Each year, Walmart loses about 1% of its total projected revenue to shoplifting.
A series of 2015 reports famously stated that this translates to $3 billion of total revenue loss per year for the retail giant. However, Walmart’s annual revenue has doubled since 2015 from about $300 billion to $600 billion per year. This means that, despite a lack of official reports, it’s very likely that Walmart is losing closer to $6 billion per year to shoplifting in 2023.
This might explain why reports of Walmart closing stores all over the country have continued to crop up in the news in recent months.
According to a 2015 report from The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Walmart in Cincinnati’s Westwood neighborhood is the most shoplifted Walmart store in the country. Even so, all Walmart stores lose at least $60k per year to shoplifters.
Are shoplifters taking down Walmart one small theft at a time?
Most Commonly Stolen Items At Walmart
Many sources across the web, including this Business Insider article, have reported on the most commonly stolen items at Walmart.
The following is a list of the ten most commonly stolen product categories at Walmart.
- Lipstick and lipgloss
- Mascara and eyeliner
- Hair dye
2) Small electronics and accessories
- Smart phones
- Phone cases
- Hot Wheels
- Pokemon cards
- Yu-Gi-Oh cards
- Magic the Gathering cards
4) Over-the-counter medication
- Pain relievers
- Stool softeners and laxatives
- Pet medication
- Packaged meat
- Baby food
- Deli food
- Noodle packets
6) Intimate items
- Pregnancy tests
- Sex toys
7) Apparel and accessories
- Hand bags
9) Office supplies
- Pens and pencils
- Sticky notes
- Paper clips
10) Home essentials
- Laundry detergent
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
As you can tell, most of these items are small in size and can easily be concealed in pockets and shopping bags. Some shoppers might steal simply by pocketing items as they move through the store, while others might go through the self checkout line to pay for a couple of items while pocketing other items from their basket or cart.
How Walmart Detects & Tracks Stolen Items
Because shoplifting is such a big issue for Walmart, they have an extensive security and loss prevention system in place to prevent as much theft as possible.
Some of Walmart’s loss prevention tactics include:
- Security tags and labels (RFID tags, AutoPeg tags, and magnetic labels)
- Surveillance cameras throughout all stores
- Door alarms triggered by security labels
- Plainclothes security staff
- Armed security guards
On top of these preventative measures, Walmart also tracks customers who are caught shoplifting, attempting to shoplift, or who are suspected of shoplifting.
In fact, Walmart tracks all shoppers who request refunds for items without receipts, as this is one of the key ways to identify Walmart shoplifters. Many shoplifters steal merchandise, then attempt to return it in exchange for cash.
Walmart has a zero tolerance shoplifting policy, meaning that anyone caught or suspected of shoplifting at a Walmart store is subject to questioning or detainment by local authorities.
What Happens If You Get Caught Stealing?
The first thing to know about Walmart’s shoplifting policy is that Walmart associates, cashiers, and salespeople are not allowed to stop, apprehend, or detain suspected shoplifters.
However, salaried managers as well as Walmart’s dedicated security staff (also known as Asset Protection Associates or Loss Prevention Associates) are allowed to stop and detain suspected shoplifters until authorities arrive. Hourly associates are allowed to report shoplifting activity to managers or APAs as long as they witnessed the behavior firsthand.
What happens when you get caught stealing from Walmart depends on a variety of factors. Each Walmart store is unique and will respond slightly differently to suspected shoplifters.
Things that could happen to a Walmart shoplifter include…
- You could receive a warning
- You could be temporarily banned from Walmart
- You could be permanently banned from Walmart
- You could get charged with misdemeanor shoplifting
- You could get charged with felony shoplifting
If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you could face anywhere from six months to several years in prison depending on the laws in your state, and you could also face up to $10,000 in fines.
Factors that determine your consequences as a shoplifter include…
- Your age
- How much you stole or attempted to steal
- If you have been caught stealing before
- Your state of residence and/or the state in which you attempted to shoplift (if different)
- Your Walmart employment status
If you are caught stealing from Walmart as a Walmart employee, you will likely be terminated. If you are fired for shoplifting, you will not be able to get a job at any other Walmart location.
If Walmart Calls 911
If you have been detained and/or if Walmart’s security cameras catch you stealing, Walmart will most likely call 911 and expect you to wait until the police arrive. Technically speaking, Walmart employees (regardless of position) are not allowed to touch suspected shoplifters. However, there are plenty of stories of physical altercations breaking out between shoplifters and Walmart security guards. Walmart staff is also not technically allowed to follow suspected shoplifters into a bathroom.
While it might come as a shock, it’s important to be aware that Walmart employs armed security guards. Not every APA at Walmart carries a gun, but some Walmart security guards are armed. Unfortunately, Walmart security guards have shot and injured shoplifters in the past. In 2021, a shoplifter named Alexander Richard Yell was shot three times by a Walmart security guard in Kennewick, Washington.
As a first-time offender, if you are caught stealing less than $25 worth of merchandise from Walmart, you will not be charged and Walmart will not involve the authorities. However, up to the discretion of the management, you may be banned from that Walmart location for as little as one day or potentially for life.
If you are caught stealing more than $25 worth of items and/or if you have been caught shoplifting previously, there is a high likelihood that Walmart will press charges against you. Once the authorities are involved, you will likely be arrested and charged with misdemeanor or felony shoplifting depending on how much you attempted to steal.
While shoplifting laws and definitions vary from state to state, felony shoplifting is typically defined as stealing $750 or more worth of merchandise. If you are caught stealing between $25 and $750 worth of merchandise, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor.
Again, these definitions and charges can vary widely from state to state, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws in your area. In some places, felony shoplifting can carry hefty prison sentences as well as up to $10,000 in fines. Even misdemeanor shoplifting charges can carry jail time in some states.
Will you go to court for stealing from Walmart?
Not necessarily. Consequences for shoplifting vary depending on where you live, how much you stole, and the discretion of Walmart’s management.
Does Walmart know if you return a stolen item for cash?
Not necessarily. However, Walmart tracks people who request refunds without receipts. If your track record gives Walmart reason to suspect you might be returning stolen goods, you will be banned from requesting any further refunds.
What is the number one shoplifted item in America?
Meat. Of all the retail items available on the US market, packaged meat is the most shoplifted product across the board.