It always comes back to consumers

We’re facing a lot of problems these days. The nation is as divided as it has been in a long time both politically and socially. The fear of terrorist attacks looms large, while gas prices continue to soar. Real estate is facing a tough spot, and college tuitions are causing yet another educational divide for future generations. Add in fears of health care concerns, a rocky Social Security situation and an increase of gang activity in both our major cities and middle America, and there is certainly enough going on out there to keep one’s mind spinning.

But this latest news is just too much for me to handle.

According to an Associated Press story, rising metal prices have led to beer makers losing “hundreds of thousands of kegs and millions of dollars this year” as the kegs have been stolen and sold for scrap metal.

Is no industry safe these days?

Actually, the selling of metal products is nothing new. When I was in high school, two of my acquaintances got caught stealing copper plumbing out of old houses to sell for scrap. Homeless people have collected cans and other metal products as a way of earning some cash for years, and left-behind weapons are sometimes melted down and sold for scrap by law enforcement agencies and militaries.

But this is going too far.

People, people, people. Do you think the beer manufacturers are just going to eat these losses? According to the AP story, people can often get more money by foregoing the deposit they put down on the keg and selling it for scrap. The beer manufacturers are simply going to raise their prices to make up for their losses, and the retail stores are going to demand a higher deposit to make it not worth the effort for people to sell the kegs for scrap.

That’s money coming out of my pocket, and I’m not going to just stand by and watch it happen.

Because that’s what happens. Industries have to raise their prices to make up for any losses. Health care gets more expensive because of lawsuits and malpractice insurance, retail stores have to increase prices because of shoplifters and home builders often need to pump up the cost of a home because of permit fees or other outside costs. Think these developers who spend more money to get increased density allowances from Sussex County Council aren’t going to add that to the cost of the home? Think some members of Sussex County Council even care if that price just gets passed on to the consumer? Think some members of Sussex County Council care ... about anything other than the county’s current coffers?

But I digress.

This is all about the kegs, people. Those vessels that carry so much frothy goodness into our lives are being harvested for parts. Shouldn’t we take a stand? Shouldn’t we unite?

OK, all at once ... let’s have a collective yawn.

It doesn’t seem like much of a story at first, does it? Shoot, it almost seems like I used it as a tool to just get a few digs in at our county council, doesn’t it?

However, the article stated that the stealing and subsequent selling of these kegs results in approximately $50 million in losses a year to the beer industry. I know they bring in a lot of money, but isn’t $50 million still a big number these days?

It got me thinking about losses to different industries each year due to theft. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Protection, more than $13 billion a year in goods are stolen from retailers in this nation — that’s more than $25 million a day stolen from our stores. They also report that more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting over the last five years.

That’s staggering.

The Insurance Research Council said that fraud adds $5.2-$6.3 billion a year to auto premiums, and the FBI reported that Congress funded $548 million in 1996 for health care fraud enforcement. That’s a lot of money — and a lot of thieving individuals in this nation.

According to the National Equipment Register, approximately $1 billion worth of construction equipment is stolen each year from job sites. I have a very good friend in this community who had his site robbed, and it cost him some serious money. Sure, people have insurance, but there is usually a very high deductible to worry about when filing that claim.

The cost of doing business in this nation is high enough without figuring in losses from outright theft. It’s sad that people’s selfishness affects so many others, and I, for one, am going to keep my eyes out when I’m at our local stores this summer.

And I’m going to keep a close eye on my keg.