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Day: July 5, 2011

“The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting” by Rachel Shteir

The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting by Rachel Shteir

“The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting” by Rachel Shteir

c.2011, The Penguin Press
$25.95 / $30.00 Canada
257 pages, includes index



Your mother said you should be ashamed of yourself. And you were.

Call it a rite of passage. Call it a dare, peer pressure, wanting to seem cool, or just because you were a dumb kid, but when you wrapped your fingers around that first shiny item, palmed it, and walked away, the heart-pounding thrill of stealing from a store was incredibly powerful. So was the embarrassment of getting caught.

Fortunately, you gave up your life of crime long ago but that abashed memory still stings. Good thing, too: shame is one way to deal with shoplifters, as you’ll see in “The Steal” by Rachel Shteir.

“Shoplifting today is understudied…” says Shteir.

“In fact, what we don’t know about shoplifting does hurt us.”

We do know this: a 2008 study indicates that shoplifting happens a million times a year in the U.S. and that shoplifting accounts for 35% of all shrink (a retail term for “goods lost to theft and error”). That’s almost $12 billion worth of merchandise lost to the “five-finger discount” annually. Guess who pays for that…

Theft is, of course, as old as humanity. Greek and Roman mythology says that several gods were light-fingered. Plato believed that society and the individual were both to blame for theft. When stores and shops were first outfitted with glass windows in the late 1500s, shoplifters were usually “roving bands of men” who outwitted store clerks by asking to see more and more merchandise while robbing the unfortunate shop owner blind.

Later, prostitution and shoplifting were believed to go hand-in-hand, though some surprisingly well-connected and genteel ladies were known to nick their share of goods. Predictably, Freud had a few things to say about those “lifters” but, surprisingly, today’s men shoplift more than do women.

If you’re a store owner, there’s good news. You can take steps to lessen theft.

Design your shop like a big-box store, with cash-wrap close to the exit. Make sure your LP team is properly trained. Pay attention to the body language of your customers and use electronic devices with impunity.

Above all, Shteir says the acknowledgment of one major point will go a long way toward eliminating retail theft: your biggest problem isn’t organized gangs or professional boosters. Your biggest problem is the ordinary shopper.

Feeling pinched by the recession?  Yep, that’s one of the predictors of widespread shoplifting, as you’ll see in this lively and unique book.

Starting with Greece and Rome and moving forward to modern malls and Shoplifters Anonymous meetings, author Rachel Shteir is refreshingly nonjudgmental in presenting information in “The Steal.”   She doesn’t miss a part of pilfering, though: she writes about heisting in Hollywood, why no one agrees on treatment for kleptomania, how those plastic antitheft devices came to be, and why store detectives are looking at your shoes as you browse.

Shoppers will enjoy this book for its subtle history of retail, but shop owners will get much more from “The Steal.”  If you’re a businessperson, in fact, there’s a lot to take away here.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Keizer fire chief responds to homeowners about possible changes to emergency services

Jeff Cowan, Keizer Fire Chief

Of the Keizertimes

Chief Jeff Cowan of the Keizer Fire District (KFD) recently responded to questionessubmitted from homeowners in the Vineyards neighborhood – part of the city Keizer Fire officials hope to remove from the protection of Marion County Fire District No. 1 (MCFD1).

The questions, submitted by Michael Welter, president of the Vineyards Phase One Board, dealt primarily with the ability of KFD assume the same levels of service as MCFD1 at what would be a lower tax rate and other financial matters. In his responses, Cowan also revealed that Keizer Fire expects to be awarded a fire truck and utility vehicle as part of the taking control of the Clearlake Station on Wheatland Road.

Under MCFD1, homeowners in the Clearlake area contribute about $421,000 to that district’s coffers. If annexed by KFD, homeowners would pay about $350,000. Welter asked if KFD would be able to provide the same levels of service at the cheaper rate.

“Keizer will provide the same or better service, and do so at a lower tax rate. There are no benefits MCFD1 provides that Keizer Fire District cannot provide as a full service, professional emergency service agency.” responded Cowan in a letter. “Keizer Fire has been Clearlake’s primary fire and emergency responder since 1948, and primary ambulance provider for over 20 years.”

Cowan said the district is seeking to protect the revenues generated by the homes in the area and for ambulance service fees, which KFD collected until the recent termination of an agreement with MCFD1.

Under the terms of withdrawal/annexation currently being discussed, area residents would continue paying for a MCFD bond that sunsets in six years and then another reduction in property payments would occur if KFD doesn’t issue a bond of its own. Annexation would have no effect on homeowner’s insurance rates, Cowan said.

Welter also asked whether KFD would be able to outfit the MCFD Clearlake station without incurring additional costs.

Cowan responded by revealing part of the plan to withdraw the Clearlake that involves assignment of resources. If the withdrawal were to progress unimpeded, Keizer City officials and Keizer Fire officials would get to dictate an equitable division of the resources that includes the MCFD Clearlake Station 6.

“We expect to receive [as part of the obligations paid for by the MCFD1 bond] one additional fire truck and a utility vehicle,” Cowan responded. “The expense of fully staffing and operating an additional station and maintenance of the equipment is covered by the tax revenue that we would receive from the annexation.”

Keizer Fire would assign a medic unit to the station if the withdrawal reaches fruition. KFD would also assimilate the six volunteers stationed at the Clearlake station into its volunteer recruitment and retention program, Cowan said.

County fair offers four themes for cheap tickets

The four-day Marion County Fair offers discounts to teens and, seniors and has a day of tribute to the barnyard – just check your day!

• Senior Day – Thursday, July 7: Senior admission $2, features dance groups, heritage and veterans’ display, old fashioned cake walk, free health screenings, arts & crafts workshop, quilting and spinning demonstrations, bean bag baseball.

• Teen Day – Friday, July 8: Teen admission $2,events include a dance-off, Gamers Tournament, races and relays, bike and skateboard demos, sports court, hip-hop dance and karate demos, with half-off carnival rides and games all day. Also includes a hot rod cruise-in.

• Ag Day – Saturday, July 9: Festivities include International FlyBall Dog Competition, KBZY Pretty Baby contest, 4H-FFA BBQ & Market Auction, State 4-H Livestock Judging, Main Stage Music & Entertainment, Gypsy Draft Horse and Miniature Horse Shows.

•  Family Day – Sunday, July 10: Free admission after 4 p.m., free activities include kids’ sack, three-legged and wheelbarrow racing, Future Farmers of America Tractor Driving Contest, Home Depot Kids Workshop, Painted Hills Natural Beef Backyard Grilling Contest, facepainting, workshops, and performances from Christian and mariachi groups.


Where: Oregon State Fairgrounds

When: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Thursday July 7; 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday.

How much: $7.50 adults, $3.75 kids 6-11, free for five and under.

Parking: Free all day.

A bank of our own? North Dakota inspires group

Of the Keizertimes

What if state reserves were put to work generating credit – and, hopefully, jobs – right here at home?
It’s not a totally radical concept, but only one state so far has tried it.

And a group of Oregonians want our state to be the second.

Supporters of Oregonians for a State Bank came to Keizer in May pitching the idea at Porter’s Pub. Steve Hughes, who doubles as state director of the Oregon Working Families Party, said it was rooted in watching the financial crisis of 2008, where banks once considered unsinkable were teetering on the brink of failure.

“Our pensions and such things were on the line, but we felt we had little control over those decisions,” Hughes said.

The inspiration comes from North Dakota, where the state-owned Bank of North Dakota started in 1919 in part to extend credit to North Dakotans who couldn’t get a loan from East Coast-based financial institutions. By law it holds all deposits from state institutions and departments.

The bank does this through direct lending and participation loans, where a private bank provides a portion of the principal and the government-owned bank steps in for the rest. The federal government already does this to an extent; think Small Business Administration and USDA lending.

The concept has caught the interest of some Oregonians due to three numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 8.7 percent, 9.6 percent and 3.3 percent.

The first is the nationwide, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate. The second jobless rate belongs to Oregon. The third? North Dakota, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the country, almost a full percentage point lower than Nebraska, with 4.2 percent.

State bank proponents aren’t pretending a similar institution would take Oregon’s jobless rate to North Dakota’s numbers: For one, its southern neighbor boasts a mere 4.9 percent unemployment, and many other Great Plains states, at least by the numbers, aren’t suffering from joblessness the way much of the rest of the country seems to be.

“And they have a budget surplus,” Hughes added. “I would say it’s hard to ignore the fact they’re also experiencing an oil boom there of pretty sizable proportions.”
But he said one step the Bank of North Dakota took was to videoconference with community bankers and ask them, “What do you need to be healthy in this storm? And they worked on solutions. In some cases it was  buying bank stock. In other cases it was buying loans. That paid dividends because they haven’t had any bank failures in North Dakota.”

In North Dakota, interest off the deposits goes into the state treasury, its website states.

A bill currently in the Oregon Legislature would create an authority tasked with establishing the framework for the state bank. The concept Hughes and others are pushing would have a scaled-back mission:

• Unlike in North Dakota, proponents here don’t want a state-run bank competing with private financial institutions for personal and business deposits. It would hold state deposits currently held by private banks, but it wouldn’t be open for public deposits.

• The Oregon State Bank as Hughes’ group envisions it would be what he called a “banker’s bank,” working with community banks to participate in loans.

The group’s website is