The song “Lost in the Supermarket” performed by The Clash (written in 1979  by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, from the album London Calling), has been interpreted as a biting commentary on consumerism.

The “shopper’s”  initial visits to the supermarket/consumerism are for the “special offer…guaranteed personality”: the short-lived and positive feelings that come with the the possession of highly advertised consumer goods.  But regardless of the touts associated with the offers and the goods, he or she eventually comes to realize that it is no longer possible to “shop happily”: the promise is not in the payoff.

The lyrics describe the empty offer of consumerism, but they are also an allegory about one type of shoplifter. Searching for acceptance, satisfaction, completion, status, or happiness by engaging in retail theft may result in a short-term sense of accomplishment or reward. But since that emotion or sense does not last, it needs to be repeated, re-stimulated…more chances taken…with less odds of continued success. 

The shoplifter becomes less defined by the emotions elicited by the goods which he or she has stolen than by the habitual or compulsive behavior of shoplifting.

And that’s another story.

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 28 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.


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