Only in Hawaii is Spam and canned corned beef a hot commodity like fine wines and other luxury items, that need to be locked up to prevent theft. But, according to Civil Beat, that’s what’s happening in some stores on Oahu from Kalihi to Hauula.
Retail analysts say canned meats are stolen by drug addicts and others, then sold to middlemen for quick cash to buy drugs or for ready money to survive. Or the thieves sell their stolen goods themselves at bargain prices at swap meets or out of the back of their cars.
“Spam is a staple in Hawaii,” says Tina Yamaki, executive director of Retail Merchants of Hawaii. Every home has a can of Spam on its shelves. You can cook Spam 101 different ways. It keeps forever,” she says.
Darlene Kauhi, manager of Tamura’s Market in Hauula says, “It’s crazy. Just crazy. We have to keep corned beef up front at the customer service counter because people steal cases of corned beef. And they also steal Spam.”
Kauhi says the Spam and corned beef thieves are organized, usually walking through the store in groups of four, grabbing what they need and fleeing from the store fast.
Walgreens on North School Street in Kalihi has Spam locked up with a sign above the locked case of Spam saying, “Items electronically monitored for theft.”
Walgreens shift leader Glenn Cabe says, “ People take Spam. We have to keep it locked up. We have to keep a lot of things locked up in this store.”
Less than a week later, KHON2 news reported that a man stole eight cases of Spam by pushing a shopping cart out the front door of Safeway in Waimalu so fast that astounded shoppers and store personnel who saw him reacted too slowly to catch him.
A recovering crystal meth addict says, “The brain, body and mind will take incredible risks to get this drug. The addicts are roaming, seeking, robbing to obtain their high. Spam is quick money. It’s lucrative.” She calls the canned meat transactions, “Spam currency.”