This week a famed UK chef took a cue from Winona Ryder and went shoplifting.
A block of cheese from Tesco was his target and, according to reports, it was slipped out of the store as he was buying nearly $400 of wine.
It’s a story that, on the surface, is worth a chuckle, a derisive sneer and this accompanying confession: At age seven the pencil that held shut my Garfield phonebook disappeared, so I nicked one.
Recollection of my child-sized Mission Impossible is still quite crisp. My parents took me to Woodwards for what they thought was a normal afternoon of errands, but plans were in place to avoid another lecture on not losing my things.
From the entrance of the store, my mark was clear. Phonebooks mirroring their incomplete counterpart were across the room. Deftly, I steered my parents shopping venture in that direction.
Then, when we were in just the right formation, I fell a step behind, slid the new pencil out of the blue phonebook and shoved it up my sleeve, just as I imagined on the drive over.
Browsing continued for what amounted to hours of torture, while a simple walk outside seemed like the cure.
Once free, however, I realized that was far from the case. Leaving the store that day offered the first opportunity for the weight of a guilty conscience to crash down on me, and that silly pencil was never put into my beloved blue phonebook.
It sat under my bed in the far corner against the wall threatening to unleash all sorts of karmic retribution as recompense.
I don’t actually remember seeing the pencil again, but one thing is certain—it may have stopped me from pursuing a life of crime.
Pangs of guilt as sharp as its graphite tip have had a very profound impact on my decision making, which is what makes news that others, such as the celebrity chef and my favourite ’90s icon, persist in the behaviour, so confounding.
Granted, they likely have a different set of emotional deficits than I do, but their stories are footnotes in what seems to be a growing trend.
Just as Robin Hood snaffled goods from the rich to offset the shortcomings of the poor, shoplifters are creating equilibrium in their own households to stave off the recession. (Strange related fact: Cheese and razors are among the top stolen items, according to a study by the Centre for Retail Research.)
Trouble is, shifty behaviour is taking company profits down another notch which is, quite frankly, less than ideal for the rest of us who are waiting for a robust financial system to raise us to the next level or our personal economic development.
For some concrete numbers on how shoplifting is impacting one and all, the Centre’s study reported shoplifting and employee theft cost North American businesses more than $45 billion USD in 2011—a rise of six per cent from last year.
It’s not the type of crime that’s cracked down on like, say, robbery, but perhaps it should be.
We’re sympathetic to crimes we may ourselves have committed and we’re even more sympathetic to largely victimless crime.
While nobody can rationalize taking away profits from the small shopkeeper, does it really matter if Walmart loses another block of cheese, or big screen TV?
Or, pulling from Kelowna headlines, does it really matter when the city loses another spool of copper wire? What’s a couple hundred thousand dollars, spread across a city Kelowna’s size?
It’s just the budget for any number of local agencies that had to shut their doors in recent years, not to mention the salaries of workers laid off.
As I get further away from my Garfield phonebook, and more deeply entrenched in adulthood it’s become clearer these types deserve more than just a derisive sneer and, quite frankly, I resent that. So keep your sticky fingers out of my portion of the pie.
Kathy Michaels is a reporter with the Capital News.