The Five-Fingered Discount

Not all the goods that disappear from store shelves during the holiday season are bought. Sticky-fingered customers and employees make off with $9 billion in merchandise annually, and Christmas is the big season. Shoplifting has jumped 35% in the past four years, making it the fastest-growing larceny crime in the country. According to one study, shoplifters get away with the loot 97% of the time.

Fearing that the souring economy will lead to even more thefts, retailers are resorting to novel deterrents. One innovation is an "ink tag," a plastic disk containing three glass vials of indelible ink that is attached...

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