The morality of shoplifting differs with context

I am not the first or last person to say that a Target shopping trip is an experience. Sometimes I like to stop and get a nice hot drink in the colder months before going out on a little Target adventure. However, it has been reported recently that Target has been losing money due to an increase in shoplifting. This phenomenon has caused Target to lose $400 million in its gross profit margin in 2022 compared to 2021. 

When it comes to shoplifting, the debate immediately comes to the topic of ethics. Is it okay to steal? When is it okay to steal? The issue with looking at the act of stealing through the single lens of “ethics” is that there are layers to the action. 

In some situations, we have to look at exactly who is stealing what. A lower-class family stealing some food so they have enough to be satisfied is an acceptable situation. A middle-class or upper-class individual who is stealing a materialistic item that they want but don’t need and can afford with the money they make… well, not so much. At that point, the question raised is: Why steal it? 

Another point to consider is the rise in costs that our society is facing. Everyone knows that prices are going up everywhere, and Target is guilty of this too. I remember Target being a great place to shop because of the prices, but now because of the pandemic and recovery from tough economic conditions, trying to buy anything at Target makes my stomach churn. 

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood as someone who is telling you to go ahead and steal. I don’t believe it is okay unless it is for a necessary reason. If you cannot afford food or things that will help your survival, then I think it is fine. 

Some people mention the idea of stealing as a valid protest against corporations. As for this idea, I like where their head is at, but I think all this protest is doing is further increasing prices. More product is disappearing so in turn Target has to increase prices to get more of the product and make up for the losses. 

A better way to protest against corporations would be to stop going to them overall. The decrease in the demand for their products and the dwindling number of customers will make them try to figure out ways to bring people back with discounts or special sales. Try turning to some small companies instead. That way you can still get the product and also support someone trying to start their business. 

We are in the era of online shopping and new small businesses. I personally like to shop from Etsy because of all the awesome things I see on that website that I cannot find in the typical larger brand stores. If Etsy does not have what you are looking for, there are plenty of other shops and ways to find what you want. Instagram, Facebook and many other social media platforms advertise shops that you can look through as well. 

Overall, shoplifting is a rising issue but rather than focus on it as an overall subject, we need to break it down and look at the specificities of who is shoplifting. We also need to understand that a better way to protest against big corporations is to support small businesses because it would be taking money away from the corporations and you would be getting some really unique products.

Photo courtesy of Mike Kalasnik, Wikipedia.