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Accepted cost of doing business in California?
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

It’s Saturday, shortly after 2 p.m.

I’m in the CVS store in Tracy on Eleventh Street.

Ahead of me in line is a woman on Social Security.

Worked hard all of her life.

Made a conscious effort to follow the rules.

Inflation is making her life hard.

As she’s making a purchase, she notices a young man literally dashing out the door with goods without paying.

Stunned, she asks the cashier — who had just looked up toward the young man and then returned to ringing up the purchases — if she just saw that.

Without missing a beat, the cashier said yes and then added “it happens all the time.”

Another question, a two part answer.

Management, the shopper is told, instructs their employees to just let the scoundrels go. Clerk employee safety and workman’s comp in the event of an injury or worse, is a concern.

She adds, the “police don’t respond anyway because it’s not over $950.”

Chalk up one for the unintended consequences of Sacramento’s quest for “social justice” by decriminalizing all thefts under $950.

Yes, small thefts for all practical purposes are no longer a crime. It’s a ticket, if that, and a tap — not a slap — on the proverbial wrist.

And guess who gets to pay more to cover the cost to cover lawless actions of the few —  everyone who follows the rules, including those 100 percent dependent on Social Security checks.

Roll back the calendar six days and go 152 miles slightly to the southeast of Tracy.

That puts you in Lemoore in Kings County.

It’s a city of 24,500. It’s home to the Lemoore Naval Station. And it is where farming is king.

Milk tops the list with employers such as Leprino Foods, the world’s largest producer of mozzarella cheese.

Right behind the dairy industry are pistachios, almonds, tomatoes, beef cattle and the old king itself — cotton.

Lemoore used to have a Fosters Freeze.

It closed Monday.

It was the same day Sacramento officially conferred special treatment status on fast food workers.

The minimum wage for many fast food workers went from the standard $16 an hour to $20.

There are — or were — 65 Fosters Freeze locations in California, based on the latest published information.

That means the state mandate of $20 minimum wage for all fast food operations with 60 or more locations in the state applied to the franchise owner.

The owner, Loren Wright, opted to cut his losses.

Inflation has prompted many,  according to surveys, to cut back on dining out.

That makes raising prices, especially for the small guy swimming in a pool with big corporations with dozens upon dozens of franchises under the same name, is dicey at best.

The bigger McDonald’s owners of the world — such as the concern that owns 20 plus in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — can delay the inevitable somewhat of raising prices, or at least are in a position to do so more incrementally.

Not so the little guy.

As a result, the pressure culls the herd.

Monica Navarro, the former assistant general manager of the Lemoore Fosters Freeze, said most of her co-workers would have preferred to be paid the $16 an hour they were making.

They believe it would be better off than being unemployed.

Navarro noted that other fast food workers in Lemoore have seen their hours cut significantly. And those manning shifts have seen their workloads increase.

Chalk up another unintended consequence in Sacramento’s quest for social justice.

The $20 minimum wage is sinking some small businesses while many remaining fast food workers are seeing less hours and are being saddled with more work.

Now let’s take a trip to San Francisco, light years from Lemoore.

Back in February, Fredericksen Hardware and Paint in the Cow Hollow-Marina District did something that did not get too much play except with local media.

The owner is trying to survive the rising tide in grab and dash thefts that those defending California’s marshmallow theft laws say are being overblown.

This is not a Target. This is not a Walmart. It is not a CVS store.

It’s a small mom & pop hardware that has been thrown to the lions.

In order to try and avoid grab and dash thefts from putting him out of business and posing a threat to employee safety, customers are immediately greeted by an employee when entering the store.

That employee then follows them around the store to assist them. They never leave their side until after they check out.

Chalk up another unintended consequence to Sacramento’s myopic pursuit of social justice.

If you think that’s bad, let’s stay in San Francisco for a second and see what happens when local government tries to help correct issues that are unintended consequences of those in the California Legislature that converted a $97.5 billion budget surplus in October 2022 to a projected budget deficit today of $73 billion.

The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors want to allow residents to sue grocery stores that close and don’t come up with a replacement operator or help form a food co-op within six months.

If you have ever been to San Francisco, you know that grocery stores as they’ve been defined in Tracy or Lemoore — think Safeway, WinCo, Save Mart et al — are a rarity.

They are almost all mom and pop affairs.

Granted, the proposed law carves out a lot of exceptions.

But at the end of the day it would claim open season on small businesses in a city where you can trip on a crack in the sidewalk and a dozen or so class-action lawyers or social justice attorneys have rushed up and holding out their cards within seconds of you doing a face plant on the concrete.

So why would any grocery store not want to do business in San Francisco besides the reasons legislators channeling a myopic social justice narrative dismiss as poor excuses — rampant shoplifting/grab and dashes?

Let’s look at the case of Whole Foods that was brave enough to open a store on Market Street in San Francisco in 2022 and ended up closing in just over a year.

The store made 538 emergency calls to 9-1-1 in 13 months or 395 days. On average , that’s almost 1.3 calls per day.

These were not shoplifting calls.

They were incidents such as vagrants — another term for the less than civil among the homeless — throwing food, fighting, acting in a threatening manner or yelling incessantly.

It also includes a call or two about what you hope is an only-in-San Francisco thing — people trying to defecate on the store’s floor.

No one is saying that California should emulate Hong Kong or even North Korea.

And a reasonable person can’t argue the criminal justice system and economy needed tweaking.

That said, there is mounting evidence the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

There was a time when those we entrusted to run government would embrace the belief two wrongs don’t make a right.

Now the guiding adage is the end justifies the means, regardless of how callous, unfair, or detrimental those means are to those that follow the laws and who work to support themselves through legal means.