Victimless crime?

The Steal, A Cultural History of Shoplifting

Picture taken by Jake Guevara

Everybody likes crime stories. It seems to be one of our obsessions or perhaps one of our guilty pleasures-whether it’s about the Irish mobs of Boston or the violent but fascinating history of the New York’s Mafia’s five families.

If you’re looking for a beach read-and one that may be more relevant to our business-you can now look at the history of shoplifting in The Steal, A Cultural History of Shoplifting, a new book by author Rachel Schteir. We’re not talking about the bloody rise of the Corleone family, but a well researched, interesting and sometimes depressing portrait of a serious crime and the people that commit them-a $30 billion industry which some people, even those in our own industry, continue to view as victimless.

It’s a fascinating study that traces the origins of shoplifting from the British Parliament’s shoplifting act of 1699, which imposed the death penalty for stealing anything worth more than five shillings, to the antics of today’s celebrities, many of which seem to get away with a slap on the hand rather than having it cut off.

It might be a light read, compared with all those business tomes, but it explores an issue that is becoming increasingly organized and expensive for retailers.

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