No Cost = No Disincentive

Many years ago I was President of a trade association of retailers in an industry where shoplifting was a problem. The severity of the problem differed in large part based on how the member handled apprehended shoplifters. Donald Trump could learn a lesson from the experiences of my members. Let’s explore.

There were basically three approaches employed by my members; two were abject failures. Some merchants would make the thief give back the purloined goods and ban them from the store. No disincentive to steal. If you get caught you merely give back what wasn’t yours in the first place. You didn’t get to shop there again but you were there to steal, not shop, anyway.

The second approach was to make them pay for what they stole; again, no real disincentive. By that reasoning why should you ever pay for anything at that store? If you made it out the door without paying it was free; if not you paid the going price.

The third approach was to have them arrested and in most cases prosecuted. The courts in that area were very lenient with shoplifters but at least you inconvenienced them. Arrested shoplifters never came back to the stores that had them arrested and the word got out on the streets quickly. I know I was in the third group. I never had a shoplifter sentence to jail but they never returned either; despite being in a fringe neighborhood and running a store with tons of inventory out in the open my shrinkage was minimal. Steal from me and you paid a price; go down the street and it was a free roll of the dice.

Last Friday President Trump confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin with allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Putin denied them and Trump appears to have accepted his denial or at least agreed to leave the past in the past and move on. He let the “shoplifter” go scot-free.

Furthermore, Trump apparently discussed and entertained the idea of entering into a joint commission to fight cyber meddling. I won’t waste my time piling on with another analogy. Even 2016 Clown Car members like Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina dismissed this insane idea.

A cynical man might think that Putin had something on Trump. A skeptical man might simply judge Trump to be stupid. A political savvy man might consider Trump to be ignorant. An experienced retailer might judge Trump to be incompetent. Color me several if not all of the above! Putin and Russian interference in our elections will be back again as long as Trump has his way. Here is a scary thought: We have to rely on Congress to punish Putin and probably over Trump’s veto. Thieves only stop when a disincentive is present.

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