SPAM, the iconic processed meat product that Americans either love or hate, can be utilized in many different ways. You can turn it into delicious SPAM musubi, incorporate it into tater tots, or even turn it into tasty SPAM fries. In Hawaii, where SPAM consumption is unparalleled, recent developments in the state have led to the creation of a SPAM black market.
The Washington Post reports multiple instances where folks across the archipelago team up to conduct "organized retail crime," aka SPAM heists. Cases of the mystery meat get carted out of the stores in burglaries that have led several retailers to electronically lock up their SPAM supply like it was jewelry.
Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, told the Post that the thefts are not because people are hungry and desperate to get SPAM for sustenance. Instead, she feels that a black market has developed for the product where people can use it as currency. While SPAM in stores goes for roughly $2.50 a can in Hawaii, SPAM thieves can sell it for less, turn a quick profit on their stolen goods, and use it for other means. Yamaki describes it as an asset to "drug addicts in need of quick cash."
“We hear a lot of rumors where it’s going,” Yamaki told the Post. “We’ve heard they work through middlemen. We’ve heard that they’re selling it from the back of their cars. We’ve heard all kinds of rumors. Whether they’re true or not, I’m not sure.”
Despite SPAM being ubiquitous and coveted across Hawaii for a long time, though, the heists have only recently started occurring. Yamaki attributes that to a new state law that raised minimum value of a felony theft. While burglaries of goods totaling $300 or more was the limit in the past, that number was raised last year to $750, meaning that folks could make off with about 300 cans of SPAM before hitting that mark and catching a felony.
For now, lock and key seem to be the best way to deter these thefts. But it also seems like until something changes, the SPAM black market is going to hurt retailers on the island trying to protect and fairly sell their processed meat.