Police in Irvine, California are still attempting to locate suspects wanted in two August (2017) thefts of sunglasses totaling more than $7,000. The suspects are clearly seen on video surveillance, but police have still not identified or located the three women shown in the video helping themselves to 13 pairs of sunglasses.
The theft is not all that surprising anymore. All over the country, retailers are reporting sunglasses being stolen by opportunistic thieves who have mastered the art of grabbing and running. In some of the more extreme cases, thieves have broken into stores at night to steal hundreds of pairs of sunglasses worth a whole lot more. As disturbing as these crimes are, they say some very worrying things about our society in general.
Capitalism Run Amok
It is nearly impossible to argue against the fact that the U.S. was built on the dual principles of liberty and capitalism. But is it possible that capitalism has run slightly amok? Let’s consider the Irvine thefts. According to official police reports, the first theft involved seven pairs of sunglasses valued at $3,700. The second theft was of six pairs with a combined value of $3,645. That means the average price of the stolen goods was in excess of $500 apiece.
Let’s be honest; it doesn’t cost manufacturers $500 to make a pair of sunglasses. It doesn’t take $300, or even $100. Consumers are paying such outlandish prices because a small number of big players control the market. They are paying such outlandish prices because of a brand name they must have, a name like Prada or Versace.
Olympic Eyewear is a Utah company that designs and sells its own brands to retailers. Their sunglasses match the quality of more expensive brands but at a much lower price. So why do people spend $500 on a pair of sunglasses?
A Big Black Market
The second thing that the thefts tell us is that there is a huge black market for a product that used to be really cheap at the local drugstore. Just like thieves are stealing cell phones and selling them on the streets, they are stealing designer sunglasses because there is a market.
If there were no market, there would be no point in stealing them. What does this tell us? It tells us that we live in a culture obsessed with style and brand. There are some among us who will even buy stolen sunglasses on the streets just to be part of the crowd.
Time for More Security
Finally, the last take away is a more of a suggestion that maybe it’s time for more security. We are obviously not succeeding at preventing thieves from stealing sunglasses at will, so perhaps it’s time we start treating them like other items that are kept in locked cabinets equipped with alarm systems.
As long as we are going to sell sunglasses that are so expensive, we need to start treating them as the expensive items they are. Keep in mind that the $500 sunglasses stolen in Irvine don’t even scratch the surface. There are other brands and styles that go for thousands of dollars. They need to be kept under lock and key.
Hopefully the police in Irvine will catch the guilty parties soon. In the meantime, retailers must do what they must do to protect their inventories. As long as there is demand for designer sunglasses, thieves will keep stealing them to sell on the black market. And should that market ever dry up, they will just turn to something else in high demand.