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Shoplifting: What Happens if You Get Caught by Security Guards?

Sometimes I like to get deep into the topics of human relationships and family by expressing my personal opinions.

What happens if you're caught shoplifting by a security guard?

What happens if you're caught shoplifting by a security guard?

Shoplifting (stealing items from a store without paying for them) is often considered a stunt by many people who are involved in it. Some of them steal food from supermarkets because they do not have money, while many others steal everything just because they find something cool in doing this. These last ones are unaware of the consequences of their actions (or maybe they are aware, but they do not care about it), just like people who don't pay bill at restaurant. In fact, when you steal something from a shop, your act is apparently without consequences for the commercial activity's owner: people who are involved in shoplifting often justify it by saying "at the end, the supermarket will not fail if I steal a pack of biscuits". The error they commit by thinking this is that shoplifting should be seen in a general way: many people who steal packs of biscuits with the same reason, will effectively led to losses to the store, and that is the reason why shoplifting should be punished. In addition, if someone steals items from a store, it damages both customers and employees: the first ones will experience higher prices (as they are needed in order to repair losses caused by shoplifters), while the second ones may risk to get fired (just think about a security guard who is unable to stop a shoplifter: he may lose his work if the company believes he is unable to do it). If you look at all these aspects, it is easy to understand why taking away a pack of biscuits from a supermarket without paying for it is a serious crime.

When shoplifting, every part gets damaged: that is the reason everyone should avoid doing it

Damages For YouDamages For The ShopDamages For Customers

Humiliation of being caught stealing, while other customers are seeing this

Financial Losses

Higher Prices

Potential banning from visiting that store in the future

Less Funds To Maintain Shop

Less Items Available

Potential report to the Police



What Happens If You Get Caught

If you or a friend of yours has been caught shoplifting, the first natural consequence will be a little humiliation (I don't imagine being caught shoplifting and turning on the anti-theft system while passing the barriers in front of many other people is a nice experience). If you find a security guard who is not keen on causing problems to other people, maybe you will be invited to pay the "forgotten" items (especially if you are young some guards tend just to alert you, however be warned many others are not so sympathetic). The first thing they will always do is retrieving the stolen items or making you pay for them.


Supermarkets, and stores in general, deal with shoplifters by maintaining a record with their name. The security guard, after having regularized your theft, will take you to the offices and will 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 again in that store. Many security guards tend to warn the first time, add the name to the record, and only if the shoplifter comes another time to steal again, the store will then call the Police. Obviously this does not mean you should try to steal something, by thinking "I try, if they catch me I won't go back stealing in this store, no problem", as other security guards may decide to call the Police the first times (and as said before, shoplifting should be avoided in general).


It is not unusual the managers of a store decide for a specific punishment, especially if this is meant to be an alternative to calling the Police (but sometimes it is an additional charge to the shoplifter, not an alternative). After having written your name on the book, the security will warn you not to enter the store in the future: you are banned forever from going in that place, even if you only want to buy something. Always remember a store is a private property, so while they cannot ban someone because of racial or sexual reasons, they can do it against a known shoplifter from visiting the commercial place another time. Another reason to avoid shoplifting: do you really want to risk not being allowed anymore to shop into your favourite store?


Police can be called by the store staff, after all the other two steps have been completed (or only one, or even in place of both). If they do it, you will get in trouble with justice, as a new crime will be recorded for you: you will need to find a lawyer and then you will be involved in a lawsuit against you. This is the worst situation in which you are going to put yourself when shoplifting, especially if you are recidive in doing this crime.

Shoplifting Actions Lead To Less Freedom

Dealing with shoplifting results in various security measures taken by shops. Hiring security staff and installing cameras are surely the most common measures in order to prevent shoplifting. Some big shopping malls and small shops even disallow you to take photos inside, so that you cannot study the structure of the place in order to plan an attack in the future. This makes people who want to write reviews and take photos inside shops unable to do it.

In addition, we have to deal with annoying anti-theft devices applied to items we want to purchase, we cannot enter the changing room with more than a certain number of clothes and we are literally followed every second we move around the shop. This is the little "price" to pay in terms of freedom, in a society where shoplifting is a very common crime.

As you can see, shoplifting may lead you to serious consequences, that is the reason why it should not be considered as a stunt, but as a real crime, just like other ones. Before you personal liability for 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:

I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye kfgkffdgabca

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.