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Shoplifting—stealing items from a store without paying for them—is often considered a stunt of sorts. Some of them steal food from supermarkets because they do not have money, while many others steal just because it feels good and cool to do so. The latter are often either unaware of the consequences of their actions or simply don't care about them, like people who don't pay their bill at a restaurant.
When you steal something from a shop, it doesn't seem like there are any consequences for the commercial establishment's owner. Shoplifters often justify it by saying "The supermarket won't fail if I steal a pack of biscuits."
While that's understandable if you're taking something from a big box company, it's not if you are stealing something from a locally owned small business. Small businesses often don't have the resources to monitor shoplifting, and what seems like a small loss could be a hit to their business. They may have to raise prices in order to repair losses caused by shoplifters.
It's not just about a single packet of biscuits: if many people steal packs of biscuits with the same reasoning, this will effectively led to losses to the store. Shoplifting causes about $35 billion of losses from businesses each year. If you look at all these aspects, it is easy to understand why some people think that taking a pack of biscuits from a supermarket without paying for it is a serious crime.
What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting?
If you or a friend of yours has been caught shoplifting, the first natural consequence will be a little embarrassment—being caught shoplifting and triggering the anti-theft system in front of many other people isn't a nice experience.
If you're lucky and encounter a security guard who doesn't want to cause problems, you might be invited to pay for the "forgotten" items, especially if you are young. Some guards will just alert you; however, many others are not so sympathetic. The first thing they do is retrieve the stolen items or make you pay for them.
They Might Put You on File
Many supermarkets deal with shoplifters by maintaining records with their names. The security guard, after having registered your theft, might take you to an office and ask you for your ID. Your name will be added to a record so that they can recognize you the next time you try to steal something from that store.
Many security guards tend to warn you the first time, add your name to the record, and will only call law enforcement if the person tries to shoplift again. Obviously, this does not mean you should steal something thinking "I just won't steal from this store again, no problem." Other security guards may decide to call law enforcement the first time.
You Might Be Banned From the Store
It is not unusual the managers of a store decide on a specific punishment, especially as an alternative to calling the police (but sometimes it is in addition to doing so). After having written your name on the record, the security may warn you not to enter the store again in the future: you are forever banned from going in that place, even if you want to buy something.
A store is considered private property, so while they cannot legally ban someone because of their race or sexuality, they can do so against a known shoplifter.
They May Call the Police
Store staff might call the police after all the other two options have been exhausted or even right away. If they do it, you might get in trouble and be issued a fine or a ticket, which might be recorded on your permanent record. If you are issued a ticket, you will likely have to appear in court to plead guilt or not guilty, and it might be worth hiring a lawyer to represent you. This is the worst situation you could be in if you shoplift.
Stores Have Measures to Prevent Shoplifting
Various security measures taken by shops to prevent shoplifting, like hiring security staff and installing cameras. Some big shopping malls and small shops even prohibit you from taking photos inside so that you cannot study the place and plan a future theft. in the future.
In addition, they place annoying anti-theft devices on items we want to purchase and we cannot enter the changing room with more than a certain number of items. Oftem times, customers are followed every second they move around the shop.
As you can see, shoplifting may lead to unintended serious consequences. Though you may consider it a stunt, store owners often treat it as a real crime. In addition to the personal liability you'll have for the stolen objects, you should always consider also you are damaging someone else when you take items from a store without paying for them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Alessio Ganci
Waafa Saleh on August 17, 2020:
Just having her putting pink handcuffs on me made me resist a little. If they were plain handcuffs, it wouldn't have angered me as much.
Waafa Saleh on July 05, 2020:
I'm 29 and I was caught shoplifting from Claire's Boutique. An undercover female loss prevention agent stopped me. She handcuffed me behind my back, back inside the store, with pink handcuffs. That even added to the humiliation.
Waafa on July 02, 2020:
I'm 29 was caught shoplifting from Claire's Boutique. An undercover female loss prevention agent stopped me. She handcuffed me behind my back, back inside the store, with pink handcuffs. That even added to the humiliation.
Catherine Kermode on March 26, 2020:
I would like to be arrested by the Police as soon as soon as possible. I live at 9A Western Road, Henley - on - Thames. You will be able to arrested today and take me to the police station. I would like to go to Prision.
Alessio Ganci (author) from Italy on March 22, 2020:
You got back and paid it without being caught, so you fixed by yourself the mistake: you didn’t escape or do other things which are clearly indicative of a malicious activity. So it’s very hard they can charge you with shoplifting, but it still depends how they deal with this crime in USA: my point is from a Italian perspective, and here you can be charged if you escape without paying: if you go back by yourself and pay, before getting caught by the security guards, you are automatically fixing your error, so that you aren’t liable for shoplifting. Escaping would be instead admitting you are really stealing and have intention of doing it.
pfmpm on November 15, 2019:
I walked out with a large case of water underneath my cart. It was $4 and I had forgotten it was there when doing self-checkout. As I exited the store, I hit a bump and the water slid, causing me to notice it. I was only a few feet outside, so I turned around, notified the person checking receipts, then paid for it. No one stopped me, though I am sure it was on camera. The next week I overheard the store manager talking to an employee, probably about me. The conversation was essentially: "See that guy? We almost caught him last week!" He seemed very upset that I had corrected the error myself. My question is, since I left the store, if only for a few seconds, can they still charge me with shoplifting?
Anonymous on February 09, 2019:
Today I took something and used it i the store and left and they definitely caught it on tape what do I do?
Itxxmaro on January 21, 2019:
I was on 15,jan with my classmate shopping
And She Had Stolen a Chain which it cost 10-20 Euro
I didn’t saw it on the store when she stoled but when we were out from the store she showed me that she had a Silber Nicklase (Chain) stoled
Johnf853 on June 25, 2018:
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Alessio Ganci (author) from Italy on July 06, 2017:
Yeah I agree, in fact many store managers tend to just ban people even for bigger stealings
Max Wise on April 24, 2017:
This is so stupid going after
Shoplifters. If it is under $5
Just forever ban them from
Your store. Why spend so
much time, effort and Tax-
payer $$ prosecuting these
Kinds of petty crimes. There
Are 450 Thousand Robberies.
Let shoplifters for petty crimes go.