Wal-Mart Focuses on Big Shoplifting Fish
Organized theft rings and so-called professional shoplifters have become a huge problem for retailers and, not surprisingly, store operators and law enforcement authorities have
increased efforts to apprehend these criminals who steal billions of dollars in merchandise every year.
As the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart is one very big target for the professional criminal class and, as such, the chain has developed sophisticated methods of dealing
with shoplifting and a no-nonsense policy towards those who are caught.
Despite this, the reaction in some quarters to a recently leaked internal document from Wal-Mart that said it would no longer prosecute first-time shoplifters under 18 or over
65 who are caught with $25 or less in goods would have you think that the chain has gone soft on crime.
Chris Kofinis, director of communications at WakeUpWalMart.com, a critic of Wal-Mart’s policies, told The New York Times that the new policy “is a head-in-the-sand strategy
that is far different than what Sam Walton would ever have wanted, and it’s not clear this is the best strategy for Wal-Mart workers.”
J. P. Suarez, who is in charge of asset protection at Wal-Mart, said the policy makes sense from a worker and company perspective.
Employees, he said, “overwhelmingly” support the policy because it focuses their efforts on the most serious shoplifting threats.
“If I have somebody being paid $12 an hour processing a $5 theft, I have just lost money,” he said. “I have also lost the time to catch somebody stealing $100 or an organized
group stealing $3,000.”
Joseph LaRocca, vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, said many other retailers have come to the same conclusion as Mr. Suarez and Wal-Mart.
Prosecuting small thefts “does not warrant the store resources or the judicial resources required, given the dollar amount that was stolen,” he said.
Discussion Questions: Is Wal-Mart on the right track with its policy of not prosecuting first-time shoplifters caught with $25 or less in merchandise?
What will be the effect, if any, of the policy having been made public?