I am in the local CVS, one of the many near-monopolies, retailing everything from pharmaceuticals to fizzy drink. I have bought some milk, and scan the carton, cost $2.67. A total of $38.97 shows up on the screen. While accustomed to price gouging this is, nevertheless, mildly surprising. I find one of the few, increasingly elusive, staff.
“Look what your machine is trying to charge me for a pitiful little carton of milk!”
Says she, looking not in the least surprised, “This is happening all the time.”
“It looks as if somebody scanned their items, didn’t like the look of the price, and walked out with the items without paying.”
“You’re right, Sir. As I say it’s happening all the time.”
“You mean several times a day?”
“Oh, yes, We can’t keep an eye on everyone.”
Should we be dismayed by the unethical and dishonest people who walk out without paying? Yes. Should we sympathize with the company? No! They account for theft in their pricing. To put it another way, the honest guys are subsidising the dishonest ones. Big companies are not particularly bothered by theft, or “wastage” as it is called. Epicurus would advocate for more humans behind check-out counters, and retirement for price scanners. It wouldn’t stop mistakes and inaccurate payments, but it would provide more employment at least.