Kmart shopper's sneaky act sparks heated debate

Some have justified the move, while others strongly disagree.

As the rising cost-of-living puts pressure on households across the country, millions of people are resorting to illegal measures to afford everyday items. Now, a Kmart shopper's sneaky act of theft has divided Aussies over whether it was the wrong thing to do, given the current economic climate.

Rather than pay for new Anko sandals, the Kmart shopper in question appears to have taken a new pair off the rack and put a well-worn pair back in their place. "Seems Kmart is now a Swap n' Go!" wrote another customer, who shared a photo of the old shoes hanging on the rack.

Kmart store with traffic in foreground; Old Anko sandals hanging on rack
A shopper was shocked to spot a pair of worn-out sandals hanging on a rack at Kmart. Source: Getty/A. Offler

Debate rages over theft

The photo sparked a heated debate, with hundreds of Facebook users saying the theft was unsurprising and that they "feel for" whoever swapped the sandals. "They're swapping out and stealing Kmart shoes just to keep something on their feet. It's not like they're stealing $400 shoes for a glamorous party. They're stealing crappy slip-on sandals. The cost of living crisis is hitting everyone hard," one shopper said.

"Not that this is okay whatsoever, but with the cost of living at the moment, I almost don't blame people for doing these things anymore," another offered. Others echoed this sentiment, showing concern for those doing it so tough they need to swap their shoes at the store.

However, others argue that theft can never be justified, regardless of a person's financial situation. "How does it excuse someone from stealing? A lot of people are doing it tough right now. There is NO excuse for stealing, doesn't matter the price tag!" one person commented.

"There is NEVER an excuse for stealing. Period," another agreed, while a third contended that "Being poor doesn't make this okay."

Several Kmart employees chimed in, saying that shoe swapping happens "all the time" at their stores. "It's disgusting. I work in retail, and the daily theft is unbelievable. People wonder why prices go up! We lose thousands weekly. People swap underwear and T-shirts, too," one worker shared.

Used shoes hanging on Kmart racks
Other shoppers also shared photos of used shoes they'd seen swapped for new pairs at Kmart. Source: C. Hayward/C. Garnett

Shoplifting on the rise

More than one in 10 Aussies have admitted to stealing in the past year as they reach a financial breaking point, according to a survey by comparison site Finder of 1,063 people. Meanwhile, about 5 per cent confessed to stealing items at the supermarket self-checkout.

"Aussies are clearly struggling to afford basic necessities, and some are turning to criminal behaviour to get by," Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said of the survey results.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says theft is harming Australian businesses. "There is no doubt that shoplifting has become increasingly prevalent this year, at a time when retailers are already battling rising operating costs associated with labour, fuel, energy, supply chains, rent and loans," ARA CEO Paul Zahra told Yahoo News Australia.

"A significant amount of shoplifting goes unnoticed and unreported — making it difficult to quantify increases. Additionally, while some states collect retail theft-specific statistics, others do not. In New South Wales for example, retail crime across the state spiked 47 per cent in the past 12 months, to October 2023."

"We anticipate shoplifting is costing the industry upwards of $9 billion per year. The actual number could be even higher; however, it is difficult to put an exact figure on retail theft because much of it goes unreported. For retailers, a 2-3 per cent loss of merchandise can amount to 25 per cent loss in profit. This is debilitating for small businesses, who operate on tighter profit margins," Zahra added.

Coles also confirmed the spike in shoplifting, saying "hundreds of thieves" are caught at its supermarkets every week. "We have observed an increase in theft which is an issue affecting all retailers across Australia and internationally, and one that we will continue to address," a spokesperson recently told Yahoo News Australia.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.