Published on: February 22, 2023
Bon Appétit has a story noting that "as inflated food bills continue to hammer customers, the conversation around shoplifting is heating up. Some shoplifters say stealing up to 80% of their food offsets skyrocketing costs of living and combats greedy grocers who are using inflation as an excuse to hike up prices unnecessarily."
And so, the story offers an interview with Elizabeth, described as "a Whole Foods employee in Michigan," who "regularly notices shoplifting - but doesn’t feel the need to do much about it."
A passage from the Q&A:
What’s the most memorable shoplifting experience you’ve seen?
"Around 18 months ago, I saw an older woman, maybe in her mid- to late-60s, reusing the brown paper bags that we use to bag groceries. She had set them up in her cart and was filling them with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, like eggs and milk and produce. And then she just walked past all the registers and out the door.
I saw it, and so did my team lead. And we kind of both looked at each other. My team leader was like, “Did you check her out?” I was cashiering and I was like, “No.” And so my team lead ended up running outside and asked the woman for her receipt. And the woman was like, “Oh, I didn't get a receipt.” My team lead was like, “Well, why don’t you come back inside with me, and we’ll find the receipt online just to make sure.”
She came back in with the cart full of groceries, and then left it inside and just walked out. We didn’t do anything. I honestly felt bad because it was this older woman, and it wasn’t like she was buying really materialistic stuff. It wasn’t like face masks or whatever; it was necessities. Like, she needed food.
Would you have done anything different if your team lead wasn’t there?
I don’t think I would’ve told anyone. Whole Foods is a multibillion dollar business, and it’s connected with Amazon. I don’t care about us losing a small amount of stuff. We donate so much food at the end of each day. If something is slightly damaged, we will donate it. And in my head I see shoplifting as just another donation to someone who obviously really needs it.
The Q&A goes on:
How do your coworkers feel about shoplifting? How do y’all handle it?
We’ve talked about it and we are supposed to report shoplifting to management whenever we see it. We are not supposed to confront the person or anything out of fear of retaliation.
But personally, I don’t tell anyone if I ever see it. I know that the coworkers who are closer to my age have very similar opinions on it. It’s just not something we care about all that much. Our paycheck isn’t going to change whether or not we do anything about it, and Whole Foods will not suffer from the tiny amount that someone just stole. My boss might have a different opinion. But still, he’s fairly chill, and I feel like he would also be empathetic toward people who need food.