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AITA for shoplifting to fight capitalism?
Is shoplifting an effective way to fight against corrupt corporations?
Welcome back to another week of AITA!
A Note from Jenna - Happy Lunar New Year!
One of my favorite times of the year is upon us….Lunar New Year! For those of you who celebrate, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday weekend. For those of you who do not, here is a bit of information on the holiday:
Lunar New Year is celebrated in Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It is one of the biggest and most important celebrations in China. While we in the U.S. celebrate the New Year on January 1st, the date of Lunar New Year varies, usually taking place late January or early February. This year it was celebrated on Sunday, January 22. Since Lunar years correspond with an animal of the Chinese Zodiac, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.
Being half-Chinese American (third generation) on my dad’s side, my family doesn’t celebrate the holiday as much as other Asian American families. My dad has always kept our traditions simple: dim sum, red envelopes, and Kung Fu Panda.
What are your Lunar New Year traditions? Drop them in the “newsletter-discush” text channel on Discord!
Getting on to more AITA content…
Go check out the latest podcast episode:
Keep reading for our usual GTV, AITA Everywhere, and Juice of the Week!
Guess the Verdict
OP and husband met when husband’s daughter was 16. OP and husband married after she went to college.
Stepdaughter has not visited home in 4 years.
3 years ago, OP rescued a macaw from an abusive home.
Since adopting the bird OP has not gone on any trips or vacations due to its reliance on routine and distrustful nature. OP loves the bird and says that they are “happy to make sacrifices for her.”
Stepdaughter is getting married in March. She is planning a huge wedding, and invited OP to visit and help plan the wedding.
OP declined and explained the parrot situation. Stepdaughter was upset.
Based on the title alone, YTA. After reading through the info, NAH. People who don’t own pets would see this as ridiculous, but pets are actually a big part of our lives. They give us something to care for and, in many cases, provide much-needed affection and company. It’s understandable to be anxious about leaving a pet, let alone a pet with trust issues due to an abusive past. It is also understandable that the stepdaughter would be insulted here.
Reddit Verdict: NTA.
“Question. Are you literally never going to leave the bird ever again? If so that is not healthy.” - Itsnotfull
“No - I am working up to her eventually being more independent, but it takes a long time to heal trauma with these birds. They have very strong memories and I’ve only recently reached a point where she’s finally becoming more comfortable.” - macawww345
Eh, I am all about people loving animals, but this just feels like too much for me. If you want to live in isolation in the woods with your parrot, fine, but if you’re going to engage with the world of humans and have a stepdaughter, I just feel like you’re doing yourself and her a disservice by giving a bird this level of frankly, codependence.
But first, the parrot.
In today’s world of “trauma,” it is easy to take our already aggressively psychologizing culture and remix it with some anthropomorphization AKA imbuing a PARROT with human attributes. Doubtless, parrots are amazing and sophisticated creatures. Some could be almost as cognitively capable as a 5-year-old. Fine. But please, the parrot will be OK. The parrot survived a whole lot worse than their primary caretaker being replaced briefly by someone else. The parrot may even thrive having now MORE examples of kind humans in their experience. OP is also free to slowly introduce the caretaker in the parrot’s life to gain trust. Let’s put an end to “what doesn’t kill you makes you grow weaker.” The parrot can do this.
I am going soft YTA here. Though, I’ll hot take it up: this is self-injury. To throw away an opportunity and a massive bid for closeness from your stepdaughter because of parrot codependency masquerading as “care” is harmful. Life is not filled with many such opportunities. Further, developing this caretaker relationship now will free up OP to go live life a little more. I’m sure parrots are wonderful pets and provide meaningful relationships, but anyone living such an isolated life even caring for another human being is neglecting themselves.
My Final Word:
OP went back later and wrote that they called their stepdaughter to talk things out. OP offered to help her plan the wedding via Zoom and other virtual platforms. Stepdaughter apologized and explained that she regretted not making an effort to have a closer relationship, and that she hadn’t wanted to accept a “replacement” mom, but she wants to be closer now.
For a second I had the same thought as Itsnotfull - at first, it seems unhealthy to refuse to leave the bird. However, like I said in my initial guess, pets are more meaningful than they are often given credit for being. That is a relationship that needs to be nurtured, and with this particular bird’s rough past it is important to build trust. I am glad that OP and stepdaughter were able to come to a compromise and see each others’ perspectives. Once again, NAH and it sounds like they resolved things well.
AITA for shoplifting to fight capitalism?
I personally do not shoplift. When I was in college I had several friends and classmates that shoplifted regularly. I noticed that more of them took it up between 2020 and 2021. Some started shoplifting because they wanted things they couldn’t afford. Some started for mere sport, stealing hundreds of dollars worth of clothing. One friend shoplifted Pokemon cards because he didn’t want to waste the $5. As 2020 went on, some began to view it as a sign of defiance against big corporations like Walmart and Target. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but I was curious and did some research. I found some interesting stuff…
According to FBI data there were about 835,000 shoplifters caught in 2020. In 2021 the number dropped to 548,000 (Deep Sentinel).
Over 10% of Americans shoplift, or have shoplifted at one point in their life (Shulman Center).
In addition to kleptomania, there is also shoplifting addiction.
In 2020, “Borrowing TikTok” became popular. On this side of TikTok, young people share haul videos and tips on how they are successful (Vice).
Many of the young shoplifters targeted big chain stores, believing that their theft would hurt the corporations behind them (Our Economy).
Recently, the Walmart CEO said that if shoplifting persisted at its current trend they would be forced to raise prices and close store locations (CNBC).
Shoplifting can reduce sales tax revenue, resulting in raised taxes (NASP).
The idea of fighting large corporations with major controversies is well-intended, but based on what I learned I don’t think that shoplifting is the way to do it. When businesses are hurt by shoplifting, their response is to raise prices and close stores - which is a pain for everyone else. When stores close the employees of those stores are out of work. I think boycotting those corporations is more ethical.
I have another show clip that I think of when I read through this info. How I Met Your Mother season 2, episode 6 (Aldrin Justice).
In the rest of the episode, Ted’s boss is angrily threatening to fire people if the thief doesn’t come forward. It’s not an exact comparison, but it’s the same story: stealing for the sake of revenge causes more trouble than meets the eye.
That being said, stealing for the sake of justice and stealing for the sake of feeding your family are two very different things. Let’s have a little Les Miserables discussion moment here. In Les Mis, Jean Valjean steals bread to feed his sister’s starving family, is arrested and jailed, and struggles to find work for the rest of his life. The reason I bring this up is that in this scenario, Jean Valjean is “shoplifting” for the survival of his sister’s children and there’s no way he’s TA for that.
The friends I had who were struggling to put themselves through college and shoplifted things they needed - toiletries, underwear, etc. I am more understanding of than stealing Pokemon cards. I think that if you are not in desperate need and have money to spare, YTA for shoplifting.
Now, the teenagers and young adults who were convinced to shoplift as a blow to capitalism…I’m going to say a soft NTA. Being convinced that shoplifting is fine and ultimately would lead to the downfall of bad people does not necessarily make you TA. However, hopefully as these people learn more about the impact they’re really having they stop and reevaluate their actions.
I appreciate Jenna’s perspective and I agree with a lot of her points. Chronic shoplifting can lead to policies, shortages, and even closings that we all hate to see. I don’t think anyone is going to accept the spin that stealing Pokemon cards is a political statement or activism. Totally ridiculous!
That said, so often this conversation fixates solely on how people steal from corporations instead of how corporations steal from people— they do!
Some estimates put the annual amount stolen by corporations through wage theft at $15 billion. Why isn’t that a headline? Well those don’t sell newspapers like armed robbery, and they don’t win political campaigns based on fear-mongering— yet wage theft hurts individuals far more directly than stealing from a big box store.
The narratives and stats around shoplifting vary, including a classic right wing narrative that crime is wildly on the rise, but The Atlantic does a great job in declawing this tale of shoplifting woe which makes the point that calculating how much shoplifting is going isn’t so straightforward. Here’s one stat though:
“The NRF’s '[National Retail Federation] estimate of how much organized retail crime contributes to shrink [loss from holding inventory] is $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales, or $0.07 for every $100.”
Cry me a river.
I don’t think shoplifting is acceptable behavior just like I don’t think it’s acceptable to spit on the floor in a Targé or a Wally World, but the idea that this is a major problem or that these stores are being ravaged is largely the result of political song and dance.
And not like a good song, like All Star, a creepy one like God Bless The USA.
Crime is one of the tall tales of American folklore. It’s partly the myth that poor, entitled and lazy people would rather steal than work, a key component of a broader narrative which has poor white people hating “welfare queens” and other receivers of “handouts.” Strangely, the people being hated for these reasons are usually minorities or low income folks, not the corporations benefitting from $170 billion dollars in subsidies in 2021.
CRIME is a powerful tool: it provokes fear, outrage, and moral self-righteousness. It perpetuates the powerful meme of “rugged individualism” where people convince themselves they did it all on their lonesome (but those minorities cheated!). And it gives Repubs one of their classic plays, “tough on crime.”
Should one steal Pokemon cards from Walmart? I don’t think so. But if we’re seriously asking ourselves “is it OK for a mother to steal bread from Walmart?” I think we need to zoom out and ask why anyone would risk so much for so little in the richest country ever.
It’s the society around the shoplifting that makes me queasy.
Nonetheless, AITA for shoplifting to fight capitalism? YTA. Please don’t rebrand petty theft as activism. If you want to fight the ills of capitalism, you’re simply going to have to do far more meaningful damage.