#134: Shoplifters of the World Unite

A few months ago, @turtlekiosk tweeted an idea that I keep thinking about: “In the future shoplifting won’t matter, not because loss prevention or surveillance will be really good but because everything will require a subscription service that subsidizes the price of the thing you stole.” It’s not so difficult to imagine a scenario in which some version of an Amazon Prime subscription turns Whole Foods into the supermarket equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet, with a monthly or annual price calculated based on how much an average customer (or even a specific individual) might realistically carry out of the store—the formerly opposite acts of shopping and shoplifting converging upon the same process. That isn’t such a departure from the present-day flow of CVS self-checkout, made possible by a dystopian tradeoff between the increased probability of theft and the reduced labor costs that offset those losses. None of this should really bother me—I don’t shoplift—yet it unsettles me in a more abstract way, as a restructuring of the world that offers us complete freedom within an increasingly constrained and controlled space, where transgression is impossible as well as unimaginable.

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