The Secret Broker: Shoplifting? I didn’t think she was strong enough…
The Secret Broker
The Secret Broker
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After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.
An interesting week this week, with 10-year bonds nudging 4.30% in their yield and the two big supermarkets reporting their profits.
Seeing as I don’t read anything but news on listed companies and global markets, I was intrigued by some of the stats that popped out in their reportings.
If the relatively risk-free offering of government-backed bonds gives you a yield of over 4%, then pressure is going to be put on ‘higher risk’ valuations because their risk/reward ratio starts to deteriorate, when the two are compared.
The interesting stats that popped up were the ones related to ‘slippage’ as the spin doctors call it or to us more common people, plain old-fashioned shoplifting.
Over in America, the ‘slippage’ figures are worse than over here in their size, with Walmart stating that their thefts were costing them U$3bn a year, whereas Target (America) have predicted theirs to be over $1bn.
Target, $TGT, just reported that they will lose an additional $500 million to theft this year when compared to 2022.
In 2022, they lost $650 million to theft, meaning this year’s theft will exceed $1 billion.
Also in 2022, Walmart lost nearly $3 billion to theft leading to…
— The Kobeissi Letter (@KobeissiLetter) May 17, 2023
In the last reporting season over here, Coles admitted that their slippage rate had lifted 20% from last year and all Woolworths would admit is that pilfering of healthcare items such as razor blades, skincare and electric toothbrushes is on the rise.
Well, we don’t want smelly thieves standing next to us at the checkout now, do we?
So, all these self serve checkouts seem to be passing on the wrong inflation-fuelled message and maybe they should be called ‘help yourself’ checkouts.
Both Coles and Woolies basically have the same equipment, which works on weight rather than the physical items.
I remember overhearing a conversation in the pub, where one bloke was boasting to the other on how he games these help-yourself checkouts.
He would get a leg of lamb and a bag of carrots, put them both down on the right hand side of the self-serve machine and then pick them both up at the same time making sure that only the carrots barcode scans, before then putting both items down on the left hand side.
As the weight was the same on both sides, he would quickly pay and leave with his lamb and carrots, having paid the grand sum of $1.00 for both items.
The difference would then be invested in schooners of beer before arriving home to the wife with the shopping and the proper amount of (real) change. She would be none the wiser and he would be two sheets to the wind.
Now that’s what I call a victimless crime!
Later on, I remember reading somewhere, that a supermarket managed to sell more bags of carrots than they actually held in stock. I think they called it the ‘Bugs Bunny Heist’ or something like that.
It turns out that following further research, what normally starts out as an honest mistake in one shop, becomes an easy-to-get-away-with habit.
The researchers found out that shoppers would not consider it shoplifting but “in fact behaviour such as the carrot trick is often referred to as cheating rather than stealing, a means of gamifying an otherwise mundane or pedestrian experience.”
When I was explaining all of this to Mrs B over a Sunday roast, (you guessed it, lamb, carrots and all the trimmings – full price paid) she looked at me, horrified.
When I jokingly told her that I was going to get the barcode of a bag of carrots tattooed on my right hand, so I could scan a leg of lamb without even needing the carrots, she cut me off from second helpings, in disgust.
My joke was nothing like what would actually go on in our local Tesco’s when we were in the UK. Over there, people would just fill up a whole shopping trolley and run as fast as they could for the door.
Gareth, the prop forward from our rugby club, was the manager there and as soon as a secret code ‘phone call for Mrs Jones’ was casually announced over the tannoy, his job was to then drop whatever he was doing and run as fast as he could and rugby tackle the shopping trolley before it left the store.
Often they would have a van with a getaway driver lined up and ready to go.
He reckoned that this would happen at least twice a week and they knew that if it was a Sunday, Gareth was too hungover from the night before to even bother!
When the price of bananas once hit $13 a kilo on some shortage, our local IGA stuck a sign on their door, declaring that ‘no cash or bananas are left on the premises overnight’.
Now it just says ‘don’t even think about it’ as they have now added iron bars to the doors.
Apparently, in America, the local gangs have worked out that shoplifting is a low priority to the cops, so they steal what they can from Kmart and then offer it on Facebook marketplace as an unwanted gift, still in its box.
When I woke up one day and someone had removed the number plates from the Jag (big night – left in car park – taxi home) the police told me that they would probably be used in a petrol heist.
I told the policeman that I would be most upset if they were used to steal a tank full of ‘that e10 rubbish’ and ‘not the premium 98, that those plates deserve’.
He wasn’t amused and neither was I when I found out that the RTA sells you a new set of plates without any screws, so you need another car to drive to Bunnings in first.
You can feel the shadow of a consultant coming up with this brilliant cost-saving idea.
Going back to the help-yourself checkouts, I notice that ALDI don’t seem to use them yet, though I’m sure no one wants to steal from the middle aisle (they even had a toilet seat in the middle aisle last week), just like no one will steal any of the plant-based meats from Woolies or Coles.
I always go through the checkout aisle, as in my mind, it will keep someone employed, though in future years I can see everything being automatic, without any humans involved.
Amazon now lets you pay with the palm of your hand in their peopleless stores, so you don’t even need to bring your phone or wallet with you.
Will be interesting to see what happens when you then next shake hands with a freemason or give someone a high five.
Lastly though, I note that not even the RBA can get their own staff to accept a 10.5% pay rise. They have rejected this amount as it is too low, blaming the high inflation for their rejection.
All I could think about is that they either have not heard about the old carrot/leg of lamb trick… or they know something about inflation that we don’t.
I suspect it is the latter.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.