It’s difficult to think of Spam and canned corned beef as hot commodities, like fine wines and other luxury items, that need to be locked up to prevent theft. But that’s what’s happening in some stores in our 50th state of Hawaii.
“Since the shoplifters got the stolen goods for free, they are able to make a 100 percent profit reselling them,” says Tina Yamaki, executive director of Retail Merchants of Hawaii.
Things are so bad in Honolulu that one shop has a sign above a locked case of Spam that reads: “Items electronically monitored for theft.”
Kimo Carvalho, a spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, said people are stealing Spam because it’s easy to sell. “It’s quick cash for quick drug money,” Carvalho said.
A friend of mine who is a recovering crystal meth addict says, “The brain, body, and mind will take incredible risks to get this drug. The addicts are roaming, seeking, robbing to obtain their high. Spam is quick money. It’s lucrative.” Tina Yamaki
“It’s crazy. Just crazy. We have to keep corned beef up front at the customer service counter because people steal cases of corned beef. And they also steal Spam,” said Darlene Kauhi, manager of Tamura’s Market in the town of Hau’ula.
Hawaiians eat millions of cans of Spam a year, the nation’s highest per-capita consumption of the processed meat, which is cobbled together from a mixture of pork shoulder, ham, sugar, and salt.
The state’s love affair with Spam began during World War II when rationing created just the right conditions for the rise of a meat that needs no refrigeration and has a remarkably long shelf life (indefinitely, the company says).
“Thieves enter a store with a shopping list just like we take a shopping list for food with us to the market. But their shopping list is of items that can be easily resold such as electronics, power tools, designer purses, sunglasses, expensive perfume, wine, liquor, fresh meat, shrimp, macadamia nuts and canned meats…” says Tina Yamaki.
Yamaki says another key change her merchant members report is an increase in the volume of items stolen from their stores. She says this happened after state lawmakers raised the threshold for felony theft from $300 to $750.
“People are stealing right up to the $750 limit,” she says. “Before they stole items only up to $300. Now can take more than double the amount of merchandise and still avoid a felony charge.”
Hawaiians eat 7m cans of Spam annually – the highest consumption in the US. It’s also served in restaurants, including a McDonald’s with Spam on the breakfast menu, ABC reports.