I wanted to be more engaged with The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting than I was. The problem was not with the author but rather with the lack of concrete information publicly available about America’s shoplifting epidemic. Retailers who pay for the research aren’t inclined to share the findings with their customers.
Available research (scant as it is) regarding shoplifting in America has two clear conclusions. Roughly 10% of Americans shoplift and there is no such thing as a typical shoplifter. Young men of color are arrested more often than any other demographic but when Americans self-reported their shoplifting habits all races and genders are represented.
It was heartening to read that companies are being prosecuted for their persecution of African-American customers. The practice is known as SWB or shopping while black. Knowing that shoplifters come from every race and gender, it makes no sense to focus on one group of people. Think about it, while security follow an innocent young black man around Target, a middle aged white woman is making off with hundreds of dollars of merchandise. SWB is not only racist, it is inefficient.
I say give The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting a whirl. I learned a lot and I wouldn’t be opposed to learning more. If you would like to learn more about shoplifting in America, try this website.