Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hot Meat

Slate asks, “Why is meat the most shoplifted item in America?”

Apparently it used to be cough syrup, with its usefulness in meth making, now it’s meat.

So why do American’s steal meat? It all comes down to 2 factors, which I’ve conveniently listed here as 3 factors:

Value Density - If Safeway left diamonds out in the candy aisle shelves; they’d be #1. Hot-air balloons may be expensive, but they’re not popular with shoplifters. Meat is valuable and small, and shoppers strongly prefer it be displayed on open shelves. Premium cuts can fetch up to $20/pound. Not exactly gold, but little old ladies can easily whisk away $100 worth of merchandise, or meat-andise as they call it in the business.

Opportunity - The reason meat is #1 is because security has clamped down on the prior #1s. Cough syrup is now behind the counter. Replacement razor blades have security tags. Hard alcohol is placed in well-patrolled open areas.

Meat is different - customers use to ask the friendly butcher, who could reach under the counter and give them a big Italian sausage they craved. Or go back into the stockroom for a little taste of salami. Now shoppers don’t have time for that old-fashioned personal attention; they just want to quickly shove a pre-wrapped package in their basket. Sure it satisfies shoppers -- but it makes shoplifting easier -- and since the product is so perishable, supermarkets go along with it to keep their meat moving.

Symbolism – In America, meat eating represents good eating and better cuts such as filet mignon, epitomize luxury itself. In one sense, there’s a better life just within reach at the refrigerated display unit, and it’s not surprising that some % of shoppers would be tempted grab it -- to grab life by the horns, if you will. The article is good at alluding to the “I deserve it” factor. But they completely miss the “Meat down my pants”-is-kinda-funny factor.

And I quite like the article’s concluding sentence:

So, more innovation is required in the battle against meatlifting. Meat-sniffing dogs pop to mind, though some shoppers might object to having a Doberman nosing around their crotches in search of stolen steaks.

I like that the author describes the interaction between bored rent-a-cops and bored teenagers as a “battle”; and especially that he invents the term “meatlifting”. Heh heh. If only I had a word like that handy for my college girlfriend -- you know, like for the Jobs & Duties section of her resume.

Related: What is the Meatrix? And why does it have such shoddy production values?


jon said...

Ah yes, one of the biggest meat heists in american film history was showcased in the 1990 hit My Blue Heaven. Steve Martin's character, Vinny, who is in the witness protection program, finds a sticker gun and begins pricing his own meat.

jon said...