Teenagers Shoplifting What Parents Can’t Afford to Buy

Discussion
Jan 03, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network

Many parents will have experienced the double distress of not being able to buy their children everything they may want and having to tell the kids that they can’t have what they want. On top of that, many teenagers are now piling on even more stress when they decide to go out and steal the things their parents won’t – or can’t – purchase.

Harry Kauffer, founder and chairman of British charity Crisis Counseling for Alleged Shoplifters (CCAS), told The Daily Telegraph, “parents are distraught and devastated. They have told youngsters they cannot have the expensive presents they may have had in previous years and they know there is not enough pocket money to buy these things.” Yet their children are coming home with the objects of their desire.

CCAS was set up to help families of suspected shoplifters and claims it has been inundated with calls in recent weeks. While it normally hears from families when a teenager has been caught, there has been an upsurge in calls from parents who have seen what their children are bringing home.

“These are middle-class families. The parents are astounded. They are used to giving kids expensive presents but there is a big change going on. They have warned the children they cannot afford the same presents.”

Mr. Kauffer and his five volunteer counselors advise parents to parcel up stolen items in their child’s presence, make them write an anonymous apology and then return it to the shop, taking the cost of postage out of pocket money.

“Many of these kids are from affluent but fractured backgrounds, often as a result of divorce and separation,” Mr. Kauffer told The Telegraph, “but they believe affluence gives them a license to steal – what I describe as an artificial right to belongings. They tell counselors they steal because of the boredom and ‘the buzz’.”

According to The Telegraph, the British Retail Consortium said recently that the value of goods stolen from shops was at a 10-year high while violence against retail staff had risen by 50 percent in a year.

Discussion Questions: Do you see a similar rise in affluent and middle-class teenagers stealing high-priced goods in U.S. retail stores similar to what’s happening in Great Britain? If so, what do you think is driving these increased shoplifting activities? What can retailers do to prevent thefts and deal with teens when they are caught?

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8 Comments on "Teenagers Shoplifting What Parents Can’t Afford to Buy"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

Theft by teenagers has always been higher than other age groups. The highest shrink merchandise categories are typically costume jewelry, designer jeans, small leather goods, cosmetics and music-related merchandise (what’s left of the CD business and small audio items). The retailer’s conundrum: will the theft prevention hurt the margins worse than the theft? Putting items in locked display cases raises labor costs and reduces impulse sales. Although online merchants suffer losses from fraudulent payment schemes, at least they save the shoplifting losses.

The biggest problem: many retailers depend on young folks to be their staff. Given the high staff turnover and the fact that most losses are internally-generated (not shopper thefts, as commonly believed), staff screening and supervision is especially critical.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 4 months ago

I agree with Mark, as even though I left my teenage years many moons ago, I remember working retail back then and many, many co-workers engaging in theft both personally and with their friends. It’s a huge issue. Also, just my gut, but our media has boosted the “Bling Factor” to the max by idolizing young celebrities that are all about designer clothing and superficial value–this isn’t helping. Kids see this and get the message that they have to have the best, most expensive this or that to be cool and will go to extra lengths to get it. I’m not sure if there’s an easy answer other than tougher repercussions.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
14 years 4 months ago

Retail theft has always been problematic with teenagers especially those under a great deal of peer pressure to conform or fit in to the group. It is the store’s responsibility to do its part and not make shop lifting of the desired merchandise easy pickings. In other words, if you put temptation in front of a teenager with an undeveloped sense of identity and then turn your back you are contributing to their delinquency. Sometimes what seems like the best way to merchandise a product might not be the most socially responsible way.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

I don’t know the statistics about the increase in amount of juvenile thefts. What is of concern in this piece is the description of the attitude of entitlement. Unless that attitude is changed, there are likely to be a lot of problems from this group for believing that they are owed what they want.

If this generalization is accurate, there are likely to be difficulties when this age group enters the workforce–either part time or full time.

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
14 years 4 months ago

Putting everything into perspective, it is one thing to steal because you are hungry and quite another to steal because you don’t have the most current version of XBOX. What is indicated is behavior modification, not political correctness. Each generation seems to be getting worse at not being able to deal with the postponement of gratification. The remedy is swift and firm justice, AKA accountability. There is much to be said for reinstating “Shame,” rather than tolerating these antics as part of growing up.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 4 months ago

Honesty is an excellent maxim. Ask any parent, clergy person, retailer, or today’s contributors. And yet it is not, it is just so-so when the maxim and a sense of entitlement collide. For those without a controlling sense of integrity, not getting caught when shoplifting is an intriguing game, and acquisition becomes a justifiable reward. When that paradigm is practiced, without penalty, by one profiled sector of society it will be copied by another even among those who can afford to pay.

What can retailers do? Not much other than pray that parents participate actively in constructively addressing this matter. That assumes that parents are not precursors of the practice.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

I don’t know the numbers either, but I do know there is a rising sense of material entitlement out there among every age group and that can’t help but to increase shoplifting.

Joe foran
Guest
Joe foran
14 years 4 months ago

I remember my buddies in junior high were on a big shoplifting binge; fishing gear was the target du jour. They got caught with expensive reels tucked in their jackets; one set of parents punished the kid, and he stopped. The other set of parents had the ‘perfect child’ and didn’t punish him. He continued to shoplift until he was caught again, and was prosecuted.

There will always be a problem with kids stealing; it’s part of rebellion and flaunting authority. As other posters have said, it is incumbent upon society and the victims (in this case, retailers) to clearly demonstrate that this behavior is not acceptable by enforcing consequences.

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