grocery theft canada

Canadians are now stealing overpriced food from grocery stores with zero remorse

If you can't beat them, join them. If you can't join them because you weren't born into an excessively wealthy family, eat them. If you can't eat them (the rich) because they're people and that's illegal, steal from them. And then brag about it on Twitter.

This is my loose understanding of the thought pattern behind a marked increase in social media users proudly declaring for all the world to see that they've been shoplifting from major Canadian grocery stores (or supporting those who do so) in retaliation against rampant "greedflation."

Have we finally hit the point where shopliting from oligarch-owned supermarkets has become a socially-acceptable crime? Like jaywalking? Or sneaking into an R-rated movie when you're only 14?

I can't answer that, but I can tell you that consumers are starting to lose patience as grocery prices rise far beyond the rate of inflation while corporate giants pull in record profits.

Some are so fed up with this bullsh*t, it seems, that they're willing to risk criminal charges (theft under $5,000) to stick it to the system... or, you know, avoid starvation.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, a frequent media commentator and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Halifax's Dalhousie University, reported this week that, while grocery theft "has always been a major problem" for the industry, it is now "worse than before" after more than a year of price hikes due to (or under the guise of) inflation.

"According to some industry data, an average-sized food retail store in Canada can have between $2,000 and $5,000 worth of groceries stolen per week," he wrote in a piece published Jan. 10.

"With the relatively narrow profit margins in grocery, this amount is huge. To cover losses, grocers need to raise prices, so in the end, we all pay for grocery theft."

With the average family of four expected to spend more than $16,000 on groceries this year — roughly $1,066 more (or seven per cent) than they did in 2022 —  and food bank use spiking to new all-time highs, some might argue that Canadians are already paying dearly for "grocery theft" of a different kind.

"Galen Weston and his family are thieves who have profiteered for decades, and if you think it's wrong to steal food (product insured for loss) in order to survive... you're a clown," wrote one Twitter user of the trend this week.

"If you're too poor to afford food and the government doesn't give you any options, taking food from a corporate grocery chain to survive doesn't sound like THEFT to me," wrote another, inspiring a now-viral response from Charlebois himself.

"You think it is appropriate to shoplift while grocery shopping, just because you think food prices are too high? Crazy," wrote Charlebois when retweeting the author of the aforementioned tweet, who had been responding to another reponse on his recent grocery theft article.

Since they went live around 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, these words from the professor have now been viewed more than 6.2 million times, soliciting more than 4,300 replies but less than 1,000 likes.

The majority of people commenting on the thread appear to disagree strongly with the assertion that shoplifting from grocery stores right now is "crazy," as Charlebois put it.

"You think it's appropriate to raise food prices while people starve? Crazy," replied one Twitter user.

"I dunno, boss," wrote another. "I think suggesting that people should starve rather than take what they need from the billion dollar corporations ain't gonna get people on your side."

Many appear to be of the mind right now that shoplifting is an appropriate response to what's been happening with grocery prices in Canada, and that consumers should avoid ratting on those who steal, as they may be in a desperate situation.

Others are going after Charlebois personally, decrying him as a shill for Galen Weston's Loblaw Companies Ltd. and surfacing how much money he makes per year (a lot.)

"On the one hand, people who are starving. On the other hand, grocery chains making record profits," wrote one person in response to the professor's viral tweet.

"Takes a real dork *ss loser to take the side of the grocery chains."

Many debates are now raging within the thread about the merits of capitalism, human rights, corporate greed, excessive food waste and who, exactly, is the bad guy in all of this.

"Laws are created to serve wealthy and/or powerful and in this case do nothing to protect most vulnerable," wrote a Toronto-based doctor in response to Charlebois.

"Charging a poor person who steals food for survival does nothing to address poverty and reinforces wealth of those who exploited pandemic to steal from all of us."

Many retweeting the thread are including the phrase "if you see someone shoplifting, no you didn't," to express how they feel about reporting these crimes under current circumstances.

Compassionate as many Canadians may be, it's important to note that shoplifting is a federal offence, punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada with fines of up to $2,000 and potential jail time.

The fact that more people than ever are willing to risk landing this charge to put food on their tables is, perhaps, something worth paying more attention to — and doing something about — than Galen Weston's potential profit losses.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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