Crime and Safety

Woman Arrested for What She Allegedly Did at Walmart Self-Checkout

If you’re going to steal from a self-checkout lane, don’t try it at Walmart.

Actually, you probably shouldn’t try it at all. But if you’re just dead-set on becoming a felon, my advice is: Do it somewhere else.

Police said 34-year-old TeddyJo Marie Fliam was spotted in July by a Walmart loss prevention worker skipping items in the self-checkout lane at a store in Northern Michigan’s Alpena County.

When the worker confronted her, she “became agitated, denied it, and left,” according to WJBK.

She was arrested for first-degree retail fraud at her home in Alpena on Sept. 29, after the employee reviewed surveillance footage and discovered that Fliam had used the same technique to make off with more than $1,000 in Walmart merchandise from April through July.

First-degree retail fraud is a felony in Michigan, “punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine” according to the state legislature’s website.

She was scheduled to be arraigned on the single charge last Tuesday in the 88th District Court in Alpena.

According to WJBK, the same Walmart store has been “cracking down” on the practice of skipping items in self-checkout lanes, and at least two arrests had previously been made of individuals accused of switching out barcodes, according to Michigan State Police.

Walmart began using cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor  its self-checking customers three years ago, WFIN reported.

Do you use the self-checkout?

“Walmart is making a true investment to ensure the safety of our customers and associates,” a Walmart spokesperson said in 2019 when the system, known as Missed Scan Detection, was implemented. “Over the last three years, the company has invested over half a billion dollars in an effort to prevent, reduce and deter crime in our stores and parking lots. We are continuously investing in people, programs and technology to keep our stores and communities safe.”

In other words, if you’re going to try this scheme, Walmart probably isn’t the establishment to target.

The problem with this sort of theft is that it can seem almost innocent. Who was Fliam hurting with her $1,000 grift? The retail giant made $573 billion in fiscal year 2022.

Yes, I know — she’s charged with stealing “at least” $1,000. Spare me your emails, please. But even if she stole 10 times that much, it would still be a rounding error on the megacorporation’s books.

Of course, Fliam isn’t alone — it’s been reported that Walmart loses up to 1 percent of its total revenue to theft, both by customers and employees. Still, who cares?

We do. Or we should, anyway. Do we expect Walmart’s shareholders to just eat those losses? Of course not — they pass them off to consumers, you and me, in the form of price increases.

You’ve heard of Walmart’s price rollbacks, right? Think of this as a price roll-up.

You and I may not end up paying for Fliam’s theft — one hopes that the justice system will require her to pay restitution to the company as part of her sentencing, assuming she’s found guilty of the crime.

But we pay for the theft of the thousands of other Fliams out there, the ones who don’t get caught. And not just at Walmart, either — every retailer suffers losses due to theft, and every one of them has to jack up its prices to cover those losses.

In fact, given President Joe Biden’s terrible economy and the Democrats’ overall soft-on-crime approach, you and I are probably going to be paying even more as theft increases.

So, if you’re going to steal, I guess all I can do is encourage you to do it somewhere I don’t shop. The Gap, maybe, or Whole Foods. Either of those would be fine.

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