Shoplifting Saule Omarova and the War on Retail

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that four to five million Americans work in retail, with an average salary of about $27,000 per year.  As careers go, retail isn't one of the most lucrative, and while there are many reasons for that, shoplifting is one of the biggest.

Like any industry, salary is a calculation of other business costs and business revenue.  A store buys inventory and display cases; pays rent and utilities; pays for print ads and commercials; and sells as much as it can, pricing the goods as high as the market will bear.  Whether the store managers and cashiers can be well paid or poorly paid depends on sales, costs, and "loss prevention" — the industry's gentle euphemism for the crime of shoplifting.

Shoplifting is in the news today, as well it should be, though for a surprising reason: usurper-in-chief Joe Biden has nominated a shoplifter named Saule Omarova to the coveted position of comptroller of the currency, a position supervising some 3,500 federal banking regulators in the Treasury Department.  This is a Soviet-born, Soviet-educated socialist who wrote a glowing portrait of Karl Marx as her thesis at Moscow State University, where she studied on the V.I. Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship.  Yes, Gentle Reader, you read that right.  We couldn't make up a thing like this. 

Having a communist as a professor at Cornell Law School isn't all that odd nowadays, unfortunately.  But having one as the top appointee to the department founded by the great Alexander Hamilton is disturbing, to say the least. 

The undisputed details about the shoplifting case are as follows, as revealed by articles in Fox News and elsewhere this week, as her nomination came up for consideration by the Senate.  In 1995, when she was a student in Madison, Wisconsin (of course), she was caught and arrested for shoplifting at a T.J. Maxx store.  This was no broke teenager, palming a pair of cheap earrings.  She was 28 years old at the time, an ungrateful beneficiary of a MacArthur Foundation scholarship.

The case is one that retailers will recognize as the trademark of the professional shoplifter: Omarova checked out at the jewelry store counter and paid for some items, then left the store, whereupon the security guard immediately stopped her outside, calling her out on having a purse full of stolen merchandise.  According to Fox News's November 17 article, she had stolen "four pairs of shoes, two bottles of cologne, two belts and socks," having concealed them all under other clothing items in her large handbag so they wouldn't be noticeable as she left.   She admitted guilt immediately and offered to pay for them (only after being caught) in the hopes it would get her out of trouble (proving that she could, after all, afford the merchandise; she stole it because she wanted to).  Omarova was charged with retail theft for the crime.

Organizations that study the problem of shoplifting publish plenty of statistics on this crippling issue.  The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention reports that about $50 billion per year is stolen from America's retailers.  Retailers spend a mint on loss prevention efforts, from high-tech anti-theft devices to cameras and burglar alarms, from employing security guards to paying the legal fees for prosecuting those few they are able to catch.  Only about one in 48 shoplifting occurrences results in a capture, and even fewer result in prosecution, making ever more vigilance — and ever more retailer spending on loss prevention strategies — necessary. 

Add those costs together — all the shoplifting itself plus all the costly additional spending in trying to combat it — and you see that this one issue is the greatest single impediment to retail success.  Think how much more successful American retail would be — how much more profitable — if it didn't have this immense, uncontrollable expense attacking its bottom line.  Retail theft is, as legendary retailer Sam Walton put it, "the profit killer."

Those four million-plus Americans who work in retail are really the ones robbed every day, because the shoplifters — especially the professional shoplifters who use oversize handbags, strollers, and backpacks to increase their take — keep stores from making the kind of money they need to be able to give their staffs the raises, bonuses, and other perks so important to retail workers.

We don't know how often Omarova has shoplifted in her life.  We know only one thing for sure: what side she's on.  In the contest between retail salespeople and the shoplifters who put them out of work, Saule Omarova is on the side of the shoplifters.

In their desire to confirm her nomination, leftists tell us this was decades ago, so we shouldn't hold it against her. 

That argument might make sense if referring to a kid in junior high or maybe even high school, who has since had a chance to grow up and enter a respectable career.

The argument makes no sense at all, however, for a 28-year-old woman, already established in her career, already having been a college professor and doctoral student.

This is the kind of person the Biden/Harris administration nominates to regulate our banking industry, where honesty in dealing with money is literally the very focus of the job?

Tragically, the saddest thing about this story is that — in the context of the dumpster fire that constitutes the Biden/Harris administration in every way — we shouldn't even be surprised.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer and trade compliance trainer, a onetime county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party.  He writes a regular column in Illinois Review, and his political satires about current events — including his latest, Evening Soup with Basement Joe — are available in eBook or paperback on Amazon.

Image via Pxfuel.

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