29 June 2012

Toothpick Theft

Welcome back. Why do some things stick in your mind? Fifty years ago, locking a fenced-in portion of a shared warehouse, I had to wait because a coworker went back inside to move a marking pen so it couldn’t be reached from outside the fence. “Some people will steal a toothpick,” he explained. 
 
A recent news report confirms that he was correct. 
 
Burglary Details 
 
Police in Athens, Georgia, are seeking the person or persons who stole 374,400 toothpicks from a local toothpick manufacturer, Armond’s Manufacturing Company Inc. Since Athens is home to the University of Georgia, I would have guessed it was a fraternity prank if the stolen goods weren’t valued at $2808. That’s grand theft in Georgia.
 
Also, sprinkling salt into Armond’s and law enforcement’s joint wound, the robbers struck twice, stealing six cases on the first visit, then seven cases about two weeks later. (For toothpick counters, each case contained 288 packages of 100.)
 
I couldn’t find any notice of the first theft, yet by the second, the news services were all over it. Still, not realizing the full consequences of the burglary, the Washington Post gave the story only 10 short lines, crediting the Athens Banner-Herald (see link at bottom). 
 
Burglary Consequences 
 
Packages of Armond’s toothpicks. 
(Photos from website, http://www.armonds.com/)
I know that, like me, your first concern on learning of the theft would be the environmental consequences. Would another tree be taken to replace the stolen merchandise? Well, you can relax about the tree but not about the environmental impact. 

I reviewed Armond’s website and learned that the toothpicks were made of durable plastic. As far as I can determine, plastic toothpicks, durable or flimsy, are not recyclable. I suppose they might be reused.
 

Two of Armond’s green toothpicks.

(Photo from website, http://www.armonds.com/)

Anyway, the bad news keeps coming. The company makes two models--one white, one green--both looking like hockey sticks for hamsters. Both models were taken in the heist. Are you ready? The green model has an antibacterial ingredient.

You are certainly aware of the unheeded health warnings to stop adding antibacterial ingredients to soaps—it’s probably unnecessary and might make the micro-critters meaner and better looking. Have you ever seen a warning about toothpick additives? I haven’t, perhaps because I use toothpicks made of the renewable resource, wood.

In focusing on the environmental consequences, I don’t mean to make light of the economic loss. Armond’s ships their toothpicks all over the world. If replacements can’t be produced and shipped quickly, the impact to retail vendors, not to mention users, could be severe. It’s unclear if dentists would benefit. And who knows what fraction of the toothpicks is used for hors d'oeuvres or other non-dental purposes?  

Wrap Up  

Despite the company’s global distribution challenge, it appears that local toothpick users won’t be affected. Police reported that a man was seen walking around a local flea market selling packages of the toothpicks. 

Did the man take part in the theft? Were the toothpicks fenced? Is the man unaware of the likely source of his merchandise or simply dumber than a doorknob? I’m sure the police are asking these questions and more during the stakeout for the next toothpick heist.  

Thanks for stopping by.

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