When the economy is challenging, desperate people resort to desperate measures to make ends meet. During the last recession, theft of low-dollar items, referred to as petty theft, rose by 25% across Britain. With the economy still under pressure, these smaller-scale thefts continue.
According to ABC News, when gas prices are high, the reports of gasoline theft rise. In 2009, more than $89 million in gas was stolen nationwide in schemes ranging from pumping gas and driving away to drilling holes into the bottom of a gas tank.

Gas isn't the only thing stolen when times are rough. Some items are more odd and outlandish.

Hogs
The price of hogs fluctuates as rapidly as the price of gas. According to Ohio hog farmer Don Moore, when the market is high, a normal-sized hog could sell for more than $200. Time Magazine reports that thieves stole 594 hogs worth more than $100,000 in one heist in 2011.

Because the stolen swine were at market weight and the planning involved in stealing nearly 600 pigs would involve a lot of coordination and equipment, police believe the heist to be a coordinated event executed by sophisticated thieves.

Tide
Theft of the laundry detergent Tide has become so widespread that some cities are setting up task forces to catch and prosecute the thieves. Why is only Tide stolen and not Era or other brands? It's because other brands don't have the high-dollar price tag of Tide.

Tide sells for between $10 and $20 per bottle in stores. On the black market, stolen Tide is purchased for $5 to $10 a bottle. It is not only customers who are looking to purchase Tide at a discount; even retailers are making black market purchases of the detergent, according to Fox News.

Brass
The theft of copper is still widespread, with thieves stealing copper piping used for plumbing, but another metal is in demand, too. In Chicago, thieves are stealing the brass rings off fire hydrants; these rings are used by firefighters to attach hoses from the fire engine. Not only does it cost the city money to replace the rings, it poses a public safety hazard. Once the rings are stolen, they are sold as scrap for about $15.

Other items including musical instruments, handrails and ornaments in cemeteries have been reported stolen. Although brass and copper aren't the only metals stolen for scrap, they have one of the largest impacts and bring some of the highest prices at scrap yards.

Maple Syrup
In September, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers reported the theft of a large quantity of maple syrup. During a routine inventory, workers found 16,000 empty 45 gallon barrels at the province's global strategic reserve located in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Que. The missing syrup, valued at more than $20 million, is the subject of an ongoing police investigation.

Canadian police recently reported the discovery of 600 barrels of the stolen syrup in New Brunswick, but they aren't providing additional details. The syrup was returned to the reserve in a 16-trailer convoy under police escort. Security at the reserve was tightened to prevent future heists.

Human Hair
In a series of heists in Atlanta, Chicago and other cities, thieves broke into beauty supply stores and salons, not to steal money and valuable equipment, but to steal human hair. The hair, which was imported from other countries, was used as weaves, extensions and wigs. It can bring up to $90,000 for thieves reselling it.

The Bottom Line
Bank robberies are so 20th century. Today, enterprising criminals are finding value in everything from gas to hair. As long as the black market has buyers, thieves will find a way to steal even the oddest of items.

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    Understanding Switching Costs

    Consumers incur switching costs when they receive a monetary or other type of penalty for changing a supplier, brand or product.
  2. Investing

    What’s Holding Back the U.S. Consumer

    Even as job growth has surged and gasoline prices have plunged, U.S. consumers are proving slow to respond and repair their overextended balance sheets.
  3. Economics

    Explaining Market Penetration

    Market penetration is the measure of how much a good or service is being used within a total potential market.
  4. Economics

    Calculating the Marginal Rate of Substitution

    The marginal rate of substitution determines how much of one good a consumer will give up to obtain extra units of another good.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Is the Apple Watch a Real Threat to Fitbit?

    Examine the potential for marketplace competition between Fitbit and the Apple Watch in the rapidly growing consumer wearables industry.
  6. Investing News

    How 'Honesty' Could Pay off for Jessica Alba

    Is it possible that Jessica Alba is one of the savviest businesswomen on the planet?
  7. Stock Analysis

    3 Stocks to Protect Your Portfolio from Inflation

    Discover three stocks to protect portfolios against inflation. The best companies to protect against inflation are those with pricing power.
  8. Chart Advisor

    Invest In Consumer Staples With This ETF

    The consumer staples sector is showing signs of strength in a weak market. We'll take a look at a couple ways to make a trade.
  9. Stock Analysis

    J.C. Penney: Identity Crisis or Buy Opportunity?

    With so many recent leadership changes, J.C. Penney might be suffering from an identity crisis. Here's why and what you need to know.
  10. Stock Analysis

    How Nike (NKE) Continues to 'Do It'

    Other than style, do sneakers from any maker really differ that much? That's debatable. But this is certain: Nike sets the standard for selling an image.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Duty Free

    Goods that international travelers can purchase without paying ...
  2. Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG)

    These are consumer goods products that sell quickly at relatively ...
  3. Virtual Good

    A good or product traded in the non-physical realm, typically ...
  4. Buyer's Option

    In commercial contracts, an agreement between a vendor and a ...
  5. Underinsured Motorist Coverage ...

    One of the two triggers that can be specified by an insured party ...
  6. Lemon Laws

    Regulations that attempt to protect consumers in the event that ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is the retail sector also affected by seasonal factors?

    Generally speaking, the retail sector is highly seasonal. Almost invariably, sales in the retail sector are highest in the ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What has the retail sector evolved to its current structure?

    Retail is the catch-all phrase for the sale of final goods to consumers; a retail transaction is considered an "end" and ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Why is product differentiation important in today's financial climate?

    Product differentiation is essential in today's financial climate. It allows the seller to contrast its own product with ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!