They have a high class of looter in Philly these days.
On Tuesday evening a huge group of youths ransacked multiple stores in the city.
They attacked Foot Locker and Apple (obviously).
But they also broke into and ransacked the local branch of Lululemon.
Yoga Moms everywhere will be appalled.
And while looting can never be condoned, I must admit that I feel like the high end sports-clothing store had it coming to them.
Let me explain.
But first I must admit to my great shame that I have been to a Lululemon store.
Worse, I actually bought one of their comfortable but overpriced work-out hoodies.
There, I’ve admitted it.
And now I’ve got that out of my system I can say why I wouldn’t go back.
At the store in Manhattan, as I was shopping another “customer” was going along the racks using the old five-finger discount.
In fact he was just walking around the store pulling clothes off the racks and throwing them over his arm.
He had collected a huge pile of stuff.
Probably thousands of dollars worth of clothing.
Since he was the only other person in the store I asked the nice girl behind the counter why nobody was doing anything about this.
She said that there was not much they could do.
The man in question was black, but fortunately so was the security guard who finally came over to him.
What followed was apparently company policy, but was bizarre to watch.
“C’mon man” was the most the security guard said.
At which point the shoplifter started saying “Are you disrespecting me?”
Interesting how much respect the modern thief can feel entitled to.
After some while the man did put most of the clothes down and eventually left.
I asked the staff why they hadn’t call the police.
It seemed to be company policy to just let these things go.
Not worth the hassle.
Then in May two female Lululemon employees at a store in Atlanta faced the same problem.
They actually called the cops on three masked men who pillaged the store.
Video showed the men grabbing fistfuls of clothes.
“No, no, no, you can march back out. Seriously — get out” the assistant manager said.
The looters turned out to have raided the store almost a dozen times before.
“Chill, bitch, shut your ass up,” said one of the thieves.
As it happened, calling the police was a good move, because the suspects were later received felony robbery charges.
But how were the two female employees rewarded?
Given a bonus?
Appalauded for their bravery?
No — in fact they were fired.
At no point did they try to physically stop the thieves.
They didn’t manhandle or abuse them.
They simply reported them to the police.
And that seems to have been enough.
One of the fired employees later explained, “We are not supposed to get in the way. You kind of clear [the] path for whatever they’re going to do. And then it´s over. You scan a QR code. And that’s that . . . We’re not supposed to call the police, not really supposed to talk about it.”
Lululemon isn’t the only company in this country which has taken this completely lax approach to its own stock and employees.
Nevermind its profit margin.
I have lost count of the number of stores in this city where workers tell me they are actively told to not get in the way of shoplifters.
Sometimes the stories make headlines.
Over the summer an employee who had worked for 13 years at a Lowe’s in Georgia attempted to stop some shoplifters.
The 68-year old woman was punched in the face by one of the suspects.
And her reward?
She was fired by her employers.
This same past summer an employee at a Kings Soopers in Colorado was fired by his employers for filming some shoplifters.
Something which is apparently in violation of company policy.
Perhaps it risks intruding on the privacy of the criminal?
So it isn’t only Lululemon.
But after I heard about the Atlanta case I thought “Right, that’s it. I have bought my last overpriced Lululemon top. They are going to have to do without my custom from now on.”
Not a decision that will make a huge dent to their bottom line.
But a small expression of principle.
Law and order seems to me an important thing.
Call me old-fashioned.
But if one part of the pact breaks down all hell can follow.
It’s one thing that people want to steal.
But for businesses not to mind being stolen from?
When on earth has that ever happened before?
In any sane society?
There was an outbreak of pro-looting sentiment a few years ago.
After the summer of 2020 certain left-wing radicals could be found saying that it was a matter of “redistribution” or even “reparations.”
There was even a book published called “In Defense of Looting.”
I saw a huge pile of copies in the Strand bookstore, off Union Square, just as that store was begging customers to bail it out from a financial hole.
I asked one of the staff if she’d mind if I just took a copy.
Strangely she did.
It seemed you couldn’t loot “In Defense of Looting.”
But while bookshops famously rarely get looted, a lot of people got the message that looting in general is OK.
And no wonder.
It is the message that stores like Lululemon give out every day.
That looting and robbery are just fine.
And that if people take stuff then that’s all just fine and dandy.
That’s why I couldn’t shed a tear for Lululemon when I watched footage of a rampaging mob breaking into their Philadelphia store on Tuesday evening.
It was the logical, organized endpoint of a decision that companies like them have stupidly made.
Perhaps these high-end stores think they can survive this situation.
Perhaps they think the insurance will keep bailing them out.
Or they can just keep factoring in the costs.
The problem is that as a city — and a society — we can’t.