Employee thieving at a discount chain store

Kmart worker Karl recounts his employment in the late 70s and early 80s, with his and his co-workers' unofficial way of supplementing their wages.

Submitted by Steven. on October 16, 2009

Working at Kmart was your typical teenage shit job. The job was boring. Everyone who worked there hated being there; it was drudgery. The aspect that was really depressing was seeing people who had families work there, making the same amount as a teenager. It was sad to see people support their kids on shit wages. I don't think any employee, except for upper management, made more than $15,000 a year.

The day after Christmas, 1979, the store laid off a lot of people, even people who had been working there longer than I had. To get even with the company, I started stealing.

The first things I took were two music cassettes that were in the stock room. I stuck them in my sock and walked out. When I got into the appliance department I gave my friends discounts on batteries and cassette tapes. Everything was minor until I was moved into the camera and jewelry department where I was under a lot of pressure. I couldn't take it anymore. I knew that other people were taking stuff but everyone was really quiet about it. I had a friend come in and I gave him a shopping bag filled with six Minolta and Pentax cameras -- about $400 each -- and a couple cases of film. I charged him $1.99, which was the price of some batteries. I made sure that I stapled a long receipt onto his bag. Then two security guards walked up and we engaged them in a twenty minute discussion about shoplifting. Later, my friend walked out the front door. After that, it was easy.

I was transferred to building materials, where I had access to a large garage door. My friend had a big car and we loaded it up with garage door openers and ceiling fans. At Kmart they only went by department sales -- they didn't have I.D. numbers like other big stores -- so they didn't know what item was being sold. We could sell a load of plywood and the company would think we had sold a load of garage door openers. My friend would go out and sell the stuff and we would split the profit. We did this three or four times a week. I think we stole close to $100,000 worth of merchandise. We wouldn't give a second thought to leaving the shelf empty, and when we ran out we would order more. I told some of the people who worked there what I was doing and most would say, "I couldn't do that." Then one day I saw my friend going outside with a huge box filled with about $20,000 worth of stuff, everything from gold chains to stereos.

In 1981, Kmart 3399 had the worst yearly inventory of any Kmart in the country. The store had $500,000 in invisible waste. That year we fudged the inventory: instead of marking one ceiling fan we would mark five. The same people who were stealing were doing the inventory, so we were able to cover our asses real good, but it made us wonder who was taking the rest of the stuff. In reality, the store probably had lost between $750,000 and $1,000,000 to invisible waste.

An ironic story is that one Christmas I took four cases of Atari games and gave them out as presents at the store's Christmas party. I later found out that security was taking stuff too. The person in charge of the warehouse was taking stuff by the forklift load and putting it in the back of his pickup. Nobody ever thought to check that guy.

I don't think I did that much damage to the company. In 1982 the company blamed the store's problems on management, most of whom were transferred to other stores. The store never fired or caught anyone stealing, but the store's reputation did bring management morale way down. Just think, they were in charge of the worst store in the entire country.

Text taken from Sabotage in the American workplace: anecdotes of dissatisfaction, mischief and revenge from www.prole.info