Woman with Shopping BagsIs shoplifting a game? It appears so, and the game is described as addicting. You visit various stores and try to steal items without being detected by the security cameras. Shoplifting is also a “How To” topic. After a quick internet search, I learned how to make a “booster bag” and other ways to take merchandise without paying. To make you feel better about perfecting this art, one writer stated, “the stores charge too much for the merchandise anyway.”

Every hour $1 to $1.1 million in merchandise is stolen, a total of $9-$10 billion each year. You and I can each tack on $400 annually in higher prices to cover the cost. For businesses with low profit margins, such as groceries or one-stop discount stores, the impact is dramatic: every time a consumer walks out the door with a $7.00 stolen item, the business will have to sell $700 in merchandise to other customers to make up for the loss.

Maybe it will help to personalize the impact. I have a friend who works as a cashier for a business that is often cited as a minimum wage employer. The hours are irregular, affecting the family in many ways:  shifting responsibilities for getting meals on the table or homework completed; leaving notes for important messages when they are not home at the same time; and the family can count on holiday disruptions. The wages wouldn’t support the family if my friend’s paycheck was the only source of income.

I suppose it never occurred to anyone that the business might be able to give their staff a raise if they weren’t part of the “shoplifting game”.



Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

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Shopping Security: Don’t be a Victim

Woman with Shopping BagsThe arrival of the holiday shopping season creates opportunities for thieves.  Parking lots are where most mall-related crimes occur. It’s up to us to reduce that threat. 

The typical thief will look for an easy target; if you make it difficult for them to take advantage of you, they’ll likely turn aside.   Here are some precautions that will help protect you during the holidays and all year round:

  1. Park in a busy and well-lit area.  Avoid dark remote corners of parking lots.
  2. Lock and stow. Lock your car doors and tuck prior purchases out of sight – in the trunk.  Stash away other valuables, as well – GPS unit, laptops and tablets, e-readers, and more.
  3. Stay focused.  Avoid checking messages or otherwise being distracted by your phone or anything else. Instead, be alert to everything going on around you.
  4. Assume you’re watched.  If you need to stash some purchases in your car partway through a shopping trip, then act as though you’re leaving entirely.  Get into your car, start it up, and move it to another parking spot out of sight of anyone who might have been watching you arrive at your car.
  5. Don’t dally. Have your car key in hand and walk like you know where you’re going (even if you can’t remember exactly where you parked).
  6. Beware and react.  If you are approached or chased by a stranger, yell loud to get attention, and consider going back to alert store security.

Nothing can guarantee the safety of our purchases (or ourselves), but appropriate precautions can certainly reduce the risk.  Shop safe!  ~Barb

Source: Consumer Reports Magazine, December 2013

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Do You Need a “Shopping Emergency” Card?

Need help curbing your spending? We all engage in ineffective or wasteful buying at times, which can prevent us from reaching our goals. 

When your will power lets you down, review these questions.  Be sure to answer honestly!

  •  emergencyWill this purchase meet one of my goals?
  • Do I really want or need it?
  • Can I afford it?
  • What must I give up to have it?
  • Am I buying this only because it’s on sale?
  • Would I buy this if I had to pay cash?
  • Am I buying because I’m depressed?
  • Would I come back tomorrow to buy this?
  • How much do I owe on my credit card this month?
  • If I charge this, can I pay off this month’s bill?
  • Could I feel better now without spending money?

Put these questions in your wallet and pull them out before getting in the checkout line or clicking the website’s checkout button!


Susan Taylor

Resources are important whether you are looking to rent your first apartment, pay your bills, buy your first home or send your child to college. There are many ways to save money to reach your goals, and hopefully ISU Money Tip$ will be one of them. I enjoy traveling, needlework and am a novice gardener.

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