I worked about 18 months doing loss prevention for a clothing store back in the north east. That's why this morning, this story caught my eye: Women accused of hiding merchandise in body fat. Now, I've watched people steal many times. I watched old women and young boys, teen-age girls and middle-age mothers, as they grabbed whatever caught their eye and shoved it into a bag or ran for the fitting rooms to rip tags off shirts and pants, then casually walk out of the store wearing high-price clothing they had no intention of ever paying for. Teen-age boys had the mentality of "smash and grab" engrained in them - they'd walk in, grab their item of choice and rip the tags off while running out the door, leaving gaping holes in the backs of their new gangsta shirts. I'd see them coming from a mile away, like a poorly camouflaged hunter pacing off his nervous energy before taking a shot. Old women, seasoned by years of experience, would skillfully pick up items and slide them into a bag, then calmly walk out the door, sometimes so quickly you could barely tell if you had actually seen it happen. The one thing I haven't seen is what these women did - concealing merchandise in rolls of body fat. That's definitely a new one in my book.

The whole loss prevention thing made me sick inside - who'd have thought so many people could steal? Who'd have thought it was so easy, so natural, and so common? In the loss prevention profession, there's a well known and typically unspoken truth - everyone, given the opportunity, is not only a potential thief, they're a LIKELY thief. It's the saddest realization I ever had.

Some would do it because they couldn't afford all the fabulousness they desired and would simply steal what they couldn't afford. Some would do it because they were "mentally ill" and just couldn't help themselves - getting that cheap thrill when they got away with stealing became addictive.

However, most did it simply because they could. After stopping someone with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise shoved into a bag, we'd always bring them back to the office, sit them down and interview them. "Have you ever done this before?" and "When was the first time you stole?"

"Why did you steal these items today?"

More often than not, the thief had enough money in their wallet to buy the item stolen.

I remember coming home from that loss prevention job one night. I stopped at a gas station to grab a case of beer, a usual occurrence. A woman in line just in front of me was paying for, I think, gas and a drink. As the cashier was putting her money in the till and counting out the woman's change, the woman grabbed a candybar and shoved it into her purse. This was in full view of me, standing behind her, and not quick or skilled in the least. The cashier saw nothing, of course.

When I told the cashier, after the woman had left, that the she had stolen a candybar and that she should be watched the next time she comes in because "she *will* do it again, now that she's gotten away with it, and she'll likely steal something worth more than a candybar", the cashier told me very matter-of-fact that they "can't do anything about it anyway" - can't stop them, can't call the police...can't even ask if they'd like pay for the item.

I wish I was surprised by that revelation, but I wasn't.

It fully occurred to me, at some point along the way, that our society has broken down to the point where we literally serve the people who steal. Those who "have-not" but "do-want" are somehow treated as worthy of just taking. Even big government welfare, foodstamps, and housing programs provide more than enough to live on. In fact, they provide so much to those who don't work that it turns out to a better deal than working for many.

A 40hr/wk job at $7/hr works out to $280/wk before tax. After tax, monthly income is somewhere around or below $1,000, right? Let's assume that the apartment of choice costs $800/mo. That leaves less than $200/mo for food, gas, etc. Who can blame a person for quitting that job and getting on welfare? The apartment they'd live in would be free or at least cost them a lot less that $800/mo. They'd receive much more than $200/mo on foodstamps, so much more that it's common practice nationwide to sell your unused foodstamps for spending cash.

I've heard many stories, some of them first-hand accounts, of people doing this - quitting their job to go on welfare, and subsequently earn more for doing less. Many will even look for ways to "work under the table" to avoid losing their big government handouts.

What these people fail to realize is that the more they take in these handouts, the more is taken from the working stiff's paycheck. It's a snowball effect in that the more these welfare programs cost, the less worthwhile having a job becomes. Of course, monetary inflation is another huge factor in this. In order to ensure that the working stiff doesn't get too upset by the higher and higher dollar amounts coming out of his paycheck each month, the big government in charge of all this just prints up more money to pay for the higher costs of welfare. This way, the dollar amount might not change but the nation's "wealth pie" is being divided into smaller and smaller slices every day. Over time, your $10/hr job just doesn't pay for what it used to. You're eventually forced to realize that giving up your job and getting on the welfare bandwagon not only pays better but sounds like the best deal of the century.

It has become like this everywhere you look in our society. People who produce are not only taken for granted, they're taken for a ride. They're taken for a ride by those who produce nothing.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, one of the candidates, referring to the income tax, said that it was a terrible idea to punish people for working, for generating an income. If anything, people should be punished for SPENDING rather than saving, encouraging a more responsible and frugal mentality. He was advocating a move toward a sales tax system and away from the income tax. When you stop and think about what he said, that people are being punished for generating an income, you have to realize that he's right. The more you work, the more you produce and the more money you make, the more is taken away from you for income tax, entitlement programs and welfare. That just doesn't seem right, does it?

Anyway, I'll cut this short here as I still haven't finished scanning the news this morning and it's already after 2PM.

A final thought: Who can blame these people for stealing from stores when it's so engrained in our culture to just "take"? Who can really blame them?

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