Shoplifting – The Latest Expression of Entitlement

Some of us have had to do a myriad of jobs to support ourselves, one of my summer jobs was store detective for the opening of a new department store. How I ended up there is a whole other story!!

It turned out to be an absolutely fascinating experience.

First, we were told about the various motivations which drive people to steal. The most obvious is extreme poverty, driving a need for food, but unfortunately, it is not the critical driver. Most people steal for the thrill, and many of them steal inconsequential, really small items which they not only can easily afford, but in many cases, have no need for the item.
We were then given extensive training in comportement, which included kinesiology, or body language. As someone who is highly visual to start with, it was brilliant.
A total life and career change later, the ability to instantly recognize a shoplifter is still very much a part of my awareness.
Over the  period of 5 days, recently witnessed two blatant examples of shoplifting, and was subsequently served by a very teary young lady who had just been obliged to call the police over a shoplifter, and was extremely upset, so she was thrilled to have someone with whom to share her experience. The thief was an older woman well known to the police. When she was informed that she had to stay in the shop under supervision to wait for the arrival of the police, she calmly sat and read a newspaper. The sales clerk was in tears.  The police arrived and not only recognized her, but remembered her name and all the shops she had robbed.
The sales clerk was devestated at having to arrest this old woman, and the thief was totally calm. A huge tell about them as individuals.
The previous week in this same shop, they had made a $500 sale to another older woman, only to witness her on camera stealing another $60 worth of merchandise on her way out of the store. When confronted at the door, she exclaimed that she had ‘paid them enough, and she deserved it’ .. Once again, the police were called. This one was not so calm about being obliged to wait.
In this particular store, which is a very high end craft and decorative item shop, the clerk told me that they had to install cameras throughout the store due to the increasingly high incidence of theft, and that almost ALL those stealing were older  women who could easily afford to pay for the merchandise.
The Palm Beach Post recently posted an article about a young girl being caught stealing $454. From Sephora. Her excuse was that she wanted to give it to her best friend for her birthday. She is a student at the University of Florida, and should know better.
She now has a criminal record which will hamper her career for life. Brilliant!!
In their idiotic drive to reduce plastic shopping bags, which in my mind is utter insanity  as everything is in styrofoam and shrink wrap, heavy plastic, or plasticized cardboard, the incidence of shoplifting in pharmacies and grocery stores has skyrocketed. We see people dragging zippered trolleys which are overflowing with stolen merchandise. Pay attention next time you are in a grocery store which does not give out plastic bags.  People walk around with their shopping cart and their trolley. One cheap item in the shopping cart, when they think no-one is looking, one expensive item into the trolley. I was told that the item stolen the most is expensive steak. They go to the till, and pay for the items in the shopping cart, which is but a small percentage of the value of the items which made their way into the trolley. Virtually  NO cashiers have asked to see what is in the trolleys.
At a lingerie store, clients often walk in with 10 items to try on, then make sure they take long enough that the sales clerk has wandered off, only to exit and hand off 3 items, wearing 7 items cleverly hidden under their clothes. Do you REALLY want to make people strip??!! ….    For merchandise which costs $.50 to manufacture in southeast Asia??
Standing in line at a high end organic grocery store, we watched a woman pay for all the articles in the top tray of her trolley. The bottom was full. She was on her way out the door when I pointed it out to the cashier who called her back and made her pay for it.
She was absolutely furious, and it was clear through her body language that this was a regular occurrence  but  this was the first time she was caught. She clearly knew where the cameras were and cleverly avoided having her face picked up when she was obliged to pay. She was hunched over with her head down.
Any normal person making this mistake would have been horrified, and would have expressed their utter embarrassment, and apologized. She was angry at being caught.
How would you have reacted??
An older man at a pharmacy rudely rushed everyone in the queue  out of the way and ran with  a shopping cart filled with merchandise out the store. Non of the coloured tags to indicate it had been paid for were on any of the merchandise. He ran through the parking lot to his car on the other side of the lot. From what I could see, non of the articles in the cart were life necessities, but luxury items such as potato chips, soft drinks, bottled water, candy bars, toilet paper, etc.
We are ALL paying for this in increased prices, and the cost of increased surveillance.
A certain Westmount socialite living in a multi-million dollar home and with ample funds to attend black tie galas dressed in expensive gowns has stolen from every single one of her friends, and many of their friends.
At first someone thought was an accident, until by fluke one evening, someone mentioned that they had a sense when she had been in their home that things conveniently disappeared. Heads bobbed up and then everyone joined in mentioning they had all been robbed, and never wanted to mention it. Jewellery, Hermes gloves, scarves, cashmere scarves, and more jewellery and cash .
Interestingly, as this woman is popular and her name regularly appears in the social columns as being someone fabulous, the assumption was that she couldn’t possibly be stealing, but as the conversation ensued, it became clear that no one was safe from her. Worse, when they recognized things on her, they were under the assumption that they had been given as gifts. It was not a particularly pleasant evening as it became clear that this ‘fabulous’ woman was a serious kleptomaniac. Then came the stories of shopping in her presence, and being afraid of being caught as she was equally light fingered in stores, mostly taking inconsequential items such as lipstick, candy bars and the like.
As there are no coincidences in life, I decided to go educate myself, so I went to the Westmount Police Station 12, and spent an interesting hour with a lovely police officer who was kind enough to discuss this with me.   The big question was about shops who do not persecute shoplifters.
What I learned was that several companies do not prosecute, for the simple reason that the cost of merchandise versus the cost of 1-2 employees spending a day in court, and their expenses was not justified.
The other compelling reason for not stopping shoplifters was the safety of their employees.
For the majority however, as soon as someone was seen pocketing merchandise, they were stopped and escorted to a private locked room by 2 security guards while awaiting the police.
So, it was not my imagination, the police officer confirmed my sense that shoplifting was seriously on the rise.
By the end of our chat, I had him in hysterics when I mentioned how obsessed I am about never doing anything which could effect my Security Clearance, and described a funny incident at the Toronto airport when I gave the blond customs official a paper with $3000 in purchases written on it. She could not believe anyone actually wanted to do that, same explanation, and she understood why I was pleased to pay, and charged me a very fair amount.  He said the police congratulate me and wish there were more like me as we are an anomaly.
Neither of us can understand why someone would risk their career and reputation to steal an item valued under $10.
So, be vigilant, and be careful.
You are indeed being watched.

Leave a Reply