Can't afford stuff? Try stealing!

That headline seems to sum up the logic of many cash-strapped consumers struggling with high gas prices. Experts say that shoplifting is up in light of the current economic slowdown, and more employees are stealing on the job too.

According
to the USA Today, "All told, retail theft is estimated to cost about $40.5 billion a year. And the rest of us, already squeezed by higher gas and food prices, end up paying for it: Stores pass on much of their losses to customers in the form of higher prices."

I certainly won't patronize readers with a moralistic sermon on the evils of shoplifting, but I will say that I'm skeptical that most of the rise in shoplifting is a result of desperate Oliver Twist-types looking to put food on the table. The man described at the beginning of the USA Today piece -- who was caught stealing cans of baby formula -- also grabbed a few bags of shrimp which, let me know if I'm wrong, are a pretty expensive source of calories. If he was caught stealing white rice and Tina's Burritos, I might be more sympathetic.

If you really need food and are tempted to shoplift at the grocery store, try showing up before the bakery closes and asking if they can give you some day-old bagels. I know someone who did this for years and saved a lot of money, and retained more dignity than he could have stealing.

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