Home Depot executives are blaming the nation’s opioid crisis for a recent rise in retail theft.
The nation’s largest home improvement retailer did not cite any studies behind its claim, made during a call with investors on Wednesday, and almost immediately faced online criticism.
“This is happening everywhere in retail,” Chief Executive Officer Craig Menear said in the call. “We think this ties to the opioid crisis, but we’re not positive about that.”
Thieves recently stole $16.5 million worth of goods from a warehouse shared by multiple retailers, Menear said, resulting in a loss of $1.4 million for Home Depot.
The opioid crisis is estimated to have cost the United States economy $631 billion from 2015 to 2018, according to the Society of Actuaries. In those four years, criminal justice costs — those related to police, courts, jails and lost property due to crime — accounted for $39 billion of the total.
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Last year, retailers lost $50.6 million from theft and fraud, according to the National Retail Federation, which did not note a correlation between drug addiction and organized crime.
Home Depot said it expects theft, opioid-related or not, to contribute to a 0.5% smaller operating profit margin next year compared to the third quarter.
Some Twitter users reacted to Home Depot’s claim with skepticism.
“So every opioid user rushes to home depot to steal hammers and toilet seats,” one user tweeted. “Unbelievable! Or maybe their security just sucks.”
Besides the risk of addiction, abuse and overdose, opioids can lead to depression, sleepiness and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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“Are we just blaming everything on the opioid crisis now? What a joke,” another user tweeted. “Home Depot you better check yourself.”
The opioids crisis has killed an estimated 400,000 Americans in the last two decades. More than 130 people die from opioid-related drug overdoes every day, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency declared a public health emergency for opioids in 2017.