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More than spirits are being lifted

By Sarah Skidmore

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 10:24 p.m. MST

More than spirits are being lifted this holiday season.

During the four weeks leading up to Christmas this year, an estimated $1.8 billion in merchandise will be shoplifted from U.S. retailers, according to The Global Retail Theft Barometer, a survey of retailers worldwide. That's up about 6 percent from $1.7 billion during the same period last year.

"They shoplift for Christmas gifts, they steal for themselves, for their family," says Joshua Bamfield, executive director of the Centre for Retail Research and author of the survey.

Sticky fingers are common during the holidays. The crowded stores and harried clerks make it easier to slip a tablet computer into a purse or stuff a sweater under a coat undetected. But higher joblessness and falling wages have contributed to an even bigger rise this year. People steal everything from necessities (think food) to luxuries they can no longer afford (think electronics or Gucci purse).

"It's really a question of need versus greed," says Joseph LaRocca, senior adviser of asset protection for the National Retail Federation trade group. "People will rationalize what they are stealing: 'Oh, I'm feeling the economy. I lost my job.' But it's hard to make the argument you need a $900 handbag."

Experts say the economy's influence is largely a cop-out. They say shoplifters are stealing for myriad reasons this holiday season that have nothing to do with economic turmoil. Some do it for a rush or thrill. For others, it's about filling a void. Still others are trying to relieve anxiety, boredom or depression — all emotions that are particularly common during the holidays.

"Shoplifting is generally a crime of opportunity— and opportunities abound at the holiday," says Barbara Staib, a spokeswoman for the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.

Tax cut survives: Congress votes holiday approval

WASHINGTON — Barely beating Santa's sleigh, Congress delivered a last-minute holiday tax-cut extension to 160 million American wage-earners on Friday, just when it looked like they and millions of unemployed workers were going to be left with coal in their stockings.

It was a major yearend political victory for President Barack Obama, a big slice of humble pie for House Republicans and a blow to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who'll have an angry band of tea party lawmakers to deal with when Congress returns to Washington next month.

Back-to-back voice vote approvals of the two-month special measure by the Senate and House came in mere seconds with no debate, just days after House Republican leaders had insisted that reopening negotiations on a full-year bill was the only way to persuade them to prevent a tax increase on Jan. 1.

Obama immediately signed the bill into law.

— Associated Press

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