Is That a T-Bone in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Who can resist the siren call of the rib-eye steak? Says reporter Brendon I. Koerner in Slate, not many. Meat topped the list of items shoplifted from supermarkets last year, just above painkillers, razors, and baby formula. (Cough medicines that could be rejiggered into crystal meth used to top the list, until the meds got shelved behind secure counters.)

According a 2005 University of Florida study, desperation isn’t the driving force behind this five-finger discounting. The most common meat-lifter is an employed woman between the ages of 35 and 54 who’s adding a little luxury to the weekly grocery haul. (Men, by contrast, are more likely to steal stuff that can be sold again for cash, like Tylenol and batteries.) Supermarket detectives say these shoplifters go for the fancy stuff—rib-eye steak, lamb chops, filet mignon—as a reward worth the risk, slipped into a purse or coat pocket before they head to the check-out line to pay for the Tide and Cheerios.

And even as supermarkets get savvy with security tags on meat packages, the rise in popularity of automated checkout lines means that stealing some steaks could get even easier. (Many supermarket staffers just assume a malfunction if an alarm sounds as a shopper is leaving with an already-paid-for sack of groceries.) The options for cutting back on such crimes? Says Slate,

Meat-sniffing dogs pop to mind, though some shoppers might object to having a Doberman nosing around their crotches in search of stolen steaks. But you know what they say about civil liberties in a time of crisis.

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