One morning while having breakfast my wife asked me what I thought of the comic which had been discussing the issue of shoplifting. I asked her what comic she was referring to, and she said “Curtis”. While I was familiar with the comic, I told her it was not one that I read on a consistent daily basis. For those not familiar with the strip “Curtis”, it is described as follows by www.comicskingdom.com: “Curtis details the day-to-day life of a close-knit contemporary African- American family living in the inner city. It is a comic work that does not fit easily in any category. Though it mainly features children, it is not necessarily “child-themed.” It can be humorous, thought-provoking, topical in subject and have bursts of pure zany fantasy.” I asked my wife what she thought of the strip and she was a little hesitant and said I should read the strip for myself to decide.
From October 12 thru 20, 2017 the strip dealt with the issue of shoplifting. I first read the strip containing the shoplifting topic on Saturday October 14, where Curtis (a teen) was thinking his friend Michelle, also a teen (from a very wealthy family), was a kleptomaniac because she had been stealing since they came into the store. So far she had stashed six blouses in her bag, was wearing a stolen hat, left her old shoes and put a new pair on, and was wearing a new jacket. As she headed to the exit where a guard was standing, Curtis thought to himself “he’ll arrest her if I don’t do something!”, and the strip ended for the day. I asked my wife what the previous day’s strip included and she said the first day the two entered the store together and the girl (Michelle) stated she loved a bag she saw and simply tore off the price tag and threw it on the floor. Curtis observed her behavior and had a puzzled look on his face. Then my wife stated the next day the girl removed a price ticket from a shirt and put it in her bag stating she loved the designer shirt and it fit so nicely inside the bag she had picked-up. Curtis thought to himself, is this girl a thief?
I told my wife hopefully the comic strip was using this as a teaching moment to inform the reading public about the serious issue of shoplifting. As we looked forward to the next strip and how they planned to finish covering the shoplifting issue, we were disappointed on October 15th to find the Sunday comic was not related to the weekly strip as the topic was about family finances and not shoplifting. On Monday October 16th the strip picked-up from Saturday and it had Curtis recalling what had happened to date in the store and thinking Michelle will get busted for sure by the security guard at the door. Instead, she stopped and took a selfie at the door with the guard and Curtis thought to himself “Gotta admire her chutzpah!”. So we wait another day to find out if Michelle gets busted for shoplifting or something else happens. On Oct 17th and 18th the strips start with Curtis thinking he must do something to keep Michelle from getting arrested for shoplifting. So he goes up to the guard as Michele is about to exit the store and tells him his sister ain’t playing with a full deck and whispers to Michelle to play along. Michelle tells Curtis he is embarrassing her and Curtis relies he does not want her to be charged with shoplifting. In the last panel Michelle yells “SHOPLIFITNG?!” I interpreted it as ‘what do you mean I’m shoplifting – that’s not what I’m doing’.
In the last two days of the strip (Oct 19th and 20th), Curtis is talking to his father explaining what happened by stating “It was her store – Her father bought it for her because she wanted one.” Then Curtis went on to say “I thought Michelle was shoplifting, but you can’t shoplift from a store if you own the store!” The comic ended with Curtis explaining the security guard was laughing so hard he tripped and hit his head on a mannequin and had to be taken to the emergency room. Wow, what a disappointing ending and a lost opportunity to educated the readers on the seriousness of shoplifting and the many ramifications of this crime.
Really, how many people own a store and pull price tags off items and conceal them while in the store. In some jurisdictions, concealment is considered intent and that is enough to be held civilly liable for shoplifting. While the comic strip kind of makes fun of shoplifting, there is nothing funny about it. According to the 2017 National Retail Security Survey, 36.5% of the almost $49 billion lost to shrinkage annually was attributed to shoplifting; that is almost $18 billion a year. They also report the average shoplifting case value to be just shy of $800. Using the $18 billion annually, shoplifting accounts for $49 million a day, $2 million an hour, and $34,000 every minute of the day! In addition, shoplifting not only affects the individual committing the crime, it also drives up the price of merchandise sold to the public; reduces local taxes collected for the lost sale of the merchandise; adds to a retailer’s loss prevention expenses; strains the local police departments handling these incidents; and burdens the court system, among other issues.
There was such a great opportunity in this comic strip to educated the public on the severity of shoplifting, how shoplifting affects not only the thief but also the retailer, police, courts, consumers, etc. It was a wasted opportunity to teach instead of making fun of the shoplifting issue. $
(Note: The comic strip Bizarro ran a comic on 11/22/17 which pictured two Hobos standing by a burning trash can keeping warm. One of them had 5 shoe boxes under his arms and was saying “I cried because I had no shoes, until I happened upon a big shoe store with only one employee and no security cameras.” Another unsuccessful attempt at humor at the expense of shoplifting.)