BBC Points West tonight ran with a story tonight on the growing number of cases of shoplifting in the south west. They tried to paint a scare story by revealing ‘shocking’ figures about the rise of shoplifting in the region. Footage of several young boys, one as young as eight, being threatened by the Police and security staff were shown to try and display the ‘moral depravity’ of stealing from businesses.
But who does shoplifting hurt? According to the BBC over the last three years there were 1,800 reported cases in Bristol; 647 in Bath; 900 in Gloucestor; and 660 in Swindon. The worst hit in each city were Primark, Boots, Debenhams and Tesco respectively. They would like us to believe that shoplifting hurts workers by reducing companies’ profits and thus forcing them to cut wages and even jobs.
That doesn’t quite add up though when you consider that Primark recorded £514m profits in 2013; Boots made even more at £813m; Debenhams secured a tidy £154m and Tesco made a staggering £3.05bn! If shoplifting is hurting their profits so much that they’re having to slash wages and lay off employees it certainly doesn’t show in their annual reports.
According to a report by the Centre for Retail Research shoplifting only costs the UK £4.4bn a year. That doesn’t seem like much when you consider that Tesco alone made almost as much in profits! What is interesting is that the report suggests that over a third of thefts are carried out by staff themselves. I’m sure that if shoplifting was hurting the workers so much, they certainly wouldn’t be adding to the problem themselves, would they?
Maybe they’re just tired of falling wages. The truth is that companies need to pay their employees as little as possible and shoplifting is a great excuse for lowering wages. Every penny your boss spends on your wages is a penny out of their pocket. After all it is us that creates all the wealth in society, just think about when you go to the supermarket, who is it stocking the shelves, cleaning the floors, working the checkout or collecting the trolleys? It isn’t the bosses! It’s working class people like you and me.
And while the regular checkout employee might scan through thousands of pounds worth of products during an eight hour shift, they’re lucky to receive even a fraction of it back in the form of wages. Meanwhile the bosses live in luxury at our expense. Why is it that those of us who work the hardest never receive our fair share of the profits? Why should the boss receive the lion’s share while never putting in nearly as much effort?
The answer is simple: We live in a society where the means of sustaining life are owned by an elite minority. Those people who own property, the capitalist class, force us without, the working class, to work for them with the threat of starvation or death if we refuse. Because we have no choice as to whether or not we can work we have very little say as to how much we get paid.
There are times though when we can begin to call the shots. When we work together with others in our situation, not just in the workplace, but in our communities and other areas of live, we begin to realise that we have a lot more power than we originally though. We can begin to ask a lot more of the capitalists than a simple wage rise or better conditions, we can ask for control of the very means of sustaining life themselves.
The truth is stealing from big businesses like Tesco or Primark does not hurt the workers, in fact it doesn’t hurt the bosses either. They still take hope a tidy paycheck despite the apparent record number of cases of shoplifting. We shouldn’t be punishing petty criminals when the biggest theft of all happens every day across the country in the form of wage labour. Billions of pounds are stolen from hard working people by capitalists. Why don’t you hear about that very often?