business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we pointed out a Wall Street Journal piece about how, as people return to physical stores, retail theft is rising, cutting into companies' profits.  There are, the story notes, two kinds of theft - shoplifting and organized retail theft, which is a much bigger problem.

I commented:

The Journal story says that there are some legislative responses in play:  "New legislation signed into law by President Biden last year, called the Inform Consumers Act, will make it harder for criminals to resell stolen goods online. The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 currently making its way through Congress seeks to pool expertise and provide more tools to prosecute criminals and recover stolen goods."

But I do think this falls into the broader category of the fabric of society unraveling, and people - for a wide variety of reasons - stop adhering to the social compacts that used to bind us together.  Or at least most of us together.

This is easier said than done, but I've always subscribed to the William Bratton (who ran police departments in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles) approach to this issue - one of the most important ways one stops major crime is to stop the small crimes.  That approach is out of favor at the moment, and we see the result.  Retailers have to increase their own security measures to make sure their stores are safe and secure, but they deserve the support of law enforcement when attempting to protect their businesses.

One MNB reader commented:

I have to challenge you a bit on your support of the comment that the best way to stop major crimes is to stop small crimes.

In reality, the best way to stop crime is to support public services that enable our fellow humans to not only fulfill basic needs, but also thrive in a way that allows for an improved quality of life.

If we focus on punishing small crimes, how do you suggest we do that? Fines associated with these small crimes? Which will only further dig a hole for most of the people who are committing these crimes which perpetuates the cycle. Do we then put them in jail when they can’t pay those fines? This impacts the family unit they are a part of and again, perpetuates the cycle.

We need to focus on building people up – and that also needs to come from retail businesses not lobbying against a vast majority of their employees best interests.

Always appreciate your commentary (and usually agree), but I couldn’t let this one go without a response. Thanks for always keeping the conversation open!

Another MNB reader had a different reaction:

It is my belief that Congress needs to pass laws that allow Retail security to do their job.  When you decide to engage in criminal activity, then your right to personal safety should  become voided.  Now, I do not mean that Store Security should be armed and putting people's lives at risk.  But, we have all heard the stories where someone engaging in retail theft is tackled, gets scrapped up or maybe suffers a broken arm, and then they sue the Retailer for a huge sum of money.  This should not be allowed.  

If you chose to engage in criminal activity, then you are accepting the risks associated with that.  Our laws have become twisted, where those breaking the law seem to have more rights than those following the law.  Squatters can take over your home, and as the legal home owner, you have to have them evicted.  People can run into a Walgreens, fill a garbage bag with expensive cosmetics, and if you try and stop them, you can face a lawsuit.  How did it come to this?

It's time for our Politicians to work together, and create laws that allow Retailers to protect their inventory, and the shoppers in their stores who are following the law.  This should be an easy solution, and I don't understand how our Government has let this become a $100B problem.

Law abiding citizen pay for these crimes.  We talk about the price of groceries going up, yet no one talks about the fact retailers have to make up for all that theft, and they make up for it by raising prices on those who don't steal.  This is backwards.  It's time for Congress to act, and put laws in place where Retailers can once again protect their merchandise.

Kroger said last week that it has hired John Boehner - the former Congressman from Ohio who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015 - to help its lobbying effort aimed at federal approval of its proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons.

I commented:

I wonder if Boehner gets a special bonus in the form of a couple of cases of merlot if the deal ands up being approved.

But one MNB reader took issue with the hiring:

I’m a strong conservative, and Boehner was never one of my favorites. I don’t think he’s the best choice to help negotiate this deal!  Time will tell!

I responded:

I checked, and if my sources are accurate, in 2010, Boehner received a 100 percent conservative score from the American Conservative Union, and has a lifetime score from that organization of 94.  In 2010, Boehner had a 100 percent rating from the conservative Club for Growth, and a 83 percent lifetime rating.

Which makes me wonder, what the hell does one have to do to be a strong conservative these days?

Or, is it possible that what passes for a strong conservative in 2023 isn't what was considered conservative in 2010 … or at any time before that?

Another MNB reader chimed in:

Regarding your question, I think you are correct in asking. I believe that conservatives now are different than they were in 2010. I know I am. Even though I’m a registered Republican, I don’t agree with many of them. Again, I really appreciate your comments!  

Yesterday I did as FaceTime video in which I tried putting a little olive oil in my black coffee - it didn't taste bad, it kind of looked weird, but I argued that retailers should actually get ahead of Starbucks' much-vaunted plans to offer this as a beverage by doing it themselves.

One MNB reader wrote:

I totally enjoyed your non-scientific coffee experiment. Made me laugh.  Did you really like it?  Especially given your fondness about Schultz.

It didn't suck.  With a little work, it might actually taste pretty good.

MNB reader Gregory Grudzinksi wrote:

Love this idea.  And the idea of getting retailers out in front of the Oil & Coffee wave is, frankly, really really smart.

Thanks.  I get one right every once in a while.

And another MNB reader wrote:

Wondering how many people did as I did after reading this piece by you:

Went straight to kitchen.

Made 5 ounces strong black Starbucks freshly ground coffee from coffee maker.

Added I teaspoon olive oil from Italy.

Drank.  Not impressed.

What I had was a great cup of black coffee with small pools of olive oil floating on top.  There was an “essence of infused olive oil” but that’s about it.

Perhaps Howard could use my “essence of infused olive oil” line.  Howard could throw a bit of Salsa or Texas Pete Sauce in there and really get our mornings started!