It seems escalating living costs have turned many of us into petty criminals.
Monash University’s Cost of Living and Consumer Deviance Spotlight report has found that increasing supermarket prices has led many people to resort to shoplifting to make ends meet.
But take a bow older Australians, you are the least likely to partake in a bit of five-finger discounting.
Lead researcher Stephanie Atto said the study examined consumers’ behaviour given the economic conditions.
“We wanted to understand if and how consumers are changing their spending habits to relieve these financial pressures, and how justifiable certain deviant behaviours, such as retail theft, are to consumers in the current climate,” Ms Atto said.
Okay with shoplifting
It turns out a good portion of Australians are okay with a bit of retail theft, with more than 25 per cent believing it is a ‘little’ to ‘completely’ justifiable including:
- taking an item without paying (28 per cent)
- changing price tags on products (30 per cent)
- not scanning some items when using a self-checkout terminal (32 per cent)
- scanning items as cheaper items when using a self-checkout terminal (37 per cent).
“Fears of opportunistic consumers have been growing among retail businesses who not only face the issue of decreasing consumer spend but also the need to be wary of consumers looking to save money through more deviant means,” Ms Atto said.
However, older Australians were less likely to quietly pocket their groceries, with those aged 55-plus saying retail theft was ‘not at all’ justifiable compared to those aged 18 to 34 who said shoplifting was a ‘little’ to ‘completely’ justifiable.
Price control proposal
Do the Greens have the solution?
The Greens are urging the Australian government to introduce price controls on everyday supermarket items to prevent price gouging.
Victorian Greens economic justice spokesperson Sam Hibbins said there was a clear case for stronger government action to lower food costs.
He said the government could start by taking on the supermarket duopoly to prevent them from profiteering by unfairly increasing food prices and the Greens would look to establish a parliamentary inquiry into food affordability.
“The profiteering supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths are making the cost-of-living crisis worse, by increasing the price of food and their profit margins at the same time,” he said.
“A number of European governments are taking direct action to lower the cost of food whilst New Zealand is taking on its own supermarket duopoly.
“Yet the Victorian Labor government is choosing not to act, despite having the powers to do so, and instead are prioritising corporate profiteering over people who are struggling to afford food, bills, and the rent.”
Mr Hibbins is referring to NZ’s Grocery Industry Competition Bill, which is seeking to improve competition and efficiency in that country’s grocery industry by establishing an authority to ‘referee’ the sector.
The bill is designed to enable a more level playing field for smaller retailers and new market entrants, allowing them to source and sell a wider range of groceries at better prices.
A similar bill probably wouldn’t get any support in Australia apart from a few headlines. As much as we don’t like it, the first responsibility of any publicly listed company, such as Coles and Woolworths, isn’t to their customers, it’s to their shareholders and, frankly, they are doing wonders for their investors.
Second, Australia is a vastly bigger market and the bureaucracy involved in policing such a proposal would be expensive and unworkable.
Do you think shoplifting is acceptable? Do you think price controls would work? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?
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