Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shoplifting: I need your help

...Because I'm embarking on a life of crime!

No, I'm not. But I am embarking on a new plot element for my current WIP and it involves characters who shoplift.

Did you ever shoplift as a teenager? Did you ever consider it, or have a friend who liked to steal? Do you do it now?

I'm interested in the emotional aspects of stealing; the "rush"as it's called. How did it feel for you? Also, what reasoning did you use to justify your activities? Did you feel the need to justify them to yourself at all? What techniques did you use? What did you steal? And did you ever get caught? How did you first begin stealing, and how long did it continue?

I want to hear from YOU if you can answer any or all of these questions, or have anything interesting to say on the topic in general. Post something anonymously below (or with your own name if you're not afraid to stand up and say "My name is X and I was a shoplifter") or email me at rhi.hart at

All responses to my email account will be treated confidentially. Credit can be given if your words inspire me, the work is published and the responder desires to be acknowledged. (Nicknames can be used, naturally, to protect your identity.) Your words are copyrighted if you choose to email me and I will not plagiarise them, but as this research may appear in a published book, please keep in mind that I may use what you tell me as inspiration for my writing.

I welcome any and all responses! Thank you for your stories and time.


  1. My name is Karen, and I WAS a shop lifter.

    In my defense, it was peer pressure. I wanted to impress the older cool kids. I was 12, Starter jackets were popular (the big bulky coats that had the logo of your fav sports team.) My coat was one size too big which made for big sleeves to stick lots of cassette tapes down without looking suspicious.

    Emotions? I was nervous, but giddy when I'd get out of the store and look at all the tapes I snagged.

    Then I got busted on family vacation at...wait for it, DISNEY LAND. I was twelve. They put me in handcuffs and everything. They had to call my parents at our hotel and have them come and get me. It wasn't getting grounded that changed my ways it was the "disappointment" of my parents. And the fact that they didn't trust me for the next year of my life.

    I'm proud to say I have never shop lifted since.

  2. Karen, thanks so much for your words and being brave enough to respond here with your own name. I fully understand the disappointment factor. Nothing makes you more ashamed of yourself knowing you've disappointed your parents. But how excruciating, being put into cuffs at Disneyland. I'm glad that you've been on the straight and narrow ever since!

    Does anyone else have a story like this? You can respond here or at my email address: rhi.hart at

    Thanks again Karen!

  3. Yeah, well I told you about mine. Only once. $2 eyeliner from the $2 store in town. Didn't get caught but the terror was too intense for me (I was 11 after all). I did it mainly because of peer pressure.

  4. I used to shoplift all the time. Little stuff like candy, earrings, and cosmetics mostly. My only "big ticket" items were a $30 bra and an $83 swimsuit.

    It all started when I was around ten, I think. My sister and I would steal Hershey's miniatures from the bulk bin. Two for each of us. We'd tuck them into the tops of our knee socks, then run out to waiting in the parking lot to eat them while our mom paid for groceries.

    Later, when I was thirteen or so, I started stealing all those little things from the drug store.

    For me, it had nothing to do with the rush. I just REALLY wanted the stuff. My family didn't have a lot of money and I didn't get treated to little things like candy and lip gloss very often. So I started treating myself.

    In the case of the stolen bra, I wanted three new bras for back-to-school shopping. But I only wanted to part with the money for two of them. Voila! I stole the third.

    And the swimsuit was just so decadent that I had to have it.

    I'm in my early 30s now and I haven't intentionally shoplifted since I was maybe 17? Now the idea of it causes me anxiety. I was never afraid back then. I never thought I'd get caught and I DIDN'T get caught. But now I have no confidence in that so I would never try it again.

  5. I was never a big shoplifter. I remember doing it successfully once, by shoving more photo sleeves into a photo album I was buying than what came with it. Big deal, I know. The other time I was with my dad and I tried pocketing some penny candy but both he and the deli lady caught me. I never did it again. I'm not too stealthy and it really wasn't my thing.

  6. My name is Danielle and I'm a shoplifter.

    Not very often, especially since I became elgible for working papers last year, but I won't say I'm reformed.

    With me personally, its not a *shame* thing or a *rush* thing, or even a *need* thing. Everyone I know, everyone in my school, on my street, everywhere, shoplifts. Its that you need things, so you spend all your money on that, but then you want things, but you used all your money for stuff you need, so whatre you gonna do? If that sounds bad, so be it, but thats how it is with a lot of teenagers. We want crap just for having it.

    What you gotta do is go for the small things, like braclets or earrings or something with those little removable paper scan things. You just rip it off and stick it somewhere on your person and walk out like you own the place. Very simple, actually. I've never taken clothes or anything, because, seriously, its not smart. Everyone hawk-eyes the big things and you can't even take it off the hanger without someone on your tail.

    As for when I started, I'd say when I was seven. My sister and I were trying on jewlery at an art store and I accidently walked out with a necklace still on.

    So, thats all I got.

  7. When I was in middle school I used to shoplift. I guess it was for the "rush" because if I had wanted any of the things my mother would have bought them for me.

    I stole makeup a lot. I used to stick it in my shoes. I even stole books. :/ Poor R.L. Stein and Christopher Pike...I guess I owe them some money. I shoved those down the front of my pants.

    The easiest way was to have a cart and have your purse on the seat part. Leave the purse cracked open and you can just drop small things in there like you are just dropping it in the cart.

    HA this sounds awful. At least I was busted though. They caught me on tape, and contacted the local middle school and found out who I was and went to our house and told my mother. We paid for the merchandise and there were no charges against me. Getting caught was the worst, because I had NO excuse for why I was shoplifting.


  8. Jade--I can only imagine the terror! I was always too frightened to try. None of my friends were into stealing, either, so the peer pressure thing never came up. We were dorks, never even wagged! But I say "dorks" with affection :)

    Anon--We can be fearless when we're young!

    Donna--I'm not stealthy either. I'm a total klutz, actually.

    Dannie--You've hit on something there. I definitely felt the pressure to have "stuff" when I was a teenager. I hated days when we could wear our regular clothes to school as I had nothing til I was about fifteen.

    Anon--Another mortifying "busted" story! I feel very sympathetic, though perhaps some would say that I shouldn't? Glad you're reformed now. And thanks so much for sharing.

    Who else has a story?

  9. ...And I'll also let you know that the rewrite (number three for this project) is going very well thanks to your inspirations!

  10. CLARIFICATION: I did not actually steal FROM the Happiest Place on Earth. My parents may have never forgiven me for that one. I got busted at a store NEAR Disneyland while we were on our family Disney vacation. My parents were actually there for a Disney convention and I went off with another convention attendee's daughter and we got busted shoplifting.

    I did not steal from Walt Disney. There would just be something very very wrong with that. ;)

  11. When I was 10 my mum used to send me to the shops for things like pints of milk she'd forgotten, and I used to slip pretty coloured pens into her shopping trolley while I was going round. I got caught one day when they didn't have any milk and I asked an attendant putting out some shopping baskets if it was ok for me to leave... Because I wouldn't tell them my name they had to call the police and I got taken home in disgrace.

    That afternoon my mum searched my room from top to toe so that she could find the other things I'd stolen... I remember stuffing them all into a hand-me-down British Airways tote bag and lowering it out of the window into a flowerbed :-) I don't think anything else came of it other than not being allowed to go out for milk again, but it must have upset me because I still hated her doing any sort of housework in my room years later!

  12. I definitely had friends who stole. It was a mix of people, too. Some you'd sort of expect it from, but a few of them were "surprise thieves." And some were pretty bold -- you know, department store jewelry that they liked, that wasn't cheap by any means. I've had friends steal from me, too. Of course, they're not my "friends" anymore...

  13. Sorry, that posted too soon.
    Since it wasn't me, I can't really say what the motivation was, but I think part of it was to seem like a badass, and I think some of it was thrill and getting away with it. Too, I think it was a control thing. For one friend -- one who stole from me BLATANTLY and lied to my face about it -- I think her parents were such control freaks in her life that she was taking her own form of control, claiming things for herself. You know?

  14. Did you ever see a YA novel from the eighties called The Computer That Said Steal Me (Elizabwth Levy)? - quite a period piece now because the plot's full of nuclear paranoia and tabletop role-playing games!

    Anyway the boy steals a handheld computer game from an electronics shop then has a crisis of conscience after reading Crime and Punishment :)

  15. I never shoplifted before but I had friends who did and they would try to get me to go along. I can remember trying a few times. I think I got as far as reaching towards the item (mostly candy) before the shear terror would set in. Everything would get really quite - in my mind, I could actually hear someone looking at me, waiting for me to reach out and grab something. I never actually walked out of a store with anything. Half the time I barely made it out of the store without falling down. I can't even imagine what would have happened if I did take something. I would probably run screaming from the store!
    Why did we do it (or try to?). I think we were bored. I know I had friends who stole things they didn't even want - just to for something 'exciting' to do.

    If you ever write a story about a character who drag races let me know - that I've done :)

  16. I have definitely known people who have shoplifted. I got caught at 5 stealing gum that my parents wouldn't buy me. The store thought it was cute that my parents took me back to apologize.

    I had a friend who shoplifted groceries because she couldn't afford everything she needed to feed her family. She would pay for most things and just stuff a couple of things in her bag. As far as I know, she never got caught, but then we aren't in touch anymore.

    Have you read the book THE BLONDE OF THE JOKE by Bennett Madison? That is about shoplifting.

  17. My one and only shoplifting experience was in grade 6, when I briefly hung out (read: tagged along) with the 'cool kids' in my grade after school. We'd ride our bikes all around the backstreets of Kilsyth and do crazy shit like throwing pinecones into people's swimming pools.
    One day they took me to Kilsyth Safeway and told me I'd now have to become part of their stealing club. They told me the best thing to do was just grab something, put it under your jacket, and then calmly walk around the store for another 10 minutes so before leaving, so as not to raise suspicion.
    I grabbed a family multi-pack of Extra chewing gum, stuffed it up my jumper, went bright red in the face and sprinted out of there like the place was on fire. The others followed and we all hung out round the back of Safeway.
    I started freaking out that I'd been spotted and was going to get arrested, so I began eating all the gum - 'destroying the evidence'. I stood there near the dumpster round the back of Coles, dementedly chewing through 6 packs of Extra and spitting them into the bin after they'd been chewed (I have no idea why I didn't just think to put them in the bin).
    After that, I think I had a brief phase of stealing the free gifts off the front of TV Hits-type magazines in year 7 (you can never have enough Taylor Hanson fridge magnets), but that was it. I've been on the straight and narrow ever since.

  18. Karen--LOL, "I did not steal from the happiest place on earth"!

    Anon--Oh no, the police! I bet it had an effect on you.

    Misty--Surprise thieves! Yes, I think I know the sort you mean. As for your friend, what a bitch--if I may use the word. I like your theory about control, too.

    Hampshireflyer--No I haven't but I will look it up!

    WillowRaven--Y'know, if I had friends who stole I think I would have been just like you--too freaking scared!

    Lenore--That's sad about your friend who couldn't feed her family. I haven't read that book but I will look it up too, cheers.

    Nick--Ha! I can picture you circa 1995 madly chewing and spitting gum. Not much different to how it is when we club these days, hehe. By the way you're a total badass.

  19. Sometime when steal u do not know why u did it but what did know that kneed help and i will go for it wish me luck