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December 28, 2012



Chris, interesting but I think on "electronic tills have reduced shop assistants' flexibility in ringing prices" you have missed the amazing ability of shop workers to miss the barcode scanner when their mates are buying. The Bunce lives!


FWIW, if you have a gander at the "Deals Discussions" section of the Amazon website there are quite a few people who have received deliveries that are empty (i.e. contents pilfered) or the delivery tampered so that the item is replaced by something inferior.

My observation is that this has been a more frequent occurrence than previous years.


Another thought: I wonder if the Bunce has simply gone global? Just think of all those "fake" handbags made in China - often by the same factory that made the real ones. Another way in which workers in developing countries benefit at the expense of their counterparts in the West...


Debuncification has undoubtedly occurred, particularly in the sense that the perks of manual jobs are now a lot slimmer than they used to be, however the theory of a generational shift starting in the 70s also needs to factor in the impact of VAT fraud, also a species of "shrinkage", which went from nothing to a lot over the same period. The black economy has mutated, not retreated.

The point about VAT is that, with the exception of sophisticated criminal enterprises (carousel fraud etc), this has broadly shifted the benefit from employees to employers.


There's clearly been a cultural shift away from the bunce. Society has become more risk-averse, bureaucracy has increased massively, national and cultural identity are more fluid. Nowadays we live in a selfish, atomised society in which nothing is more important than one's ego, as can be seen in the growing culture of hysterical offense-taking at everything under the sun.

Look at the Victorians - social conditions were a great deal worse then than today, but they didn't sit around moaning in despair. They did their duty, got on with their lives and achieved great things. Nowadays we wallow in victimhood. Everyone's looking for someone to blame.

Patrick Hughes

Fascinating; and fits well with my own experience of summer jobs in the 70s where one was either inducted into "bunce" or advised to turn a blind eye. All sorts of reasons for the shift since. technological chnge is certainly one: I'd add the whole industry devoted to tackling leakage/shrinkage in retail and other service sectors ie the compliance and internal security folk who are now so prevelant. And a word too for the reduction in cash around day to day transactions. On the welfare front too, I'd argue from prof experience that signing on ( JSA ) has been thoroughly debuncified and is now a deeply unattractive option. That has held down the claimant count more tightly than expected but has moved bunce into the world of inwork benefits where HMRC admin has been rather weak. Expect more on this as the world of work and welfare - and flows between them - are "reformed". Universal Credit will be the new game in town: fun and games for 12M people and 8M households.

Patrick Hughes

Can't resist a further thought. As 'big retail" becomes more tightly controlled in its internal systems and processes, perhaps that element of bunce moves into informal retail such as eBay and car boot sales? We really are something of a nation of duckers and divers aren't we? Perhaps though we should consider this kind of creativity a source of growth even if hard to measure.

Churm Rincewind

I can see no evidence that the bunce has declined. Office workers are still never short of paper, and decorators never lack a tin of paint. It's true that companies constantly introduce new arrangements to deter petty theft, but in my experience employees are usually quite astute in getting round them, and there does come a point where deterrence is counterproductive and a certain level of theft is accepted as a cost of doing business.

By way of anecdotal evidence, when I did a recent deal with - well, let's just call them a high street retailer - I was fairly surprised to find a stipulation in their standard contract that they'd only account for 95% of the stock supplied. On enquiry I was told that the missing 5% was to cover theft. Are you telling me, I asked, that 5% of your stock is stolen by your customers? No, came the answer, we're telling you that 5% of our stock is stolen by our staff...

rob reed

In. office base jobs, media, politics etc the bunce has been replaced by expenses, a more effective crime then nicking a pen or bog roll.
For those in manual work, it's true that management have prevented some theft from th work place, but I suspect three are always means to beat the system. In any work your best friends need to be the security guards, a few pints results in the blind eye and a timed visit to the toilet.
The cost of the bunce to a company I believe is always exaggerated, I suspect the anti bunce measures cost more then the bunce.
I imagine any company where the workers have some form of ownership, the bunce become less attractive, but that is a obvious..


As we move into a cashless near field communication society this will surely hit the black economy hard as cash in hand tax evasion will be much harder to do. Or will people take a payment on their iPhone straight into their Cayman bank current acount?

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