Wal-Mart to Allow Petty Shoplifting
Wal-Mart has announced a new shoplifting policy: Steal less than $25 and we won’t prosecute.
Wal-Mart is moving away from what it called a zero-tolerance policy on prosecuting shoplifters and will now only prosecute anyone caught taking merchandise worth $25 or more, according to a published report. The New York Times reports the change in policy, citing internal documents from Wal-Mart that say it will now only press charges against those between the ages of 18 and 64 who take at least $25 worth of goods. Formerly its policy was to press charges against anyone who took at least $3 in goods.
The paper said the change in policy will allow Wal-Mart to concentrate on theft by professional shoplifters and its own employees. The paper said those two groups steal the bulk of merchandise from the chain. “If I have somebody being paid $12 an hour processing a $5 theft, I have just lost money,” J. P. Suarez, who is in charge of asset protection at Wal-Mart, told the paper. “I have also lost the time to catch somebody stealing $100 or an organized group stealing $3,000.”
Wal-Mart told the paper it would closely track shoplifters it did not have arrested, and would ask that they be prosecuted after a second incident. It will also seek the prosecution of all suspected shoplifters who threaten violence or fail to produce identification, no matter how much they are trying to steal, according to the report, which said professional shoplifters often do not carry ID in order to avoid arrest.
This intersects two ongoing story lines beautifully. First, the NYT has once again released secret information and compromised public policy. Presumably, Wal-Mart would have preferred to keep this change under wraps in order to avoid giving a one-time $24.99 get out of jail free card to everyone with an ID card. Second, one wonders if this new generous policy will please critics who say Wal-Mart isn’t doing enough for the poor. Are any of its competitors giving people $24.99 in free stuff with no purchase necessary?