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5 Things Shoplifters Don't Know About Retail Loss Prevention

I spent 16 years working in retail loss prevention and I am Wicklander-Zulawski-certified to interview dishonest retail employees.

5 More Facts About Shoplifting

5 More Facts About Shoplifting

More of Your Shoplifting Questions Answered

Years after publishing an article on little-known facts about shoplifting, I still receive several questions each day. As a former retail loss prevention professional, I am happy to help anyone I can. Below are five realities of shoplifting you may not have known about.

  1. Loss prevention (LP) may have you dump the item rather than apprehend you.
  2. You're being profiled whether you know it or not.
  3. The decision to call the police has already been made.
  4. LP is prohibited from touching you or running after you.
  5. You'll likely pay a civil fine and be entered into a database.

Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney and I do not provide legal advice. I also do not answer "how to shoplift" questions. Shoplifting is a crime, costing hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. I have no respect for shoplifters, but at the same time, who am I to judge their actions?

Shoplifters work 7 days per week.

Shoplifters work 7 days per week.

1. Loss prevention (LP) may have you dump the item rather than apprehend you.

That's right—if loss prevention sees you shoplift, they may try to get you to dump the item instead of immediately apprehending you.

Why? There are several reasons. The item may be small or inexpensive enough to justify not spending the time necessary to recover it and process the paperwork. Loss prevention would also have to pull an employee away from their job to act as a witness in the LP office. It could take anywhere from 10–30 minutes for an adult apprehension with no police involvement. Add 30–60 minutes to that if police are called or if the shoplifter is a juvenile. The needs of the business come first in retail. Sometimes letting an item walk out the door is the best solution.

How does LP get you to drop concealed merchandise?

If it were me, I might pick up the intercom and, using my best official-sounding voice, say, "Security, to the makeup department . . . Code 4, thank you!" That may not mean anything to the honest shopper, but if you're standing in the makeup department and you've just concealed a lipstick in your jacket, you're going to know that you've been caught. Nine times out of 10, you're going to dump it and walk away.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Code 4 doesn't mean anything. But it sure sounds official, doesn't it?

2. You're being profiled whether you know it or not.

How? A clean-cut, mid-40s male wearing a $600 suit enters the store at the same time as a female teenager with a huge pocketbook and a baggy coat. The male walks to the electronics department and the teenager goes to the jewelry and accessories department. Both departments are high theft areas. Who do you watch? The answer is pretty obvious.

Will you be profiled based on your appearance while shopping?

Absolutely. Loss prevention will judge you by the way you look and will watch you accordingly. You won't know this and it won't be written in any company LP rule book, but it's routine in the industry. The LP detective will watch the female teenager for an hour until she decides what she wants and proceeds to the cash register to pay for it. The guy in the expensive suit places 3 DVD players and a flat-screen TV inside a shopping cart and walks out the front doors without paying for them while no one even glances at him.

My first year in loss prevention is where I learned many valuable lessons about profiling. I was working in a store with another young detective when we noticed a beautiful woman come into the store. She was dressed in a tight halter top, a much-too-short miniskirt, and very high heels. The store was slow, and we were young and bored. Who did we watch?

This woman took her time shopping, reaching high to retrieve items on top shelves and bending over to get a better look at items on bottom shelves. My partner and I didn't miss a move she made. After 30 minutes or so, she suddenly abandoned her shopping cart in an aisle and began walking toward the front door. This didn't make sense. Why was she leaving the cart full of items she obviously wished to purchase? The answer became clear when we saw her meet up with a scruffy-looking guy at the front of the store who was walking very fast, carrying two overstuffed knapsacks toward the exits.

She was obviously the sexy decoy, and he was the thief who had taken who knows what from our store while we were busy gawking at the woman. They were in their car driving out of the parking lot before we figured out what was going on.

Loss prevention will judge you by the way you look and will watch you accordingly.

Loss prevention will judge you by the way you look and will watch you accordingly.

3. The decision to call the police has already been made.

Why? "My kid is sick!" "I stole because I lost my job and my husband left me!" "I'm about to get evicted!" "My car was just repossessed and I don't have any money." Every loss prevention detective on this earth has heard these (and many other) excuses a million times. In fact, they've heard them so many times, they've become immune to them.

When LP makes an apprehension, they don't care what your reason for stealing was. They score a notch on their belt for recovering merchandise and justify their paychecks at the same time. They're not going to let you go. They can't let you go. And they also have no say over whether or not you'll be arrested. That decision has already been made for them by the store, and there's nothing you can do about it.

The Minimum Dollar Amount

Years ago, LP was pretty much left to make the decision on whether or not to call the police. Things like dollar amount, the cooperation of the shoplifter, and accuracy of the information provided all contributed to the decision on whether or not you'd be talking a ride downtown. That's not the case anymore.

Over the past several years, stores have found it necessary to impose a minimum dollar amount when it comes to the policy for prosecuting shoplifters. That way, the store cannot be accused of being prejudicial when it comes to prosecuting shoplifters. If everyone who steals at least $20 worth of merchandise gets arrested, there are no cries of racism or sexism. Everyone is equal, no matter what it is they've stolen. Now, rich or poor, male or female, black, white, or another ethnicity, you're going to jail if you've stolen the minimum dollar amount.

The only problem with this system is that sometimes the minimum amount is too low. I've worked in stores where the minimum was between $10–$20. Why tie up a cop for 2 hours to arrest a kid with $10 worth of baseball cards? Cops have more important things to deal with.

Handbags are always a popular place to conceal merchandise.

Handbags are always a popular place to conceal merchandise.

4. LP is prohibited from touching you or running after you.

If you are stopped for shoplifting, loss prevention is not allowed to run after you or physically touch you.

Why? Liability. If you run away from a loss prevention detective when he/she stops you, the detective cannot pursue you. In fact, depending on which store they work for, LP is not allowed to step off the sidewalk to stop you. I've seen more than one good LP get himself fired for either going out of bounds off the sidewalk or chasing someone who decided to run when he left the exit.

Running after a shoplifter is dangerous. You or the shoplifter could be struck and killed by an automobile. Innocent shoppers may be knocked down and seriously injured, which not only casts a bad light on their shopping experience but may force the store to pay out money to the injured party. This scenario can be avoided by not chasing a shoplifter.

Shoplifters are unpredictable. Some carry weapons. Some are drug addicted. Some don't care whether you (the LP) lives or dies. For these reasons, LP is prohibited from getting into a physical altercation with the shoplifter. If the shoplifter refuses to return to the store with LP, threatens physical violence, or pulls a weapon, the LP is required to remove themselves from the situation immediately and let the shoplifter walk (or run) away.

5. You'll likely pay a civil fine and be entered into a database.

Even if you don't get arrested, you'll probably still have to pay a civil fine, and your personal information will be entered into a retail theft database.

Why? You couldn't resist temptation; when walking past the bargain DVD bin, you decided to swipe Steve Martin and John Candy's hit 1987 movie, Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It's only $5.99, but you can't justify blowing $6 on a movie you've seen before. You look around and quickly stick the DVD in your jacket pocket. When you go outside, you realize that you won't be watching a comedy this evening. Maybe a crime drama is more your speed. You've been busted.

How much is the fine?

Okay, so you've stolen a $6 DVD. It's no big deal. You're not going to have a criminal record and the LP told you that if you sign a couple of forms, you can be home by lunchtime. Is that it?

Not quite. There are some after-effects of shoplifting, even if you're not arrested. Depending on which state you're in and what store you've decided to steal from. You may be required to pay a civil fine ranging from $100–$1000.

Most US states have given stores the right to recoup reasonable costs from those who have caused a loss in their stores. You'll receive a letter from a law office demanding you pay a fee within 30 days, or you'll be executed at sunrise. Well, not quite, but if you don't pay the fee, these vultures will make your life miserable until you do. There is usually a 50/50 split of the money between the store and the collection firm. The money is all profit on the store's end.

I've read online recently, where some attorneys are taking on the task of fighting civil demand fines. Attorney fees are guaranteed to be less expensive than paying the fine, so if you can find an attorney willing to fight, it may be worth it.

Big Brother is tracking you, too.

Months and years after you've almost forgotten you've ever stolen anything, your memory will live on—if the chain you stole from contributes information to a shoplifting criminal database. Systems such as APIS and Esteem are keeping your social security number, name, address, what you've stolen, and the outcome of your case (whether you've been arrested or not) safe and sound (or are they?) inside their vast servers, which they share with other department stores.

These systems claim to be used for data research and statistics, but they collect enough information to be used against you. Whether or not this information is safe and secure and not being utilized or sold elsewhere is anyone's guess, but give a $15 per hour LP access to data like that and you're asking for trouble.

Some chain stores contribute information to shoplifting criminal databases, such as APIS and Esteem.

Some chain stores contribute information to shoplifting criminal databases, such as APIS and Esteem.

Have Another Question About Shoplifting? Ask Away!

Shoplifters are a necessary evil. The loss prevention industry employs hundreds of thousands of people around the world who watch and protect our merchandise and manufacture equipment designed to prevent the loss of goods sold in our stores. If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, shoplifting must be at least third or fourth on the list. People have been stealing since time began and will continue to do so long after you and I have departed. Today, it's one of the most frequently committed crimes by both adults and youth.

I want to thank everyone who read my past article, 5 Things You Didn't Know About Shoplifting. Years later, that article has snowballed into a giant question and answer hub. Apparently, I haven't even scraped the surface when it comes to answering your shoplifting questions. I still receive several each day, and I am happy to answer as many as I can. Feel free to continue to ask questions about shoplifting and the apprehension process.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on October 10, 2016:

Hi Zues,

That lady, (I'm assuming a store manager, because LP would have detained you and called the police), gave you quite a break.

Asking you for school informationis a scare tactic, unless you had shoplifted during school hours and she had intentions of notifying your principal or school resource police officer.

I can answer your questions in one answer.

You've been verbally warned not to trespass at Target. Should you walk in and you're recognized, they can just call the police and have you picked up.

You wouldn't be able to sign anything at your age. You're a juvenile and you have zero rights.

The only way this can hurt you in the future is if you choose to either trespass at Target, or shoplift from them again.Had the police been called, you may have had a possession of alcohol by a minor, charge, in addition to shoplifting.

You've been handed a "Get out of jail, FREE!" card. My advice is, use it.

Good luck!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on October 04, 2016:

Hi Worst Day Ever,

This sounds to me like a case of non-working scanners, untrained employees and poor customer service. Add a frustrated shopper and it turns into a big mess.

I would do one of two things:

1. Call the manager of the store, tell him/her the way you were treated and see what they say. They may compensate you in some way for the embarrassment that was caused. You're the customer. You're the one who pays the salaries. Never forget that.

2. If you get no satisfaction from the manager, contact the corporate offices.

Stop & Shop Corporate Office

1385 Hancock St

Quincy, MA 02169

Phone: 800-767-7772

Good luck!

WorstDayEver on October 03, 2016:

Today around 1:30 I went to stop and shop as I have done many times in the past. Today happened to be different because I had to shop for three people. I usually use a scan it for myself. I grabbed some

Shopping bags and placed my scanned items in bags which i tied off. The other items I interned on paying for i placed in open bags by like items. At the scan it check out the scan it machine bounced back and did not work which I waited for an employee to assist me with. When she came she said she had to scan several items so it would work. Before I could tell her that there were multiple transactions she started scanning the unscanned items (which were to use during another transaction) obviously these items didn't show up so as I tried to pick out my items that would all items were now out of bags and all over the place. I then said okay let's take everything out and rescan at a self checkout belt. As I was doing this she watched me non-stop and also asked other employees to come over. At this point my five year old daughter is now anxious and running all over the place. I am scanning each item individually and trying to separate orders as best as I can (which I ended up giving up on since whenever I put an item on the silver tray next to the register she would put it back in my cart as if I was not going to purchase it). After splitting it into two transactions she comes over and says I did not scan one of the fall decorations. I said yes I did but she rescanned anyways. I found my receipt and showed her I had paid for those items. She said you had two and I said no mam I only have one. She scanned my bags then took the double scanned items off my transaction.

I know that having the multiple bags filled with items scanned and unscanned must have looked suspicious but this is how I have always shopped at this store. I will no longer be doing that or doing more than transaction at once.

I waited in the customer service line to ask to speak to a manager but after being in a confused/upset state I left but promptly called the manager when I returned home. Packets of meat and fruits had been ripped open by the force she was using to open the bags. I wish she had called a manager over and I should have asked for one myself this point but I was taken aback.

No manager was called. I was not taken back to any LP room. I paid for my items and left with all cashiers and everyone watching etc. I am mortified.

I knew my OCD shopping and bagging would get me into this one day and I will never do this again. My five year old daughter was helping me bag items and she was mortified as well. What would come of this?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on October 03, 2016:

Hi Lala,

If you took someone's purchase they left behind in another store, it's still a theft. I've helped customers find lost items with the use of the store's cameras, (usually cell phones, keys and wallets), but it's pretty common for LP to assist in those situations.

If the camera shows you walking out the door with someone's merchandise, it's no longer the store's issue. This person probably (and hopefully) called the police. I know I would have.

Good luck.

Lala on October 03, 2016:

I didnt steal them from a store it was someones purchase that they left behind and i found it, they where in a bag on the ground, but then they came back to look for them but i didnt noe i was in the car my cousin told me that the customer asked to see the cameras , from there store even though those shoes were purchased at another store (shoe store)not that one , that was hollister clothing store

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on October 02, 2016:

Hi Lala, I'm not quite sure I understand exactly what you took. You say you took a pair of shoes at a clothing store. Did you put them on and wear them out? Did you conceal them, or did you just carry them out.

The reason I ask, is, yes, you did commit a crime. Depending on the dollar amount of that crime (I don't know if the shoes were $20 or $500), the store could possibly call the police and make a complaint. Is it unlikely that will happen, but if the shoes were expensive enough and the store had your contact info, it's definitely a possibility.

Lala on October 01, 2016:

Hi so 2 days ago i foind some shoes at a clothing store at the mall they were no ones no one was around so i took them and walked out but when my cousin came to the car she told me that they asked to see the cameras and that the employee from that clothing store said yes they can , my question is can they come arrest me to my house or will i ever get arested for taking something i found , i was to scared and ashamed to go back so i kept them , my nerves have been so worried all day since 2 days ago thinking i will get arrested any day please help

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 12, 2016:

Hi Dumb Mistake, Yes. Most chain stores have LP either walking the floor, or inside an office with (sometimes) pretty awesome surveillance equipment. Overall, I had a blast and received an excellent education. If you're sharp, focused, detailed and confident enough to go outside after potentially dangerous shoplifters, this could be your thing. Be prepared for a lot of nights weekends and holidays. You can also check out LPJobs.com and search your area. Good luck!

Dumb Mistake on September 12, 2016:

Thanks for the response! I honestly had no idea that there were undercover LPAs in stores. Just out of curiosity, do most major chains have people like this patrolling the isles? And how can I become one of these people? It honestly sounds like a great job and a way to repent for my misdoings. You have a great hub by the way!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 12, 2016:

Hi Dumb Mistake,

Could have been a burn, Not sure. If it were me, I would have mentioned nail polish. The guys sounds like an amateur,

On the bright side, no one is tracking down your plate info and sending you a civil. Doing that covert stuff is expensive and time consuming. No one is going to any trouble for a $9 bottle of nail polish.

Just know, if it was a burn, the guy knows who you are and will watch you next time you go in the store. He can't do anything to you. Unless you steal again. Good luck!

Dumb Mistake on September 12, 2016:

Hi Rockinjoe,

I did something really stupid today and I don't know why, but I pocketed a bottle of $9 nail polish. I had a few other items that I took up to the register to pay for and as I was going toward the front I heard a guy talking to one of the employees saying something like "man these toothbrushes are so expensive I bet people steal them all the time". I was a little confused but I paid no mind. It just seemed weird that anyone would talk about stealing in a store, it seems like a faux pas. I pay for my items and get in my car and I see the guy talking about stealing toothbrushes in the car right next to me, like he left the store just as I was leaving. I drove away and he didn't follow me after I made a turn at an intersection, but he definitely could have taken down my license plate number because he was driving right behind me for a little while. Do you think that guy was an LP trying to "burn" me or just a weird man? Can I be charged with a civil law suit even if he didn't confront me as I left the store? I'm freaking out and this has really scared me straight. I promise I will never do this again!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 10, 2016:

LP is actually a really great job, or at least it used to be. More regulations than ever, now. But if you can follow instruction, learn the rules and stay focused, it can be lots of fun. Go apply. Be warned: Sometimes it's so boring, you'll be crawling the walls, but that can change in a split second. It's not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 09, 2016:

I consult here and there, but I currently run an entertainment company.

kingna on September 09, 2016:

do you still work as an LP?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 08, 2016:

You're welcome. Good luck.

kingna on September 08, 2016:

thanks you are awesome

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 07, 2016:

Hi kinga, Thanks for writing. You're ok. I know of no big box retailers who prosecute on ticket switching. The usual procedure is, if Loss Prevention sees a ticket switch, they will call the front end manager or cashier and have the item price checked. When it comes to ticket switching, it's so low on the priority level, it's almost non-existent.

kingna on September 06, 2016:

hi so i was at kohls... tried to switch price tag to make it lower... when i got at the counter along with my other stuff i was gonna buy, the woman scanned it and the real price appeared so i end up not buying it... she called another employee to make sure that the price was right, anyways, i still did not buy it... would they review the video and get me arrested?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 02, 2016:

Sorry for not answering your questions, everyone. I haven't been getting my notifications for some reason.

Hi Pepper-They can, but they're not supposed to. You're supposed to be stopped by LP personel. However, they can call the police and say they have a problem in their store, but probably won't unless you've been cleaning them out. Good luck!

Pepper on July 01, 2016:

Can a store retrieve personal information from debit or credit cards? If so, can they put two and two together from video evidence of a shoplifter who makes cover up purchases with a card and proceed to prosecute? Or does the shoplifter have to actually be stopped?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 01, 2016:

To the person claiming to be LP, working in a store with a "hands on policy" for shoplifters, please comment with the name of the company, in which you're employed and I will publish your comment. You don't have to give your name of course, but if you're going to distribute LP advice in my hub, you're going to have to come clean and let me know where you work. Thanks!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 01, 2016:

Hi kaitj, You had quite a day. If I were the LP you dealt with, I wouldn't believe the story, either. But since it's really "out there" and you took the time to write it, I'll just say, I've seen crazier things happen,so you're probably telling the truth.

Returning merchandise without the original packaging is common. Whether or not the store will accept your return, is another issue. Obtaining original packaging from the shelves to repackage your items, (which is not illegal), is not a good idea-as you've already learned.

The two issues I have , is you being manhandled by the store employee and your apparently not being stopped outside of the store.

That being said, the only thing you're guilty of, is concealing merchandise and although that's usually enough to have the police question you, it's not enough to be picked up for shoplifting merchandise.

The LP guy taking your photo is a scare tactic. He also may be saving it to show to other employees in case you decide to return. Being prosecuted the next time you walk into the store? It's not going to happen. Being followed around should you return to the store. Guaranteed to happen.

I am willing to bet my next check the police stopping cars had nothing to do with your event. In a world where Amber Alerts and threats of terrorism are common, the cops aren't going to stop individuals because they may or may not be a shoplifter. Even in a town where the "cops have nothing better to do."

So, to answer your question? Worst case scenario? I'm guessing you lost your original purchase and learned a lesson on how to return merchandise. Other than that, I wouldn't worry about it.

Good luck/

KaitJ on June 30, 2016:

So I recently went to a store to make a sketchy return of products. I purchased them fair and square, BUT I did not have the packaging on the items meaning no barcode - the beauty products could be returned if opened and used. However, I think packaging of some kind is necessary.

Anyway I foolishly decided to take identical items from the shelf to use the new packaging for my used items and place the new items back on the shelf (if that makes sense). So to do this packaging switcheroo, I went to the fitting room and started opening and repackaging the items...I got nervous when I started hearing people outside the fitting room, so I decided to place all the items in my shopping bag (paid for and new) and go to the restroom. When I left the to go to restroom, I noticed a man standing outside the fitting room. I went to the restroom and finished my packaging business in the stall. One employee went into the stall after me and found some evidence I had left behind (wrapping and such). Then I left the restroom, and the same guy was hanging around outside the restroom. I sat on a bench in the store - waiting for him to leave since I had the items in my shopping bag (unpaid for and paid for). (I went in with the items in the bag so I left out with the items in the bag so I wouldn't look suspicious). I was going to wait until I got to the counter to make my return/exchange and place the other items back sneakily. However, I was sitting on the bench for about 10 minutes and the guy wouldn't walk away. He was pretending to look at merchandise on the shelves.

Finally, he came over and told me he wanted to ask about items I had in my bag. I told him I was going to make an exchange and he called me a liar. Then I stood up and he grabbed me and twisted my arm very roughly. I pulled away and walked back to the restroom, assuming he wouldn't follow me in; but he did.

He stood there while I hid in the stall and tried calling my friend who was in in the area. He said he called the police, so I said I would wait for them to show up. I couldn't get a hold of my friend, so I decided to come out because I was so embarrassed - this man was in there accusing me of stealing and women were coming in and out of the restroom. I came out and he snapped a pic of me on his phone. Then I told him to let me explain myself. He came over aggressively and demanded I give him my shopping bag; so I did. I didn't have receipts, so it looked suspicious...all I had was the gift card the stuff was purchased with.

He looked in my purse, which had only my belongings in it. I showed him how some of the items were used in the shopping bag and weren't from his store - another location though. He told me to leave and he would only give me the stuff back if I had receipts. I was so shaken up. I just left. It was embarrassing being yelled at and man-handeled.

I left and no police were anywhere I could see. He said I was GOING TO JAIL.

Why I am scared:

1. They have my photo.

2. I had no receipts.

3. I "concealed" merchandise and took it into the restroom and it wasn't paid for.

4. Strangely, on my way home...I took a detour and went another route. About 5 mins from my home, there were about 10 police officers stopping and checking cars. I didn't notice them stop anyone in front of me. One officer stopped ME and asked for my license. Said it was a "safety" check. He told me to turn on my hazards. Then walked behind the car and checked my license plate??? Or was seeing if my hazards were on. He then let me drive away. A few cars up, I noticed one car stopped by a cop with their hazards on.

My FEAR about this is that that LP guy sent my photo to local police and they were looking for me - only stopping people matching my description??? They saw my license for about 40 seconds and my plate, could they have recorded it and I'll have a warrant out for my arrest soon?

It seems extreme to search for a suspected "shoplifter", but I live in a city where cops have NOTHING better to do. The merchandise in all was around $200

So I am freaking out. Not only did I get manhandled today. I gave up products I rightfully purchased and can't get money back for them or the items back PERIOD without proof-receipts. Plus I can't afford an attorney or a fine right now. So I am scared to go back there and explain myself.

What do you think? Worst case scenario...

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on June 15, 2016:

HI sigh, Sorry for my absence. You've obviously discovered the joys pf being stopped by LP. I am a bit disturbed at HT stopping you with no evidence and (apparently) inside the store, but groups of teens attract security people like moths to a light bulb.

I'm sure you'll know by now, that nothing happened when you were let go LP. I'd also tell you that "I hope you've learned from the experience", but I'm certain you already know. Good luck!

Imanidiot on June 11, 2016:

So I am an idiot and I shoplift makeup every once in awhile and I was caught today stealing 8 dollar nailpolish. There was a cop present but I wasn't arrested, they took my license and my picture but I didn't sign anything. However I had just shoplifted a few things from Walmart right before, do these big chain stores communicate? Like would Walmart go back and look over their surveillance? I've never stolen anything more than $20. Also I'm expecting to get the $150 fine, if I don't pay it right away (within 30 days or so) do these press civil charges immediately? Also if I'm caught on camera shoplifting from other stores but was never apprehended is it possible for them to send me additional civil fines?

sigh- on May 04, 2016:

So i have a story for you and im not sure if you'll answer but i would much appreciate if you did.

Recently i had been on a school trip (im in highschool, aged 17 living in the state of colorado) and for lunch we stopped by at the mall, me and a couple of friends of mine decided that it would be a good idea to go looking around. well, we ventured into the hot topic store on our little trip around the store and started observing merchandise, me and my friend picked something up but i had dropped the item when i had seen an employee coming in our direction and soon after we were detained because a merchandise package was found near us. security was called down and we placed out everything we had in our pockets to show our innocence so we could be let go but they kept us there, none of us had the merchandise on us and it was later found and we were released without signing anything, however we had told them that we were on a school trip and thus they contacted the school later on and now our principle knows what happend? i cant be arrested if i was let go? can i? please i really need help ive been so stressed about this ive been sick and having really bad anxiety attacks i just dont want this to affect mine or my friends futures please help! btw no police were called and we didnt give up names or any other information they just had us leave after the merchandise was found. please help im just scared about what might happen.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 30, 2015:

Hi Torment, Probably a handful of times, if that. I would only call the police if I were losing large amounts of merchandise at once. Chances are other stores in the area were, as well and the police would usually already be on the case.

As far as your second question, If I didn't have footage of an item being stolen, that was my fault. I wouldn't call the police for a single item. Of course, If I were running (or owned) a small store and a single item cmae up missing, I might. I worked LP for big chains. Hope that helped.

Torment on August 29, 2015:

Greatly appercaite the response! Just briefly, with your experience, how many times have turned over footage to the police in situations as described in your third part ^

Also, if they don't have footage of the item being concealed, do LP's or managers usually get police involved?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 29, 2015:

Hi Self-InflictedTorment, Great topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

As far as turning over filmed evidence to the police, that practice has been in place as long as cameras have been in operation. For example, if I were having a particularly difficult time catching a shoplifter who had been hitting me repeatedly for high priced merchandise, I may call the cops and ask them to come down and take a look and see if they know the suspect. Also, the police have been known to ask for footage if they are investigating, a credit card fraud, for example. So the sharing of information between retail and the police has been going on forever.

Cameras, (as we know) are extremely instrumental in other areas besides shoplifting. Holdups, break-ins, employee theft, vendor fraud, and (especially in the world we live in, now), shootings and terrorism. The new breed of high tech security cameras are truly amazing. Unfortunately, most chains remain in the 1990's, with low tech, inexpensive solutions. LP budgets are abysmal and many trained LP rely on old school techniques, such as simply 'walking the floor',looking for shoplifters.

As far as the RiteAid issue. I would agree that a $50 item on a shelf at Rite-Aid would be all alone for the reason you stated. I used to do that with several high ticket items in my stores. For example, I would put out a single $279 electric shavor and if I noticed it missing, I would check in the computer to see if it were sold. If it weren't, I'd determine I had a problem and would aim a camera at it. I would never place a high ticket item on a shelf without a camera available to watch it. Most LP subscribe to this practice-unless they're unbelieveably stupid. Now you say you turned away from the camera, so whoever may be watching couldn't see you conceal it. Have you considered other cameras in the store that pan, tilt and zoom across the entire distance of the store? For example, I had 3 cameras in the front of the last Kmart store I worked in, (Service Desk, Front Entrances and Cash Registers) I could flip around and zoom into the very back aisles of the store. Most shoplifters are concerned with the cameras they can see. It's the cameras they don't see that get them busted. Be careful. Stealing $50 will definitely earn you a ride to the police station. Thanks for the comment though and good luck!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 27, 2015:

Hi Foolish! Wow! That's quite the testimonial. I really appreciate your sharing it here. You're a good person, too. Everything is going to work out for you. The judge will take it easy on you first time. You may even be able to expunge your record after a year or so. Don't be so rough on yourself. Just move on and appreciate that family of yours. You're on the right path. Good luck!

Foolish on August 27, 2015:

Rockin Joe, I have read every. Single. Post. You're a kind man! I recently was caught shoplifting at kohls. As I've read, it was a by-the-book apprehension. Not until this incident did I realize the full extent of what I've (been doing). I favored another big box chain. Unattended dressing room= easy to me (but that's how kohls got me). I never got followed or given extra customer service. No one at my car etc. But when kohls LP grabbed my arm, I urinated on myself. It woke me up! I was foolish, wreckless and flat out STUPID. ALL FOR CLOTHES!! I have such great remorse and heartache from my actions that I've become physically ill. It all replays in my mind constantly. I have a fantastic family and blessed life. 30 something year old wife, mother, great friends, good job, every other month I cook for our city's local family shelter etc Im kind and generous and apparently the most SELFISH person I know. I will never ever in my lifetime do anything illegal again! It sounds crazy and weird but I'm kinda thankful I was caught. After doing tons of reading and research Ive realized I could've gotten in bigger trouble. What if the "other chain" caught me and added up all the incidents ? What if I decided to start while my kids were with me?? Ugh my heart!! It's been 7 weeks so almost 2 months since my last "offense" at the "other store". Concealed a $20 under garment under my purse. Probably on camera. Terrified that I'll get another charge. I Freak out every time I get a weird phone call or check the mail. I've had real life panic attacks. I get sick to my stomach when I need to go to a store. I don't take a purse and I literally walk with my hand out and up. I'm still awaiting my court date (3 months time frame long wait ) praying and hoping for the best outcome for first offense w/ lawyer. Please please please to the people who've done this once STOP STOP STOP now!!!! Save your self from fear , anxiety, stress, panic, guilt and shame ! It's a horrible existence! God be with you

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 25, 2015:

Hi curious, Just a few years ago, (at a couple of the larger chains I've worked in), it was pretty customary, for LP to apprehend additional suspects (your son , for example) when one person had the merchandise on his/her person and the other did not. The person with the merchandise would be charged with the full amount and the additional person would be charged with a $0 amount. That would usually mean that the person without the merchandise had an active role in the shoplifting, such as being a lookout, or had handled the merchandise during the theft. Obviously, I can't comment on what happened with your son, as I wasn't there. I would be more concerned why the police arrested your son. Even though the store may want to charge a suspect, the arresting officer has the final say. You should be able to get a copy of the police report for $10 or so from the police station. (It's a public record) This should shine a little light on the cause of his arrest. I'm sure you've gotten him an attorney. If not, that's your next step.

I would save your breath as far as speaking with anyone at the store at this point. They won't comment and in most cases, they won't even speak with you. Let an attorney handle this.

curious on August 24, 2015:

My son is a mentally disabled adult/child. He's book smart, however, his common sense and paying attention are not his best traits. He was in a huge retail chain and his girlfriend got caught lifting with items in her purse. He had no idea. Their story is that he didn't know what she was doing. After leaving the POS area, the alarms beeped and they were brought back inside. He had nothing on him. She had stuff in her purse ($68 with of product). They called the police on her (not him). The story I have is that the LP said they don't charge those with nothing on them. The police said they were taking them both in to get their story straight. They were not read their Miranda rights when arrested. I had to pay a $500 cash bond to get him out. (Note: Since paperwork is being transferred to different county, I do not have access to the police report yet!) Let's day their stories are true (they are consistent), I have a difficult time understanding his arrest but completely understand hers. Can you enlighten me here with respects as to the LP'S comment and he still being arrested? Just confusing to me as I've never been in this situation myself! It's also my understanding, this isn't her first time either. I spoke with both of them with her parents and my wife and explained that this isn't love. Love is holding each other to a higher standard. Please elaborate based on your experience. Why was my son arrested? Would it be productive to go and talk with the manager and/or LP based on the info I've provided you? Thanks in advance for your assistance and posting information!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 23, 2015:

Hi Foolishme, I wouldn't call what you did shoplifting, but I would call it suspicious, as most customers make their returns upon entering the store.

Had you attempted to return merchandise you placed inside a basket while shopping for other items, however, you could be arrested for refund fraud. Different from shoplifting, but definitely in the same family.

That being said, there is also no set rule requiring a merchant to accept your return without a receipt. Liberal return policies from just a couple of years ago are changing after rampant refund fraud and the sinking economy.

Foolishme on August 21, 2015:

Hello good sir! My question is that, is what I did consider shoplifting? There was no concealment involved. I didn't put anything in my purse or jacket or pockets. Here's the scenario:

I go to a store and bring a basket that you carry around in your arm and put the stuff that I wanna purchase. But I also get stuff to put in my basket that I'm "returning." So when I go to the register I tell them that im returning a couple of stuff just for an exchange. They therefore asked for the receipt. I tell them I don't have it anymore. So it looks like im still "paying" for what I took through the credit of the "returned" items. Hoping for your knowledge. Thank you in advance.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 04, 2015:

Just guessing, because the shoplifter database was not in my area of experience, but I highly doubt any retail store would check every name on every application through the database. It wouldn't be feasible. I would guess that it's used sparingly, as when hiring a manager, for example.

IMadeABadMistake on August 04, 2015:

So does that mean I could never get a retail job? I have a friend with a shoplifting conviction ($245 from Target...she was an employee and she stole video games) who now works at Sears but her conviction was from like 8 years ago.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 03, 2015:

Hi blondiegirl, You can relax a little. You're not going to juvie. You committed a misdemeanor and have no previous record. If you have a lawyer, (which I highly suggest) you might even be able to get it pleaded down to a lesser crime. Either way, you'll probably come out with a small fine (or if the judge is in a good mood) , a filing where if you have no police action for 6 months or so, the charges disappear.

It shouldn't affect you in the future, as far as employment is concerned. Employers are more concerned with felony arrests.

Good luck!

blondiegirl on August 02, 2015:

I stole a pair of eyelashes from a hair supply store and the lp stopped me and pulled me to the side, the police were called and they handcuffed me took my finger prints and took my picture. The eyelashes were worth $35 dollars. I am 18 years old and my record is clean, I was being dumb and wasn't thinking. I am so scared and learned my lesson, will this affect in my the future? If I apply for jobs do I have a criminal record? I have a court date a month from now. I am scared the judge will send me to juvi or something. I just want to forget and move on from it. Will it go away and be sealed or stay with me forever?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on August 02, 2015:

Hi, I MadeABadMistake, Most of the big chains are using a database to keep track of shoplifters and dishonest employees. Shoplifters are kept track of whether or not they are prosecuted. The database documents store incidents, such as sexual harassment, accidents and workplace violence. The stores say they're used to keep track of restitution payments, shoplifting statistics and to weed out the good from the bad when hiring for retail jobs. Some in the business believe this information has the potential to be sold to other companies for profit. Be assured, if you stole from a big box store, you're in the database. Good luck!

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 22, 2015:

hi confused and worried, They had issue slips (or a summons) when I first started in LP, but I never had to deal with them. A couple of years later, the city I was working in at the time, changed their rules, so I never had to use them. Usually, the person issuing the slip is authorized by the PD or city to do so, by becoming a constable. If it specifies a court date, you have to be there, or they will most-likely issue a bench warrant for you.

I wish I could help you more, but I cannot dispense legal advice. That would be like asking me to fix your toilet. I wouldn't be able to do that either. Check out Avvo.com and you can ask a lawyer a question and still remain anonymous. Let me know how you make out.

confusedandworried on July 21, 2015:

Hi rockinjoe, thank you for your answer. I understand the civil demand, I've been looking online and almost every site talks about it. The only thing is I haven't read any case similar to mine when it comes down to an 'issue slip'. Could you please explain to me exactly what it is? Is it an arraingment for me? Since the police weren't called Im confused as to why the lpo gave it to me. She told me the merchandise was undamaged and salable and she would put it back for someone else to buy. Yet she gave me the issue slip, so is she choosing to prosecute? I spoke to an attorney just to get some insight and he suggested I plea not guilty and hire a lawyer. My thing is, they are expensive, and many places say that I will not be granted a public defender because jail time probably isn't going to happen. I would like to do a diversion program but how can I be allowed that? Would I need an attorney? Or can I plea no contest and ask for the diversion program. Also, many sites say that you should plead guilty and then ask for a diversion program, but wouldn't that be setting myself up to be convicted? Sorry for all these questions, you're the only one that has answered anything for me so far besides the attorney I spoke too and even then, he wasn't very helpful.

Thank you again,


Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 21, 2015:

Hi confusedandworried, The civil demand notice is just a way for the retailer to collect on a shoplifting incident. Officially, the civil demand is a way for retailers to recoup their shoplifting losses. In reality, the money is usually a 50/50 split between the retailer and the lawyer's office whose name is on it. Most defense attorneys would advise against paying it. It has nothing to do with the law as far as shoplifting.

I haven't had to deal with a "issue slip" in years. If you have a court date, before a judge, I would contact an attorney just to get his/her opinion on your case. Provided this is your first offense, the judge will take it easy on you. At a total of $26, it's not the end of the world. Trust me. Good luck.

confusedandworried on July 20, 2015:

Hello, Im really confused and stressing out, a few days ago I was at jcp and took some jewlery, $26 value. Im 18 and in Michigan by the way, Once i was out of the store and about to leave the lp stopped me and said i had to go back with them or Id go to jail. They took my info and made me sign a civil demand notice, the lp also gave me an 'issue slip' that says I have to go to court in about two weeks. The police werent called and the merchandise was recovered. What should I expect? Why did she give me a court date? Shouldnt that happen only if I dont pay the civil demand, which I probably wont recieve until after my court date. Please help, should I plea guilty? Or not guilty and get a public defender. Please please help me.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 06, 2015:

Hi concerned parent, I hope your daughter learned her lesson. I can't comment about the LP physically attempting to stop her, but if that's true, he/she should be dealt with by a superior. Sounds like your daughter got lucky. The police did not put an APB (All Points Bulletin) out on her, as I'm sure they're busier in other areas. Whenever I was in a situation like this, the officer(s) who responded, would usually say something like, "Call us if she comes back in." That's ok for the cops to say, but LP aren't cops, so we were unable to press charges on past thefts. (Even from a few days ago.)

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on July 06, 2015:

kayhughes22, Sorry for the late response. I've had lots going on lately. I can't comment about what or may not happen in court, but as far as the store surprising you with additional video of merchandise you may have taken in the past, I wouldn't worry about it. You don't need a therapist to tell you to stop shoplifting. You have no choice but to stop. Good luck.

kayhughes22 on April 30, 2015:


I have read though almost all of these questions and answers. Now I have some of my own questions I really need answered because this mom of two with one on the way made some seriously stupid choices with shoplifting. I got caught and charged with theft three but am concerned about pervious items I have taken that they didn't actually stop me for. Can they use past theft against you if they never stopped me for it? I know what I've done is wrong, I'm utterly embarrassed with myself and want to fix my wrong choices. I've even looked into counseling so I can stop this on going problem I've had for years. What do I have to look for in court with this situation?

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on October 05, 2014:

Rockin Joe,

Great read. Informative and helpful. I did not vote funny or beautiful, but I did vote up, useful, and interesting.

Good work.

Your profile page does NOT have a Fan Mail slot, so Iam sending you my note of thanks for following me right here. Thank you.

Rockin Joe, (sorry for this being so slow in coming)

I wanted to send you my Personal Note of Heartfelt Thanks for becoming one of my followers. This gesture means so much to me. I just hope in some way, I can pay you back someday, and that you will not regret following me.

Always feel free to write me about anything you want with total-confidence. I am always up for new ideas in hub-writing, healthy criticism, and good input on how I can make my hubs better.


just want you to know that I love your work and encourage you to use your gift of writing as much as you can and you will touch a lot of lives.

Thank you again for being in my world.

If I can ever be of help to you, just email me and I will do what I can to help you as much as I can.


Your Friend for Life,


Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 21, 2014:

Hi worrying idiot,

The Gap (like many stores throughout the world) have let coverage of the dressing rooms (or fitting rooms) slack off over the past several years. Next to the customer service center, the dressing rooms are the #1 place for theft in any softlines store. Back in the day, there was a dedicated employee assigned to those areas who would count the articles going in and then again on the way out. This position seems to have disappeared. This was ALWAYS my #1 gripe in any department store I've worked in.

You pretty much said it yourself. There's no way anyone saw you do it in total privacy and the Gap lost $20. There's no way they can do anything to you now, or in the future.

Many senior LP execs read my articles on a regular basis and know how I do NOT condone shoplifting under any circumstances and know how I feel about this issue, but if they're not covering their fitting rooms, they get what they deserve.

worrying idiot on September 21, 2014:

hi, it was a total whim and really stupid but yesterday I wore a bra out of a gap that I had never been to before and probably won't again. I bought a pair of pants and paid with my card. I wasn't stopped, or payed any special attention to by the staff, the alarms weren't set off and so i don't think I was found out. I did it in the dressing room so I know there's no way that anyone saw me actually put it on. I regretted it as soon as I decided to do it and won't ever do it again. The total was less than twenty, do you think I should expect any action against me?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 19, 2014:

Hi Anon,

Thanks for writing. I'm not familiar with Party City or their security camera set up. If you were looking for some sort of proof that you were wearing the wig on the way in, I'm sure other stores in the same plaza have cameras covering the parking lot. But that won't be necessary in your case. If you did not steal, no one can stop you on suspicion of theft, except a police officer.

Unless someone has hard evidence that you've stolen something (they're an eye witness, they have video, etc.) THEY CANNOT STOP AND QUESTION YOU. All you have to do in that case is, keep walking. For some reason, people feel a need to explain themselves or become nervous when questioned like that. It means nothing. In fact, if you're blocked from leaving (and innocent) you can possibly press charges.

This also goes for the big stores. Sometimes when you're on your way out of Walmart, the greeter will ask to see your receipt. It may be their job to ask, but there is no law requiring you to show it. I never do.

The US is a free country (so far) and a corporation who attempts to infringe on your personal freedoms (even just a little bit) does not deserve your dollars or your cooperation.

If you want to make a complaint, get a number for Party City corporate offices and talk to someone with a title. (Don't call the store.) Let them know what happened and give them a chance to make it right.

Good luck!

Anon on September 19, 2014:

I am a person who wears wigs for personal reasons, and today I walked into PartyCity just to hang around until it was time for dinner. While I was there, I was debating whether I wanted to try out one of the wigs, but since they don't allow for products to be brought into bathrooms and the changing stall was not protected from being opened up by any random person, I decided against it and made to leave the store.

However, AS I was leaving, a store person asked if I was going to pay for the wig I was currently wearing. He had seen me adjusting it and thought I was trying to get out of the store with one of their wigs without paying; however this was my own personal wig that I had been wearing before I entered. Because of personal reasons, I couldn't say anything without revealing something embarassing, so I had to mime that I didn't need to pay because it was my personal wig. The guy couldn't understand me so he brought over another guy who asked the same thing, and after I nodded to the question about whether it was my wig or not, he let me go.

Now my question is:

1) Does PartyCity have cameras towards the parking lot?

2): Do they check security cameras after they let someone who they MIGHT think shoplifted even if that person hasn't shoplifted at all?

Kathy on September 17, 2014:

I spoke to the officer & he asked me if I could come into the station & tell him my side of the story, I asked him if I needed a lawyer & he laughed & said no ur fine. I'm just not sure what to expect

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 16, 2014:

Hi Paranoid and regretful,

You're welcome! :)

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 16, 2014:

Hi Kathy,

I'm sorry I missed your message. If a complaint was filed by the store (which appears to be the case) my advice is to consult with a lawyer immediately before you get back to the police. Unfortunately, once the complaint goes to the police, my advice is useless. I'm neither a cop or an attorney. I know this is what you didn't want to hear, but it really is the best advice,

Let me know how you make out. Good luck!

Kathy on September 16, 2014:

I have asked you a question a week ago involving my situation at kohls. I got a message from a police officer, what should I expect to happen, I have not yet called him back

Paranoid and regretful on September 16, 2014:

Hi Joe, thank you so much for replying! I definitely feel better and I can tell it's not worth ever stealing again. I am a teenager, although I had turned 18 after the first incident and before the second (recent high school graduate, but I don't think people can tell) and it was a CVS store (I hear the one in my area has lex security, but that doesn't justify what I did). Still, thank you for your reply and I definitely won't be continuing ever again.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 16, 2014:

Hi Paranoid and regretful,

Thanks for the compliment. I'm glad you're enjoying my stuff.

It's a good thing that you got that scary feeling when you shoplifted. It will help you to resist temptation in the future.

You're definitely ok as far as your past thefts. If you were in trouble (or had the police looking for you) you'd know about it by now.

I don't know how old you are, or what store you shoplifted from, but (like most shoplifters) if you were to continue, you would get caught eventually. If you're a teenager, you'd probably get away with getting your parents called and having them pay a civil demand fee. (If your parents were not available to come and get you, sometimes the police will come out and take you to the station until you can be picked up. (It's not fun. Trust me!)

If it were me and you were in my store, I might let you get away with it a few times. Why? I might be busy watching someone else, or on a conference call, or up to my neck in paperwork and not want to waste the time bringing you back to the office for a $3 candy bar. But, if you came back more than that, I'd have to put a stop to it.

I've had people that I've stopped as kids approach me when they're all grown up and tell me that getting busted for shoplifting is the scariest thing that ever happened to them. It's so not worth it.

Good luck to you

Paranoid and regretful on September 16, 2014:

Also, my town does daily crime reports with some crime mapping website. I didn't see any reported crime around that area on that day, so should I feel safe? Does that mean they didn't report it to the police? Do LPs sometimes just take note of a crime for next time but not do much more (or completely not notice at all).

Paranoid and regretful on September 16, 2014:

Hi Joe, I love reading your articles and I was wondering, 4 months ago, I was with a friend and we stole a bar of chocolate, probably around 3 dollars. We left and there weren't any staff on the floor or around us so I don't think anyone noticed. A month later (so 3 months ago), I went to the same store, and I hadn't eaten all day so I was hungry and without thinking, I just took some candy, again only around 3 dollars and left without any trouble (no one stopped me or people watching as far as I can tell). The first time with my friend, I only got a rush probably because I felt better about it with a friend, but the second time, I just left horrible afterwards and lost my appetite. Now I'm scared that they reported me. It's been 3 months and I haven't had the police knocking on my door, but should I expect them to come looking for me? Am I safe? I swear I'll never do it again, I learned from my guilt the last time.

Help me I messed up on September 13, 2014:

Thank you so much!!! Again very very stupid thing I did it will never ever happen again.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 13, 2014:

You're fine. No one is going to seek a prosecution after letting you go. It doesn't work like that. The store didn't lose any merchandise, it was for a low amount of money and you were completely honest with the manager.

I know you're a bit shaken up now, but take a deep breath, relax and be grateful. Good luck!

Help me I messed up. on September 13, 2014:

Max it was worth 80$ or so.

Help me I messed up on September 13, 2014:

Thank you so much. It was dumb a few cases of water, Landry soap, and a few other little things. So you think I will be ok? This is never going to happen ever ever again.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 13, 2014:

Hi, Help me I messed up,

It sounds to me like this is your lucky day. If they wanted to prosecute you, they would have done so at the time of the incident. I don't know what you took, or the value, but you were very fortunate the store manager did not prosecute.

The other employee was with the manager, either as a witness to your theft, backup in case of an altercation, or both. Don't worry about your license plate.

As far as the manager telling you to "not come back", do what he says. In many states, once someone in authority, (such as the store manager) tells you not to return (and you do), you can be charged with trespassing and be arrested.

Help me I messed up on September 13, 2014:

Can you help me rockinjoe??

Help me I messed up. on September 13, 2014:

Please give any info as I am freaking out. I know it was wrong to steal and to be honest I have no idea why I even did it.

Help me I messed up. on September 13, 2014:

I stole from a harris teeter today. I got stopped in the parking lot loading the thing into my car. The manager was running after me. As I was loading them in he came up and said can I see your sales slip. I said sir I stole this stuff and I will pay for it. I unloaded the car and asked him if he wanted me to come in. He said no and just don't come back. There was another employ there that I think took my license plate number down. Am I in trouble. Please help.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 12, 2014:


It's possible the cops were called. but doubtful. If the police car you passed on the way home had its lights on, you can rest easy. Shoplifting is a low level crime and hardly calls for emergency lights.

The worst that may have happened is that you have probably been captured on camera leaving the store. (Even supermarkets with shoddy or minimal cameras will have a camera on the exits.) They'll be looking for you to return and try it again, but that is probably the extent of it.

Someday when you can, find out the store manager's name and send the store a money order in the amount you've stolen. Include a note about happened. It doesn't make it "not a crime", but it may make you feel better.

soterriblysorry on September 12, 2014:


So I am feeling so terribly guilty about this but 4 days ago, I went to a local grocery store (WA state), put some items in a small hand basket (groceries- no alcohol) and then left the store. I deeply regret this but I needed the food and didn't have the money. No one approached me or spoke to me. It was late at night (3am). As I was pulling away there was an associate standing at the door and looking at me. (maybe getting my license plate?) I don't know if the police were called but I did pass a police car with his lights on headed in that general direction.

Is there a way to find out if I am being investigated?

What is the likelihood that they did call? I think I took about $40.00 worth of groceries.

I looked on crimereport.com but no theft was reported (they say they update every day based on police reports)

I really appreciate any comment. I'm sick with guilt

I am just so deeply sorry. I am NEVER ever going to resort to this again...

Kathy on September 11, 2014:

It's ok, I appreciate it

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 11, 2014:

You're welcome. Didn't mean for that to come off like a lecture. I usually have no idea how old the person, I'm replying to is.

Kathy on September 11, 2014:

I know what I did was out of character for me, and def was not worth it. I know better than to do that & there is no excuse for it. I'm NEVER going to ever think about doing that again. I thank you for your response.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 11, 2014:

Hi Kathy,

You got caught and walked away. You walked away because Kohl's wasn't allowed to drag you physically back into the store. They know who you are, what you took (most likely) and they know that you know. Taking a photo of your car and license plate is the icing on the cake.

I'm sure you've asked yourself the following questions.

Did they call the police? Will the police knock on my door and question me? How would being arrested impact my family? My spouse? My kids? Will it be on TV,or perhaps in the newspaper? Will my boss see it? My friends? My family?

I don't know what you stole at Kohl's or the city or town in which it happened. Will the cops follow up? Your guess is as good as mine. A cop with nothing to do that night may follow up. They may just have taken a standard report and told the Kohl's LP, "Call us if you see her again."

I don't know. Neither do you.

All you can hope for, is that you've gotten away with it and vow to never do it again. If there had been a police officer driving through the Kohl's lot that night, you definitely would have taken a ride. Whatever you took is not worth the problems your being arrested creates.

I'm not preaching, nor am I judging you. I'm just providing some unasked for advice. Good luck.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 11, 2014:

Hi worried at the desk,

It's not a matter IF it will happen, it comes down to WHEN it's going to happen. You will get caught, if you haven't been already. What do I mean by that?

Service desk cash shortages are examined using exception based reporting software, which shows every detail of every point of sale unit in the store. If I were looking for a thief, I may look (for example) how many No Sales were used on days with shortages.Then I would attempt to match them up to the shortages using whatever video were available.

If you work at one of the top 3 retailers, you can bet there is video being used at the desk. The problem may be in how good the camera is and where you and your friends are when the money comes out and concealed. There are many methods, (which I'm not going to go into here, for obvious reasons) about how to steal at the service desk, but you can rest assured it will catch up to you eventually, one way or another.

What will happen?

It depends how much they have on you and how the LP District wants to handle your situation. You may be questioned, the police may be called and you'll be charged with stealing merchandise and embezzlement. It's also possible (If they don't have enough visual evidence), that you could see your hours becoming less and less until you have no choice but to quit.

Sometimes the needs of the business dictate what happens to the internal thief.

One time I suspected a service desk worker of stealing cash from the drawers and finally had great evidence of her in the act shortly after Thanksgiving one year. I was about to question her and was told by the District Operations Manager NOT to touch it until after Christmas. Why? The woman had worked in the store for 30 years and was the best customer service manager the store ever had. She knew more about operations than the store manager and his assistants. They didn't want her to go to jail during the Christmas rush because, quite frankly, they needed her. She ended up walking out with the police on January 2nd. She had stolen over $4,000 during the holiday season, alone.

Don't kid yourself. Stealing cash is a huge deal and retailers and LP take it very seriously.

Kathy on September 11, 2014:

I was in kohls the other day, had some items in my cart, went to dressing room & did place some items in my purse, I left store & was at my car when a LP approached me, asked me to come back into store which I did not do, I just left, he did take a pic of my license plate & did say he was going to call cops. What do you think the outcome will be?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 10, 2014:

Hi Angela,

I'm sure you're ok. You didn't tell me what you took, but no one is going after you because you set the alarm off. Anything can set these things off.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 10, 2014:

Hi Cherpie,

Many shoplifters I've caught over the years have told me it was a rush. Not only to steal the item, but to also get away clean with the crime. Same for store detectives. It's a huge adrenaline rush for us to go after a shoplifter. We never know what we're walking into. It could be a fight, a weapon, a totally and completely insane person, or just a general boring stop. I guess we all get our kicks a different way.

I've never been a person who had to deal with addictions (aside from the cigarette habit I gave up years ago) , But I've known people with them. I hope you beat the shoplifting habit. Shoplifting is damaging to your career, family, bank account, standing in the community, etc. It must be a horrible way to live. Good luck to you,

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 10, 2014:

Hi Anon, How do you know the LP called the police? Did they stop your friend first and tell her that? Anything Kmart LP does no longer surprises me. They used to run one of the best loss prevention departments in retail and now (along with Sears) they've unfortunately become laughable. That being said, it's still not an excuse to steal from them.

To answer your question about your friend. Could the LP use her license plate to identify her and call the police? Yes. It's doubtful though. Sounds to me like the LP didn't have enough on her and wanted to scare her.

Makeup is a high theft product. It's usually watched a little closer than other items.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on September 10, 2014:

Hey power to the peephole. Sorry for getting this a month later. That's quite a story. If you're a minor, you've got more worry than a shoplifting charge. You could also get hit with a POA (Possession of Alcohol) charge. That being said, the way you described it seems pretty above aboard to me. Finding your identity through other sources isn't a crime. I could show a tape to anyone I wanted and ask if they knew you.

As far as shoplifting. If you walked out the door, you've committed a crime. Giving LP the cart back doesn't make it a non crime.

As far as your friend being convicted solely on camera footage, I'd have to see the footage. It would have to be real good and show every step of the act, or a halfway decent attorney could argue and probably get it thrown out.

Let me know how you make out. I'm very interested in this case. Good luck.

worried at the desk on September 10, 2014:

joe, i work in a large chain store. everyone steals here. i know that doesn't make it right. i would take small items like a candy bar or bag of chips for lunch, or maybe a notebook or two for my kids at school.

recently a girl who works at customer service with me and i have started taking $5 or thereabouts daily from the register, but never more that $10. no one person is responsible for the count in the drawer, as there are actually 6 people doing transactions on it all day. we are very careful when we do it and we never do it in front of the cameras (duh!)

what are the chances we will get busted?

Angela on August 24, 2014:

On the way out my purse trigger the alarm, the worker tell me to stop, I did not, I went to my car, she run after me and take my plate number while I was driving away...

It was my only time to that store.

What do u think will happened next? Will they call police?

Cherpie on August 13, 2014:

What I never hear about is how people get "rehabilitated". Stay clean. my last scare, was over 24 hours ago. I am going cold turkey. I never had any other addictions or even use any chemicals including cigs and alc. I tried not to go into any store at all, but needed groceries. It was physically painful not to swipe something, anything. I hope this gets better with time.

Anon on August 11, 2014:

I have a friend who stole some make up from Kmart and was in line paying for everything else she was buying (she said she took two things out of her purse to pay for too). The LP agent called PD and said they were on the way and when she left the store the agent just watched out the door. She thinks they got her license plate number. Can they use her name and car against her?? Or because she got away they can't do anything? They didn't stop her at all. So how can they accuse her of stealing anything? Unless the cameras totally show it.

power to the peephole on August 08, 2014:

Hi Joe I started swipin boos from a big chain cooperation since liquor came out I jacked them almost every weekend of the summer till they hired secret shoppers. We still continued to push our luck for a while and I have been getting bottles for the past year and a half I'm a minor as well. The people in the store didn't take to long to catch on but it didn't stop me I've never used a car there so they couldn't get a license and I don't have an id to this day. However recently they installed these new high tech very high resolution cameras in the liquor isles. it also goes ding dong whenever u walk in and out of the isle. I still picked them up in front of the camera but didn't conceal it in the isle I walk to the first empty isle I can find with no cameras then conceal. I walk out the door sometimes it buzzes sometimes not. I found out the little metal stickers make the buzzers go off so I ditch them in random spots. I walked out the door with the container completely consealed. However this store must know me cuz I use to pack up on munchies and walk out. The day I found out the l.p were not allowed to chase me he stopped me after I walked out the doors. The buzzer didn't beep. But I gave hime the cart anyway and started walking, he demanded I sign paperwork. I casually declined and continued fast walking looking over my shoulder to see if he'd start chasing he walked back in. Rumors spread a concerned parent of one of my friends gave the store my picture and name. However I never gave them my name in the act of a crime. My p.o. knows and is trying to pend a charge. How sketch do you think this is. I'm planning on getting a lawyer if this turns out to go down. But I had a friend that supposedly got busted for every bottle she jacked in the past month because of video camera footage to go along with the picture name and info her mom gave them bout her stealing. My mom called to ask if they knew who I was they completely denied knowing ,y existence or my friends experience getting caught on camera. Smells fishy I should be trippin really hard but I don't want to jump to conclusions

LPprofessional on May 28, 2013:

I have bee in the LP field for a little over 2 years. I have worked at 2 different companies. The first was Kmart. We could not touch shoplifters or chase after them, however, the current company I am with is much different. We can chase shoplifters and use physical, "measurable" force. The nicer retail stores let their LPs be more hands on.

Holly Kline from South Jersey on April 21, 2013:

Really interesting! Thanks.

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on March 15, 2013:

I found all of the information you've presented here very interesting. It's not a topic I've ever given much thought to, but now realize how the repercussions for shoplifters can be ongoing. Pretty incredible.

What I found to make absolute sense is the rule that LPs can't chase down a suspected shoplifter for fear of injuring innocent bystanders. How I wish police departments had the same common sense rule when they engage in a chase with someone who has simply broken a traffic law. Endangering the public at large for such a small infraction seems to me to be irresponsible and not the best use of resources.

Great hub; voted up and Shared.

Lisa Kroulik from North Dakota on March 15, 2013:

I got caught at age 11 eating a piece of candy from an open container at Walgreen's. They took my picture, threatened juveline detention and the whole 9 yards. That was all it took for me, it was very traumatic.

torrilynn on March 15, 2013:


it was nice to learn about shoplifting

and the new information

and to answer your question nelas I feel that you were unfairly treated none

of that should have happened to you I am sorry for your dilemma

thanks for the overall hub joe

Voted up and sharing

Adnan Qamar from Karachi,Pakistan on March 14, 2013:

Nice information sharing... It is very helpful for shop Owners or Managers to get rid of shop lifters.

JITENDRA from INDIA on February 21, 2013:

hi nice thing i have a shop and i will remain alert on theft..

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on January 11, 2013:

Hi carrie Lee Night, Thank you for the compliment. I appreciate it. That's a great story. It's a good thing you had that experience and took it upon yourself to make the decision not to steal You must have been a brilliant child. Thanks for reading :)

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on January 11, 2013:

Hi tonytrick, It's not going to happen. No one is going to call the police for a $2.50 can of nuts. Just because a store may, or may not have CCTV, doesn't mean there are cameras in every aisle and doesn't mean someone is watching them all the time. You got away this time. Good luck.

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on January 10, 2013:

rockinjoe: Great article! :) you have taken something most people don't think about everyday and turned it into a very imformative piece. The only shoplifting I EVER done was when I was about seven or eight years old when swiped two pieces of candy out of the brachs bin without paying the 5 cents per sample. I felt so bad and guilty after I did it..right behind my mother's back! I NEVER did it again and I still think about how awful it made me feel til this day. Thanks again for a great article! :)

tonytrick on January 08, 2013:

I am such an idiot but I have to confess, I stole a cans of nuts ($2.50) from Giant grocery store which had a sign saying it may have CCTV in its premises. I decided to steal it to get the rush but felt completely terrible after stealing it, this is my last time shoplifting. I was not stalked out of the place and was not caught but I am scared they tracked me through my license plate. How realistic would it be for them to track me down?

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on January 08, 2013:

Hi Collegesb, No. They won't use previous video against you. It doesn't work like that. If they have enough evidence to stop you, they will when you leave the store, but since the previous evidence (the merchandise) is no longer with you, it cannot be used in your total. . A lot of merchandisers these days don't stop shoplifters for $5 or under. It's really not worth it.

Collegesb on January 08, 2013:

Hey Joe, a few months ago, before I turned 18 I was caught shoplifting about $60 worth of items from target. I was stopped at the door and taken to the security room where my mother and the police were called, I was taken downtown where I was finger printed, photographed and Scorned. Target filed a petition which was eventually dropped after my counselor convinced them

To let me off the hook. Since then I've stolen a few small things from Walmart like chap sticks or lipstick, nothing over $5. Is there any way walmart can use footage from my previous thefts to stop me the next time I come in the store? I think I'm just paranoid but I feel like they watch me whenever I go in now.

Joseph Addams (author) from Standing right behind you! on January 04, 2013:

Hi Jillybean17, You're welcome! There could have been many reasons your friend did not get caught.

1.) No LP in the building at the time/

2.) LP in the bathroom

3.) LP at lunch

4.) LP asleep

5.) No camera in the aisle

6.) Not enough evidence


Not all stores are equipped with great camera equipment, or more than one LP agent. It depends on the amount of theft (or loss) the store experiences each year. Shoplifters (especially small time) can get away 9 times out of 10 with a crime and then suddenly find themselves in handcuffs.

It's like playing the lottery.

Jillybean17 on January 03, 2013:

Ok thank u very much!:) I have one more question. I have a friend that stole earrings from the same store except she did it in the aisle not the bathroom and that was months ago. How come she didn't get caught? Do they have bad security or something? Cuz I live in a town where everything is pretty much backwards.

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