? As in, doors that automatically shut when abrupt movement is detected OR panic button is pressed, and a security that shoots to kill (to avoid legal trouble with the wounded thief claiming racism etc)?

hyperhopper14 hours ago

Paywall, can't read anything past the summary of the problem

kmstout14 hours ago

  $ curl -s '' | grep articleBody | jq -r .articleBody 2>/dev/null | fmt
Terretta14 hours ago

Best trick on HN today.

6LLvveMx2koXfwn14 hours ago

good trick, but it really highlights how thin the article is.

the-printer14 hours ago

You just taught me something

cratermoon13 hours ago

curl -s '' | grep articleBody | jq -r .articleBody 2>/dev/null | paps --font=ETBembo | open -fa Preview

kmstout13 hours ago

Instead of `paps`, you could also try

  ... | sed -re 's/$/\n\n/' | uniq | man -Tps -l - | ...
If you have groff, you can also have `man` go straight to PDF.
cratermoon11 hours ago
rglullis14 hours ago

Brave Browser with speed reader

avazhi6 hours ago

Don't forget, guys, blacks don't commit crimes at rates profoundly disproportionate to their share of the population and the police are bad.

Say it until you believe it.

MomoXenosaga10 hours ago

How bizarre. In my country supermarkets have self checkouts. You'd think they'd lose a ton of money on shoplifting. Maybe it is because society hasn't broken down thanks to a social welfare safety net?

QuizzicalCarbon9 hours ago

I have not been to a modern supermarket in the U.S. that didn’t have self-checkout. Self-checkout is common.

russellbeattie10 hours ago

What is behind this unwelcome article on HN? Some speculated that HN is increasingly filled with the type of right wing extremists who lose their minds at the mere thought of BLM. But it's hard to see any such trend in the comments...

Weasel word dog whistles are fun, no?

MichaelCollins14 hours ago

> "The stores are insured bro, why do you care if people steal from them? It's not your problem maaan."

This is why I care. Criminals degrade society and we all suffer for their greed.

TheRealPomax13 hours ago

That sounds a little like you think criminals aren't a necessary symptom of "living in a scarcity society" itself...? As long as it's easier to take something than it is to pay for something, there will be people who take, and there will be groups that organize around taking.

Pretending that crime is some kind of quirk that you can get rid of if only [fill in reasons here], and that the grey and black markets wouldn't exist if only we didn't have crime, implies a lack of understanding when it comes to socioeconomics.

Unless you know how to get us to a post-scarcity world of course, in which case: please make that happen. We're all tired.

chucksmash13 hours ago

I used to be able to go buy a stick of deodorant without waiting five minutes for somebody to come over with a key and get it for me.

That economics has a just-so story to explain why this is exactly what I should expect doesn't change the fact that I didn't used to have to do this, and now I do have to do this.

TheRealPomax10 hours ago

Oh no, inconvenience! Welcome to everyone who needs to buy some rubbing alcohol. You can live with it just fine.

philwelch13 hours ago

> As long as it's easier to take something than it is to pay for something, there will be people who take, and there will be groups that organize around taking.

One of the basic functions of the state is to make it difficult for people to steal things.

TheRealPomax10 hours ago

No isn't. It's to impose sanctions on those who steal things. They have zero involvement in making in harder to do so. Neither laws nor police make it more difficult to steal things, they merely raise the cost of doing so, and as long as that cost is less than the benefit derived from stealing things, thievery will be there to do its thing.

mattigames13 hours ago

Up to a point, if the money spend into making it difficult is clearly lacking in root problems that are causing people to become criminals in the first place then other forms of governments will quickly become attractive and the likelihood to create civil unrest.

mattigames13 hours ago

Scarcity is not that much of an incentive to steal when all basic needs are fulfilled without much hassle, that's why many countries with their shit together don't have this problem; the US is not one of them.

TheRealPomax10 hours ago

Okay, yeah no. If you think everyone is so well off they don't benefit from stealing something as stupid as deodorant, you've been living an incredibly sheltered life and it's time to actually look into how much poverty there really is.

There are maybe a handful of countries with their shit together enough for this kind of thing to not happen anymore. The overwhelmingly vast majority of countries on the planet are not those.

mattigames9 hours ago

So what? The mere existence of a few tell us that is really possible, and its not like the US or other countries go into great lengths to remedy such situation, instead they pretty much seem to be trying the opposite, just ask any elementary school teacher about how competitive their salary is or how much of their own personal money goes to buy school supplies, or how many criminals are under "medical bankruptcy" or drowning in banks overdraft fees or any other form of bankruptcy, or perhaps you can ask what are "private prisons" and what are their incentives.

jakelazaroff13 hours ago

That’s one perspective. Another is that the truly greedy thing is to construct a society such that some people can’t afford basic necessities, and that inflicts far more suffering than people stealing what they need to live.

LAC-Tech12 hours ago

You're constructing a strawman fantasy word where by people only do anti-social things because they need to live, thereby painting them as heoric, Robin Hood type figures.

Here on planet earth however, some people are just anti-social and understand nothing except force. No amount of education or counselling or whatever else will change that.

Ekaros4 hours ago

I actually believe they choose the easiest path. Stealing is sometimes that. Now if they could get reasonably paid work or other sources of income they probably would not do that much of it.

rtpg11 hours ago

Yes, people steal shit from stores and do a bunch of work shipping stuff through FBA because they are anti-social \s

You think fencing happens because of anti-social behavior? Fencing _is_ work!

The simplest explanation for why people steal and resell stuff is money. You do a thing, and at the end you have money in your pocket that you didn't do before. Not complicated!

LAC-Tech11 hours ago
sokoloff11 hours ago
sokoloff12 hours ago

The struggle to survive is the starting condition in nature. That society doesn’t completely eradicate it (but only makes great strides in that direction) is not an indictment of society.

mongol12 hours ago

I did not consider it like this before but it is so true. Society is not a given, and it is not a perfect fabric in which evil people tore holes. Instead it is woven by everyone that acts in it.

DenisM10 hours ago

Some societies do better than others though. It’s perfectly reasonable to set the bar at least that high.

josephcsible10 hours ago
gopher_space11 hours ago

Society has the choice of eradicating it and simply chooses not to do so.

partiallypro10 hours ago

This is simply not true. Solving hunger and poverty is EXTREMELY difficult. The US could use more social programs to help resolve it, but solving it outright is basically impossible.

tdehnel12 hours ago

Oh knock it off with this crap. The article is about organized retail theft. If you work for a criminal enterprise you should work a legal job and pay for things like everyone else.

syliconadder11 hours ago

"like everyone else". This would be a small fraction of people though. The whole of human enterprise is built on stolen loot: the forests razed without permissions and the lands dus and animals chased without anyone's consent. We are conditioned to behave as we own this planet, why is it unfair to consider that between people too this behavior wouldn't show?

partiallypro10 hours ago

> Another is that the truly greedy thing is to construct a society such that some people can’t afford basic necessities, and that inflicts far more suffering than people stealing what they need to live.

Your argument would be more sound if the people stealing were stealing for themselves instead of selling them on a marketplace at slightly below retail with a 100% margin. Their theft hurts the jobs and customers (some shops have outright closed) and it also still has the end customer paying basically the same amount.

Aerroon7 hours ago

What are these "basic necessities"? To me it seems like it's an ever-increasing list of things that were largely created in the modern era. A person from a few hundred years would hardly consider deodorant a basic necessity.

We consider them basic necessities, because we're used to them, but all these new inventions had to be made by somebody. The profit motive seems to be quite good at incentivizing people to do just that. If we discourage that then the basic necessities of tomorrow might not get invented.

Society doesn't conspire to cause poverty, nature already inflicted that upon us.

bigDinosaur12 hours ago

What makes you think people are stealing what they need to live? That can sometimes be true, but is often not true at all. Either way there's no way in which theft, often from people or companies that have no hand in inequality, does not make things worse for everyone else. It screws over other poor people who don't steal because everyone else will be paying for the insurance and restocking of stolen property...

mozman12 hours ago

It’s simple. Get a job and stop blaming the system and asking for handouts.

Petty shoplifters should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

jakelazaroff9 hours ago

Shoplifting is actually one of the least harmful forms of theft, in terms of dollars stolen. Wage theft costs orders of magnitude more. A few years ago, money stolen by police via civil forfeiture surpassed the amount stolen by burglars.

Yet the form of theft I hear the most about, by far, is shoplifting. Why do you think that is?

josephcsible6 hours ago
hellfish8 hours ago

> to construct a society

Did anyone in particular construct this society, or was it just given?

You can't judge society at large by the same ethical standard that you judge an individual

refurb11 hours ago

This ignores reality. At least in SF most of the auto break ins and shoplifting is organized crime.

These people could get a job, they just don’t want to be a “sucker” and work 9 to 5 like some chump.

bityard11 hours ago

Ah, the old "two wrongs make a right" defense

thewebcount10 hours ago

Isn’t there a difference between “I think your conclusion is wrong, here’s another possible scenario where this could happen,” and “I think your conclusion is wrong, and here’s a legitimate scenario that I totally agree with that could explain why this happens”? They didn’t say it was right, just that there are other motivations for why people do these things.

jakelazaroff10 hours ago

I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right. I’m saying that you can easily view the situation such that the “other side” is actually in the wrong.

ars10 hours ago

If that were actually true someone could hold up a sign in front of CVS or whatever saying "please buy me a stick of deodorant", and I can guarantee you someone will.

They can go to a soup kitchen, or a church, or a food panty and ask for basic necessities.

Americans are very generous, especially conservative ones, who lead the world in charity and generosity. There is no excuse to steal when you can just ask.

lupire10 hours ago

Paying the subscription fee for Sunday social club is not charity nor generosity.

Opposing social welfare is along standing political plank for conservative voters, because they don't want welfare for people not in their club.

ars9 hours ago

> Paying the subscription fee for Sunday social club is not charity nor generosity.

Did you reply to the wrong person?

> because they don't want welfare for people not in their club.

Hu? If you meant to reply to me, I have no idea what you are talking about.

Churches (I assume that what you mean - what is a "Sunday social club"?) don't require a subscription fee to be given charity.

Are you just trying to be annoying or something?

ReptileMan11 hours ago

Do you have any sources that determine what part of the organized shoplifters are Jean Valjeans ?

SnowHill990212 hours ago


mattigames13 hours ago

But society first needs to be in a degraded state for most criminals to exist, as most only meet their basic needs through criminal means, such as food, shelter, health and education.

ben_w12 hours ago

To say "most" criminals thusly, presupposes that all societies are in degraded states, regardless of the actual causes of criminality.

mattigames9 hours ago

"Most" in the absolute terms, not in the relative (e.g. percentual) way you may be interpreting my comment. And anyway there is always going to be criminals, but its not remotely the same thing when your national average thief steals one thing per year vs one thing per day.

Eleison233 hours ago

Society has been persistently degraded since time immemorial, because of the presence of organized crime. The only thing that's changed since Prohibition is the genetic makeup of the gangstas who are in charge.

#BlackLivesMatter came about because the police have been--somewhat unwillingly--waging open warfare against gangbangers for decades in the inner city. The gangbangers all have guns and the cops have heavy weaponry that sometimes protects them and oftentimes blows away a few low-ranked gangbangers who might've just completed initiation, or weren't even affiliated but just hanging out at a party.

So what #BLM and #DefundthePolice people are saying is, enough is enough with this open warfare, you're killing children and innocent people, the cops are too powerful.

But gangs offer societal structure: they offer belonging, they offer community, they offer encouragement and brotherhood. They offer economic opportunity. They offer lifelong careerism. That flavor of opportunity can't be had in a public school or a legitimate job.

So gangs aren't going away; gangs are part of the fabric of society because they're providing tangible benefits for many members and non-members alike.

But how will they disarm themselves? How will they offer truces to the cops and reconcile, swords into plowshares? If gangs don't go away then they need to be pacified or the open gang warfare will continue to get cops involved, and the gangs will continue to shoplift and fence and operate all sorts of low-level criminal enterprise with impunity. So what to fix?

Save the family - save the world.

flandish14 hours ago
somesortofthing13 hours ago

If you want law enforcement to deal with petty crimes, you're going to have to contend with the externalities of cops operating anywhere. How many bystanders and innocent people reported by paranoid suburbanites are you willing to see injured or killed to protect that deodorant shelf?

atian13 hours ago

California did something really interesting by removing that complexity completely.

somesortofthing12 hours ago

And dozens of people have been spared serious injuries or mysterious "deaths in custody" as a result. Maybe you'd prefer some deodorant to that, but I don't.

Gigachad11 hours ago

Car culture has done this. The destruction of regular meeting places that get you to know and trust your neighbours. Now everyone you see is an untrusted stranger.

uejfiweun10 hours ago

I think cars are only a symptom of the real issue, which is that the scale of modern society is just too big for our brains to comprehend or handle. I don't think getting rid of cars would necessarily help one cope with the fact that 99.9999% of people you see are untrusted strangers.

Gigachad10 hours ago

It's not the whole issue, but it's the biggest contributor imo. Even in small American suburbs people still don't know anyone because they never walk anywhere and have no local businesses / recreation spots. They all immediately get in the car and drive somewhere else, cut off from the rest of the world.

dsfyu404ed10 hours ago

>Now everyone you see is an untrusted stranger.

People have been complaining about this since the advent of cities.

draw_down13 hours ago
codefreeordie15 hours ago
uoaei14 hours ago

What part of The Economist is "left"?

What part of "organized retail crime" is not a "complicated conspiracy theory"? What makes "organized retail crime" a "transparently obvious" explanation?

solardev14 hours ago

Pretty sure Marx called upon workers to seize the means of protection to bring forth a new world odor.

z9znz11 hours ago
Sabinus11 hours ago

>I don't want to search for the comment with the archive link to get past the paywall.

z9znz10 hours ago

Sorry, was this a reply? Did you have something to say?

jmyeet12 hours ago

So if we attribute the rise in petty property theft to organized crime gangs that still doesn't get to the issue of why. we know why and we've known for thousands of years [1]:

    "Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime"
        -- Aristotle
No one grows up wanting to steal deoderant from Walgreens. A lot of crime can simply be explained by material conditions. Over the last 40 years in particular, we've seen real income be eroded. Ultimately continued profit growht comes at the expense of labor and labor has enjoyed none of the benefits of decades on increased productivity.

We have a very peculiar "recession" that ultimately seems aimed at breaking labor when, for the first time in decades, people started to see a real increase in wages. That is unacceptable as it reduces profits. The Fed Chair is on the record as wanting to increase the unemployment level.


josephcsible9 hours ago

> for the first time in decades, people started to see a real increase in wages

Who are you talking about? Other than the techbros who switched jobs for a $100k raise, which is a tiny fraction of the population, basically everyone else's real wages have plummeted the last two years.