If you were watching the news at all last week, you likely saw video of the Nordstroms location in Los Angeles ransacked by a flash mob in broad daylight resulting in over $300,000 worth of merchandise being stolen. Unfortunately, this tragic event was not a one-off and I believe is indicative of a bigger problem we are facing in cities all across America. https://youtu.be/Xmsh5bvEyJs?si=95nqxbRtFlTOYezJ

I’ve known that inflation would likely bring with it in an increase in theft. But over the past few weeks I have been shocked to learn just how much more rampant this theft has become, and how much it is impacting retailers’ bottom lines. This past Tuesday Dick’s Sporting Goods stock lost more than 20% after reporting lower than expected Q2 profits, which CEO Navdeep Gupta said was due to “organized retail crime.” https://nypost.com/2023/08/22/dicks-sporting-goods-blames-organized-retail-crime-for-23-drop-in-profits/

Then on Thursday, Dollar Tree’s stock fell by double digits as well based on weaker income forecasts related to elevated levels of shoplifting in their stores. Unfortunately, these two companies are not alone. Walmart, Target, Home Depot and many others have all expressed concerns about the elevated levels of “shrink” at their locations. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-shrink-became-the-biggest-story-in-retail-113229908.html

About a month ago I personally witnessed an incident at my local grocery store where an individual loaded up his cart with expensive items and headed for the door. Luckily, a quick-thinking manager ran up and tipped the cart over to keep the individual from escaping with the merchandise. I asked the cashier if this type of thing is happening more often, and she said it has become quite common.

If you are a regular reader of my column, you probably know, I can’t discuss a problem without also discussing the causes and possible solutions to it. In this case I think it’s pretty obvious that the primary cause of this spike in theft is the economic conditions we are currently living in. When the cost of basic necessities we all buy rise by more than 20% in a 2-year span there will be consequences. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/04/14/charts-how-much-inflation-increased-since-2021.html

These past couple of years have been particularly hard on lower income individuals whose income have not kept up with inflation. It shouldn’t be any surprise many are bridging the gap between income and expenses through stealing.

However, we have experienced these kinds of economic hardships before without these same increases in crime. That’s why I believe there is more at play than people simply stealing out of desperation. I believe as a people our values have changed significantly in the past decade. Instead of celebrating success and hard work, we seem to now celebrate victimhood and refuse to punish those who commit certain crimes.

At the risk of once again sounding like Archie Bunker, I think at the core of much of this is an embrace of Marxist thinking. After all, if someone truly believes that corporate profits are immoral, there’s no reason to feel guilty if your actions reduce or eliminate them.

If you were able to interview any of the people who looted the Nordstroms I would almost guarantee you they would use economic inequality as a justification for their actions. Let’s get real through, today’s criminals are not modern-day Robin Hood’s stealing from the rich to give to the poor. They are generally selfish people who have come to the conclusion that the “ends justify the means” as a way of rationalizing their bad behaviors.

I wish I could say I am optimistic that the pendulum will soon be swinging back the other way and that morality and order is going to be making a comeback. However, if I said that I would be lying. Without a significant shift back towards faith and family I am afraid things are only going to keep on devolving. We are a nation that is rejecting basic tenants of right and wrong and instead embracing a form of relativism that places one’s person needs above all else. No society can thrive in such circumstances. Not even one as successful as ours.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)