Target says it will close nine stores in major cities across four states...

Well, I saw this coming as soon as states started relaxing the laws around shoplifting. At the beginning there was an uptick in small time shoplifting, but as people realized that those people weren’t getting prosecuted, they eventually get bolder and here we are today. Basically the broken windows theory in action.

Part of the article blames the ease of reselling online as the problem, which really isn’t the case. Stolen goods ALWAYS have value, and with how easy/low risk it is to steal from stores in certain states, it’s going to continue to be a major problem. Shoplifting is a serious crime when you allow it to happen, because it’s not a 1 off item that’s going to be stolen. The article does also mention the fact that not allowing judges to jail people for shoplifting is a big driver as well. If you’re looking at a year in jail for shoplifting some shampoo, you probably won’t do it.

What a shocker though eh? Making theft more or less legal, and not expecting a massive issue to occur because of it.

It’s also easier for companies and the public to blame theft for store closures and retail struggles than admit stores’ over-expansion, strategy mistakes and customers abandoning stores for online shopping, said Jonathan Simon, a criminal justice professor at UC Berkeley School of Law.

“It’s much more convenient if we can blame it on people we already consider reprehensible,” he said.


This story came out several days ago, and in that time I’ve seen folks online comparing the increase in Target’s shrink to the increase in Target’s increased reliance on self-checkout over the same time frame, including “forced funneling” by not having enough manned checkouts during peak hours.

Shrink and shoplifting are not the same, but Target–and Walmart recently, too, and other b&ms–are conflating the two in press releases and earnings calls, leading to the discrepancy seen in actual shoplifting numbers…and prosecutions.

There’s not a laxity in shoplifting laws or prosecutions, if the extant laws aren’t either being used by stores (i.e., stores are not reporting to police or pressing charges) or even actually applicable (when it’s customer user error on self-checkout without oversight by the store).

ETA: A nice explainer on how some folks have been duped into believing myths about “legalizing theft”

And the duping starts with stores themselves:


I think the bigger issue is they’re no longer jailing people for shoplifting in some jurisdictions.

It’s tough for businesses to turn to the law when law enforcement isn’t doing anything about it. If a law isn’t enforced, it might as well not exist.

My issue with this is part of the blowback is going to be blaming online sellers for fencing stolen goods.

Defense Attorney busts one of retail’s most pervasive myths: Retailers say they’re experiencing a crisis — but many people disagree. [Danni Button] Sep 5, 2023 3:03 PM EDT

Menschel cites reports that more than half of shoplifting is committed by store employees. He also points to the rise in self-checkout machines, which allow retail stores to staff fewer cashiers, but create a situation where shoplifting is much easier.

When we give large corporations the space to lie about their business in efforts to shift blame and let them get away with it because they blame people we also fear or dislike, then we should not be surprised when they add us to their lie roster.

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It’s also tough for businesses to turn to the law when they’re effectively lying about the cause of their shrink. There aren’t specific laws about how this needs to be reported, so they’re doing so in the manner that makes them look the best.


One of the Target stores slated for closure is on East 117th Street in Manhattan in a multi-story mall that includes Costco and Aldi. It is always crowded.

Target is opening a new store a few blocks away at 125th and Lenox. Go figure.

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LOL at this, for real.
The customers aren’t the problem.


Of course it’s not the only part of their shrink, but I would imagine that these gangs doing mass theft is a significant problem. Those are only hitting specific stores, while the shrink happens across all their stores.

One of the biggest causes of theft is internal, and that in general seems poorly prosecuted as well, by both the stores and the law.

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That’s the problem here. Retailers are purposely obfuscating the truth, allowing peoples imaginations to run wild, rather than just passing on actual facts.

But “those gangs doing mass theft”…the media report on every single smash-and-grab, indicating how rare it actually is (but perhaps inflating its importance/occurence in the imaginations of some folks?).

Imagining that something is a problem is how propaganda works: it capitalizes on extant stereotypes and fears to get a hook into the psyche.

Be stronger. Look for valid data and multiple credible perspectives on interpretation.

Research is more than reading a headline or listening to a podcast that feeds into your confirmation bias.

Around these here metro parts, the “organized shoplifting gangs” is usually three people max–and two of those (in store) are being trafficked by the third (in car).

Organized and gang are both loose terms.

And none of them are reselling online; they have local customers. :eyes:

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Shoplifting dropped to zero in parts of Los Angeles in April 1992.


The only reliable numbers dealing with this subject are the shrink number and the number of prosecutions for shoplifting.

Any discussion of other than those numbers is usually biased by one’s political opinions as is their interpretation…

The rules of this forum prevent me from any further comments on this subject.


There is also the number of declined charges by the establishment. Many times retailers opt for trespass in lieu of prosecution depending on the employee and policies. CVS had this policy due to the expense of time being more than the value of the items. ( brother worked loss prevention)


IMO a second order effect based on the previous numbers, but it is quantifiable.

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Some of that is also short sightedness.

For that ONE CASE the expense of time is > value of items. But if they aggressively pursue every single case even if it’s for a dollar, word about that will circulate and there’ll be less future stealing.

It’s the same concept about keeping your home’s doors and windows locked. Most burglaries occur on homes where a door or window is unlocked, as it’s an easier target and plenty of them exist.


This is probably just the beginning and I would expect more closures announced after they run numbers and check their bottom line. Shopping habits have changed dramatically since Covid and so has the economy.

“Shoplifters” is an easy excuse to explain to general uneducated people who know nothing of metrics/supply/demand/profit/loss. “Shoplifting” will never “get better” or “fixed” and if anything will continue to get worse as time progresses like a line of dominos.

I am honestly surprised they didn’t close any Targets around me (in SoCal an hour from LA). Maybe the next wave (it will happen!). My target hardly ever has anyone working. There really isn’t anything to stop anyone from just walking out with a cart full of goods. I see people walk out all the time with a handful of items.

Sometimes they have a register or two open but most of the time it’s self checkout only. They added so many locked shelf’s that it’s a huge frustration to get anything anymore. You wait 10 to 15 minutes for someone to have a key to open up a case for a $3 bottle of advil. It’s not sustainable.

I would have to imagine in these big cities they are having a hard time hiring people for $17 an hour.

There are also too many Targets. In my area alone and we have 12 Targets within 13 miles.

It makes zero sense for these stores to remain open in the middle of an expensive city when your average person who shops or works there probably lives 20 minutes away and has a target in the other direction at equal distance.

So they will close a few stores watch their $$ go up, and slowly keep closing stores.

Reliable? Potentially. Many other relevant numbers are missing. The term “shrink” is now a large bucket that retailers are (apparently) using to hide less than flattering data from wall street.

If a publicly traded company reports $250 million in shrink, but shoplifting actually only accounts for say 5-20% of that, then one could make the argument that a company may be purposely mis-reporting to their shareholders. Regardless, I have a feeling that we may actually see more useful data regarding shrink being forced out of retailers over the next year or so. You can only cry wolf so many times with lackluster earnings.


But I will be willing to bet the new “improved” location will have a lot of their most stolen items under lock and key.

It’s much more cost effective to do a build out with theft prevention items for a new location than it is to retrofit an old one.

Any chance of seeing when the lease is running out on the location being closed? Pretty good guess that it is pretty soon!


From my reading the only thing that has changed is that shoplifting has gone viral on social.

The rules haven’t been laxed, they’ve adjusted for inflation.

That stats for shoplifting have either decreased or increased and surprisingly in states that hold to far more stringent enforcement.

Having said that, I’m not opposed to harsher measures, but at what cost? IF the prison system is burdened - who pays for it?

As a strategy, I would say laws for owner protection and self-defense should be loosened - but that would veer into gun laws.

So many questions.

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