A glitch

The price of theft in Flushing

with 2 comments

It’s expensive to shoplift in Flushing, NY:

First, suspected shoplifters caught by the store’s security guards or staff members have their identification seized. Then, they are photographed holding up the items they are accused of trying to steal. Finally, workers at the store threaten to display the photographs to embarrass them, and to call the police — unless the accused thieves hand over money.

“We usually fine them $400,” said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store’s surveillance system. “If they don’t have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it.”

The practice of catching suspected shoplifters and demanding payment is an import from China, several experts in retail loss prevention said, where there is a traditional slogan that some storekeepers post: “Steal one, fine 10.” Whether this practice is legal in the United States is open to interpretation.

This was posted at my friend’s blog and I thought an interesting example of how theft carries prices like any service in the market. The price here is either $400 or, if you value your place in the community, shame. Based on the fact that most people pay up, shame costs a lot more than $400 in the Chinese community.

We might worry that this could be used to falsely accuse a community member if the store has a personal vendetta against him. This could happen, and apparently has, but just as shame is a theft deterrence for individuals, shame is a false-accusation deterrence for businesses. Businesses by their nature are more public entities than individuals, so it’s cheaper for them to engage in good practices, which is why businesses tend not to steal wallets from customers’ pockets.

Illegal immigrants caught lifting might be caught in a tight spot, but it’s probably a good signal to them not to steal. When immigrants come into a country illegally, they inevitably fall under a set of black market laws, which is simply the price of living in a country illegally.

Thanks to Big WOWO for the link.

Written by xout

June 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the link, Eric! Awesome to see that you have your own blog now. You’ve now got your own voice…like a real libertarian! 🙂


    June 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    • Thanks for stopping by! Though I respond better to “Neo-monarchist” or “Neo-cameralist“… or “Non-theistic Catholic”. I want the same general thing as libertarians but I think different means are in order. The GOP eats Libertarians for breakfast.


      June 28, 2010 at 9:27 am

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