The impact of shoplifting, boosters, or employee theft can have on the Black community is critical. Whether a community grows or not is dependent on the success or failure of the businesses in that community. And theft whether we believe it or not has a great impact on the success of those businesses.

Having worked retail for nearly 15 years as a store manager of one of the largest electronic chains in the country, as well as owning my own business, I understand the impact of theft.

Contrary to popular belief, only robbery is covered by insurance. Theft, or what most call shoplifting by customers or employees, is not covered. It comes straight off the profits, which comes out of the company’s profits, and the manager’s pocket.

I hate to say it, but most White managers didn’t want stores in the Black community or near these communities because of the high theft.

It’s the manager’s job to be able to spot potential shoplifters, and tactfully stop them. This means knowing your store and what’s in it. If something comes up missing, you should be the first to recognize it.

I must admit that I was surprised at how many young Black males had no problem stealing; and how many would approach me as an Uncle Tom because I didn’t just let them take what they wanted from the White man. My response to them was, “the White man is paying me to protect his goods, what are you going to do for me and my family when I get fired for letting you take merchandise out without paying for it.” They would look at me with a dumb look.

This should be the same question asked by Hill employees when thieves try to get them to help them steal from the grocery store.  

What happened at the old Phoenix Hill SHOP ‘n SAVE when the thieves and employees stole them blind and right out of business cannot be allowed to happen at the new Hill SHOP ‘n SAVE. Kudos to the barbershop owner who stood up to the Booster who tried to sell stolen meat from the store.

Hopefully it’s a signal to the rest of the community to stop buying stolen goods, because you don’t know when it will be you.

Yes, many Blacks for some reason have no problem buying stolen goods, but are the first to talk about the problems of living in the Black community. A person who buys stolen property is no better than the person stealing it. If there were no market, then there would be little to no theft.  Most theft occurs because there’s a market for the items stolen.  They know they can sell the merchandise. Very few people steal because they are hungry and need food, because if they did they wouldn’t be selling it on the streets.

In order for these thieves to have as much meat as they are selling on the streets, an employee or employees have to be involved.  Because no way is someone going to walk out the front door with that much meat unnoticed.

Number two, anytime large quantities of meat or anything else are pulled off the displays it should be noticed by any good employee or manager, and a search should begin. One of the top priorities of the new store management has to be detecting and stopping customer and employee theft.

This more than anything else will determine whether this store is going to be successful or not. Why? Because this store will get the customer volume to have outstanding gross profits, but theft will cut directly into the net profits. Once something is stolen, there’s no way to replace it. It’s gone. 100 percent gone.  Which leads to everything else having to be marked up to make up for the stolen items.  Neither the manufacture nor the owner is going to take it out of their pockets—the store takes the hit. And if it continues to take the hits to the point when the profits are no longer there, then what do you think is going to happen. The store closes.

SHOP ‘n SAVE in other communities will continue to prosper, but the one in the community that allows a few employees, and shoppers to get away with stealing, by looking the other way or helping, will be without a grocery store, or any other businesses.

We talk about conquering poverty; well the only way to do that is through business. Why? Because businesses employ people, and businesses grow only if we support them. If the Black community is going to grow then we have to make sure businesses can grow in our communities, and that outlining communities feel safe employing Black people.  But why should suburban businesses employ us if businesses in our own communities are not safe, or supported by us?

I give kudos to those who stood up to the Boosters this time, but I also issue a challenge to the Hill District and surrounding communities who will shop at this store, to say to the thieves, that we are not going to allow you to run this business out of our community. We are going to stand firm in support of the many people who are being employed by this store, and the many more to come if this store is successful.

Only the community can make this store a success. Not the police, not the storeowner, only the community. Not only by supporting it by shopping there, but by “Standing Your Ground” against thieves by letting everyone know that they are the minority, not the norm. And that you will not tolerate them in your community.  

This is a showcase for the entire country.

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.) 



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